d a v e y    d a v i s

Father's Day Campout


What was the purpose of signing up for the summer retreat mailing list, attending the info meeting at Calvary Family Church, stuffing the cooler and rolling tight several childrens' sleeping bags that had loosened in the hall closet (the youngest didn’t have one, so he would have to sleep on a cheap cotton comforter reinforced with Irish luggage), then arranging all the kids in the back of the diesel—allowing each a single Capri Sun for the eight-hour trip—and tolerating the Eagles' Greatest Hits for that duration of time because the CD player is jammed and the radio up here is only mariachi and conspiracy theory AM, anyway, so it was either ghost stories to scare the kids or fat tremolos roaring through brass for old people to nod their heads to, and finally reaching the camp grounds, the redwoods so tall, as if to make more space to accommodate the eerie emptiness, watching the pink assistant pastor play an acoustic and sing to himself over the heads of these thirty-eight fathers—landscapers and produce clerks and bowling alley cashiers, with beer logo'd t-shirts and dark jeans cinched up over the waist hidden beneath the blue-collar's imperious paunch—for an hour before erecting the tents and ordering the children to change their underwear and go to sleep (the boy cried inside the black hole of his plastic nest because he had been relegated to the space by the zippered entryway, exposed to the banana slugs and early morning drafts of California's great red north), what really was the point? Why all of this planning and prayerful tedium and assumption of the Motherly Burden, the asswiping and face-cleaning and safeguarding against lice, disappearances, coup d'états; why do it all if they were just going to drink beer like usual, exchanging sunflower seeds of different ridiculous flavors and chewing, with delicacy, the soap-textured kernels inside, talking sports and politics and engines and about women they'd seen, just do all the things they'd do on the front stoop or at the card table by the above-ground pool in the back yard, wilted Bicycles fanned for rummy or cribbage or hearts, the only difference being that the children's humorless play was among the behemoth, fracturing stumps instead of under basketball hoops on pothole'd pavement, and the absence of a mommy's thick thigh to slap in appreciation and fellowship and ownership and the most friendly kind of latent aggression and affirmation for their friends, a reminder to themselves, men who'd become husbands only just before they'd been made fathers, the latter identity being the purpose for this endless road-trip, where vomiting would have broken the rolling monotony of the drive if it had only been allowed, to hear the pink assistant pastor repeat the same old Father's Day sermon—"To be your children's father on this earth, in place of our Father awaiting us in heaven"—because it's just that sometimes it was hard to think of why we even brought the kids in the first place?



DAVEY DAVIS is an MFA candidate in fiction at Mills College. They also blog about queerness, trans*identities, gender, feminism, mental illness and disability, reproductive “choice” and policy, intersectional oppression, and body politics at bodyhorror. They can be contacted at hdavis [at] mills [dot] edu and use 'they/their' pronouns.

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