On the Inside

“I have something to tell you.”

Nervous chittering rose from deep within her. She glanced at the closed door. Would he panic? Would the nurses come running? Hopefully not. That would be unfortunate.

His eyelids fluttered open, and her mind was flooded with thousands of images from thousands of days together. But the soft rhythm of the machinery lining the room reminded her of home, and she knew she had to tell him while she could.

She took her husband’s hand in her and rubbed the tip of her thumb across his skin the way she always did when he was anxious or she had something unpleasant to tell him.

“This … this isn’t going to be easy to hear.”

His pupils dilated, and she knew he was confused, maybe somewhat afraid. This would be difficult, but needed to be done. She couldn’t let her go with secrets between them. After so many years, she owed him that much.

“You’ve always been a loving, supportive husband. I’ve been less so as your wife. I know how I am. I can be … distant, I think is your right word. Distant? Inaccessible? I want to tell you why.”

Anxiety began to creep across his face. After so many years, she had grown astute at reading his emotions. She tried to calm him.

“No, no. It’s not that. I’ve never been unfaithful. I wouldn’t … I’ve never even desired another man. Not before I meant you. Never after. You’ve been the only one. It’s because of you I …”

She felt her husband’s pulse quicken. Not drastically, but enough for her to notice. Age had made his heart weak; she hoped it could endure this.

“You’ve never said anything, but I know you’ve noticed my appearance. I’ve tried to mask it, but it’s hard to live with someone for so long and not notice changes. Or lack of changes, I suppose. I think the glasses help. I don’t need them, you know. But they help sell the illusion that I’m much older than I …”

She paused to consider her words before continuing.

“I mean, the age I’m supposed to be,” she said, patting the top of his hand reassuringly. It was clear he was becoming more and more confused. “You found the hair coloring, so I know you know about that. Probably noticed that I’ve been using makeup to splotch my skin … add shadows beneath the eyes. But those are simple disguises. They may help fool casual friends. Acquaintances. Even the people I work with.

“But they didn’t fool you, did they?” She smiled affectionately and traced her thumb across the top of his hand, gently caressing his thinning skin, gliding over the bump of his veins just beneath it. The wavering in his eyes told her she had hit upon a truth.

“Of course they didn’t. I supposed these kinds of illusions don’t hold up under close scrutiny. It’s hard to hide not ever getting sick from someone who sees you every day. Never developing a cough … getting the flu … vomiting from too much drinking. That kind of thing. And faking the general fleshy sag of age is tricky. Which is why most choose a more solitary life.”

She furrowed his brow to show sincerity.

“But I just … I just couldn’t … When we met all those years ago …”

The words weren’t coming. She clicked from deep in her throat, a bad habit from years ago. One she thought she had broken, but kept popping up from time to time.

Slowly, he slid his free hand over hers. The rough feel of his calloused palms instantly made her feel braver. She could do this. Had to do this, now.

“I am not like you,” she said. Once again, she read the confusion in her husband’s eyes.

“No, not Catholic. Although … well, not important.

“I mean, I’m not like you. Human.”

He started to pull his hands from hers, but she kept a firm grip on them.

“I am actually part of an ancient race of creatures who have been slowly and steadily assimilating into your species since long before your ancestors ancestors. There are more of us than you can imagine … people you’ve seen on television, or read about in school, or know personally. Mrs. Farner next door; that really oddball librarian; the little shithead kid who rolls our yard every year … We’re everywhere. And I’m one of them.”

She looked him straight in the eye, leaned forward slightly to convey sincerity.

“I’m so sorry.”

She could feel her husband’s pulse rate increasing. His eyes began to widen, fill with deep confusion, anger. But she couldn’t stop now.

“I guess, if I were to have to describe us in relatable terms, I’d probably compare us … at least as far as physical appearance goes … to locusts, maybe. Really, really big locusts. Although, that’s only because I love you and I’m trying to make you understand. That comparison is pretty insulting to my people, truth be told.”

She smiled at him, hoping he would find humor in the comment … and maybe the situation as a whole. He didn’t return the smile.

“OK. And here’s … let me preface this by telling you this is going to seem really strange … but when I’m referring to ‘Me’ or ‘I’ or ‘Myself,’ I’m actually talking about several dozen individual beings all linked by a single hive mind sharing a common host. In this case, Janet McKinnley of Montgomery, Alabama. You remember when we met, right dear?”

