by Jeff Oaks

The idea was to make “outdoor adventure easy,” said the current CEO of Kampgrounds of America in 2012, but maybe only a couple of times did we go to one to camp. It was mostly to disappear, to hide out and take a breath when we went there. It was the closest thing my mother had to a battered women’s shelter. And we could take the dogs. No one would ask a question beyond the cash she put down for the night, the name on her driver’s license. The person at the desk, usually a middle-aged woman too, gave us a site and receipt and that was it. We’d drive our little car full of panting beasts down the winding trails and park. Everybody else would be asleep. We’d fold down the back seat and made a bed of blankets and sleeping bags, and we slept surrounded by the dogs. Elsewhere we imagined my father raged but we’d escaped. She didn’t want to go to her parents’ house; she didn’t want to involve them in his craziness. She also didn’t want to pay more than was necessary to disappear, so hotels and motels were out. Our breathing quickly fogged up the windows. How many times did we do this? Enough that I knew it was always a way out, if I had to run. Less than six maybe. Once we drove a long time away from town. To really just disappear into the dark countryside. She’d broken her right hand punching him. I had to shift when she said now. In the mornings, after he would’ve gotten up for work, we’d leave our cramped camp without a word and go back to our house. I’d go inside first, her surveyor. She’d sweep up the things he’d shattered. I’d give the dogs back their lives in the basement, for which they were excited and grateful.