Flamingo Bay, Everglades, ©rainkilburne. Hero Award, Nov 2019. Member Selection Award, Dec 2016.


Chris and I arrived at the Flamingo campground of the Everglades National Park, Florida, in a tiny, jam-packed car, after an exhausting ten hour drive. The park is known to be home to many flying creatures, including twelve different kinds of mosquitoes. Chris parked, turned the engine off, and we looked at each other in knowing defeat. Setting up a tent at night was never fun.

We opened the doors and a thick cloud enveloped us cutting off any escape. They were outside. They were in the car. The infamous Everglades' mosquitoes had attacked.

We slammed the doors shut, gasping for air, and turned in our seats towards the back of the small car. We were unprepared and ill-equipped. Rummaging for flashlights and bug repellent, we screamed like little children. “Hurry! Hurry!”

We were slapping the insides of the doors, the dashboard, ourselves, each other; which ensued more panic and lots of tired laughter. This Floridian enemy had been born and raised in this territory. They knew the game of chance, risk, and strategy. They were everywhere and they were relentless.

The mosquitoes that had found their way into the car soon gave way to quick deaths which ended with lots of blood on our hands-our own.

Exhaustion and quite possibly oxygen deprivation due to the earlier, thick cloud of mosquitoes and lots of bug repellent, had us planning to set up the tent as if we were James Bond, or Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible. We even hummed the theme songs to pump us up.

It was doable, but more casualties and injuries were inevitable.

We ran out and grabbed the tent from the back of the car. We rolled it out on the ground, not caring where it landed in our allotted campsite space.

The tent poles were another matter entirely. Although they were the kind that were made for instant set up, getting them into the correct position was almost impossible. I'm not even sure that the tent wasn't upside down for awhile and we seriously considered taping it up to the tent poles that way with duct tape.

“I think I smell something that died nearby,” Chris said, while swatting in the air in quick, angry motions.

“Who cares?! Keep going! Go! GO! GO!”

The enemy took me out of the mission early and I retreated back into the car, but Chris had triumphed.

The mosquitoes had not made it into the temporary sanctuary that would be our home for the night. We got in and lay down on the bags as we were: sweaty, dirty, tired, and with the ceiling and sides of the tent touching us.

Damp moisture began coming in through the tent walls and I started to freeze in my sleeping bag.            

 “I managed a fine dining event for us this evening,” Chris laughed. A pack of Poptarts hit me on the head launched from somewhere in the dark. Wincing, I replied, “I'd rather be here then sitting at a computer working.”

Chris laughed, “Got that right.”

We awoke the next morning with an unyielding need to relieve ourselves, and decided we had no choice but to brave any danger to get to the bathroom. We unzipped our tent in hopes that the mosquitoes had ceased and desisted. There were no mosquitoes in sight. We cheered; comforted by the fact our enemy had gone.

   We espied our path to the bathroom, and started walking toward it. There were dark shadows along the way. “What kind of trees are those? I can't really see until this misty fog lifts. Were they in a fire? They have several black trunks that fork upward.”

“Those aren't black trunks,” Chris said, suddenly paralyzed to the spot. “Those are giant vultures.” There were twenty-four vultures in all, two of which were peering eerily from the top of the building that was obviously the restroom.

“I'm pretty sure these guys are hoping we will still drop dead from blood loss by those mosquitoes last night. That could have been their meal you smelled last night. WE might look more appetizing than whatever that was.” I chuckled half-heartedly.

We quickly discussed running back, packing up the tent, and the forty-mile drive until the next accessible restroom. We couldn't wait. Chris laughed and with squared shoulders said, “A bad day on vacation is always better than a good day at home. Let's go!”

Published by PVCC ©2016, Writer's Award., RK Arts Studio ©2016

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