She squeezed her husband’s hand again. He didn’t squeeze back. Her insides began skittering with concern.

“Uh … you see … when you found me out there on that hike, we had actually just completed finished … and there’s really not a pleasant-sounding word for this. Infecting isn’t right. But … I’ve got to be honest with you … ‘infecting’ probably sounds better than ‘devouring her innards, metabolizing her various muscles and organs and taking control of her squishy flesh,’ which is more accurate. There’s just not a pleasant way of describing our process.”

She snapped the fingers of his free hand.

“Co-opting. That’s pretty close.”

She smiled again.

“When we saw you … I saw you, because that’s what we are when we co-opt someone. An ‘I,’ not a ‘we.’ When I saw you, I just knew I had to be with you. You were so kind. So sweet. So concerned when you saw me lying there, adjusting to the new host. I had to see you again, and again after that. My feelings for you have always been real, and I’ve always wanted to tell you the truth. But there was just never a good way to breach the subject. To say, ‘Honey, I’m a small cadre of insect-like creatures wearing a costume of flesh.’”

Tears were streaming down his face. She felt his hand trembling in hers.

“But really, that’s not what I am,” she said. “I am Janet McKinnley. Jan. Janey-O. J. On the inside, I mean. The woman whom you love and who loves you. The rest is all details. You and I have loved each other for decades. Took care of one another. None of that has changed. We are your wife, and we love you. We just … I just … wanted you to know that before …”

And she just let the words peter off because finishing them was too difficult. Besides, it was all out there now. Nothing else to say.

Silence fell between them and seemed to last forever. His eyes, red with crying and pain, both emotional and physical, said he was uncertain. Confused. Angry. The things his wife said … horrible things … couldn’t possibly be true. She read all of that on her husband’s face, and knew she hadn’t done enough to convince him.

But she had to make him understand. To let him know she was telling the truth. It was important for him see her for what she really was, at least once.

“Let me show you,” she said, and she opened her mouth. Then wider. Then wider. Wide enough that he could see …

His eyes filled with terror.

He gasped.

He wrenched his hand from hers.

Her many hearts broke.

“I love you honey … Why are you crying?”

I saw a movie…

It was called Non-Stop.

This is what I thought about it:

nonstop_xlgNon-Stop is a movie in which Liam Neeson, best known for his role as the lovable bandit Kegan in the 1983 super-hit Krull, plays an airplane cop who spends most of the movie texting a mysterious terrorist while the camera does its best to make the audience think action-packed stuff is going down. The camera shifts in and out of focus and shakes around a lot to give the moviegoers some insight into what it’s like to be floor-fucking drunk while trying to shoot a movie. Sometimes, text bubbles pop up on the screen to let viewers in on all the texting action and because test audiences didn’t respond well to two hours of staring at the top of an Irish man’s head. Occasionally, Maude Lebowski drops by to ask Qui Gon a question like, “What’s going on?” or “What’s happening now?” At several points in the movie, other actors, played by actors I’ve never seen before, ask the same kinds of questions. Towards the end of the movie, a villain is revealed, stuff gets resolved and for some reason Qui Gon and Maude are maybe sort of romantically interested in each other. I don’t know.

The movie was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the auteur behind House of Wax and Goal II: Living the Dream. The movie was made in 2014 and has a runtime just under the point where you start asking yourself, “How much longer is this going to last?”

In case you couldn’t tell, I liked it pretty well.

Most of the action in the movie revolves around our generically-named main character — Jack McMainguy or something similar —texting back and forth with a guy who claims he’s going to start killing passengers at a rate of one per 20 minutes until the end of the movie. That is unless McMainguy wires a billion-jillion dollars to him, in which case he’ll just forget about the whole killing people thing. It’s up to McMainguy to keep texting and looking serious and frantically searching for answers until the 90 minute mark or so. Then the movie can start wrapping things up and shuffling its audience back to the Redbox for another movie that probably stars Liam Neeson.

Non-Stop is a lot like Speed except that instead of Keanu Reeves we have someone who can act, and instead of Dennis Hopper we have a cell phone. Also, the words “pop quiz” don’t feature heavily in the characterization of the main villain, and no one calls any one else “Hot Shot” at all, which seems like a big miscalculation on the filmmakers’ part.

