Kristys book, p.4
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       Kristy's Book, p.4

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  “That’s a big problem,” said Charlie.

  “You could wear a garbage bag and gloves,” said Claudia. She went down to the kitchen and came back with a brown plastic bag and the yellow gloves my mother used to wash dishes. Charlie cut holes in the bag for his arms and head. He slipped it on, then put on the gloves. Meanwhile I opened the cans of tomato juice.

  Then Charlie put Louie in the bathtub and held him there. “Okay,” he said. “Sam, you pour on the juice and I’ll scrub. Then we’ll rinse him. Kristy, you do that part.” I attached the sprinkler Mom used for David Michael’s shampoos to the faucet.

  Louie stood perfectly still as the tomato juice flowed over and through his fur. But as soon as he was drenched in red he began to shake himself. Tomato juice flew everywhere — on the walls, on the sink, on us. Even on the ceiling. Two quarts of tomato juice is a lot of red stuff. We were all screaming and sort of laughing at the same time.

  “Quick,” screeched Charlie. “Rinse him off.”

  I turned a spray of water on Louie. Charlie and Sam did their best to hold him down while I rinsed him off, but still he managed to shake. Now water and tomato juice were flying around the room. By the time the tomato juice had been rinsed off Louie, everyone and everything in that bathroom was a red, wet mess.

  “We better clean this up,” said Charlie. “Go get some dishwashing liquid from the kitchen, Kristy. And some paper towels.”

  I was glad I was the one going on the errand. I couldn’t wait to get away from the smell and mess of that bathroom. The only problem was that I couldn’t leave. The door wouldn’t open. “The door’s stuck,” I told the others.

  “Let me try,” said Sam. He did. “It’s locked,” he concluded.

  Charlie tried the door. It wouldn’t open for him either. “How could it be locked?” he asked.

  “How do I know?” I replied.

  “Unlock it,” said Mary Anne. She looked frightened.

  I pointed to the center of the knob. “The lock is stuck,” I said.

  “It won’t pop out,” said Charlie.

  “You mean that little thing in the doorknob?” asked Claudia.

  “Yeah,” said Charlie. “Let’s try jiggling it.”

  We all watched as Charlie tried turning the knob. But it wouldn’t move.

  “We’re locked in!” Sam shrieked.

  “Uh-oh,” said Claudia.

  I looked at Mary Anne. Any second now she’d start to cry.

  “Stay calm, everybody,” I said. “We’ll just yell out the window for someone to come let us out.”

  I stood on the toilet seat cover and looked out the window. “I can see Mrs. Goldman weeding her front flower garden,” I reported. I was about to yell to Mrs. Goldman for help when Sam grabbed my leg.

  “Don’t,” he said. “Then Mom will think we were being irresponsible.”

  “And that we made this big mess,” added Charlie. “We have to clean it up.”

  “What if we have to stay here forever?” Sam asked.

  “It’s like jail,” Mary Anne gasped.

  Claudia looked around the small, crowded bathroom. “There’s no food,” she said. There was panic in her voice.

  Sam and I exchanged a glance that said, “We better take charge.”

  “You guys, don’t worry,” Sam announced. “We’ll find a way to escape before we starve to death.”

  “I’ll keep a lookout for someone to save us who won’t tell,” I added. “You guys clean up.”

  They used all the toilet paper and our white bathroom towels. But it was hard for four people to move around that tiny bathroom, especially since wet Louie thought it was all a game meant to entertain him. When they were finished, the bathroom looked as if someone had had a blood bath in it instead of a tomato bath.

  “It’s like a horror movie,” said Sam.

  Just then I spotted Claudia’s sister Janine coming home from the library with a pile of books. I didn’t see anyone else on the street. We all agreed we could trust Janine. Claudia climbed up on the toilet seat next to me, and we yelled out the window, “Janine!” It took three calls before she figured out where the voices were coming from. But she finally saw us. We tried to explain with signals and words that we were locked in the bathroom.

  “Here comes your mother!” shouted Janine. “I’ll tell her.”

  “No!” we shouted.

