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


The drive into the Sierra Nevada Mountains had been smooth, and the view of Lake Tahoe as they came over Echo Summit was spectacular. It was mid-September, and the crowds that were frequently found around the lake had dwindled as parents took their children back to school. But Tom and Judy still felt uptight from their discussions earlier in the day about earthquakes. Even their brief stopover at Stateline to do some gambling did not relieve the tensions. A couple of hours later they continued on toward Carson City, Nevada.

After registering at an RV park office alongside US 395, Tom drove back away from the highway to their assigned space. He had quickly backed in. He had the camper stepstool out and was preparing to set up the camp chairs when Judy said, "But the camper is not level."

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

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

Tom glared at his wife. He felt this was a standard routine she was putting him through, and he wanted to just say no. But good sense got the better of him, and he walked forward to relevel the truck. As he pulled the truck forward and to the side and then started backing up, he called back to his wife, "Tell me when it's level."

Judy came forward to ask him what he had said as he backed the truck into the space. Just as she said, "What did you say?" Tom felt the rear of the truck lift slightly. He quickly stopped and rolled a foot forward. He knew what he would see as he set the emergency brake, got out of the truck and walked to the rear. There under the left tire were the mangled remains of the camper stepstool. He kicked it with disgust, then reached down and pulled 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 spouted as he glared 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 looked as if she was breaking into tears.

Tom suddenly realized how silly they must look, and he reached out and took Judy in his arms. "I'm sorry, honey. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I guess we're both just uptight from the talks and the drive. We can always get another stepstool." He rubbed her shoulders and patted her back.

She sobbed briefly into his shoulder and said, "Okay." She wiped her eyes on his shirtsleeve and then asked, "Can I call David and see if he is okay?"

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