To give you a taste of the film, here’s a sample scene from Non-Stop:

Int. – plane: [We hear the chirp of Jack McMainguy’s phone as he receives a new text message. McMainguy crunches his stony face in concern. He knows this is going to be bad. He pulls the phone from his pocket and looks at the screen.]
PHONE: Were is my monee???????
MCMAINGUY: [texting] Who R U??????
PHONE: Dude, get me my monneee or else somone is gonna dye!!!!!!
MCMAINGUY: [texting harder] Why R U doing this?????? :((((
PHONE: U R the one doing this Jack. U prolly don’t remember that U R to blame 4 these peopel who R dying!!! :p
MCMAINGUY: [texting even harder then before. The camera spins around him as his thumbs blaze across the keyboard. The clicky clicky of his keys is totally intense.] WAAAAAAAAAAT??????!!!!!
JULIANNE MOORE’S CHARACTER: [Looking concerned.] What’s going on?

I’m not sure why the filmmakers thought I wanted to watch a movie about some dude texting a bunch. I get enough of that in my regular life. Like, I can’t even talk to my friends anymore because their noses are always pressed against their phone screens. I get that for free. It’s kind of silly they think I want to pay to see some dude do it for an hour and a half.

Despite all the boring texting, there’s some cool stuff in Non-Stop. Since his staring role in 2008’s monument to glorious stupidity and xenophobia, Taken, Neeson has carved a nice little niche for himself as Hollywood’s go-to intelligent badass. Dude’s one of the few actors these days who makes me want to watch whatever shitty movie he’s in because he has a cool voice. Julianne Moore does a respectable job of playing the non-character written for her. Bless her little red head, she tries her best to give her role a little character — she’s kind of fidgety and nervous and wears this ridiculous set of gigantic reading glasses in a couple of scenes. Seriously, each lens of those things is roughly the size of a grown man’s foot. They were practically a mask.

While the who-dun-it portion of the movie was entertaining, Non-Stop’s resolution isn’t all that satisfying. Plus it ends with a big, hokey special effects sequence, the quality of which just barely teeters over the right side of better than something in a SyFy Original Movie. But those movies have flying sharks and robot octopuses and fire-breathing giant spiders, so they win.

Here’s my pre-packaged movie poster quote for Non-Stop: Non-Stop is a nonstop thrill ride that doesn’t stop until it’s over. – Adam Armour, I’m Trying to Write”

I saw a movie …

It was called, In Bruges.

This is what I thought about it.

Notice the way Bruges' stunning architecture is featured heavily the promotional materials. Disgusting in its conspicuousness.

Notice the way Bruges’ stunning architecture is featured heavily the promotional materials. Disgusting in its conspicuousness.

On the surface, Martin McDonagh’s 2008 comedy crime flick probably seems like just another story about the foibles of two wizards and a vampire as they try to survive a series of wacky adventures in one of Belgium’s most famous cities. But beneath its slick veneer of brutal violence and unending profanity is something much, much more subversive and, quite frankly, sinister. Just like every Adam Sandler movie is a not-so-subtle commentary on the degradation of society and the avocation for mass suicide, In Bruges is clearly the masterwork of the Belgium Tourism Commission or whatever the European version of a chamber of commerce is.

I’m just going to be out-and-out with you: I have no evidence to back up this claim. No evidence other than common fucking sense, that is. I’ve got eyes; I’ve got ears. I can see the way McDonagh bombards his audience with establishing shot after establishing shot of Bruges, each a showcase for the city’s unique and utterly beautiful medieval architecture or the splendor of its many winding canals. I can hear his characters as they engage in repeated conversations about the inarguable majesty of “The Venice of the North.” Again and again, the movie stops dead in its tracks so that its characters can gaze in wonder at the splendor of the The Church of Our Lady or take in the breathtaking view from atop the Belfry or speak in hushed tones about the way the city takes on a dreamlike quality when a blanket of fog cloaks its stoned streets and ancient architecture in the infancy of daylight.