  But it was too late. Mom’s car was pulling into our driveway and Janine was running toward it.

  Well, there was nothing to do but wait for Mom to unlock the bathroom door. We heard her and Janine coming up the stairs. “What’s wrong in there?” Mom asked in a nervous voice. Before we could answer she opened the door and saw her children splattered with what looked like a lot of blood. She let out a cry.

  “Mom, it’s okay. It’s okay,” Charlie said.

  “It’s only tomato juice,” explained Sam.

  Mom stared at us for an instant, then took another sweeping look around the bathroom. That’s when she noticed Mary Anne and Claudia. “You girls go home now,” she said quietly.

  Mary Anne and Claudia left with Janine.

  “Now you three go change your clothes,” Mom said in an even, low voice. “Then meet me in the kitchen.”

  “It wasn’t our fault, Mom,” said Charlie. “Louie got sprayed by a skunk.”

  “I figured out that much,” she shot back.

  “And we had to give him a tomato bath,” added Sam.

  “Why was Louie outside alone?” my mother asked. I looked at the floor. I was the one who let him out in the backyard to do his thing, instead of walking him on a leash.

  “Sorry,” I said.

  Mom didn’t say anything more, but left the bathroom with David Michael. Louie followed them.

  “We’re in trouble,” said Sam.

  “Big trouble,” agreed Charlie.

  “I guess we shouldn’t have had kids over,” I said.

  “Or done a lot of other things we did this week,” Charlie added.

  We walked down the hall toward our bedrooms. The hall smelled of skunk.

  Our mother’s voice rose up the stairwell. “What on earth happened to this kitchen?”

  I remembered the popcorn and paper plates. And that no one had bothered to wash the breakfast dishes.

  My brothers and I ducked into our rooms to change our clothes.

  When I came into the kitchen a few minutes later, Mom was calm. She was telling Charlie what cleaning supplies to use for mopping up the bathroom. “Kristy,” she said evenly, “Will you please clean up the kitchen.”

  “Sure,” I answered. “I’m sorry we made a mess.”

  She ignored my apology. Sam came into the kitchen. Mom told him to set the table and watch David Michael. “The rest of last night’s Chinese food is heating up,” she said. “I’m going to change out of my business clothes. We’ll eat in ten minutes.” She went upstairs.

  Charlie and I exchanged a glance. What was going on? Why wasn’t Mom scolding us? Why wasn’t she telling us what our punishment would be?

  During dinner Mom said, “I take some responsibility for what happened here today. I’ve been so distracted trying to learn my new job that I wasn’t clear with you kids about what your jobs are. That’s going to have to change now.”

  That’s all she said. Then she went back to eating her chicken and snow peas. So did we. But I was wondering, what does she mean by our jobs?

  The next morning I found out. When I came down for breakfast I saw a long piece of paper posted on the refrigerator door. I looked at it. Mom had written down things each of us kids had to do.

  Here was my list:

  Sam’s jobs included walking Louie after school, vacuuming the rooms and upstairs hall on Saturday mornings, and cleaning the kitchen after dinner.

  Charlie had the most things to do because he was the oldest. They included cleaning the kitchen after breakfast on weekdays, scrubbing the bathrooms, doing the laundry, putting out the garbage, and
giving David Michael his bath every night.

  Charlie, Sam, and I clustered around the refrigerator door going over the list. Mom ate her breakfast and fed David Michael.

  “Mom, this isn’t fair!” Sam exclaimed.

  “Excuse me,” my mother said. “What isn’t fair?”

  He pointed to the list. “All this work. We’re just kids.”

  “You’ll still have plenty of time to play,” my mother told him. “And as soon as we’re settled into this work schedule I’ll call some of your friends’ parents and arrange play dates for you some days after school. But for the next few weeks I need to see that you kids can take care of yourselves and the house.”

  My older brothers and I moped around a lot that weekend. I had wanted to be treated as if I were older. But not that much older. I was also feeling nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things my mother had put on my list.

  On Monday we started our new jobs. It didn’t take much time to put out breakfast before school, or fold the laundry and set the table for dinner after school. Charlie and Sam did their jobs without too much trouble, too. We enjoyed the idea of surprising Mom with how well we could do everything.

