Thursday, October 24, 2013

Snoring at monsters

Jimmy was snoring—he just wouldn’t stop, and every time he’d snort and shift his football player’s bulk, the thing lurking in the Yellowstone darkness would harrumph and stomp, shaking the ground. After all the adventures we’d survived on multiple continents, it seemed absurd that snoring in a tent would ultimately kill us.

But it made perfect sense to the monster outside. It belched primal, savage snorts that rumbled in my guts. Each stomp around our tent’s thin fabric made the ground tremble. I’ve never been so scared, before or since.

I smacked my buddy and whispered, Jimmy! Jimmy, shut up! Stop snoring! There’s something out there. Half awake, his eyes went wide, and he said, “Whatever that is, it is big.” Then he conked out. I should mention we had an empty bottle of tequila outside on our camping table beside our scraps of dinner. Jimmy shifted into his chainsaw snore. The monster circled us, depressed my side of the tent with its gigantic snout, snorted hot, foul breath at me, and pawed the ground as if to charge or to devour. It was either telling us to shut up and let it sleep, or come out and let it eat. I shook Jimmy awake again. He looked at the monster’s head pressed against the tent. “Whatever it is, it probably would have eaten us already if it wanted to,” he said sagely. “Just go to sleep.” Worriers and warriors, indeed.                 

Six hours like this. Time bled by like hourglass sands before an execution. Each second involved me shivering, Jimmy snoring, and the thing outside harrumphing and pawing the ground—HRUMM! Pppphhh. STOMP STOMP. Unable to dream, I imagined heroically bolting from the tent to my SUV, knowing I would not. Even if I made it, Jimmy would be left for chum for an angry bear, yeti, sasquatch, wendigo, bigfoot, landshark, James P. Sullivan, or whatever this monster was, hot-blooded after a failed pursuit. Worse, Jimmy might have had to actually wake up, and if he blamed an untimely rousing on me there was no telling what violence would ensue.

Finally, the sky beyond the tent brightened, shining rays of hope onto those primal knowledge centers we humans continue to carry to remind us: Monsters are shy of sunlight. The thing raised itself on all fours. Stomped its mightiest of stomps. Let out its mightiest harrumph. Pushed against the tent with a big, broad part of its body. Unloaded a whizz-banging eruption, followed by an avalanche of plopping sounds, like wet stones thudding onto the grass. The monster was pooping on us. A long, dramatic, heavy, decisive monster poop. The monster plodded away, snorting and grumbling. Then silence. I began laughing, my terror overwhelmed by a five-year-old’s sense of hilarity. Meanwhile, Jimmy snored on.

I poked my head out of the tent. I just had to see our deadly roommate. A large buck stood a few yards away, staring at me nonchalantly. No, no way, that couldn’t have been the monster, it had to have been a grizzly. I swiveled my head towards the valley behind us, surveying the tall grasses swaying in the pink dawn sunlight, ensconced by majestic peaks and diminishing stars surrounding the silver moon glimmering over Yellowstone.

Buffalo. Dozens of them, sleeping. Except one—an evil mutant mega-buffalo, if memory serves—stood like an angry living boulder twenty yards away. It stared icily at me while the rest of the herd still snoozed, nestled into their grassy beds. I surveyed our tent grounds. Sure enough, there was a buffalo-sized patch of dirt pawed into the grass right by where we’d raised our tent. Squatters, we were. We’d slept in a buffalo’s bedroom. And Jimmy was still sleeping, his snores roaring over the valley like a challenge to all creatures who would stand between him and his pillow.  

I laughed even harder then, maniacally perhaps, until Jimmy stumbled from the tent, confirmed the monster’s identity, and said, “Told you to just go to sleep. Wuss.”


  1. I am said Jimmy. Eliot recounts the story beautifully and even more impressive considering the unbelievable circumstances, accurately. I have a picture of this monster stashed in a photo album. Even as I got out the camera, the giant flexed his muscles and caused me to jump back five feet. It was the size of a mid-sized Ford made of hairy muscle mass.
    Post script: To the delight of my wife (and disbelief that my snoring was actually much worse before) I had surgery on my nasal passage to improve my breathing…

  2. Jimmy, you proved yourself the king of Yellowstone that fine day. The monsters cowered before you. And I, if memory is correct, spent the night in the Tahoe the next evening.