In fact, the only character to even suggest Bruges is anything less than a utopia is the dude who plays Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, but he’s totally the villain of the movie because he’s played by an actor with the audacity to star in remakes of both Total Recall and Fright Night and is therefore obviously meant to be seen as the Iago of the piece. As an audience, we’re meant to boo and hiss every time he dares speak of Bruges with anything less than total reverence. The monster.

Still, I have to admit, although I hate how the movie industry has, though subtle manipulations, transformed into a way for companies to encourage people to pay to watch advertisements, In Bruges is not without its charms. I’ve already mentioned the curse words and bloody stuffs, so there’s that. Plus, both Mad Eye Moody and Voldemort are quite good in their parts, despite the heavy makeup and CGI effects to make them appear more like muggles. But it’s the dude who plays Bullseye that’s the real treat here. He pulls off a mentally handicapped villain so convincingly, I’m pretty sure he could find a successful career in government should Hollywood decide it no longer needs to keep churning out terrible remakes of good 80s movies. Plus, a racist dwarf — not a typecast Joe Pesci, by the way — figures heavily in the plot line.

When its not beating you over the head with how awesome the city of Bruges can be when the mist clings to the air on a dewy morning (or, through the movie’s villain, ironically telling you that Bruges is lame because its buildings are all old), the movie does a good job of moving briskly along with genuinely funny and/or moving scenes, clever dialogue and interesting, well-rounded characters. If nothing, In Bruges is tremendously watchable, which is way better than most commercials these days.

Basically, if you want to see a really nice Tripadvisor page — the kind in which all the photos are of the grounds and other stuff you actually want to see and not just people’s kids and a bunch of closeups of minor shit like the grout in the bathrooms or the way the carpet pulls up slightly in one corner — stretched out to movie length, then In Bruges is the way to go. It’s way better than Escape from Tomorrow.

More Blunt Poetry

Unlike most snooty wordsmiths, I don’t feel like poetry should waste a bunch of time being frou frou and open for interpretation. To the point rhymey stuff … that’s what I like. Previously, I wrote about how much I hated my cat shitting after I just cleaned her litter box. This time, it’s this…

Getting Ready for
Bed is a

Real Pain
In the Ass

Take a piss.
Brush my teeth.
Wash my face.
Take a leak.
Remove clothes
Blow my nose.
Spray saline.
Drain the hose.
PJs on.
Feed the dog.
Catch the cat.
Water the hog.
Off the lights.
Door gets locked.
Check the oven.
Squeeze the mop.
Blow my nose.
Bathroom break.
Check the lock.
Bleed the snake.
Lower the sheets.
Check for fleas.
Sound machine.
Seek relief.
Return to bed.
Pillow flip.
Start to sit.
Another trip.
Back to bed.
Give wife kiss.
Turn off light.
I have to piss.

I hate you and all of your kind.

I hate you and all of your kind.

Noisy neighbors and the end of the world

Saturday; 3 A.M.; the Armour living room:

I was pretty sure the end of days had arrived. Put on your clean underwear: The Four Horsemen were on their way.

As I stirred from where I had fallen asleep on the couch, I could hear their thunderous footsteps growing louder, a slow crescendo into the kind of deafening roar that woke cats and rattled the pictures on the wall. Within the sound of the rhythmic pounding of their great hooves against the cosmos, I could hear chanting … some kind of tuneless wail of Apocalypse:

Baby you a song. You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise. Down a back road blowin’ stop signs through the middle …

Wait … wait isn’t that Florida Georgia Line? I mean, if there were music to call forth the destruction of the world, that kind of glossy twang-pop would be it, but I always figured the Horsemen would come riding in blasting Wagner or Grieg or Megadeth. Something with some oomph to it.

By this time I had fully shaken away my slumber. The music filled my living room … heck, there might as well have been a live performance next to the ottoman. I can’t imagine it being much louder. I popped up from the sofa, kicking the blanket free from my legs as I did so. I pushed up the living room blinds to check on the commotion. The world’s largest pickup truck had stopped in front of my house. Doors flew open from all directions and a collection of feisty drunkards came spilling out into the street. They were belting what I assumed were the lyrics to the song, falling out of the vehicle mid-chorus. Their voices bounced repeatedly against the neighborhood houses. There were eight or so of them, and they piled into the open air carport of the house across from mine.

Of course. These were my neighbors. I should have known.

