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The Tent

Excerpt from Chapter 27

Dateline: A city or geographic name of a story’s origin.

Rennie led me past a long row of shoddy tin mailboxes, each displaying sticker numbers to indicate which home the mail inside belonged to, then slowly over a bridge that stretched across a

small stream. She seemed to be leading me out of the trailer park until she lifted her cane to point to a grassy area hidden behind the park’s office.

“Back there,” she said and continued on. We came around the corner to see a camping tent large enough to sleep twenty of a person’s closest friends. It rivaled the size of some of the trailer homes we'd past.

My chin dropped. “Oh my goodness, Rennie. It’s huge.”

“Mark helped me set it up,” she said with a smile as she took a seat at the picnic table next to the tent. She gestured for me to go in without her. I unzipped the door, ready to plop my bag inside and begin discovering Bishop, but I paused when I saw what Rennie had made of the

temporary dwelling.

“On the right of the door there, you should see a light switch,” she

directed from the picnic table.

“A light switch?” I tried to clarify. Sure enough, I flipped a switch, which was wired to a dome light in the center of the ceiling. I suddenly felt the need to leave my shoes at the entrance as the detail of the three-room tent came into view. One room, the living room, had a blow-up couch covered in a blanket and a throw pillow.

The room on the opposite end was made up like a bedroom with an overstuffed queen air mattress for a bed, fresh towels, and a miniature bottle of lotion on the pillow. A cooler next to the bed doubled as a nightstand, holding a Coleman lamp and a battery-operated clock. The third room was like a temporary office with a card table, flanked by two chairs; it all sat neatly on throw rugs. “I wanted to make sure you had your own space to work,” Rennie later said. The table held another Coleman lamp and a gift basket of sorts brimming with enough supplies to camp in style for a month: cereal, cookies, bananas, plasticware, a coffee mug, wet wipes, Kleenex, a mirror, miniature shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and a map of Bishop.

“There’s water and milk over ice in the ice chest,” Rennie hollered from the picnic table.

I stepped out of the tent with no shoes and no words. I had met this woman ten minutes earlier, and she had prepared a mansion for me. I noticed the stream we’d passed created a three-foot waterfall just a few yards from my tent, and tall trees offered rare shade over my temporary

home. Even the cool grass on my bare feet offered its own kind of gracious greeting.

“I really feel bad that we don’t have space for you in the trailer,” Rennie started. She must’ve taken my silence as a bad thing. “I just hope this will do—”

“Rennie,” I stopped her. “I have never felt so welcome.”

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