I felt like a bushranger. My brother and I sat around a campfire, eating soup out of burnt cans and swapping lies. The fire was perfect. Years of camping with our different sets of parents had prepared us. It was tight and controlled and about the only thing we did right that trip. We drank billy tea. We watched the fire and sang our shitty songs. Then it was cold. Cold is not a strong enough word to describe it. It was anti-heat. It sapped your will and your strength. I was wearing every set of clothes I had. But it was still good. The fire burned small and intensely.
At about midnight a four-wheeled drive pulled up. Two men got out and started putting up tents. My brother and I watched from our campsite. Then they set up a fire. It was monstrous. Made out of the biggest logs they could find. They put branches covered in green leaves all over it. It stood about the same size as a basketball player. They poured some petrol over it and lit it. It exploded into flames. Smoke poured out of it, thick and grey. The wind picked up, freezing us to the bone. It was blowing the smoke right in our direction.
We could barely see. Our eyes watered and we coughed violently. The peace of the night was violently disturbed. We argued about who should go over to their site and tell them to fuck off. Neither of us were game. We went to bed instead. The pump for the air mattresses was out of battery. We slept on the cold bare earth. The sleeping bags were not enough. They were five degree ones and the temperature was at least negative five. I stuffed blankets into them. It was not enough. We stuffed all our clothing into them. It was not enough. Every time I moved a freezing cold patch would open up onto me. The smoke drifted into our tents. We couldn’t sleep. We were choking and freezing to death. The night went on. We spent hours wide awake. It was too cold to talk. Our heads were stuffed into our sleeping bags. I laid in the fetal position, wishing that I had never been born.
We not so much as woke up as stopped lying down. It was about six. Our fire still had hot coals left. Their fire had long since burnt out. We both we terribly sick. Both coughing and sneezing and spitting up phlegm. I had a headache the size of a small moon. We stoked the fire back up and drank some tea. We were both angry. Mainly at me. We left about ten, waiting for the owners of the camp site to get back from dropping their kids at school. We gave them the keys to the bathroom and left.
We were silent for an hour or so. I turned to my brother. His nose was red. He was coughing. He radiated sickness. I spoke.
“Motel next time?”
He turned to me. His eyes burned like angry wicker men.
“You’re an asshole.”