I’m fairly certain the house across from ours is cursed or something. The way I figure it, the thing was erected atop two or three converging Native American burial grounds, filling its foundation and walls and ceilings and that little space at the top that isn’t quite an attic but also isn’t quite a room, with the vengeful spirits of those who owned this land before we got here. It was a building doomed to never know peace.

Since Mandy and I moved into our house eight years ago, the house across from ours has been home to a string of semi-wretched human beings. This might sound harsh, but I’ll stand by my statement. Admittedly, our neighbors might not be kidnapping puppies or tossing children into wells, but nearly all of them have been horrendously inconsiderate. In my book, that’s just about as bad.

A few months after we moved in, our neighbors — a single mother and her son — moved out. They were promptly replaced by a married couple, their young daughter (whose hobby was standing in the front yard screaming) and their two dogs, one of which I’m fairly certain was a Brachiosaurus that had somehow escaped extinction. This beast would be allowed free roam of the neighborhood, stomping great craters into people’s yards and leaving droppings the size of ocean liners on rooftops.

The smaller of their dogs, minuscule enough to be folded into the breast pocket of a shirt, was also loose. It marked the end of our driveway as its territory and would squeakily threaten to murder us every time we stepped outdoors.

Like our current neighbors, these folks loved to party, weekend or not. Beginning at 6 p.m or so, they would abandon the comforts of their home for the carport, hauling a mini-fridge and approximately 2,000 cartons of cigarettes with them. From the fridge, they would retrieve beer after beer after beer for hours on end, steadily becoming more and more intoxicated as day slipped into night and night into the time of day known only to college students and IHOP employees. By the time they called it an evening … usually after we called the cops … the four or five of them were howling at each other and blaring awful music from the open doors of a truck.

Eventually, they moved out. We rejoiced. I recall the two of us standing in the kitchen weeping joyously as we played air guitar. Something like that.

They were replaced a few weeks later by a man who was either unemployed or had one of those work-from-home jobs that are as common as unicorns. Thankfully, he wasn’t much of a troublemaker, at least not in the sense that our previous neighbors had been troublemakers. He had a lot of stop-and-go traffic dropping by his house, though … a long series of different pals who would drop by for 10 minutes and then leave, never to be seen again.

“I think he may be some kind of drug dealer,” Mandy told me one day, citing information a police officer had given us during a neighborhood association meeting.

I shrugged and said something along the lines of, “I don’t care as long as he’s quiet.” It was the truth, too. Dude could have been running a 19th century brothel out of the place for all I cared as long as the clientele used their inside voices.

Eventually, he went too. After a few months of renovations, the house received its current tenant, a single woman who, from what I can gather, hangs out exclusively with a group of drunken men who might as well live there. The curse holds true; they are world-endingly noisy people.

Come to think of it, maybe we’re the cursed ones.

As I stared out at their revelry from the break in my blinds, watching them stumble-dance to awful music in the middle of the street, my thoughts turned inward. I’ll never claim to be the most philanthropic guy in the world: I do very little to actively help my fellow man. That said, I also try my darndest to be as little a bother as possible. I try to be sociable and kind to strangers, attempt little niceties every now and again and treat even the rudest cashiers like human beings. Because, you know, they are. That’s how I want to help out.

It might not change the world, but chances are it won’t end it, either.

If I were the earth, I would totally blow myself up to avoid hearing another Florida Georgia Line song.

If I were the earth, I would totally blow myself up to avoid hearing another Florida Georgia Line song.

Rules are made to be followed, unless you can’t count

Even at a glance, I could tell the woman in line ahead of me had way more than the 20 items permitted in the express lane.

It looked as if she’d done a year’s worth of shopping that day, her buggy bulging at the sides from being packed with so many items. The groceries crested the rim of the cart like the bulbous gut of a potbellied man knocked flat on his back. I was no math wiz, but it was definitely more than 20 items.

I eyed the 12-pack of toilet paper tucked beneath my arm and frowned.

“Why do people do that?” I asked. “I mean, surely she knows that she has more than 20 items. Can she not read the sign? Doesn’t she know how to count?”

The toilet paper offered no opinion on the matter.

I reconsidered. Maybe she didn’t know how to count. Perhaps, providing my tendency to be self-centered, I failed to consider the possibility that the lady wasn’t equipped to know whether or not she belonged in the express lane. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental.

