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"Good Morning Mrs. Henderson." Bens mom said, as she hoisted two suitcases into their van/camper.
"Good Morning," that lady responded, as Susan dragged her suitcase from the trunk over to the van, "It is so nice of you to take Susan with you to the camp. Have you been there before?"
"No, that's what makes it so exciting, there will be lots of new things for me to photograph. Oh, Susan, thats fine, just leave it right her. Beth is waiting for you inside."
Susan, relieved of her burden, walked inside to find Beth. She found her, and Ben, up in their room. Beth was busy on the computer, and Ben was sitting in his beanbag reading some book.
Beth turned, "Hey Sue", and turned back to turn off the computer, "How you doing? I was getting worried. We're pretty much ready to go. Come on Ben."
"Oh Susan, good, you're here. I was getting worried.We're pretty much ready to go."
Together the three of them went downstairs and out to the van. They were just in time to see Susans mom drive off down the driveway, and were just ahead of Mr Fredricks. It wasn’t five minutes later when they, too, were heading down the driveway.
In the car, Ben immediately climbed up into the low-ceilinged bed over his parents head. Beth led Susan back to the back, where there was a small table sandwiched in between two bench seats.
“This is where my folks bed is, at night. The table goes down.”
The girls settled into ‘girl talk’ as the car reached the main road, and then the freeway. Altho they had started early enough it seemed like only minutes later that Susan heard Mr Fredricks say, ‘Anyone ready for lunch?
She and Beth peered out their window and saw… a Denny’s? Susan had never eaten at a Dennys. Her parents considered them low class, the haunt of truck drivers and shift workers. But as Ben and Beth seemed excited, she decided to say nothing… not that she would have anyway. She hated conflict.
She was shocked again when the waitress gave her a coloring menu. She thought of asking for an adult menu, but again, Ben and Beth grabbed theirs eagerly so she said nothing. And there were some neat puzzles and things… at least it kept her from being bored. The food was… OK. Definetly not what she expected at a restaurant, but better than a school lunch anyway.
She made sure to use the bathroom. The van had a little portapotty in a little closet, but she was *not* going to use that.
Back in the car, they didn’t stay long on the interstate, but began a series of country roads. Beths mom was very excited, and made them stop frequently, at all sorts of sights she found interesting. There was an old bridge, an old dam, a beautiful waterfall.
Finally at a small lake, she said to the girls, ‘why don’t you two take a walk for a half hour or so. I want to shoot some pictures here, and put Ben in several of them. If you stay, you will just be totally bored.”
“The boys probably want to go swimming too,” whispered Beth to Susan as the two of them set off around the lake. Mostly just admiring the scenery, and girl talk.
Not long after they got back into the car they found somewhere to stop for dinner. “Sams Steakhouse”, the sign proclaimed. Susan wondered what her parents would have thought of that. Still, it had a bathroom. Susan was bound and determined not to use the little ‘porta-potty’ thing that they had in their van. She had been wanting to go for quite a while now.
Again the food was OK. She was wise enough not to order a steak, even at ‘Sams Steakhouse’, following the lead of the other two children. She wasn’t used to pinching pennies, but she was very used to figuring out what was appropriate by the way the people around her behaved. Here, instead of ‘what fork do I use’ and ‘who am I allowed to talk to’, it was ‘how much can a kid spend at a restaurant without taking up to much of the budget for this trip’.
The crowning discomfort of the entire trip came after they had stopped for the night at an RV park. It turned out that the same room which held the potty was also a shower. A tiny room you could hardly stand up in. Mrs Fredricks had said, ‘girls first’, and Mr Fredricks and Ben had gone and sat down at the table, drawing the curtain. Beth had begun getting undressed. Seeing Susans confused look, she had said,
“We get the shower first, then the boys.”
Susan supposed that it was having a sibling, and, indeed, sharing a room with him, that made Beth so blasé about getting undressed in front of others. Of course, it was Beths mom, so Susan was the only ‘other’.
Hopefully none of the other two noticed how awkward she was, and she quickly finished her shower after Beth. She had brought along a nice long nightgown, which was good, because it was kind of cold in the camper.
