Camp life, p.1
Camp Life, p.1
Copyright 2015 Lucinda Maison
Electronic adaptation by www.StunningBooks.com
Table of Contents
About the Author
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
Origin in question, attributed to Goethe, John Anster’s translation of Faust, and/or W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951 (from the website of The Goethe Society of No. America)
The brochure lay on the table, glossy photos of smiling faces, lots of words about who knows what. He averted his eyes, oozing silent ridicule. What was his mother saying now? he thought, tuning in briefly again.
“Honey, you have to do something this summer, I can’t just leave you alone all day. It’s only for 3 weeks, and by then I’ll have finished this project and be able to work from home. This place sounds really good!” she pleaded. Brown eyes stared into his, willing him to agree with her, to be reasonable. Jake shifted slightly away from her, giving a quick shake to his dark hair, and allowed himself to glance down at the table.
“Camp Life,” the brochure said. Whatever that meant! He rolled his eyes.
She continued to watch him, and when he couldn’t stand the silence any longer, he broke it, bursting out, “You don’t know anything about that place! What kind of a camp is called “Camp Life”, anyway? It sounds really lame to me! I don’t want to go! I’m 13 years old and I can stay by myself!”
His mother frowned and shook her head. She drew back, drew away from him. “That’s exactly what you can’t do. You’ve proven you can’t be trusted, so while you’re out of school, I have to find someone else to keep you in line and out of trouble. You should have thought of that before you took up stealing for fun!”
She reached around him and picked up the brochure, waving it in front of his face. “You’re going here and that’s it!” With a flick of her wrist, she threw it back down on the table and stalked from the room.
Jake felt a tear leak from his eye and quickly swiped it away with his sleeve. “Whatever,” he thought. “I don’t care.”
Once again, the memory washed over him. The screeching sound of tearing metal, the blackness that followed. He remembered bits and pieces of that evening; dressing in black, black pants, black shirt, black shoes. Sneaking out his window and waiting down the street for Jarod to pick him up, using a baseball bat to break the McCluskey’s window, helping Jarod carry stuff out to the car...
Why had he agreed to help Jarod rip off the McCluskey’s? he thought for the thousandth time. Easy, he answered himself, because he was bored. Because Jarod had said Jake was a pretty cool dude for being only 12, but that he needed to prove himself now. Jarod’s 10-year-old brother, Luke, had been helping his brother boost stuff for years.
Six months later, the confused pictures continued to replay in his mind. Jake remembered Jarod’s face, laughing as he loaded up the car with the DVD player, the laptop, and a fistful of Mrs. McCluskey’s jewelry. The laughing face dissolved, replaced with fractured images of lights in the road, Jarod with blood running down the left side of his head, Jarod crying and yelling, Jarod being wheeled away and lifted up into the ambulance. Jake hadn’t seen him since. He’d heard that Jarod had been sent to some juvenile jail-type place, but there had been no word from him.
Jake thought of something Jarod used to say a lot, and it seemed like a really good time to say it. “Life sucks,” Jake mumbled, head bowed.
He concentrated as hard as he could, holding the wand in front of him and willing the amulet to move. Nothing. He glanced back at the bottom of the page, where he had used a green highlighter to color the instructions. He couldn’t see that he was doing anything wrong, but it wasn’t working! He flipped back through the book to the section on telekinesis, read a few lines, then forward again to the chapter on magic and motion. Maybe it was the wand. The book said to use a 10-inch length of hickory, but all he could get was a stick from the pecan tree in the backyard.
“Toby!” Mrs. Curran called from the kitchen. “Come and have some lunch before it’s time to go!”
Toby sighed. He packed the book and the pecan wand in his duffel bag, and shuffled out the bedroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen.
“Hi, sweetheart!” his mother exclaimed, turning and giving him a big hug. “Since you’re going to be eating camp food for awhile, I made steak sandwiches for us,” she smiled at him, gesturing to the table.
Toby took in the sandwiches, the neatly cut up chunks of fresh pineapple, the tiny squares of cheese on crackers, and the large glass of milk. He felt warmth flood him, and mentally pushed aside his 999th failed attempt to perform some magic, any magic. “Thanks, Mom! This is great!”
“Your dad is going to leave work early and we should be on the road by about 2 o’clock.” She paused, looking at him closely. Toby had inherited his cat-shaped blue eyes from her, as well as his head of dark, curly hair and small frame. Bright, sharp eyes continued to study him closely.
“How are you feeling about all this? I mean, you’ll be gone for three weeks.” She knew he was an oddly mature, self-possessed child, yet still a child. Sometimes when they talked, she forgot he was her son and a young boy. He was just a person she loved being with, someone precious, wise, and funny. Then she would find him in the bathtub, surrounded by Mr. Bubble, wearing a snorkel and mask and singing underwater, and she would remember, “Oh, yeah, he’s an eleven-year-old boy.”
Toby gazed at his mother’s face, saw the concern written there. “I’ll be fine,” he assured her. “I might not like it if I was going to just a regular camp, but this one sounds different. It’s not just stuff like canoeing, riding horses, doing crafts...it’s more interesting things.”
