A Pretend Camping Trip with Anyone I Want? Hmm.

For those of you who read my blog, you won’t be surprised when I say Kelly Reilly, but as her character from the show Yellowstone, Beth Dutton. Let’s see what happens….

Beth Dutton and I travelled alone in the back of the luxury motorhome, a hired driver from the ranch at the wheel. I’d somehow persuaded her to give me, a freelance journalist, an interview. But hours of travel toward our Montana destination had been filled with little conversation. Beth had her head in her laptop, drinking steadily, and occasionally issuing expletives.

Once we had set out, I’d thought we’d begin the interview, but Beth had shut me down. “Save it,” she said. “I’ve got work to do.”

So I watched her mostly, I hoped not in a creepy way. The woman was legendary. At least in Montana. The rumors surrounding her deeds varied from evil and felonious actions to mind-boggling retorts shot at the deserving and undeserving alike. She could be humorous, but only if you weren’t in her sites to practice upon.

At one point during our travels, Beth lit a cigarette. We were in a confined space, and she gave me a pointed look, her blue eyes, heavily made up, peered at me through breaks in her long blonde bangs. She shook the hair out of her eyes. Still staring at me, she leaned over close, an arm outstretched like she was going to touch me, her lips parted as if she had words to say, but she stuffed the cigarette between them and the arm detoured to open a window.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Beth said, her cigarette bobbing.

It really wasn’t a question. I shrugged, slightly unnerved.

She gave me an appraising look like I’d passed a small test and she wouldn’t, for now, attack me and throw my dead body out of our ride.

Beth had chosen the interview site, and the camping trip, both of which surprised me. The good part was that the trip would put us in close proximity for an extreme length of time, something which I had not presumed possible. But so far, other than the occasional stolen glances, the snippets of light chatter which slipped out of me before I could stop them, and Beth’s distracted responses, we hadn’t done much.

Arriving at our apparent destination, the middle of nowhere, but surrounded by land God would have pronounced as paradise, Beth grasped the handle of the door and threw it open.

She yelled at the driver, “Get the campsite set up. I’m going to take a piss somewhere besides this God-awful box.”

I big-eyed the driver who didn’t seem phased. I grabbed my purse and backpack and walked out of the trailer, following Beth. My feet back on Earth, a warm summer day just cooling, I looked over to a nearby stream surrounded by rocky terrain and then toward a cluster of  trees where Beth squatted on the ground. Averting my glance, I placed a hand over my eyes and looked toward the mountains, the sun almost fully set, behind them.

“Where’s the ranch,” I said to the driver as he pulled some gear from out below the rig. He’d been introduced to me as Cap. Short for what, or short for nothing at all, I wasn’t sure.

“Close enough,” said Cap.

Realizing I wasn’t going to get anything more, I didn’t feel the need to press him. He was passably good looking if you liked your cowboys haggard from years of hard outdoor living.

Beth, her jeans back on, ambled our way. “No fire tonight,” she said to the driver.

I felt marginally ridiculous and useless with my purse slung across my body, holding my backpack. Beth blew past me back into the motorhome. I heard a crash inside and her scream, “Dammit!”

I poked my head inside the door and looked in. “Can I help with something?”

Beth bent her head and lit a cigarette and swayed past me off the rig. She walked a few feet away. “Not unless you’re carrying a Remington shotgun.”

I didn’t know how to respond, but Beth stopped before me, her bangs making her bat her eyes a bit aggressively to release them from her heavy tresses. She’d crossed her arms, one hand holding the cigarette as she blew smoke in my direction, apparently waiting for a answer.

“Ah, no. I left it at home,” I finally responded.

She chewed on her bottom lip playfully then used her fingers to remove a speck of tobacco from her tongue. She considered it briefly before flicking it away.

“What the fuck can you do?” she asked.

My mouth went a little dry as I held up my backpack which contained my electronics. “I can write. When can we get started on the interview?”

She cocked her head way to the side then took another drag. She considered me and straightened her head and responded in a soft voice. “This is the interview, sweetie. Don’t you get that, melon?”

Melon? “Great!” I looked around and realized we were just standing there, with nowhere as of yet to sit, and no way for me to make notes. I wasn’t going to lose the opportunity, however. Unfortunately, my first question was a bit less thoughtful than I intended.

“You’ve been linked to a number of men, but to my knowledge, none of them have been serious relationships. Do you think you’ll ever marry, have children, settle down?”

