Since our last backyard camp out, the girls have been asking for a return to the great outdoors for a night of sleeping under the stars. I, for one, refuse to voluntarily sleep outside when the nighttime low hovers around 80 degrees and/or the humidity doesn't dip below 70%. I might be crazy, but I'm not that crazy. With a forecast calling for lows near 60 degrees, I figured last night would be as good as any to set up the tent one more time.
Soccer practice has started up again, and thanks to that and a couple other semi-related reasons it was nearly 8:30 before we ate supper and close to 10 pm before we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. Punkin fell asleep instantly while Shortcake tossed and turned for nearly 30 minutes. A little after 10:30, The General arrived home and came out to bring a water bottle per Shortcake's request at which time she woke up and declared she'd rather sleep inside leaving her sister and mother alone in the wilderness of our backyard.
My eyes haven't seen the back of my eyelids before midnight since the start of summer (with the exception of a few mid-afternoon naps here and there), so I played a few games on my phone while waiting for Mr. Sandman to call. Not long after The General and Shortcake retreated into the house, I started hearing this loud fluttering sound. I sat listening for a minute and decided that it was definitely the sound of bat wings. When the sound became much more frequent, I deduced that no bat would be flying that close or that frequently. Instead I hypothesized that the cicada we saw hatching on the nearby tree truck must have freed itself from its shell and was attempting to fly just outside the tent. Time continued to pass as did the sound of the fluttering, and I became more and more annoyed as it sounded like it was moving so close it could have actually been inside the tent. My scaredy senses started to move toward overdrive, and that's right about the time any tough girl persona I was holding on to escaped.
To give you a perspective on its size, our tent was advertised to fit four people, but the two girls and I take up the entire space. Punkin was laying comfortably to my right; on my left was an empty space previously occupied by Shortcake. Just as I was reaching total annoyance with this stupid cicada and its new wings, the fluttering stopped and was replaced instead with the sound of a low but distinct growl. Now, it has been well documented here that our yard has been host to a variety of animals - raccoons, rabbits, moles, deer, opossums, skunks, fox, and coyotes in the nearby field - so you can imagine that my mind went wild with the possibilities for what was prowling around a mere foot from my head. Seconds after that primal sound escaped what I immediately assumed was a rabid beast, I heard an even more pronounced sound of the animal sniffing. SNIFFING. Like it might do when sizing up it's NEXT MEAL.
So, naturally, I did what any rational adult saddled with the task of protecting her young child from the fangs of a wild animal would do. I grabbed my cell phone, called into the house, and demanded that The General end his game of Angry Birds prematurely and come out to inspect whatever in the hell was trying to eat us. "Are you serious?," he said to me. "Yes, I am serious," I told him very matter of factly.
Minutes later he sauntered outside armed with no more than a flashlight, mild annoyance at his pansy ass wife, and fifteen years of correctional officer related fight training. A quick trip around the tent revealed any predator had since abandoned his mission for human consumption; a "well, since you're here" description of the mad cicada fluttering also failed to produce any visual results. When I insisted that I could still hear the sound and that it sounded like it was coming from inside the tent, The General stuck his head inside and for the first time I shined my flashlight on the place from which the sound was originating.
Did you know that in the dark of night when a light breeze blows under the uncovered floor of a tent the sound of that floor resting back on the tall grass underneath it sound exactly like the fluttering of cicada wings? I won't judge, because until last night I didn't realize this either.
The General walked away bidding me a good night's sleep, perhaps muttering something about "crazy" but I can't be sure, while I laughed at the hijinxs of the evening. Soon after I drifted off to sleep with the night's cool air carrying me on a cloud toward dream land, reaffirming that I am no Bear Grylls and perhaps my chance of winning a million dollars on Survivor might be a little further away than I thought.