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FIELD AND SCREAM

DAY ONE 3:36 p.m.: We arrive at our campsite. Bonzo thinks he sees a wolf and refuses to get out of the car.

4:13 p.m.: I realize that the six-person, two-room tent I purchased for this little outing requires six people, power tools and a building permit to assemble. I beg Bonzo for help. He thinks he sees a giant vampire bat and refuses to get out of the car.

6:28 p.m.: Thanks to a passing construction crew, our tent is up. To show my gratitude, I sublet one of the rooms to them at a bargain rate.

7:14 p.m.: Dinnertime! I carve points on a couple of long twigs to roast hot dogs over the open campfire. When my hot dog catches fire, Bonzo decides that this looks like fun and gets out of the car.

8:22 p.m.: After incinerating an entire package of hot dogs, Bonzo becomes hungry and asks what we're having for dinner.

8:22.18 p.m.: Bonzo asks for ketchup on his raw hot dog.
8:49 p.m.: Darkness falls. Bonzo wants to sit by the campfire and tell ghost stories. I make up one about mutant trees that sneak up on campers in the middle of the night and eat them, sleeping bags and all.

8:53 p.m.: Bonzo again refuses to get out of the car.
10:32 p.m.: Bonzo finally falls asleep. I'd be asleep, too, if it weren't for this damned stick shift.

11:48 p.m.: I carry Bonzo to the tent and pray he doesn't wake up until daybreak.

DAY TWO 6:04 a.m.: Bonzo awakes. He has to go Number One and asks me to take him to the campground bathroom. I explain that, in this situation, it is acceptable to step outside and relieve oneself on a tree.

6:05 a.m.: "Next time," I tell Bonzo, "find a tree that is more than two inches away from the tent. On a downhill slope."

6:08 a.m.: We move the tent to a dry spot.
7:33 a.m.: Breakfast! I cook up a hearty campfire meal of bacon, eggs and campfire ash. Bonzo looks at his plate and says, "Dad, I'll eat this if you really want me to." Clearly, he's lying.

7:46 a.m.: Bonzo asks for ketchup on his raw hot dog.
8:08 a.m.: We go fishing. Bonzo is excited.
8:14 a.m.: We haven't caught anything yet. Bonzo is bored.

8:17 a.m.: Bonzo mistakes his fishing pole for a laser sword and some passing hikers for the Imperial Army. We return to camp.

8:52 a.m.: Bonzo is so bored he wants to go fishing again. But I have a better idea. We take a nap.

12:14 p.m.: Lunchtime! I cook up a hearty campfire meal of corned beef hash and something that appears to have fallen from a tree. It looks dead, but we're not certain.

12:20 p.m.: I ask for ketchup on my raw hot dog.
12:53 a.m.: Bonzo is still so bored he wants to go fishing again. We go fishing. Bonzo is excited.

2:15 p.m.: BONZO CATCHES HIS VERY FIRST FISH! I have never seen my son so happy.

2:17 p.m.: The fish is dead. I have never seen my son so sad. He had already named his catch "Spike," thinking we were going to take it home to live in our aquarium.

2:17.21 p.m.: I explain to Bonzo the food chain. He calls me a fish murderer.

2:18 p.m.: We return to camp. Bonzo remains inconsolable until I take out a large hunting knife, cut the head off his fish, and proceed to yank out its guts. "Wow!" he exclaims. "That's neat! Can I rip out some of its guts, too?" Unfortunately, I have never seen my son so happy. Now he says he's glad I'm a fish murderer.

6:12 p.m.: Dinnertime! I cook up a hearty campfire meal of blackened trout. Bonzo takes one bite and asks for ketchup on his raw hot dog.

6:43 p.m.: Bonzo wants to take the fish bones to school for show and tell. I think that's cute until he also asks to take the head and guts.

7:10 p.m.: Bonzo says he can't wait for it to get dark so we can sit by the campfire and tell more ghost stories. I laugh and make a note to have the boy committed to a mental hospital as soon as we return home.

9:48 p.m.: We go to bed. In the tent. Before he falls asleep, Bonzo tells me what a wonderful day he had. I change my mind about the mental hospital.

DAY THREE 7:35 a.m.: Breakfast! We don't take any chances. We head straight for the raw hot dogs and ketchup.

8:18 a.m.: I tell Bonzo it's time to start packing for the long trip home. He refuses to get out of the tent. I change my mind about the mental hospital.

Bonzo looks at his plate and says, "Dad, I'll eat this if you really want me to."

"Wow!" he exclaims. "That's neat! Can I rip out some of its guts, too?

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Michael Burkett