Summer Camp, pt. 8

“Table for eight!” I told Eva when we finally found the island’s restaurant.

“You’re joking, right?”

“No way!” I said.”We’ve got five hungry campers and three hungry counselors, so that means…”

“Our largest table only holds four,” she replied.

“Then, I guess we’ll take two?”

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Tre and I sat inside while the kids and Joel went to the deck to watch for the sea monster.

“So, Tre,” I said. “You thinking of a career working with kids?”

“Um. Not exactly.”

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On the deck, Cadence was telling Joel all the punchlines from the puppet show.

“Don’t you think I should wait for the actual show?” Joel asked.

“No!” replied Cadence. “We can never remember the jokes anyway, so we just make them up as we go!”

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“So to make fish and chips, you first gotta catch the fish,” Tre was telling Blake and Gerald. “And you know what they use for bait?”

Neither of the boys knew.

“Frog brains.”

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Tre thought it was so funny that he headed out to tell the patio table.

“That is disgusting,” said Hahon. “And it’s not even true.”

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“I’ve been thinking up new plots,” said Gerald. “How about something involving space aliens? And they’re blue? And they walk along the planet like this, only backwards?”

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Outside, Cadence was still giggling over frog brains, when Waikiki tried to get Joel to tell her what they really used for fish bait.

“I bet they don’t even catch them with a hook,” she said at last. “They use nets, right? They’ve got to because this is halibut, and I read that’s how you catch halibut.”

“I like eating something that ate frog brains,” said Cadence. “Do you think I’ll start speaking in croak? Ribbit! Ribbit!

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“Next summer, I’m going to soccer camp!” said Tre. “You kids will still be climbing trees and roasting marshmallows and looking for waterfalls, and I’ll be scoring goals for the college scouts!”

“I’m going to author camp,” said Gerald. “I’m going to be a famous author.”

“I’ll be making videos,” said Blake. “Cat videos.”

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Summer Camp, pt. 7

Tre’s been asking me if he can help out more.

“Sure! You can take out the trash!”

“Uh. That’s not what I mean,” he replied. “I’m thinking, you know, counselor work.”

“Well, you can help Waikiki write her puppet show.”

“Uh. Not exactly.”

I rattled off a dozen things: teaching the kids water slide tricks, working on the tree house, cleaning camp, planting a garden, and more. Still no takers.

“You could do the shopping for us in town?” I said at last, trying to think of everything.

“Bingo!” said Tre.

“Great! Why don’t you take some of the kids with you, so they can see the sights?”

Waikiki, Hahon, and Cadence were all busy working on the puppet show.

That left Blake and Gerald.

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I handed Tre the shopping list, and the most important thing on the list I wrote on the bottom with a big purple marking pen: Have fun!

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When Tre and the boys got home, I asked Tre how it had gone.

“Cool,” he said. “They make great coffee in the city.”

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I asked Blake and Gerald what they most enjoyed about the outing.

“The cat videos,” said Blake. Gerald nodded.

“They got good Wi-Fi,” said Blake.

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Camp is nearly over. I thought back to the first day, when the kids were just arriving.

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Gerald’s mom had seemed so worried when she dropped him off.

“You sure you’ve done this before?” she asked.

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She had put on a brave smile for her son. But that first day, Gerald seemed so nervous.

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“It’s only six weeks,” she told him. “That’s nothing, right, son?”

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I tried to busy myself trimming the flowers during their goodbye.

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“You’ll have a great time. And… you can always call, if you need to,” she said.

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At last, she gave him a hug goodbye.

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“Want some ice cream?” I asked Gerald. But he wouldn’t say a word to me. He just ran straight inside.

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I chatted with his mom for a few minutes, assuring her that her son would be fine. After she left, I went to find Gerald to make sure he had settled in.

I found him talking with Hahon.

“Camp’s the greatest,” Hahon was saying. “We’re gonna find waterfalls and play chess and play pirates. You’ll see! It’ll be super!”

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But Gerald didn’t look like he was expecting a fun summer.

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And now, six weeks later, Gerald has seven new friends and loads of confidence.

On our last day, we took a trip to the island.

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Blake asked if it were true that pirates really had settled here, burying treasure and living out at the Bluffs, and did the sea monster really protect the loot that lay buried in the Spanish Armada off the coast?

Joel hadn’t heard that.

