Custom Rich---chapter five

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     This was going to be the best time or the worst time that he was ever going to have in his life, thought Larry to himself.  Ever since they had arrived here he had the same dreaded fear that had been with him from the start.  He was very positive that even his friend Steve did not completely understand how someone could have a phobic fear of the wilderness.  The same question that Steve had asked him when he finally broke down and told him about it, was simply this, " What is there to be afraid of in the woods?  I mean sure, I am afraid of poisonous snakes and spiders, the same as anyone would be?"  
      That was just the point though, for everyone is afraid of those things, and that is rather normal.  What Larry was experiencing was far from the nomal fears people have.  He was afraid that he would be attacked by a wild animal and never seen again because his body was eaten, or that he would go for a hike and get lost and never be found, or he would be the victim of a misidentification of a plant species, and when he ate it he would get hives and his throat would blow up until he would be unable to breathe, and so far away from a hospital that he would just die right there in the woods.
   He knew that the chances of  any of these things happening were very slight, but this was all knowledge he had in his head.  It was not enough knowledge to keep his heart from feeling like it was going to explode when he got there, or did anything at all in the camp or woods while he was there camping with his brother boy scouts.  
    As a matter of fact, the main reason he wanted to learn about all this stuff while he was in the scouts, was so that he could overcome these fears.  Nobody knew that he had this problem except for Steven, not his father, his mom, and especially not the scout leader Mr Rayburn.  He did not want to be teased, or treated special, or even be talked about for any reason at all, so he had been very careful not to let anyone know about it.  Steven had given him his word,  as his best friend and co boy scout that no matter what happened, he would not tell anybody about Larry's secret.  Steven had been true to his word up to this point, but they were getting closer and closer to experiencing some of the events that might trigger his phobias in front of others, and just that was enough to give him the feelings that started, like the feeling that he could not breathe.  All's he could do is cross his fingers, and hope and pray for the best, for he was here now and there was no way to turn around and get back home.  He was committed to the camping experience, that was a fact.
   The whole troop had sat through the traditional campfire talks about what would be expected of them tomarrow, and again the leaders had gone over each and every rule of the wilderness so that there would be no mistakes made, for it would only take one mistake to cause a dissaster for all of them.  Something like taking food into your tent could bring a bear into your tent, and that would not be a good or smart responsible boy scout thing to do.  He had studied it all so much his head was swimming with the facts and rules and the do's and don'ts of good camping.
   It was time to turn in, and so Larry found his flashlight and checked it to make sure the batteries were ample.  He turned around and spotted Steven behind him a few yards away, pawing through his backpack looking for his flashlight too, he guessed.  He walked over to him, and asked," well are you ready to get some sleep? " he asked his buddy for the night.  They had planned on sharing the same tent since the first time they heard about this campout.  "Alright then let's hit the hay."  They both grabbed their packs, lights, and headed for their tent.  It wasn't too far from the middle of the little tents city they had made, but it as definately not on the far edges of it either.  It was under the biggest oak tree in the area designated by the leader for  camping.  They each  crawled into the tent, and when they had gotten inside, Larry himself zipped up the tent so that they did not have any little creatures crawling in with them during the night.  " Making sure we don't have guests huh? asked Steven.  "I don't think I could even hang with the thought of waking up with a snake keeping himself warm in my sleeping bag with me, even if he did not mean me any harm." he added.
   "You know, you just get better and better with this stuff, Steven, I had not even considered a snake getting in here, I had been thinking more about bugs, spiders, and that kind of thing trying to get into my bag.  Thanks a lot for pointing out the snake possibility my pal of all pals."  Larry said teasingly.  The both busted up with laughter, and ended up in a pile of giggling kids, in the middle of their tent.  It was completely dark now, and the boys commented on the phrase that went something like it was so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.  It was true though, for it was so completely dark that you couldn't see your own hand.  No wonder Mr. Rayburn had repeatedly asked every single boy there if he had his flashlight.  They had been careful to put it where they had been instructed, and reached under their pillows each for their own light.  Larry had his hands on his light first, and asked Steven to hold it a minute so he could check out the zipping job he had done on the tent just a few minutes ago.  Yes, it was zipped up to the top, and there was no space for any creature of any size to squeeze into. 
   "Thanks, and good night, let's get some shut eye, cause you know Mr Rayburn, he will be up just before the sun making a fire so that they could eat some grub, and take off on the nature hike." he said.  He knew that this hike was to be a good protion of the requirements needed to gather up the specimans they had to collect and identify  in order to be awarded the credits and recognition for the wilderness, outdoor life, and first aid  badges he was attempting to earn.  This was not going to be one of the easier days they had planned out here, and being prepared was the motto of the boy scouts.
   They both crawled over to their own sleeping bags, crawled in, and pulled them up around their necks, and Steven pulled his up around his mouth, for up here in this altitude, once the sun went down, so did the temperature.  It had only been dark for maybe a half an hour at the most, and you could already see your breathe.
   " You had better stop playing with that flashlight, cause if you wear out the batteries now, and then need to see in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, you will not be barrowing mine..."said Steven, and again in a teasing voice. 
