Cowboy Pajamas.

A short story about surviving embarrassment.

Robert Cormack
9 min readApr 8, 2024


Image by Haytham Reslan from Pixabay

“I’ve been on so many blind dates, I should get a free dog.” Wendy Liebman

Ann and Suzie worked together at a travel agency off Rue Guy in Montreal. Ann liked Suzie and wondered why she wasn’t in a relationship. Over lunch one day, Ann suggested Suzie join her and her husband, Stan, at their local pub. They got together with friends every Friday night. Most had paired up over time, but there was one friend left, a guy named Jeff. Stan knew him from some analyst’s conference.

Suzie saw where this was going. She said she’d think about it.

Ann mentioned it to Stan that night. He was opening a bottle of wine. “Don’t get involved, Ann,” he said, sniffing the cork. “Every time you do, someone gets hurt. Stay out of it.”

“Why couldn’t it work out?” she said.

“You can’t just foist them on each other. We don’t even know if Jeff likes women.”

“People have their own ideas of what they want,” he said. “You can’t just foist them on each other. We don’t even know if Jeff likes women. Have you ever asked him? I haven’t.”

Stan was putting the dinner out on the table, going back for the wine glasses. “And besides,” he said, “if Suzie’s so pretty, what’s her problem? Have you ever thought of that?”

Stan was always the skeptical one. It was his business, in a way. He was an analyst with a big insurance company. Sometimes Ann wondered if he ever gave good news to anyone.

“I can’t exactly uninvite her now,” Ann said to him.

“You may end up wishing you had,” he said.

That Friday, Suzie showed up at the pub. Ann made introductions, catching Stan giving her a look. Jeff was bringing drinks to the table. Ann said, “Jeff, this is Suzie. We work together.” Jeff shook Suzie’s hand. He was better looking than she expected, nice smile. He sat down next to her.

One of the couples, Don and Sherry, mentioned the camping trip coming up. The group went to Saint-Sauveur at the end of every June. Stan was in charge of food, Ann the camp permits. Everyone brought their own tents.

“You should come along,” Ann said to Suzie.

“I haven’t camped in years,” Suzie said.

“Come with us,” Jeff said. “I’ve got a tent and sleeping bags. All you have to bring is appropriate clothes and bug spray.”

“I’ll think about it,” Suzie said.

“The two of them in the same tent?” he said. “They barely know each other, Ann. What were you thinking?”

That same night in bed, Stan told Ann again that it was a bad idea. “The two of them in the same tent?” he said. “They barely know each other, Ann. What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t,” she said. “I just thought she’d have fun.”

“Jeff took me aside earlier.”

“What did he say?”

“He asked a lot of questions.”

“So did Suzie.”

The day they were heading north to Saint Sauveur, Ann suggested Suzie go with them. That way, Jeff could be there setting up, getting everything ready for when Suzie arrived.

“You’re making too much of this,” Stan kept warning Ann.

When they got to the camp ground, everyone was pitching tents, organizing the food, going off to check out the washroom facilities. Jeff was drinking a beer. He came over to Stan’s car when it pulled in. He helped them get their stuff out of the trunk. He put his beer on the car’s roof.

“I picked up two air mattresses,” he said to Suzie. “There’s wine in the cooler. I’ll put your things in my tent.”

Suzie wanted to check out the beach. Ann went with her. Going down the path, Suzie asked Ann if Jeff had brought women up on previous occasions. “He hasn’t come before,” Ann said.

Later that evening, they were all around the campfire, food eaten, dishes washed. Eventually, couples wandered off to bed. Ann and Suzie went to the washrooms near the main office. There was a row of communal showers. Other women were there. Everyone was in a good mood, introducing themselves. Suzie and Ann showered and then started back.

“Jeff’s had quite a few beer,” Ann said. “I hope he’s okay.”

“So do I,” Suzie replied.

When Suzie came back to Jeff’s tent, she found him standing there in his pajamas. The pajamas had cowboys on bucking broncos. He was trying to set the alarm on his watch without much luck. “I don’t feel great,” he said to Suzie. “Mind if I leave the lantern on?” He staggered a bit on the tent floor.

“Sure, leave it on,” Suzie said.

He suddenly threw up all over his sleeping bag. Then he collapsed in the corner, sobbing away, hands around his knees.

“I might have to — “ He didn’t have a chance to finish. He suddenly threw up all over his sleeping bag. Then he collapsed in the corner. He just sat there sobbing away, hands around his knees.

The tent already smelt of vomit. The sour smell was making Suzie nauseous. “We should take your sleeping bag outside,” she said, but Jeff just kept sobbing and moaning. She finally did it herself, dragging the sleeping bag across the grass.

The others were up now. They could hear Jeff from their tents. Ann and Stan came out at the same time.

“What happened?” Ann said to Suzie.

“Jeff puked all over his sleeping bag,” Suzie said.

“You should rinse it in the lake,” Stan said.

“I’ll do it,” Ann said to him. “Go see how Jeff’s doing.”

“The tent really smells,” Suzie said.

“You can stay with us,” Ann said. “Stan will get your stuff.”

Suzie helped Ann rinse the sleeping bag in the lake. On their way back, they saw Stan getting a blanket out of his car. He went in Jeff’s tent, then came out again, shaking his head. Everyone was still standing around, talking away, offering suggestions. Stan told them to go back to bed.