Mrs. Curran didn’t mention that she had reservations about the camp, although a good friend of hers had recommended it. The brochure sounded odd. Even the name of the camp was strange, “Camp Life”. That narrows it down, she thought wryly. It did offer some of the activities of a normal camp, like swimming and hiking, but it also listed things like “Dream Working” and “Real World Magic”, the later of which had caught Toby’s attention.
The brochure didn’t go into great detail about the individual activities, but Toby liked the names. Other camps offered activities related to magic tricks, but he wasn’t interested in cards or pulling rabbits out of hats. He wanted to learn REAL magic, and he knew it was possible. His parents had tried to reason with him, explaining that there is no such thing as magic. Toby didn’t really believe in Harry Potter, but he knew there had to be magic in the world, it just made sense to him. He hadn’t been able to figure out how to get any object to move a fraction of an inch and he hadn’t been able to speak a spell or incantation or wave a wand and think something into being, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t possible! He figured that if the camp really taught magic that worked, everybody would want to go there. It would be so cool to learn how to think something and make it real, how to wish for something and get it...Who wouldn’t want that?
One more lap, just one more, she told herself. Dara’s Rules: “You have to push yourself past what you think you can do, if you’re going to make it,” in this case, to the Olympics in a few years. She flipped over and pushed off the wall, gliding under the water, then coming up and turning her head for a quick breath, one arm smoothly reaching, legs rhythmically fluttering. Touching the far wall, she rolled over onto her back, breath coming in short gasps. A pair of size 13 wingtips appeared at the edge of the pool, and Dara brought her gaze up to her father’s face.
“I saw the last few laps,” he said brusquely. “Pretty sloppy.”
Dara suppressed a sigh. “I was tired. I did some extra laps today, just to see if I could,” she explained.
Her dad nodded. “Well, you’ll need to train extra hard if you’re going to make it, but you’ll never make it doing sloppy work. You have to do it right!” He held out a hand to pull her out of the pool, then stepped back and grabbed her towel. “Here.”
She held the towel up to her face, exhausted, trying to keep her legs from shaking.
“You know, your mother and I agreed to let you go to camp this summer only if you agreed to do your laps every day while you’re there. You can’t possibly miss almost a month of conditioning just so you can goof off and play in the woods. We’ve spent a lot of money on your training, taking you to swim meets, all kinds of things. We expect you to hold up your end of the bargain.”
Dara’s Rules: “Don’t ever try to defend yourself, it’s not worth it.” She’d learned that Rule by breaking it a bunch of times; by age 14, she knew she could never win with her dad and it was a lot easier to just listen or at least look like she was listening.
Sometimes she got really discouraged; she wished her parents would understand. Her mom, well, she pretty much kept whatever she was thinking to herself, and her dad...He definitely did NOT understand. He kept telling her she should be grateful for the chance to compete, that HE never had that chance, and SHE better not blow it! Whenever she felt like quitting, and she felt like it plenty of times, she just imagined telling her dad. Nothing she could think of was worse than that, so she kept going.
Dara had heard about this camp from one of the teachers at school, Ms. Hindall. She didn’t know a single kid in the 8th grade who didn’t like Ms. Hindall. She always listened to what you had to say and she never, ever put anyone down. In fact, Dara didn’t know anyone quite like her. Dara had told Ms. Hindall that her parents would let her go to a camp this summer, if it was one where she could swim every day, and Dara really, really didn’t want to face another summer of swimming laps in the Jensen’s pool, and not much else to do. Ms. Hindall told her about this Camp Life place; Ms. Hindall’s sister worked there, and it sounded like it would be fun. She’d be able to swim, but there’d be lots of other things to do. There were also some classes she could take, but those she wasn’t too sure about. It was summer; why would she want to take classes, especially something called “Get Real”, or whatever it was that Ms. Hindall had talked about? Ms. Hindall had described it to her, and it just sounded weird. But she wouldn’t have to do any of that if she didn’t want to; Ms. Hindall said she could stay in her cabin all day long if that’s what she wanted. Dara thought she’d really like doing just what she wanted to do, for a change.
Caroline and Drew
Caroline scrunched up her face, stuck her tongue out the right side of her mouth, and waggled her fingers in front of her ears. Her baby brother screamed with laughter, banging his highchair tray with the cracker clutched in his fat fist. There wasn’t much left of the cracker. Caroline laughed back at him, raked her fingers through his fine strawberry blonde curls, and carried an abandoned cup of pureed squash (so gross!) to the sink.
“Hey, Dork!” she heard someone say.
She turned slowly, pasting a smile on her face. Her older brother called her Dork when he wanted to annoy her. Caroline knew he was just teasing, it was only a nickname, but she always got a queasy feeling in her stomach whenever he said it. She shrugged it off, as usual, and smiled at him. They were 2 years apart, and Big Brother Drew was just that; at almost 15, he was already over 6 feet tall. He strode into the kitchen, impossibly large bare feet slapping against the tiles, and snagged a banana out of the fruit bowl.
