Joel told me that he came upon Blake yelling at one of the Stuffies up in the tree house.
“What was he yelling about?” I asked.
“I just caught a few words. ‘Miss my brother’s birthday?’ ‘Work not family?’ And ‘why?’ He said that over and over.”
Earlier in the day, I’d received a phone call from Pen, Blake’s mom. She’d said that, after thinking it over, she decided that Joel and I probably needed to know what was happening with their family. She and Blake’s father would be getting a divorce during the time that Blake was at summer camp. I’d filled Joel in on it as soon as I hung up the phone.
“So what did you say to Blake?” I asked Joel, knowing that he always has the best way of cheering anyone up.
“Well,” replied Joel, “I know how much it hurts when parents separate. So there really wasn’t much I could say. I told him that the Stuffies would always be there, whenever he needed to let it out, and that you, me, and Tre were good listeners, too.”
“That was a good thing to say,” I told Joel.
“I hope so,” Joel said. “The next thing Blake said was, ‘Oh. Everything’s just fine. What are we having for dinner?’ I replied, ‘Grilled cheese.’ And Blake said, ‘Yes!'”
The kids wanted to go explore the Old Mill. I was about to start supper (not grilled cheese), and Joel was cleaning, so I asked Tre if he’d go keep an eye on them. The mill has been abandoned for decades, and it’s pretty rickety.
“I was hoping to play video games,” Tre said. “Wasn’t I supposed to get a few hours off every day?”
“You can have the evening off,” I said. “Will that work?”
“I guess so,” said Tre.
They were gone for a little over an hour.
When they got back, Gerald headed straight for Joel’s empty bed in the counselor’s building and took a nap.
“Is he OK?” I asked Hahon, who looked pretty mad.
“He’s worn out,” Hahon said.
Waikiki also looked angry, and Blake looked sad.
I found Tre in the computer room. “What’s up, Tre?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said, walking outside.
I thought about giving him space. Then I thought about my job running the camp. If there was something going on–and there obviously was–then I should probably know about it.
I followed him outside.
“Hang on a sec there, Tre,” I said. “It doesn’t take an Eagle Scout to see there’s grumblings running around!”
“No, seriously. Everything’s fine,” he said.
“You know,” I said. “You remind me a lot of my brother. He used to get mad easily, too. And then, he’d always deny it!”
“You want to know what’s up?” he said. “Kids! That’s what! Those kids don’t know how to take a joke.”
“What kind of joke were you telling?” I asked.
“Just a joke! And then, that little Waikiki girl gets all bent out of joint. Like there’s something wrong with being called a woofum!”
“Is that what it is?” I asked. “Were you teasing the kids and it got out of hand?”
“And what if it did?” he said.
“Now you really remind me of my brother,” I said. “We’d always start horsing around, and then next thing I knew, I’d be in tears and he’d be angry, and neither one of us understood what happened to make us so upset. I thought he was a big meanie, and he thought I was a little trouble-maker.”
“That sounds about right,” said Tre. He walked over to the easel and began to paint.
“I could never understand why he picked on me,” I said. “I thought he hated me. One day, after we were grown up, he told me that he always thought I was such a cute little sister. ‘Cute? You thought I was cute? Then why did you always pick on me?’ I asked him.”
“And what did he say?” asked Tre.
“That I didn’t know anything about big brothers.”
“Guess that’s about right, too,” said Tre.
“Yeah,” I said. “Well, just in case, you know, Waikiki might not know anything about big brothers, either. Maybe next time she and the other little kids are being funny and cute, you could find another way to let them know.”
Tre didn’t say anything. He looked at his canvas, looked back at me, and started painting again.