“He just needs to sleep it off,” he said.

“Is he okay?” Ann asked Stan when they came back to the tent. She and Suzie had just finished hanging Jeff’s wet sleeping bag over a clothes line next to the car. They were smelling their hands.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I tried to take him to the showers. He wouldn’t go. He just kept saying ‘Every time, every time.’”

“What does that mean?”

Stan kicked off his flipflops.

“Now I smell of puke,” he said, pulling it off. Stan had thick tuffs of hair everywhere on his body. Even his back.

“I think he means he screws up dates every time,” he said, sniffing his shirt. “Now I smell of puke,” he said. He pulled the shirt off and tossed it in the corner. Stan had thick tuffs of hair everywhere on his body. Even his back.

“Should I go talk to him?” Suzie asked.

“Just leave him,” Ann said. “He’s embarrassed enough as it is.”

“I told you this would happen, Ann,” Stan said. “Now he thinks Suzie can’t stand him. He kept saying that, too.”

Stan got into their double sleeping bag and rolled on his side. Ann got in next to him, snugging in close which seemed to be second nature to both of them. She waited until Suzie got in her sleeping bag before turning down the lantern. “Sorry,” she said to Suzie in a low voice.

“It’s not your fault,” Suzie said back.

“At least it happened here. I mean, imagine if it was just the two of you alone. At least you’ve got all of us, right? We’re here for you.”

“Ann,” Stan said, “let it go. The guy’s a mess. He’ll probably be gone when we wake up in the morning. I know I would be.”

“You can’t be serious,” Ann said.

“Damn right I’m serious. I’d be gone in a shot.”

“So would I,” Suzie said. “I’d hitchhike out of here.”

“You two are crazy,” Ann said.

“Let’s shut up now,” Stan said. “Go to sleep.”

Early in the morning, they heard Jeff’s car start. Raising their flaps, they saw him stuffing his tent into the trunk. He didn’t even grab his sleeping bag hanging on the line. He just drove off without saying anything.

As everyone came out of their respective tents, they started talking about Jeff. Some did it while they were making coffee, others just stood around with their hands in their pockets. It was still too early for most of them.

“I can understand the drunk part,” Don said. He’d been with Stan trying to get Jeff to the showers. “I mean, we’ve all gotten drunk, right? But those pajamas? Who wears cowboys riding broncos? Aren’t those for kids?” He looked at Suzie. “What did you do when you them?” he asked her.

“I was pretty surprised,” she said.

“Surprised?” Sherry said. “I’d be sleeping on the beach.”

Everyone laughed.

“We shouldn’t make fun of him,” Ann said.

“You come camping in a pair of cowboy pajamas, what do you expect? It’s not making fun, Ann, it’s a maturity check.”

“Why not?” Sherry said. “You come camping in a pair of cowboy pajamas, what do you expect? It’s not making fun, Ann, it’s a maturity check. Jeff definitely needs one.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Suzie said. “I can’t imagine what’s going through his mind right now. You know him better than me.”

“At least they weren’t onesies,” someone chuckled.

“Now, stop,” Ann said. “It isn’t funny.”

Stan was taking eggs and bacon out of the cooler.

“Let’s get breakfast going,” he said. “Who wants sunny side up, who wants over easy?”

Everyone started helping out. Ann got the orange juice and plastic glasses. Suzie brought the bread for toast. The others were getting plates and napkins. As they sat down to eat, Stan looked over at where Jeff’s tent had been. Jeff left some stuff, the two air mattresses, for instance. They were still inflated. One had drifted up against a tree.

Ann was looking at Suzie sitting with Sherry on camp chairs, paper plates on their laps, talking away. They were on different subjects now, sewing mostly. They both made their own clothes. Suzie seemed relaxed and happy. She glanced over at Ann and smiled. They smiled at each other. Then Suzie went to put on her bathing suit.

“Suzie’s having a nice time,” Ann said to Stan.

“She’s a regular bounce-back kid,” he said. “But look, Ann, please, no more hook-ups, okay? You see what can happen.”

“I didn’t tell Jeff to wear those stupid cowboy pajamas,” she said. “Or to get drunk, for that matter. Besides, Suzie’s made some new friends. She’s enjoying herself. All in all, I’d say it worked out fine.”

The crowd was moving down to the beach. Ann went to change. Stan brought the two air mattresses back to their tent. When he came inside, Ann was naked. Stan pulled down the flap and dropped his shorts.

Ann took off her top again.

There was laughter down on the beach. They listened to it after they’d finished. It was hot in the tent. They got up, put on their bathing suits, and went to join the others. Suzie was coming out of the water, getting her towel off a chair.

“Where were you guys?” she asked them.

“Cleaning up,” Ann said. “Everything’s done.”

“I could’ve helped,” Suzie said.

If you can laugh, you can forget, and if you can forget, well, as Stan would say, it probably wasn’t worth remembering.

Stan went and dove in the lake. He came up with water dripping from his thick beard. “It’s not bad,” he said to Ann. She joined him and they floated on their backs for a while. Suzie was spreading her towel out on the sand. Ann saw Sherry come over and sit next to Suzie. They were talking and laughing, enjoying themselves. That’s all that matters, Ann thought. If you can laugh, you can forget, and if you can forget, well, as Stan would say, it probably wasn’t worth remembering. For now, it probably wasn’t.



Robert Cormack

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.