  When she came home that evening she had David Michael in one arm, a bag of groceries in the other, and her briefcase dangling from her hand. I took the briefcase, Sam took the bag of groceries, and Charlie took David Michael.

  Mom looked around the kitchen in amazement. “This is great,” she said. “I have a surprise for you, too. I bought a roasted chicken for dinner.”

  While Sam unpacked the groceries Mom put a pan of water on to boil for noodles and told Charlie to clean and cut the vegetables she’d bought. Fifteen minutes later we sat down for a real dinner.

  I twirled some slippery, delicious noodles on my fork. “This is nice,” I said. “I thought we’d only have pizza and Chinese food.”

  “We could have roasted chicken every Monday night, if you like,” she said. “And we could figure out menus for other days of the week, too.”

  “I still like pizza,” I said. “But once a week is enough.’

  “Chinese food, too,” added Charlie.

  We all agreed that Chinese food on one night and pizza on another would be fine.

  “And Charlie,” my mother said, “if you could put some potatoes and a meatloaf in the oven one day a week that would take care of another night.”

  “I love meatloaf,” I said.

  “I could even make the meatloaf, Mom, if you showed me how,” Charlie offered.

  I looked around the table. Everyone was happy. Just then David Michael threw his bottle over the side of his high chair. Louie made a running leap for the bottle. I reached out and caught it in midair.

  “Nice catch, Kristy,” Charlie said.

  “Not bad,” agreed Sam.

  “Thanks,” I said.

  Mom reached over and patted my head. “You’re terrific, Kristy,” she said. “You’re really a big girl now.”

  One Saturday a few weeks before school let out for the summer, Mom took a newspaper out of her briefcase and handed it to me. “Look at this, Kristy,” she said. “Here’s a girls’ summer camp with lots of softball. It sounds like your kind of place.”

  I looked at the paper. The title of the article was: Camp Topnotch: A Sporting Girl’s Paradise. There was a photo of a girls’ softball team. The girl in the center of the photo held up a trophy topped by a statue of a girl winding up to pitch. The caption under the picture said that the Camp Topnotch softball team was All-Camp Winners in the junior girls’ division for northwestern Connecticut. The caption ended with, “Will Camp Topnotch be the top team again this year?”

  “Read the article,” my mother said.

  I sat down at the kitchen table and read every word of that article. Mom was right. Camp Topnotch was my kind of place. It specialized in softball, swimming, and tennis. If softball was your sport you could play softball almost all day long. There were games between cabins at the camp and games with teams from other camps. “It sounds great,” I told my mother. “It must cost a lot of money to go there.”

  “You’re right,” my mother said. “It’s too expensive for us. But they give scholarships, especially to children in single-parent house-holds. I called and they’re sending us a scholarship application.”

  “Wow!” I exclaimed. “I really hope I can go.” I looked at the article again and imagined myself holding up a trophy in the center of those girls. If I went to Camp Topnotch I’d make sure we won this year.

  For the application I had to write an essay about why I wanted to go to Camp Topnotch. I said how much I loved the game of softball and that I was a really good shortstop. Then I wrote about how it was hard for a girl to find a good game in our town because the guys were sort of dumb about letting girls play with them. I also mentioned that my dad had left us, so my mom had to go to work every day plus raise four kids. I said I was proud of her for doing all that, but that it was really boring to be home alone in the summers. My mother answered the questions on the application that had to do with financial need. We mailed it in.

  After that I checked our mailbox first thing when I came home from school every day. At the end of May I found a letter addressed to me from Camp Topnotch. I tore open the envelope, unfolded the letter, and read:

  Dear Kristin Thomas:

  Congratulations. We are pleased to award you a full scholarship for the month of July. Welcome to Camp Topnotch!

  The letter went on to explain what day I should arrive and what clothes and sports supplies I should bring with me. There was even a map with driving directions to Camp Topnotch.

  “Yess!” I shouted as I ran to the kitchen to find my brothers. “I got in,” I announced breathlessly. “I’m going to Camp Topnotch. I can play softball for a whole month!”

