1. Whose Turn Is It Anyway? by mersey
2. What Would We Do There Anyway? by mersey
3. Why Are We Climbing Anyway? by mersey
4. Where Are We Sleeping Anyway? by mersey
5. When Is Dinner Anyway? by mersey
6. Mr. Rockweiler... by mersey
It was Kevin’s turn this year. Granted that we skipped about four years because of the hiatus, we decided that we should do it again this year, two weeks before the release of the album. Why? Because bad habits die hard. Heh, actually, that was Nick’s latest tattoo, which I happened to play a part in it’s very existence. But we’ll get back to that later. As to why we decided to do it this year, it’s because we don’t believe in throwing away tradition. The last time we did this, it was Howie’s turn and he had chosen that small apartment back in Orlando. Our very first apartment together. Well, Howie Kevin and I used to be the permanent dwellers in that house because the Mc Leans and Carters couldn’t trust AJ and Nick alone with us, which was a very good decision on their part. The awesome part was, nobody expected us to be living there for a week so we were left on our own. It was an awesome feeling, being in an opened neighborhood, to be able to walk around freely and no one bothered you. We would be walking around the apartment and something we saw there would trigger old memories. That was the best thing about these trips. The memories. There were a few problems with sleeping arrangements though, being that Nick had decided to grow up and the rest of us weren’t actually as small as we used to be. The once huge space felt constricted the first few days we were there. By the end of the week, we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of each other’s hairs. It was still nice though. “I think if we stay in this room a minute longer, the last one to die would be AJ.” Nick has a way to break up deafening silence. Yesterday while we were sitting around looking through a few pictures for our album sleeve, he let out this weird sounding fart that seemed to last forever and a day. AJ christened it fart capella cause it was that well strung. “Yeah?” AJ asked, not even a drop of sarcasm in his voice. That is how comfortable we are with each other’s strange behaviors. I tend not into dwell into the fact that we are used to the strange behaviors because it would only freak me out, bad. “Yeah,” Nick said as he stretched his legs and then folded them again pretzel style. “See, passive smokers have a higher risk of getting cancer than smokers themselves. That’s his third in a row and unless Kevin made up his mind and chose a damn place already, we’re stuck in this room and doom to die an early death.” “Die young and leave a better corpse behind.” Howie smirked. “I am no James Dean.” Nick said. I looked at Kevin and stifled a yawn. Yup, it takes Kevin just as long to decide on something as he would, just talking. “Well Kev, have you decided yet? I really want to outlive AJ.” “I don’t know man, I’m torn between two places.” Kevin sighed. “And this is a very important decision because I’m going to have to wait another four years before it’s my turn again. God knows if we’ll be doing this in four years.” “J, give me your cig pack.” Nick said. “What the heck for?” “I’m passing it around. If we were to die from smoking, might as well smoke one.” “NO!” I burst. Turned out, Kevin and Howie were thinking the same. “Then make up your mind already! We still need to go back home and start packing our stuff and you’re making me late!” Nick argued. “You’ll still be late if I had made up mind five hours ago.” Kevin pointed out. That earned him a few snickers, even from Nick. “Okay fine. Here goes nothing.” The room fell in anticipated silence. “We’re going to Kentucky.” Kevin grinned. “Into the Appalachian mountains and back to my dad’s camp.”