“Bully for her,” I told the toilet paper. “It’s amazing that she’s achieved so much in life without having stepped foot inside a kindergarten classroom. She should be commended, praised.”

The toilet paper remained silent on the matter, apparently disagreeing.

Well, I thought, then maybe she’s one of those confused shoppers who mistakenly believes that “20 items or less” (which, by the way, really should be “20 items or fewer”) refers to the number of item types, not the actual item count. For example, those 75 cans of Campbell’s Chunky Mushroom Swiss Burger Soup would still only count as a single item. Only stupid people think this way, of course, but I didn’t personally know the woman and therefore couldn’t attest to her beliefs.

But then, she turned and smiled at me. That’s when I knew.

“Sorry,” she said, and there was no actual apology in her tone. Feigning embarrassment, the lady shrugged. What could she do about it? It wasn’t her fault. She was helpless in this matter … as much a victim as I.

That’s when it occurred to me: This woman, who was most likely raised and educated by something other than barbarians or rock formations, had intentionally entered the express lane knowing good and well she had more than “20 items or less (fewer).” There I was, merrily following the rules with the single item I hoped to purchase, and I was stuck in purgatory because somebody didn’t want to follow a pretty basic courteous guideline. Twenty items or less (fewer)? Not for her. Twenty items or less (fewer) was just the jumping off point; she had somehow advanced beyond that particular rule.

I turned over my shoulder to make a snide comment to the guy behind me, certain he would join me in my frustration. But lo, what’s this? His shopping cart was equally packed to the brim … perhaps more so. His poor buggy groaned from being so bloated with items.

“What kind of world is this?” I asked my toilet paper. “Surely these folks know they’re being incredibly rude. I’m not a stick in the mud or whatever; I know some rules are made to be broken. Sleeping at work, for example.

“But the Law of 20 Items or Less (Fewer) … well, that’s one of the building blocks of our consumerist society. It’s absolute. Without it, the very order that holds our supermarkets and supercenters and other super-retail stores together will go POOF. The poor planners among us, those who haven’t the patience or foresight for list-making and do our shopping a handful of items at a time, multiple times a week, will be up … well, you of all things should know the creek I’m talking about.”

Those sheets stared at me blankly. They had no answers.

I sighed.

“Why can’t people just … I don’t know … do right by each other? That should be simple, right? Especially when it comes to something as low-commitment as counting to 20. Sometimes it’s OK to follow the rules … to be one of the crowd.”

Lost as I was pondering the tangled threads of our society, I almost neglected to acknowledge the woman speaking to me. She had, apparently, finished loading all two-dozen sacks of groceries in her cart and was ready to … finally … leave.

“Sorry again,” she said, then smiled half-heartedly.

“Oh, that’s OK,” I replied, and smiled in return. Mostly because I’m a coward.

By the time I reached the parking lot, the woman was loading the last of her bags into the back of her vehicle. She slammed the hatch, then pushed her shopping cart to the side of her car and abandoned it. Then she got in her car and drove away, passing the nearest buggy stall as she did so. It was three spaces away from where she had parked.

Sighing, I set the toilet paper in the backseat of my car and walked over to retrieve the cart, now drifting slowly toward the center of the empty parking space as if unsure of where to go or what to do next.

“Come on,” I said, taking hold of the handle. Together, we rolled over to the nearby buggy stall.

“Some people, right?” I said as I pushed the cart into the stall.

“You’re telling me,” it said as it rattled to a stop, joining the others standing uniformly in line.

“Mom? Dad? Are you there? Where am I? Why am I all alone?”

RV People: An Essay

The man inside the stall was humming. Loudly.

It wasn’t just a casual kind of hum, either — something to distract from the awkward silence of two men using the restroom, one of whom was brushing his teeth and the other of whom was dropping some kids off at the pool. No, this was a bright, boisterous humming that struggled to break out into a full musical number. If a brass section had kicked in from one stall down, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I casually mentioned this washroom warbler to my companions upon returning to our campsite:

“I mean, he was really going for it,” I told them, providing my own wild, rhythm-less rendition of his song, adding impolite noises where appropriate.

“I guess he was just a happy guy,” Amy suggested, but I could tell from the uncertain look in her eye what she was thinking because I had been thinking it, too. We all had.