“It’s what Gerald says,” said Blake.

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We traipsed down to the beach. If there were one place where we could find buried treasure, that was the place!

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Before we started digging, Gerald spoke up.

“I–uh–I sort of made that up,” he said. “About the treasure? I read it in a book, but not a book that happened here, so I. I just invented it.”

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“Well, Gerald,” I said, “That’s one of the greatest inventions of a story I’ve heard! And so realistic that you had us all going! Have you ever considered a career as an author?”

“You think?” said Gerald. “Would people really read books I wrote?”

“I would,” said Hahon.

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Waikiki wasn’t so impressed.

“It’s a long way to come for a wild goose chase,” she said.

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“I mean, I gave up puppet show rehearsal to come all the way out here. And now you’re telling me there’s not even any treasure?”

Gerald chuckled.

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“There could be treasure,” said Tre, pulling out his phone.

He and Joel searched the web to see what reports they could find of ancient ship wrecks off the coast of Windenburg.

“You guys come up with anything?” I asked.

“Oh, I think so!” said Joel.

“You finding what I’m finding?” asked Tre.

“Yeah! Says here there’s a great little restaurant on the island. Serves the best fish and chips anywhere! Now if that isn’t treasure, I don’t know what is!”

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Summer Camp, pt. 5

AN: Many thanks to Pegasus143/MakPlays for writing some of Hahon, Cadence, and Waikiki’s dialogue.

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Leave it to Joel to always help me see that everything is really all right and there’s never much reason to worry.

“Remember how I mentioned that my big brother was always bugging me and my little sister?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, Amelia and I decided that we’re developing resilience, insight, and strategy. I’ve already used a lot of what I’ve learned from dealing with my brother at school, and it helps me get along with everybody.”

“I don’t have siblings!” announced Gerald. “And it’s a good thing, too! I think if I ever had any, I’d tell my mom, ‘Take them back to the baby store!’ Plus, what would she want with other kids when she’s got me? I’m the perfect child!”

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We all laughed.

“Another thing my sister and I learned,” said Joel, “is to make our own traditions. So we created a tradition that whenever we had a lousy day, we’d do something great the next day to make it a special one.”

I turned to Gerald and Hahon. “What do you want to do tomorrow to make it a special day?”

“I have an idea! Let’s go find some waterfalls! There’s got to be more around the neighborhood!”

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“Yes!” said Gerald. “We’ll make it an adventure. But just kids! No big kids or teens and no grown ups!”

“That sounds like a great idea,” I said.

I headed out to see how Tre was doing. He looked pleased with his painting.

“Check it out,” he said.

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We looked together at his canvas. There was movement and quiet. I really liked it.

“I wanted to get it all out,” he said, “you know, just express myself. I guess it’s a little wild, but I like it.”

“I do, too,” I said. “It’s interesting. I like how I feel when I look at it.”

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Back inside, Gerald was giving Cadence a long hard stare.

“I don’t get it,” Cadence said. “Why is everyone acting all strange? Everyone’s either sad, mad, or tired.”

“Not me,” said Gerald. “I’m stoic.”

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“Stoic?” Cadence asked. “I know that word, but I never heard a kid use it. How do you know that word?”

“Oh, I know all sorts of things,” said Gerald.

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“Stow it?” asked Waikiki. “Where are you going to stow it? And what are you stowing?”

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“Not stow it,” yelled Gerald. “Sto-ick! Haven’t you heard of stoic? Like the ancient Greeks?”

“Sure,” said Waikiki. “I was just messing with you.”

“You remember what happened last time you teased someone,” said Gerald. “He teased you back!”

“I still can’t believe that he called me a woofum!” Waikika complained.

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“Wait… that’s why you were grouchy?” Cadence asked.

“Yes!” said Waikiki. “I hate being called names!”

“I love being called names,” said Gerald. “Names like… Perfect Potato Head! Brilliant Bobby! Better than Bosco!”

“Gerald the Genius Ginormous Brainiac!” laughed Waikiki.

“You guys are nuts,” said Cadence.

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Gerald, Waikiki, and Cadence headed off to practice a puppet show, and Blake came to keep me company while I cleaned up the kitchen and began fixing up sack lunches for the kids’ adventure the next day.

“Is everybody happy again?” Blake asked.

“I am!” I replied. “How about you?”

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“I’m happy here,” Blake said. “That popcorn was delicious.”