Supposedly, Kevin mowed grass, swept the cabins, cleaned the toilets and was a lifeguard and camp counselor. I say Kevin then wasn’t any different than the Kevin now. Still an all rounder. I stole a glance on the rear view mirror of Kevin’s Esplanade. My hair was in total mess, the effect of leaning back on this car for too damn long. I’m only thankful that I no longer had the long hair, that would be troublesome to look after on this trip. What can I say, old habits die hard. Ask Nicky, he’d most likely to agree with me on that. “But we’re not cleaning toilets right?” AJ asked, cutting in while Kevin was still telling us the things that he used to do up there. AJ could never sit still, he fidgeted a lot and never seemed to find a comfortable spot and stay very still. “We’re not.” Nick answered at the front. I heard Brian’s soft chuckle to my right. Seeing that Kevin said nothing, Nick shifted to his left a little and was facing Kevin now. “Right, Kevin?” “Unless if you wanna go au natural in the woods, yes, we have to clean the damn toilets.” Kevin replied. “Are they even working in the first place?” Brian asked. That got me worried. I for one, am not going au natural in the woods. If it comes down to people’s choice, Nicky will have my vote just this once. “You must be kidding me!” AJ groaned. “Okay you guys need to stop complaining so much,” Kevin said. I made sure that his eyes were on the road the whole time. Kevin could get very emotional at times and when he does, he wouldn’t want to look at the open road while talking to you. “We cleaned the toilet at our old house too, didn’t we? You guys didn’t even whine at Howie for that.” Yes, indeed that was true. Maybe it was my kind nature self that made it hard for them to be mad at me. What the heck am I thinking? Nick was getting expressive now. His hands were all over the place. “Yes, but now that we know better, we ain’t gonna do that shit again!” There was about a whole five seconds of silence in the car. That is too long of a pause. I was worried that Kevin would get offended by it. We knew how much the camp meant to him. It held everything there was of his life, but most importantly, his father. “Did you know that I used to lead hikes all over the 1,000-acre property that borders the Daniel Boone National Forest?” We groaned in unison. This wasn’t the first time we had heard of it. “Really Kev?” Nick said, rolling his eyes. Kevin didn’t seem to hear the sarcasm or chose to ignore it for now. “Yeah really,” Kevin continued. “It was so beautiful and very clean, that our water supply came from the natural spring.” “Yeah, it was awesome. I loved it when I was there.” Brian agreed. “Which wasn’t quite often at first because everyone else thought it’d be best that I be near a hospital at all times.” “But things changed.” Kevin smiled. “Sure did. Thanks to his dad.” Brian grinned. “Yeah? What did Richardson Senior do?” AJ asked, intrigued. “Well, he convinced my parents that the air is a lot cleaner up there and the natural spring is full of healings. I stayed there for summer camps.” “Did you get better up there?” I asked as I shifted to my right. “Yup, I did. Never had an episode up there and I went hiking too.” “There was that one time Bri.” Kevin said, turning to the back for a second. “Remember? You got us scared shitless.” “What happened?” Nick asked. His eyes was so wide, I swear it was like reading Goldilocks and the three bears for the first time to him. You’d think at 13 he’d come across that storybook but no, he was clueless when we talked about it one night. That was a hilarious night. “That was my own doing. I forgot to take my medicine that day.” Brian explained. “Did anything outrageous ever happen to you guys?” Nick asked. Brian laughed and Kevin smirked. It was something that the cousins were sharing. An unforgettable memory of camping up at the Appalachian mountains. “Well?” AJ egged on. “Well, I guess that will have to wait,” Kevin said. “We’re here.”
According to Kevin, the car will only get us this far and that we have to climb our way up from now on. My dad and the men before him who managed the camp made sure that no parts of this mountains be destroyed to make way for paths for vehicles to drive through, he said. So we got out of the car, strapped our backs with our huge hiking bags and let Kevin led the way. Sure feels like leading a hiking expedition again, Kevin exclaimed as we started our way up. “Old habits die hard, old man.” Trust Kaos, he knows what he was saying. “I still think it’d be nice if someone had told me we should wear long pants.” I said, already panting. “We didn’t know you’d be that stupid Bone.” I picked a small stone on our path and swung it so it’d hit Nick’s bald head. He turned, his hand already nursing for whatever bump it might have caused for calling me stupid. “We’re NOT going to fight all right? We’re not even half way up yet so don’t ruin this.” Kevin warned before Nick managed to shoot off something foul from his mouth. I know he would, the kid hang around me too much sometimes. Brian checked the back of Nick’s head because the prick hadn’t stop rubbing at it. Nick can be such a baby sometimes; I swear the stone was very tiny. “Just a small bump Nick, it’ll go away.” Brian assured him. “Here J, you might need this more than I do.” Howie said, shoving me a can of insect repellent for my exposed legs. “Don’t think the mosquitoes would go after scrawny legs like mine but thanks D.” I heard Kevin scoff. “What’s that for?” Kevin shook his head and moved faster, not once did he turn back. “Scrawny? AJ have you look into the mirror lately?” “You saying I’m fat?” “Nope. But you’re not scrawny either.” “Are we going to talk about AJ’s legs all the way up or are you going to give us a proper hike cous?” Brian demanded jokingly. “And while we’re up there at the camp, you might want to play camp counselor to these two brats.” Howie teased. “Yeah, what do they do if someone misbehaves in camp?” AJ asked as he fastened up his pace, not wanting to be the left behind in a place he had never gone before. “Well, I made them clean the toilets.” Kevin said matter of factly. Nick almost tripped on a twig. “Kev don’t even start on that,” Howie said. “we need Nicky in once piece by the time we get there.” “Don’t mind Nick and his clumsy legs, I’m out of this place if you try and make me clean those toilets!” AJ grumbled. Kevin sighed. “The signs of aging are here. I tell you boys, next thing we know, we’ll be sitting on them rocking chairs, smoking pipes and talking about clogged sewers.”