   "Oh hush up you.  All you can do is torture me through all of this, you are really enjoying it aren't you? " asked Larry.
   "Well you have to admit, you are usually the one who teases the crap out of me, and remember all the times last summer when we went to the lake, and all you could do is call me a sissy, because I was just learning how to swim?" Steven reminded him.
   "Yeah ---I guess I can see your point, but save some for tomarrow would you, could you at least do me that favor?" his friend almost begged him.
   Steven could hear it in his voice that he was getting upset, so he took pity on him and said that he would give it a rest of the night.  "Ok, I'll cut you a break just this once, so good nite my friend", and with that he turned over, and immediately, like almost within seconds he began to snore.  Larry was glad at first, but now he didn't have anyone to talk to at all.  He moved down into his bag a little bit more and put his light out and back under the pillow. 
   The next thing Larry knew, he was sitting straight up, and it was still blacker than black outside, and inside for that matter,  and he was not certain but was almost sure that a sound from outside the tent was responsible for waking him up.  He sat motionless just listening, but didn't hear a thing .  Maybe it had just been a dream.  He was about to lay back down when he heard something, and he was sure this time, coming from outside his tent, and right by the side where he and his bag was.  He was so scared that he couldn't even say Stevens name.  He was shaking all over, and could not even move a muscle.  The sound he was hearing sounded like a sort of sniffing sound.  Oh, this is just great.  He figured that if he didn't do something quick he might not be able to do anything at all for the rest of his life.  He finally called out as good as he could, "Steven? Did you hear that?" 
   The only answer he got from his friend was a looong and loud "snooooooore."
   "This is just great," and again whispered, "Steven, wake up."
Again, the only sound he heard was the long and rather raspey sound of his friend snoring.   He was listening hard, and he could hear the sound of the animal just on the other side of the tent material, which at this moment was thinking to himself, was a very thin nylon, and definately not thick enough to keep any kind of wild animal out. 
   Suddenly he remembered the flashlight under his pillow.  He reached back and his fingers made contact with the light.  He moved very slowly, for he didn't want to scare whatever was right there trying to smell him.  He swiched on the light, and what he saw, scared him far more than he thought it would.  Right next to his head, Larry could see the perfect outline of a snout of some kind of animal nose, and the breathing sounds he was hearing, was the animal's nose taking in and blowing out big clouds of moister, like you could see on cold mornings when you could see your own breath.  The muzzle of the animal pushed even harder against the flimbsey thin material of nylon tent, as it was now stretching towards him he could see the outline almost up to where the eyes would be.  Just from looking at it like this, he could easily turn it into a small bear perhaps? 
   Larry just about wanted to pee his sleeping bag right there and right now.  He didn't know what to do, so he decided to get brave, and put his finger up to that he could maybe touch this big nose that was sniffing him.  As he cautiously put his finger up towards the snout, the animal took another long deep smell of him and just as his finger was going to touch the nose, the animal stepped back and he could still hear it, but he could not see the nose pushing at him through the tent. 
   As he sat there just listening, he became more and more curious about what it was that had found him and sniffing at him in his sleep.  Suddenly he just had to know, so he crawled over to the door of the tent, and unzipped it very slowly. and stuck his head out, straining to look around the corner of the tent. 
   It was just too dark, so he put his hand out there too, with the light, and once more stretched out to see what it was.
   There it was, he looked again, and there it was, just standing there, and it appeared to be a dog.  It looked like just an average dog, and the dog wagged his tail a little.  When he did this, was when Larry noticed that this dog had been injured, for he only had three legs.  As soon as he saw that his heart went out for the creature.  He looked like someones pet who had gotten lost up here, and he looked like he had gotten hurt, maybe run over by a car he just guessed.  Larry could feel the fear just drain out of his body, and he knew that he had to help this poor dog.  He looked so thin, for the injury looked like it had happened quite a while ago, for it was all healed up, and there was no scabs to be seen. 
   He decided to do something that he knew he had learned not to do.  He was going to take a chance and try to care for this dog, for if he were indeed a lost pet he surely could not be very dangerous.
   So out he crawled, keeping the dog in his view.  He told him to "Stay" and he went over to the car where they were keeping some bread and cheese locked up.  He grabbed both items, and went back to his tent, sitting indian style in front of the zipped door.  He broke off a piece of cheese, and reached out toward the dog, and said,"Here boy, come and get it, you look like you are hungry."  The animal did not move, so he tossed the bit of food over to him.  The dog grabbed it up, and when Larry did it again, the doge took a step towards him this time.  He kept  calling to him, and tossing the bits of food, until the dog was standing right in front of him.  He wanted to get the dog to trust him enough to take the food right out of his hand.  Finally, just as he was running out of the cheese, he did it, the dog took the food out of his hand, and licked it too.  Larry couldn't help but to think that maybe he was tasting him too, but he put that thought out of his head.  He had to go back to sleep, and when he crawled back into the tent, he saw the dog come over and curl up on the spot where Larry had been sitting, right in front of his tent.  Suddenly he felt very safe, for he was sure that the spirits of the wilderness had sent him a guardian to keep him safe.  He went back to sleep, very easily this time.