Cacophony of Quitting
The entire crew slumps between lupines & sego lilies, leans
into trunks of cedars, dead & downs, boulders, into anything
that might hold these bodies vertical. Our eyes almost-slits
as fatigue washes us like the thunderstorms that crackle
these eremitic summer mountains [Olympics, Cascades,
Coastals], our fingers claw-curled from rooting hands to
wooden shafts & rooting into the very earth, backs lock-
kinked from slinging dirt & duff from dawn till tool count.
We draw cups & canteens to chapped lips that have drank
more dust & sun than water. Our bodies saturated,
we root our kitchen tent for whatever food is easiest to
shovel into our gaping mouths—pretzels, dry packets of hot
chocolate, gorp, cheap cheese sandwiches—desiring calories
how we sometimes desire love or air.
Camp is, in these after-work hours, a currenting fatigued
silence until maybe Silas mutters, If I never touch another
crosscut saw. Someone else, probably Cori, smiles: Me
too. Or a dang pair of loppers. A third, maybe reticent Nick,
chimes in, I wanna find me a hot tub. Brooks adds between
laughs, A hot tub! Yeah. That's what I want. I quit.
Soon we all race to quit this hand work, this wilderness life,
weeks curled in tents, days scorched under a blistering sun
or drenched like a wet cat from endless rain. Each one of us
shouting our two-minute notice, each crying what we most
want from that other world [a bacon cheese burger] [a hot
shower] [a swim in a river] [a long night’s sleep] [a boy- or
girlfriend nearby] until this cacophony of quitting fills the air
& steals, for one moment, all our savage fatigue.
Sean Prentiss is the author of the memoir, Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, which won the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography and is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. Prentiss is also the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a creative nonfiction craft anthology. And he is the co-author of the forthcoming environmental writing textbook, Environmental and Nature Writing: A Craft Guide and Anthology. His essays have won honorable mention in The Atlantic Monthly’s Graduate Student Writing Contest and won Fugue’s nonfiction contest, and he has been awarded the Albert J. Colton Fellowship for Projects of National or International Scope. He lives on a small lake in northern Vermont and serves as an assistant professor at Norwich University.