Beth closed her eyes. Her shoulders jerked as she began to giggle. Her blues eyes snapped open. “Settle down. That’s your question?” She smiled, all teeth. Unfortunately, almost feral.

I nodded. It was all I could think to do.

Beth pointed her cigarette in my direction. “You ever break a horse?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Some say, you have to take their soul when you break them. It’s the best way for them to settle down.” She frowned at the last two words.

I blinked. “Okay. So no. How about men? Are you seeing anyone?”

She giggled again and threw her cigarette on the ground. She looked over at Cap and yelled. “Be ready. We’re leaving at full dark.”

I looked around. “We’re leaving? I thought we were camping. Where’s the ranch?”

Beth rocked her head almost imperceptibly as if she was listening to some music only she could hear. “You ain’t going. You’ll stay here. Don’t worry, we won’t be long.”

“You’re leaving me here?”

“Well now, look at you. Like a junior reporter. Figuring it all out.”

Annoyed, I nonetheless asked, “Where are you going?”

She swayed a bit, her shoulders and hips moving. “To make history, melon. But don’t you worry. We’ll keep your name out of it.”

Beth walked past me back into the trailer. I stewed as I watched the sunlight completely disappear, the first stars appearing in the big black sky. Cap had a pop-up tent set up and he’d scattered a few chairs nearby it. He’d also placed two coolers near them.

Beth came out of the trailer and stopped to look at the sky. She had a drink in her hand and put her head down as she navigated the stairs. She walked past me, sloshing a little of the liquid contents from her glass on the ground as she walked toward the tent. “There’s dinner in the coolers,” she called over her shoulder. “Make yourself at home.”

I finally put my backpack on the ground. This was ridiculous. “I don’t understand what’s happening. You can’t leave me here alone, in the middle of nowhere. It’ll be pitch dark in a few minutes. I don’t even have a flashlight!”

Beth kicked at one of the coolers—a blue one, and threw back the lid. She peered inside then slammed it shut. She poked her head inside the tent then came back out. “You got everything you need right here. And there’s a lantern in the tent.” She smiled, every tooth showing, appearing relaxed and easy as she put a booted foot on the other cooler in front of the tent—a black one. “This one here,” she said, looking down, “now this one contains a special surprise just for you.”

Beth began to walk toward me. “Open it or not, it’s up to you.”

She shrugged and pulled to a stop in front of me. “Let me ask you a question, melon. Who do you work for?”

I noticed Cap standing in front of the steps to the motorhome. He and Beth glanced at one another then he disappeared inside. “Wait. What?”

Beth licked her lips. She whispered. “Who do you work for, darlin?”

“I, I work for myself. I told you that. I’m freelance.”

Beth picked up her glass filled with amber liquid and drained it. She looked at the glass and frowned and began walking toward the motorhome.

“Wait!” I followed her. “Really. This is absurd. You can’t leave me out here! How long are you going to be gone?”

Beth turned at the top step of the entrance to motorhome, her body filling the small space. “When we first spoke, you told me that you wanted to know what it was like to be me. Alright then. Crawl into my head. I’m giving you a grand opportunity.”

She stared me down then leaned into my face. The bourbon and cigarettes on her breath was strong. “I’m coming back.” She winked at me then reached over and closed the door.

Within moments, I stood speechless as the motorhome drove off, leaving me literally in the middle of bum fuck nowhere.

“What the hell!” I screamed at the departing vehicle. “Goddammit!”

Why the hell did I allow this to happen! Why didn’t I just force myself into the motorhome? She couldn’t have stopped me. I didn’t want a physical altercation, but surely if I’d been aggressive, she would have moved aside? Where the hell were they going? What was she talking about crawling into her head?

“Oh my God,” I whispered as I took in my surroundings and predicament. I grabbed my shit off the ground and ran to the tent. I got on my hands and knees and crawled inside. There was a sleeping bag, and a lantern. I lunged for it and found the slide and turned it on. Mercifully, it came on bright. Real bright. It had a lot of power.

I looked at the orange walls of the vinyl tent and figured it was better than nothing. But what if an animal came across me? What then! Maybe I should move the food inside the tent.

I crawled out with my lantern and opened the blue cooler. It was filled with food and an assortment of beverages as well as a first-aid kit. “Isn’t that considerate,” I said, slamming the lid.