  “Big deal,” Sam scoffed. “Who has to go to camp to play softball?”

  “Hey, that’s neat, Kristy,” Charlie said. “You won a scholarship and everything. They must think you’re pretty good.”

  “She’s good enough to play with a bunch of girls,” Sam said.

  That’s when it hit me. Camp Topnotch didn’t know whether I was a good player or not. I had told them I was good. Now I’d have to prove it. I needed to practice.

  For the next month I played softball every chance I got. After school, Mary Anne and Claudia threw balls for me to hit and catch. They wanted to help me any way they could. Sam and Charlie drilled with me, too.

  The morning of July first I was suddenly nervous about going away to camp. I was going to be alone. No Mom. No brothers. No best friends. But Mary Anne and Claudia were both going on vacation with their parents in July. So I knew if I stayed at home I would be bored, bored, bored.

  It took only a couple of hours to drive to Camp Topnotch. The towns we passed through were small, with just a couple of stores in each one. We mostly drove past open fields and woods. As we headed down the last mile of a bumpy dirt road it seemed that Camp Topnotch was very far away from Stoneybrook. Would I be homesick?

  The countryside had been quiet, but Camp Topnotch was buzzing with activity. Everyone was friendly and I could tell that I wasn’t the only girl who was a little nervous. One girl held her mother’s hand, another was biting her nails, and I saw a girl clutching a teddy bear to her chest.

  A counselor-in-training (C.I.T.) gave my mom and brothers a tour of the camp while another C.I.T. put my bags in a wagon and took me and my stuff to my cabin. “Your counselor will be there,” she said. “You’ll like her. Patti’s great.”

  I wished my mom were coming with me to meet my counselor and see my cabin for the first time. My stomach started to do little flips. What if I didn’t like my counselor? What if I didn’t like the other girls in my cabin?

  The only person I noticed when I walked into the cabin was a short, happy-looking woman who looked quite a bit older than me, but not as old as my mom. “I’m Patti LaPointe,” she said, “your cabin counselo
r. Welcome to Bluejays’ Nest, the best cabin in camp.”

  “Yess!” shouted a girl. The voice came from above me. I looked up to see a long-legged, red-haired girl sitting on one of the top bunks. She grinned down at me. “Hi,” she said. “My name’s Jillian Bilsky. But call me Jill.” She jumped from the bunk to the floor. “I’m first base. How about you?”

  I introduced myself. “Kristy Thomas. I play shortstop.”

  “Shortstop,” repeated Jill. “Hey, cool. If you’re better than Samantha Hunter you can be first-string shortstop on the camp team.”

  “Who’s Samantha Hunter?” I asked.

  “Sam’s from the other softball cabin,” Jill answered. “She was shortstop when we won the tournament last year. I was a second-string outfielder. But I’ll be first string this year. You can bet on it.”

  “Pick out any bunk you want, Kristy,” Patti said.

  “Hey, take that bunk,” Jill said. She was pointing to the top bunk nearest hers.

  I’d never slept on a top bunk before, but I said, “Sure.” I tossed my baseball glove on the bunk to show that it was mine.

  It was Jill’s second year at the camp. She helped me make up my bunk and showed me where to put my toothbrush and towel, and hang my bathrobe. Meanwhile, the eight other girls in our cabin were arriving and picking out their bunks. We all introduced ourselves and helped one another settle in. Most of the campers had been to Camp Topnotch before — only three of us were new campers. After awhile my mother and brothers came to see my cabin, meet my counselor, and say good-bye. I already had a good feeling about the camp and wasn’t upset when they left.

  When all the parents were gone, Patti said, “Well, campers, it’s time to go to the mess hall and chow down. Our cabin sits at table five. I’ll explain camp rules and stuff after dinner. Meanwhile, have fun and get to know one another.”

  Melissa, a girl I recognized from the newspaper photo, suggested, “Let’s wear our colors for dinner so the Robins will know that we’re ready to play ball.”

  “What colors?” I asked.

  “Who are the Robins?” asked Tammy, another new girl.

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