Kevin said we had to sleep in the sorry excuse for a bunk bed right at the end of the cabin. I wondered when was the last time they dust this place. Kevin said they had a keeper, Mr. Rockweiler, to clean the cabin once a week, I say you can’t trust someone whose last name reminds you of a type of dog (no offence to them). I wonder if I were to secretly loosen one of the screws on his bed so that the entire thing will dismantle itself in the middle of the night would make him change his mind. Heh, old habits die hard, trust me, I know. “Will this thing crash on me?” AJ asked. See, I wasn’t alone on this. I went to the bunk right at the end of the room and hit the pillow softly. Dust flew everywhere and I started to sneeze. “More importantly, how many germs are we sleeping with?” Howie asked, waving his hand across his face. Like that would ever settle the dust down again. “Dude, there’re stains on this bed, what have you Kentucky boys been doing on camp nights huh?” AJ said as he lifted the white sheet, making as little contact as possible while doing so. “AJ stop it, that’s coffee stain and you know it.” Kevin argued. “How can you be so sure? It could even be someone’s poop.” AJ reasoned, now letting go of the sheet and wiping his hands on his pants. “It’s not and I’m very sure about it.” Kevin said. I couldn’t be bothered by their little stain debate because Brian was standing beside the bed next to mine and pretending to have a sneezing fit. I found that much more entertaining. Achoo! Achoo! Choo! Choo! Choo! “Well, where do you keep clean sheets then? We better start cleaning this place up, we have a long day ahead of us.” Howie said, looking around. “Hey Ni…choo!….we shou…choo!…” I couldn’t stop myself from giggling, Brian was being his usual funny self and a little humor is always appreciated. Although I’m not quite sure why faking your sneeze could get me into a giggling fit. I sure am easy to amuse, much to Kevin’s disgust I bet. “In the cupboard next to Nick’s bed.” Kevin said. “And unless you two decided to sleep with germs tonight, you can stop clowning around and clean up your own beds.” Gee, it already felt like boot camp to me and to think we had only been here less than an hour.
“At about seven, that’s when Mr. Rockweiler comes.” I said, opening the front door of the 2 storey cabin and basking in the almost dusk air. Wide open space greeted me, the landscape of endless trees some meters away after that and the orangey backdrop of the sky bringing me back to my childhood. If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I could hear the laughter of small kids rushing to the open space we called the foyer, as the horn was sound. Straight rows now, dad would say, and no talking until we’re done counting heads. I would be standing in front of two straight rows, and I would tower above them all, because I was older by two years and naturally tall. The best part about being a camp counselor would be the head count, working my way up the rows, patting a few heads of familiar faces and greeting them with a smile, a promise of another day filled with great adventures. Sometimes, I’d let slip a candy or two, without my dad’s acknowledgment. What can I say, bad habits die hard. And I know a very good friend who’d agree with me on that. I can almost smell them now. The adventures. “That’s an hour from now!” AJ grumbled somewhere in the cabin. “Man I’m hungry.” Brian echoed. There were heavy footsteps running down the wooden stairs and then a loud thud. “I’M OKAY!” Nick cried before I get to pull myself away from the view. “Just trip on these stairs is all!” “We need to start feeding him before he falls all over the place.” Howie said somewhere in there. “Not until this Mr. Rockweiler shows up.” AJ said. “In about an hour.” “Never mind food, there’s no TV. Why bother bringing your Xbox if there’s no TV?” Nick whined. “You bring your Xbox? In that one bag you carried?” Brian asked. “Duh Brian, of course not, but I could have, and it’d be for nothing.” They don’t understand. They don’t know the magic this place has to offer. What it means to me. And if they try to, I doubt they’d come close to how I feel. There’s a part of me that I left behind when I moved to Florida. Stored away up in the Appalachian mountains, preserving. You’ll have to be your own man now and take care of yourself. And you can do that son, I’ve never doubted you. Not you, not your brothers. We know we’ve grown our boys right, dad had said. Leave your child behind, I’ll take care of him, dad had said again. But, I don’t have a child dad. He laughed. That soft, gentle laugh that my family said I had inherited. I know that son. I meant, that child in you, the one who knows he’s the youngest of the family and can get away with anything. Keep him here and I’ll make sure he’s preserved with the good air and the natural spring, and the magic that is this mountains. Whatever it takes to make sure he’s safe. When you’re ready to take him along with you, come back home. I never did come back for this child. I wasn’t ready to take him when Dad passed away. I hated this place, the memories were constant reminders that my dad was gone. Maybe that’s why I became too protective over AJ and Nick. When I look at them, I see the child I had left behind, alone, up on the mountains. It wasn’t until recently that I realized, Dad was never gone. Forever entombed in this place, along with that child. Every nook and corner, I see Dad. Sometimes he would laugh, and that child in me laughed along with him. I guess that’s why I had decided on this place for us to go. I need to come back home.