RV People.

We watched them come and go throughout our stay, unpacking and repacking, settling down and settling up. Like modern day nomads, the RV People would arrive one after another, traveling in vehicles the size of dinosaurs. Once parked, these mammoth machines would transform, growing new rooms from their tops and sides like spontaneous tumors. All manner of items would spill from their innards —tents and grills and LCD televisions and folding chairs and little porcelain figurines — transforming the landscape into an upper-class hobo camp of sorts. A day later, they would be gone, the only evidence of their presence — the tread marks in the gravel.

“Have you noticed these RV People all have dogs?” Mandy asked me one afternoon.

I had. And not just the tiny froufrou puff dogs that you can fold and carry in your wallet, either. I’m talking about big, lanky creatures with slobber dangling from their jowls like stalactites along the roof of some monstrous cavern. One evening, I had seen a woman walking three of these beasts at once.

“I can’t imagine being cooped up in a motor home with LP,” Mandy said, and I pictured our dog bouncing from wall to wall to wall inside a 30×8 foot space like a hyperactive kindergartener hopped up on pixie sticks. Shudder.

One morning, I parked myself in a pop-up chair next to Tina and Amy, who were staring at a huge camper across from our cabin. A man was sitting inside of it near a window, his face awash in the orange-yellow glow of an unseen light. Tina said he had been sitting there in that same spot late into the night and was there when she had gotten up in the morning. She had apparently been watching him, off and on, for several hours.

“He never moves,” she said, meaning it literally. She had never seen him physically shift at all. And we never did, either; not for the duration of our stay.

“I just saw a guy walking along balancing a box on his head,” Amy popped in. “I said ‘hi’ to him, but he didn’t say anything back.”

She offered a baffled expression.

“If I had been drinking, I would have assumed I had hallucinated the whole thing,” she said.

Things got even stranger at night. By 8 p.m., the RV People were nowhere to be seen, their movable homes dark and still. Casual observers might have thought the park deserted. But if you looked carefully, you might see the occasional shadowy figure shifting in the gloom: A woman walking a fistful of pocket-sized dogs; an older man standing near his camper, smoke billowing from a pipe between his lips; or a man riding what can only be described as an adult tricycle, a melon of some sort rolling haphazardly in a basket positioned between its back wheels.

One morning, the water went out. I was in the bathroom at the time, and one of the RV People cam storming in mumbling about it.

“Shower’s out,” he told me. He turned handle on the sink faucet but no water came.

“Fuck it,” he told me, moving across the room and entering a stall. “I’ll just take a whore’s bath.” This, as evidenced by the splashing that followed, apparently meant bathing in toilet water.

Part of this strange behavior, I realize, was only noticeable because we were able to observe a group of people behaving comfortably for an extended period of time. I can’t imagine what people would think of me if they were to take a peek inside my home when I was at my most relaxed. Likely, they’d be completely appalled by the number of times I broke into profanity-laden versions of popular 80s radio hits.

On our final morning, I encountered the bathroom hummer again. As I finished brushing my teeth, he emerged from his stall shirtless, his big belly bouncing ahead of the rest of him. He greeted me pleasantly and asked where I was from.

“Mississippi,” I told him and returned the question.

“Indiana,” he said. “Came down for the reenactment. Heading out for home this morning. No rush to get back, of course.”

I smiled at him in the mirror as he wiped the pits of his arms with a wet paper towel.

“Us, too,” I said. “Heading for home, I mean. We’ve got work in the morning.”

He shook his head sympathetically.

“That’s the great thing about being retired and owning an RV,” he told me. “You just get to go where you want, when you want. You’re free.”

He smiled and pulled his shirt over his head, nodded and wished our group safe travels. I wished him the same.

The door closed behind him and I stood looking at my reflection in the mirror. My toothbrush was still in hand, the rest of my toiletries scattered in front of me on the counter, waiting to be packed, carried home and returned to their normal places.

At that moment, I was more than a little envious of the RV People.

Unfortunately for me, even something as sketchy as this cost somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty billion dollars.  It seems RV People aren't just strange, they're wealthy.

Unfortunately for me, even something as sketchy as this costs somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty billion dollars. It seems RV People aren’t just strange, they’re wealthy.