I leaned over and pushed the blue cooler into the tent then bent down to do the same to the black one, but something stopped me. What was inside? She said a special surprise. What could that be?

My hand trembled slightly as I bent over to the lid, ready to open it, but then I stopped. I heard a noise. I snapped up straight, my head on a swivel as I looked around, my lantern casting light every which way, but I could see nothing.

I had to get inside the tent. It might be a false sense of security, but it was all I had. I reached down for the black cooler but froze when heard the noise again. I realized it was coming from inside.

“Fuck!” I said, as my hand recoiled from the lid. “What the fuck is that!”

I backed up a few steps and stared at it. What could be in there? Something alive? Why would Beth do this? That question about who I worked for….who did she think I was? Yes, I’ve worked for a number of publications, most of them for my buddy in Billings, Matt Henderson—but she couldn’t be referring to him. Could she?

I thought about that for a few moments, thinking about Matt’s affiliations to the larger communications outfits and wondered just what twisted threads Beth had weaved together in order to make me something I was not.

I loved Beth Dutton. She was the coolest female I had ever met, let alone interviewed. Or not interviewed. And now she abandoned me? Should I stay? Does my cellphone work out here?

I dove back inside the tent and scrambled through my bag and pulled out my phone. “Fuck!” I screamed. Not a single bar. No signal at all. I was stranded.

My hand began to shake as I sat in the tent and looked outside. The black cooler was sitting out there waiting for me. Or not. There was no reason at all to open it. I could just leave it. Or I could find a rock and place it on top to keep the lid shut down tight.

I grasped my hands together trying to make them stop shaking then opened up the blue cooler and found a bottle of Jack Daniels Black. I cracked it open and took a sip. My inexperienced taste buds reacted violently as my head and tongue shook to make the strong taste stop. I rubbed at my mouth with the back of my hand and put the bottle down. I had to get a grip.

I grabbed the lantern and crawled back out of my hole and stood next to the black cooler. I looked around everywhere for some kind of weapon, but in the end, realized my lantern was a really solid piece of metal.

“Okay girl. You can do this. On three.” I reached over to the lid with my hand, but changed my mind and instead used the tip of my shoe. Positioning it directly into the lip of the lid, I tested the lid’s strength and felt it rise, just a bit.

“Three,” I said. My shoe lifted the lid. Not a lot, and thank God for that. Gravity flopped it back in place before it got far, but it had been open long enough for me to get a peek. The cooler contained a snake.

All the blood in my body seemed to pool around my feet as I slammed the lantern hard on the lid then backed away in panic. My hands on my mouth, I realized I needed the lantern—badly, and leaving it on top of the snake in the cooler was a terrible idea. If it got out, I had nowhere to go, and it would own the territory around my only source of light.

“Oh, God!” I said, yanking the lantern off the cooler. I jumped back inside the tent and scrounged through the food cooler and stopped cold when I came to a small bottle labeled ‘Anti-Venom’.

“What the fuck, Beth! In case it bit me? What kind of monster are you!”

I threw the bottle on my sleeping bag and kept searching the contents and found a roll of silver duct tape. My hand trembled with fear and relief as I ripped out a long section of the tape and tore it off with my teeth. Holding the strip firmly in hand, I crawled out of the tent and approached the cooler and slapped the tape onto the top, over the lid, and down the side.

The cooler shook a bit then got quiet. I sat on the ground and stared at it, marveling at the crazy situation I’d found myself in and at the thought that Beth had planned and packed all the pieces, constructing my current environment.

“Why did she do this?”

I crawled back inside the tent and zipped it up, my light shining bright as I lay back on the sleeping bag and thought deeply about the meaning of it all.

I’m fearful. There’s a snake outside. I’m vulnerable and alone. There’s a snake outside. He could hurt me. But goddamn it, I’ve got a plan. And a way to contain it. I’ve got duct tape, my weapon. And booze, to numb and amuse myself. I’ve got a damn fine light. I’ve got food, and hopefully someone will rescue me from my current situation soon.

Beth said she’d come back. If not, then what. What will happen to me? How will I feel when this is over?

“Crawl into my head. I’m giving you a grand opportunity.”

Beth’s words.

I was feeling it. I grabbed the bottle of Black Jack for inspiration. I’d wait. I’d plan, and I’d try to stay calm. That’s what Beth would do. And what would happen when the vulnerable predicament I was living in was over?

I smiled and blew my own bangs out of my eyes. Yes. I knew. Heads would roll.

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