“Are you ready for an adventure tomorrow?”

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“Of course!” Blake replied. “That’s what camp’s all about, right? Adventures! What are we going to do?”

I told him about the waterfall hunt. “Do you think  you’ll be able to find more?”

“Without doubt,” said Blake. “The gneiss formations, combined with the presence of a southern flowing stream, indicate that waterfalls should be quite common in this locale.”

“Have you been reading my geology books?”

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After the kids were in bed, while I was waiting for the last batch of cookies to bake, Tre joined me for late-night snack.

“Not a bad day,” Tre said.

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“Seriously?” I asked.

“Sure thing!” he replied. “Do you think I would’ve even done a painting today if I didn’t have something I needed to express? But I did! And the painting was really fun to do. And I think it’s not half-bad. All in all, a pretty good day.”

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Summer Camp, pt. 4

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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.”

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“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!'”

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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.

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They were gone for a little over an hour.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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“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!”

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“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.

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“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.

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Summer Camp, pt. 3

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Rory and I had so much fun at her surprise birthday party that we ended up talking all night. We were still talking when the kids woke up and came in for breakfast.

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“Don’t you guys ever stop yakking?” Waikiki asked.

“They can’t!” joked Hahon. “They’ve been eating jumping jelly beans and now their tongues can’t stop jumping!”

“Oh, what a birthday!” Rory said. “I guess I really should head off. Thanks kids! I had so much fun!”

I walked Rory out and then made the rounds to check on everybody.

Not all the kids had made it to bed: Cadence fell asleep in the bath. I woke her up, wrapped her in a big fluffy towel, and trundled her into the bunk house to finish sleeping in a warm, dry bed.

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Blake was in the crow’s nest on the pirate ship.

“Ahoy, matey!” I called.

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“Landlubbers!” he called back.

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“Ye won’t be callin’ me a landlubber when I climb the scaffolds wi’ ye olde Trusty Pete! Ye know who’s Trusty Pete?”

“Not your sawed-off cannon!” he said, as I aimed an old branch at him.

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“None other!” I shouted.

“Red alert! All hands on deck! Prepare for boarders!”

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“Eh! I’m just comin’ up fer a cup o’ tea. You got any Darjeeling for an old salt who’s worth her salt?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Blake. “No indeed. It’s a trick, and we’ll have none of it. You and your old Trusty Pete of a cannon just get yourselves back to your old dinghy and row to shore, Landlubber. We’ll not be boarded! No way, no sir!”

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He makes a great sea captain.

Waikiki had climbed to the top deck of the tree house, where she was staring down the llama.

“I’m just imagining what will happen if I pull that red stick,” she said. We looked together. “See those orange and blue sticks resting on it? They’d come down for sure, and then, topple the llama!”

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I joined Tre for a mid-morning snack.

“How’s life as a camp counselor suiting you, Tre?” I asked.

“S’okay,” he replied. “Grilled cheese is good.”

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“Wow!” said Blake. “This is good grilled cheese. My mom makes really good grilled cheese, too.”

“So does mine,” said Tre.

Just then, both boys, the big one and the little one, looked like they missed their moms.

“Nothing like mom’s cooking,” I said. “What shall we make for supper?”

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“Let’s have grilled cheese,” said Cadence, bringing her own grilled cheese sandwich to the table.

“For breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” I asked.

Blake smiled. “Yeah! That way we won’t miss Mom’s cooking because Mom never lets us have it for three meals in a row!”

“Plus snack,” said Tre.

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“I love grilled cheese so much. Maybe I should change my aspiration,” said Tre.

“Like Don the Grilled Cheese Zombie?” asked Blake.

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“Now how do you know about him?” Tre asked.

“I told him,” said Hahon. “He’s only the most famous Zombie ninja-fighter there is. Plus. Grilled cheese.”

Blake giggled.

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“He’s a fictional character,” Tre said. “You kids can’t believe everything you read on a blog! There’s no such things as zombies, for one thing. And even if there were, there’s no way a zombie could ever defeat a ninja. It’s just not humanly possible.”

“Yeah, but a zombie’s not a human,” said Hahon.

“Yeah,” said Blake.

“Hey,” said Waikiki, joining the boys at the table. “I hear we’re eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and desert!”

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“Wrong!” said Blake. “Grilled cheese!”

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