“Fort Wilderness” by Andrew Bienen

A piece of wood with antlers attached and the text "Fort Wilderness by Andrew Bienen"

The following is an excerpt from the latest installment in the Ploughshares Solos series: “Fort Wilderness” by Andrew Bienen, available now for $1.99.

By this time next week—and possibly sooner—I’ll be just another man who abandoned June. I’ve outlasted most of the others and in some twisted way I’m proud of that fact. I never “gave my all” according to June’s impossible standards but at least I tried. The fact that I’ve come down here to Disney World with June and her daughter—having ignored the advice of practically everyone I know—is proof of something.

Right now I’m sitting in our cabin in Disney’s Fort Wilderness section. It’s five in the afternoon—an hour when families are regrouping after a long day in the parks. Some people are lighting barbecues; others are resting or playing board games. I just had a nice hot shower and a rejuvenating nap in a bedroom that smells of fresh pine wood. A deer may have just run past my window. A sense of pleasant disorientation is part of the Fort Wilderness experience, at least it has been for me, and when I woke from my nap there was a brief interval in which I had no idea where or even who I was. Then I heard June’s voice—that peculiarly sensual whine of hers, insistent as a baby goat. If I was honest, I’d admit it was the sound of June’s voice that drew me to her in the beginning, and what I heard was the promise of train wrecks. Despite efforts we make to appear normal and balanced, June and I are two of a kind, and sudden, violent outbursts are our stock-in-trade wherever we go, even here in Disney World. This afternoon for example, June got it into her head that Tigger—i.e., a human being in a tiger suit—was “putting the moves” on me while our picture was being taken in the Animal Kingdom. “Jesus,” I said as we walked away in embarrassment, “he/she/it was hugging me—that’s what the animals do in this place. Are we really going to fight about this now? And in front of Monica too?” But all this will be over in a day or so.

There’s a knock on my door—and a tentative but optimistic voice on the other side.

“Hey George, Mom says it’s time for us to get ready.” It’s Monica, June’s daughter.

“Sure thing,” I say. Since it’s the last night of our vacation, the three of us are getting dressed up and going somewhere special. June’s sister and brother-in-law Gayle and Alan, along with their kids, are driving up from Tampa to join us for a big night out. Gayle and Alan are consummate Disney people and they’ve made all the arrangements—but “just for fun” they’re keeping the plans secret until they get here. Gayle and Alan think the world of me. Alan will spend the evening gently nudging me toward further commitment with June. “When are you going to seal the deal?” will be his recurring question.

Andrew Bienen is the co-writer of the Academy Award winning movie, Boys Don’t Cry. He is an Associate Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program, where he teaches screenwriting. He lives in New York City.