“How’s the squirt today?” he said pointing the banana at Brandon, who was busily finger painting with squash-cracker crumb paste.
Brandon looked up, let out a piercing squeal, and smiled hugely at Drew. Drew’s answering grin made Caroline smile, too, since it mirrored Brandon’s perfectly.
“Dad’s going to be home around 5 tonight, and Mom’s got class, so YOU can entertain him until then. I’ve got to study for my science final, and then pack for camp,” she informed him.
Caroline loved science and she was good at it. Drew teased her about that, too, telling her girls were supposed to be good in English, not science. She laughed it off, telling him SOMEONE in the family had to be good at it, with a father who worked as a researcher at the university.
Drew definitely had not inherited the science gene. And even though he was built like a football player, he actually preferred skateboarding and hiking in the mountains to any team sport. He tried swimming for a while and did really good at it, but he just didn’t like it enough to stick with it. His passion was art. It was a rare day that did not find him sketching on whatever flat surface came to hand. Their driveway chalk drawings had been the envy of the neighborhood. Early on, he had learned that it was not OK to draw crayon murals on the living room wall. In order to save the rest of the house from his itchy fingers, their parents had allowed him to do whatever he liked to the walls of his bedroom. Unsophisticated scribbles of jungle animals had given way to tractors, which in turn were replaced by painted space ships. Caroline wasn’t sure how many layers of color were on his walls, but she figured the room was much smaller now than it was before her brother took up that first crayon. She loved its current incarnation, with ancient redwoods soaring up the walls and onto the ceiling, a stream running across his closet doors, and her favorite part, a shadowy elf glimpsed through ferns at the stream’s edge.
When Caroline brought her elementary school artwork home to her parents, they usually said, “Tell me about this,” so they would have some clue what they were looking at and which way was up. Her brownish glob with the blue, green, and yellow sticks next to it was, in fact, a dinosaur about to wade into the marsh. Drew’s 3rd grade “bowl of fruit” had won 1st place in the Idaho State contest for art composition. Caroline’s pictures went up on the refrigerator right next to Drew’s. It was so humiliating!
Well, even if she was no good at art, she did better at team sports than he did, and she was definitely better at science. She hoped this camp they were going to would be fun for both of them. Drew wouldn’t like it if he couldn’t do something artsy-craftsy, and she wouldn’t like it if they didn’t have something to do besides the usual boring camp stuff like swimming and sing-alongs. From what they’d heard of it, this “Camp Life” place was different, but they really weren’t sure what it would be like. Aunt Grace, their dad’s sister, had told them about it; she spent some time there before the camp was opened to kids, and said it had changed her life. How this happened, Drew and Caroline weren’t sure, but they did notice she was different. She had always been kind to them, but pretty much keeping to herself, never offering to play, never asking them about what they were doing, and rarely laughing. Ever since she’d come back, she seemed so much more relaxed. She laughed a lot, and when she saw them, she would hug them, ask them questions about themselves, and listen to their answers as if there wasn’t anything more important in the world. She even looked different; Caroline imagined it was as if there had been this alien who’d taken possession of her aunt’s body and kept her hidden away, and only the alien could make contact with the outside world. Somehow the alien got zapped while her aunt was at the camp place, and she was free again.
Drew said it was like a personality transplant. Caroline disagreed; to her, it was more like someone’s soul getting out of prison. Whatever had happened to Aunt Grace, it was a really good thing. It made Caroline wonder exactly would it would be like at this camp, whether they’d have to do some awful touchy-feely stuff, like the school counselor did, or maybe sit and meditate on a rock for hours and hours. She really hoped it wasn’t anything like that. Drew was more forceful about it; he said he wasn’t going to do anything he didn’t want to do, and he was going to take full advantage of the stuff he did want to do, like paint and draw and sleep.
Jake stared at his shoes, willing this moment to be over and done. His mother stood before him with anxious eyes, clearly wanting to give him a hug goodbye, but waiting for him to make the first move. She had stopped hugging him the previous year, when he told her it embarrassed him. He felt like that shouldn’t have stopped her, but it did. He wondered what his dad would have done, if he had been there to see him off. Stupid thought, he chastised himself. His father would have been drunk by this time of day and in no shape to go anywhere. He’d taken off when Jake was 8 years old, no goodbye, no nothing, just gone. His mom said some people handle their problems by running away, and his dad was one of them. Jake didn’t know which was worse: having his dad lying around drunk for days at a time or not seeing him at all. His dad had called once, about 4 months after he’d left. Jake remembered his mother clutching the phone, listening grimly with a face like stone, then handing the phone silently to Jake. Jake accepted the receiver gingerly, feeling as if time had stopped, like everything in his life depended on whatever he heard in the next few moments. But it hadn’t been like that at all. His father gave him a cheery hello, asked him how school was going, and generally acted as if he was away on a business trip somewhere instead of having skipped out on his family without a word. No apology, no remorse or anything. To Jake, it was clear he just didn’t care. His dad hadn’t called again, after that one time. Jake didn’t think about him much, except times like these, when he saw other families together.
Camp Life by Lucinda Maison / History & Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on34 votes