In a blob at the mouth of his parents’ garage, the Boy had piled enough stock to open his own Army surplus store. In sheer quantity, he had sufficient gear to see

Napoleon’s army through a winter march on Moscow, though its parts went with one another so randomly as to suggest outright luck – if not divine intervention.

As the pile’s weight pressed a dent into the sunbaked ground, he began taking inventory.

There were several soup and vegetable cans from which, to save weight, the Boy had removed the paper labels. There was a cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven, two blue enamel coffee pots and half a bag of charcoal.

There was most of a five-pound bag of coffee, though the Boy dismissed the idea of needing any sort of filters with a cavalier wave of his hand.

For food, the Boy had brought an uncut slab of bacon. He had four pony cans of Dr Pepper in case of thirst. For the rest of his sustenance, he planned to lean on the fat of the land.

At the center of the pile was a wadded tarp for making a shelter. The Boy scoffed at the need for any pegs or poles, planning instead to fashion his own from the abundant sweetgum trees that dotted the back pasture, his destination. He did have one 16-foot piece of rope, though its assorted mini-loops and rock hard knots limited it to perhaps 12 feet tightly stretched.

For the purpose of felling trees, whittling tent pegs, skinning game, dressing fish, trimming fingernails, fighting off bears and other routine blade-centric chores, a machete dangled from one side of the Boy’s vintage World War I pack, securely covered with a thin canvas scabbard.

For their part, the pack’s makers had saved on weight by designing shoulder straps as narrow as possible, the better to cleave the wearer into three vertical cross-sections over the course of a mile.

Carefully considering each part of the pile, the Boy transferred the heap bit by bit into the pack which, once filled, sat slumped in a wheelbarrow, its top yawning open, one side slouched lower than the other, neither healthy nor dead but listing like a broken casino gambler waiting for a 3 a.m. cab.

For hygiene, the Boy included a toothbrush whose handle had been removed, another consideration against weight. To avoid the hassle of lugging along several useless ounces of extra toothpaste, he had pre-loaded the brush with a generous tri- colored squirt, one that had since gathered its own protective coating of loose pocket fuzz and stray dog hair.

He turned his back to the pack and wheelbarrow, laid backward atop it, fitting his arms through the straps as he did so, then cinching them tight.

He gripped the wheelbarrow’s handles and attempted to pull himself up, but succeeded only in barrowing himself and the pack several yards forward, thankfully and handily in the direction he needed to go.

The Old Man laughed until his sides hurt.

“I’m glad you saved as much weight as you did,” the Old Man said.

“I am too,” the Boy said. “It’s always good to be prepared.”

Kevin Tate is a freelance writer. Email kevinmtate@gmail.com.

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