Prompt #31. Write a camping story.
Growing up, I used to go camping with my parents, older brother, and eventually, younger sister down at Cape Henlopen. This was one of those state parkgrounds where you can camp for a week to the tune of $150 or so dollars; the budget vacation option, so to speak. The nice part about Henlopen was that it backed up on the state's only decent beachfront, and it wasn't commercialized with a boardwalk and a thousand people under rented blue umbrellas and all sorts of beach food trash, like Grotto's pizza boxes and Thrasher's fry cups and flat Miller Lite cans, smashed into the sand.
One year, I must have been about seven or eight, we had a campsite closer to the dunes than we'd ever been. So close that there was a nice play area of sand at the end of our campsite, just past the pre-set fire ring we used to make our foil packets for dinner. I was so young, I still played with Barbies. And on this particular morning I'd gotten up from sleep, not even dressed, and gone over to that sandy area to dig up my Barbies, several of whom I'd buried beneath it the night before.
I began scooping sand away from the site with both hands. I could see some shapes under the sand, but I couldn't remember how many Barbies I'd left there. I pulled out one, and began patting around for another one. I saw a lump. Maybe under that sand? I made a shovel of my palms and scooped up a big, wet looking clump of sand.
Only this sand didn't run through my fingers. It definitely wasn't a Barbie...but it sure as hell wasn't dirt, either. The lump in my hands moved. For a second I stared at it in silence, shock and horror. Realization struck. It was a toad. I couldn't have dropped it faster if it was dog shit. I screamed so loudly that my mother, out at the bathrooms, heard it and recognized her child. She told me years later, "I thought you'd seriously injured yourself."
I screamed again. I ran across the ground, barefoot feet raised to tip-toes so that the least skin would contact the now entirely-specious, amphibian-laden earth, until I reached the picnic table. I vaulted onto the top. My feet curled under my body. For the rest of the trip, I refused to walk anywhere without shoes on.