It is 4th of July weekend and 22 of your closest friends have gathered in the mountains for a camping retreat. On this property last year, you worked together to build a sloped-roofed structure, which is called “the cabin” when you are feeling proud, and “the shack” when you are self-deprecating. In the nearby shade, you erect tents, on the picnic table you arrange food and necessities to share, and directly beside it, you raise up metal scaffolding to attach shade and a network of many green and blue and white and purple tulle strips — this is the “kelp forest.”
For dinner on Friday night you will have a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) of beef enchiladas. You make a hat out of long foxtails by gathering them together at the base with a red rubber band and splaying them over your cranium in front of your face and around your shoulders. This protects you from the mosquitos, but you also use the tiny amount of reception you have to send out messages to friends who have not yet arrived, begging for bug spray and incense. Soon it is dark, and you are hungry. You add water to the instant hot pack in your MRE and heat up your hermetically sealed dinner.
Tomorrow you will have “TUNA.” You know your future self will enjoy the suspense of wondering what is in this brown bag, ominously labeled just “TUNA.” If it is tuna casserole, then why not label it so? If it is tuna salad, then why is it in an MRE package, which, of every one you have had, always have a heating element? Your friend says her vote is tuna poke and you smile with excitement even though you are scared it’s just a tuna filet. You begin to doubt this challenge when altitude sickness makes you lose your enchiladas (and they taste the same coming out as they did going in).
The cure for altitude sickness (besides quitting drinking for the weekend, hydration, and rest) is apparently zip line rides. The exhilaration of falling forward under a whizzing cable raises your blood pressure and erases your nausea. The headache’s gone, too. So are the flashing lights. This morning you could only lie on the fake grass turf under the kelp forest, but now you are ready to tromp in leaves, dance to live music, and shoot fruit from an air cannon. Then, sundown comes, and you tuck the brown package under your arm.
You can’t bring yourself to open it. “What does it mean, just TUNA?” Your friends tease you for your obsession. One gives you a snack of tuna on crackers to build your courage for the main course. You lie down in the kelp forest with the brown package, and tuck it under your head. With any luck, you’ll break the heating element inside and be absolved of eating it. You sit up and help your friend type an exposition on the subject. A deranged exposition.
What is tuna? t u na is
TUNA (omi nous) it’s what’s for dinner.
tuna is a saltwater f ish
that t atstes not unlike ch icken .
t u TUNAis frequently seen isn
quiet is the night
Whilst you’re in reverie of tuna swimming through seas, a friend tries to tell you another is going to use your tuna bag as a pillow. But you falsely hear that she is off with your tuna and about to open it. You sit straight, suddenly, and shout, “Don’t open it!!” and are afraid like you have just woken up from a nightmare. You apologize to your startled friends when you return to your senses. This tuna is becoming a complex.
It’s time to open it. You peel apart the top seal. You dump the contents in your lap. Out of the big brown package falls many smaller brown packages — pretzels, tortillas (tuna tacos?), candy, a cookie — and one blue one. It is a bag of Starkist tuna, packed in water. It is, really, Just Tuna.
You eat it with a spoon.