Stop at Carson City (Present Tense)
Copyright 1999, Sam Penny


The drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountains on US-50 had been relatively smooth, and the view of Lake Tahoe as they came over Echo Summit had been spectacular. It had been a beautiful day in May with the children still in school so the crowds that are frequently found around the lake have not yet swelled to their summer highs.

Tom and Judy are still uptight from their discussions earlier in the day about earthquakes. Even their brief stopover at the Stateline casinos to gamble had not relieved the tensions. After couple of hours of trying their luck they continue on towards Carson City, Nevada.

Tom registers at the RV park office alongside US 50 then drives to the back of the park away from the highway to their assigned space. He quickly backs in, has the camper stepstool out and is preparing to set up the camp chairs when Judy tilts her head, looking at the camper. "The camper's not level."

"We're only staying one night, and we're eating out. Why does it have to be perfectly level?" Tom is exasperated. What he wants is a cool drink of scotch whiskey and some relaxation.

"If it's not level the frig might quit working." Judy knowingly repeats an old camper's tale from when refrigeration units were made with ammonia gas. "Besides, I might roll out of bed from the slope."

Tom glares at his wife. This picky-ness is becoming a standard routine she puts him through, and he just wants to say no. But good sense again prevails, and he walks back to the cab to re-level the truck. He pulls the truck forward and to the side and then starts backing up. "Tell me when it's level."

Judy comes forward to ask him what he had said as he backs the truck into the space. Just as she says, "What did you say?" Tom feels the rear of the truck lift slightly. He stops quickly and rolls a foot forward. He knows what he will see as he set the emergency brake, steps out of the truck and walks to the rear. There behind the left tire are the mangled remains of the camper stepstool. He kicks it with disgust, then reaches down and pulls it out of the way.

"I hope you're happy. You'll just have to jump into the camper from ground level from now on. Why didn't you tell me I was about to run over the steps?" He glares at his wife.

"Tom, be reasonable. I was asking what you said, and you didn't wait to give me an answer. Why do you always blame things like this on me? You're the one who backed over the silly stepstool." She breaks into tears.

Tom suddenly realizes how silly they look, and he reaches out and takes Judy in his arms. "I'm sorry, honey. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I guess we're both just uptight from the earthquake talks and the drive. We can always get another stepstool." He rubs her shoulders and pats her back.

She sobs briefly into his shoulder. "I'm okay." She wipes her eyes on his shirtsleeve and asks, "Can I call Robert and see if he's okay?"

Tom laughs at how quickly his wife can change venues. "Sure, check him out while I get the truck leveled and fix us both a drink."