Then it was the girls turn to hide behind the curtain while the boys showered. This too made Susan feel awkward, especially as the curtain was not to good at closing. How could they get used to living like this? None of them seemed to find anything at all awkward about it.
“OK, time for bed,” Mr Fredricks announced as he pulled back the curtain, “We’re all done.” He was wearing a faded pair of sweat pants, as was Ben, who was already climbing up into the bed where he had ridden all day. It suddenly occurred to Susan that she hadn’t thought about where she and Beth would sleep. Since there was only two beds, she was afraid she wouldn’t like the answer.
And she didn’t. She had hoped that she and Beth would sleep with Mrs Fredricks. But instead Beth had hopped up next to Ben… leaving Susan an adequate space on the other side of her from him. Sleeping in the same bed as a boy!
It was going to be hard enough to sleep with a girl, but a boy!
After she and Susan had chatted for a while, Beth lay musing on her bed. It was funny how you didn’t notice how different your life was until you were thrown together with someone else. Poor Susan. She had found everything so difficult. Even Denny’s! What could you possibly find to object to about Dennys? She had tried to hide it.
Beth supposed it was natural that, having no siblings and rambling around in that huge house, having her own bathroom and everything, that Susan would have been embarrassed to change with her and mom, with Ben and Dad… she giggled to herself. Poor Susan.
Ben lay musing to himself in bed. Having to sleep with sweats on. It reminded of the pajamas he had worn when he was a little kid. And Susan. She tried hard, but it was obvious that she was just *shocked* at everything they were doing. Denny’s, Sams. The look on her face when she had to climb into bed with the two of them!
Susan woke up the next morning, and lay in bed. Three things hit her mind. First, that she was still in bed with Beth and Ben. It had been a long night. Every time one of the other two had stirred, or she had heard some sort of noise from outside, or from the parents at the other end of the van behind their curtain, she had woken up. A very long night.
Secondly, that she was now going to have to get dressed for the day. Again with the curtain, again in front of Beth and Mrs Fredricks… but at least not all the way naked like last night.
And the third thing was that she really needed to pee. But she was *not* going to use that porta-potty thing.
Thus it was with great joy for all, but particularly Susan, when, two (whole) hours later they pulled into a combination grocery, gas, and tourist shop in ‘Rocky Fall’. Susan ‘raced’ calmly to the bathroom while Mr Fredricks filled the van with gas, and the other children and their mother spread out over the shop, looking at tourist items.
They all met a few minutes later (Susan being *much* more comfortable) at the checkout stand, where Mr Fredricks had just asked the clerk something,
“The camp? That’s easy enough. Just go down the main street for a couple of blocks, and there, on the left, you will see ‘camp street’. Five miles up that road, and you will be there.
So they turned down Camp Street, and sure enough, stood a sign, which read “Deeper Truth Bible Camp, 5 miles.” And just past the sign, the pavement ended and the road continued as a dirt road with ditches on either side. Five miles of dirt road…!
Driving on the rutted, dirt road made the trip seem interminable but probably only about 15 minutes had passed when they bounced over the last rut, came around the last curve and saw, not 100 yards in front of them, a shallow curve in the road leading to a circular driveway with room for parking all along its edges. And behind the driveway stood the two story converted barn that had featured so prominently in the advertisements.
“Wow.” Said Ben.
“Wow.” Echoed Beth
“Finally!” Susan put in. The three of them lay on their mattress, which overshot the driver and passenger, and had a wonderful front window. As the van pulled into one of the parking spaces, they climbed down.
The Barn, which they all thought just beautiful, repainted in its original red, three stories of windows, high sloping roof, sat beautifully among the pines trees of the local forest. The driveway stood in the middle of a small meadow, but a thick forest covered the rest of the hillside around the camp. The trees had little underbrush, which meant you could see far into the forest, tree trunk after tree trunk, until the darkness made further detail impossible.
They seemed the first actual campers to have arrived, and the only cars in the parking were all off on one side, in an area marked ‘staff parking’. Altho the mornings trip had seemed long to them (and especially to Susan) the fact that they had spent the night at the RV camp, and that they had woken up so early in the morning, meant that they had arrived at 9:30 in the morning in spite of stopping in Rocky Fall. As a result, they had arrived a good half-hour before the actual, official, opening of the camp for the season. The staff didn’t seem put out though, one of them popping out of the barn and coming smiling over to them.