Doesn’t talk much. His face really did remind AJ of a Rotweiler. He’s tan, with cheeks droopy with age, his eyes were slightly droopy too, with dark circles under his heavy eye bags. He has a sharp nose and seemed to know where they are without even looking at them. When he did talk, it really sound as if he was barking. The dinner was a silent affair, you could hear crickets from miles away. It felt like you had dinner with your High School principal. Even Nick didn’t dare to burp and that was saying a lot. But the food was delicious, no one would disagree that Mr. Rockweiler was a mean cook. And if they do, they don’t have the guts to say it out loud. Right after dinner, Mr. Rockweiler announced that he’d like to show Kevin ‘something’. Kevin made them come along and Mr. Rockweiler didn’t seem to care if they were there or not. Howie would later whisper, on their way up to the attic, that Kevin was probably afraid of the old man too. Nick had to force himself to tag along. It was either back in their room alone or up the attic with the rest of them. Brian thought it was weird that Mr. Rockweiler would want to bring them to the attic. He even confessed that he didn’t remember this man on his days when he had been on the mountains with the Richardsons. Brian said the old man gave him the creeps. “I have two Rotweilers once…I miss them.” Nick said. Which of course, had nothing to do with anything. But the guys just nodded sadly, because they knew Nick was famous for his randomness. Howie thought the old man was just misunderstood. He reckoned if they were given a chance to sit down and have a long conversation with the old man, he might have a lot of life’s experiences to share with them. The guys just let him be, because none of them had the energy to be thoughtful when their stomachs were full and had to climb those stairs right after. The attic was a huge playground. Stacks after stacks of books, register files, locked chests and old clothes were lined as if to make a maze. The signs of heavy cobwebs hanging on the low ceilings and walls showed that it had been awhile since the attic was visited by anyone. Hardly any fresh air, the smell of old papers and rotting woods almost sent them back to the staircase. “It’s a hard job taking care of this camp site Kevin, and I’m not as strong as I used to be. The mites are eating on these records and the clothes are getting holes in them. I wanted to throw them out but I’m afraid these might be important documents.” Kevin smiled and nodded at him. Nick found it amazing that Kevin was looking straight in the old man’s eyes and even dared to smile when Mr. Rockweiler sounded as if he was annoyed by the ‘rubbish’ they had collected in the attic for years. “I understand. I’ll go through these right away.” “Good. I’m very old Kevin, these dust are killing me now. Here’s the key to the attic, when you’re done, remember to lock it up.” “Thank you.” Kevin said. The old man made his way out of the maze slowly and everyone seemed to be holding their breath. “Oh Mr. Rockweiler!” There was a distinct groan by the old man before he turned slowly. “What now boy?” “Do you have the keys to these chests?” “No, I don’t. Just break ‘em, don’t think anyone would mind.” Once Mr. Rockweiler was gone and only his fading footfalls could be heard from the attic, everyone let out a huge sigh of relief, even Howie. “You guys are too tense.” Kevin teased. “Old people have never scared me this much.” Nick said. “Are you sure he don’t live in this camp Kev? Seems like he doesn’t go out much.” AJ added. “AJ, that’s so mean.” Howie said. “I’m being honest.” “Are you sure he’s the right Mr. Rockweiler Kev? I don’t seem to recall his face or name.” Brian asked. “Yeah, for all we know, he found out about you coming to this place, know you’re a rich celebrity, killed the REAL Mr. Rockweiler and took over his place and sending us to the attic is his way to distract us while he burn the cabin down.” Everyone just stared at Nick because what do you say to someone who has too much space in his head to conjure such suspicions? “Anyway…” AJ said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe you tell that old man we’re gonna clean this mess up TONIGHT. We’ve been cleaning the cabin and don’t forget the TOILETS the entire day and I’m beat!” “I’m about to doze off already.” Brian yawned, as if to prove his point. “This place could use a little decoration.” Howie said thoughtfully. Of course it received mixed reactions within the group and Howie was so used to it that it didn’t bothered him at all. “Aside from the cleaning part and Howie’s decoration tips, I think attic is a really cool place.” Nick said. “We could find treasures hidden in here!” “Nick you need to calm down,” Kevin said as he randomly pulled a sealed box nearer. “there is no treasure here, just tons of documents I bet.” Kevin looked around for something that he could use to tear the box open. AJ passed him a penknife. “Should I ask why you have it with you?” “Hey, I came here fully equipped.” AJ defended himself. “Says he who wears khakis knowing fully well we’re climbing up the mountains.”