“Well, hello, welcome to camp! I’m Mr. Gregg, the camp director. And who might you be?”
Ben, Beth and Susan introduced themselves, while their mother stood smiling in the background. Their father had gone around behind the van and now emerged with two old, canvas, duffel bags, and one immaculate Sampsonite suitcase.
“Come on in, I’ll introduce you to your counselors and they can take you up to your cabins. We call the girls rooms ‘cabins’ even tho they aren’t really.”
They walked into the barn, into a large dining room… large enough for about 100 people to eat in comfortably. The room was paneled in white pine, and all the furniture was constructed of the same material. Six large picnic tables, with Benches on both sides and chairs on either end, stood in the center of the room, with several others arranged around the walls. One wall had an enormous fireplace, while most of the other walls were covered with felt hangings, obviously made by previous sets of campers. A door and a long serving window, out of which wafted the scent of baking bread, marked the kitchen.
Several men and women lounged around, talking, or fixing things on the various tables. Ben stared at them. Were these the counselors? They all seemed to be much older than any counselors he had had at other camps.
Mr. Gregg said, “Lets see… Beth, you will be with Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. He led the group over to a lady who stood behind a table at the side of the room, arranging some art/craftwork. “Mrs. Johnson?”
“Yes, Mr. Gregg?”
“I’d like you to meet Beth Fredricks. I believe she belongs in your cabin?”
The woman put the painting she held down onto the table, took in the group with a quiet glance, and replied. “Well, yes Mr. Gregg, I belive so. My, you have arrived early Beth. Do you have your things? Come, I will show you our cabin.”
Beth and her mother followed Mrs. Johnson as she led them across the room. Before they got very far Mr. Gregg had already looked at Susan, and said,
“And now, lets see, Susan Henderson… you would be with Mr. and Mrs. Grant. Oh, Mrs. Grant!” Mr. Gregg said, waving to a rather stout lady across the room. He had to repeat himself several times to get her attention, as she was talking animatedly with a much smaller woman with her. Eventually however, he managed to get her attention and she bounded across the room, an enormous smile on her face, and an outstretched hand.
“A camper for me? Who? Susan? Well well, so this is Susan Henderson. You get these applications and you don’t know at all what someone will look like. Well, I’m glad you are here already, must have gotten up with the early bird to have gotten here so soon, lets go see our cabin, shall we, do you have your suitcase? My what a suitcase, can you carry it? Well good you can, such a big girl, come on now, our stairs are right over here.” With this, the cheerful and nonstop Mrs. Grant led a struggling Susan across the room and up a small, wooden, winding staircase.
The others all watched the group with fascination. Mrs. Grant, altho it looked like a physical impossibility, managed the twisting staircase easily, talking and waving her hands all the while. Susan, whose brand new, shiny, suitcase seemed bigger than herself, struggled with it up the staircase lugging it up behind her, one step at a time. She kept both hands firmly gripped on the handle of the case and looked as if at any moment she might let go and fly backwards over the edge of the stairs. Eventually, however, both humans and the suitcase climbed out of view and…
Mr. Gregg turned from watching the pair, an amused grin on his face, and saw Ben and his father. “Ah, yes, now Ben, you belong in Mr. and Mrs. Balladins cabin. Oh, Mr. Balladin.”
Ben looked to see who Mr. Gregg was speaking to, and saw… an old man! He must be, well, fifty at least! For a camp counselor! Weird. The man was wearing a heavy, white and grey knit sweater, and had a long black beard, with some grey in it.
Mr. Balladin had none of the verbosity of Mrs. Grant. He came over, listened to Mr. Greggs introduction, shook Ben and his fathers hands, and said, “We’ll have to walk a bit to get to our cabin.”
Ben hitched his duffle bag over his shoulder (insistently refusing his fathers offer of assistance (boys could not have their dads carry their suitcase, not at a summer camp!)) and the two of them followed Mr. Balladin.
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