Modern day newsies at summer camp. Will wacky hijinx ensue? Gee, ya think?
"No smoking on camp property," came a reminder behind him.
Jack flicked the ashes from the end of the cigarette.
"Or at least, keep it behind the boat shed or staff housings, like everyone Else."
He took a final drag and gave up, dropped the cigarette to the wooden deck and crushed the remaining cinders with a sneaker before the wood could singe.
"...And don't forget to hide the evidence," someone else reminded him, a female voice this time.
"You two come out here to make out or what?" Jack asked, turning away from the lake to face the two who'd interrupted him, kicking the cigarette off the deck and under a bush as he turned. Both of the people who'd joined him were senior counselors at the camp, several years older than he was, and they hid the fact that they were dating about as effectively as Jack hid his cigarette addiction.
"Came to check on you, actually," Paint offered. She was the younger of the two and her camp name matched the paint stains on her official camp T-shirt, excusable because she was, after all, the arts and crafts counselor.
"Why'd you want to do that?"
"'Cause it's your first year as a counselor," put in Paint's boyfriend, Sneakers, the archery counselor. "And you're barely older than the kids. Most of them were your bunkmates last year... Thought you might be nervous."
"Come on, it's breakfast. We've only got an hour before check in starts."
"I figured I'd spend the last hour without campers in peace," Jack answered.
"The lake is awfully peaceful," Paint acknowledged. "Well, if you're sure you're okay..."
The voice cut through the calm; it wasn't obnoxious, just loud. In unison, the three counselors turned to see one of the camp administrators waving a clipboard at them. "We finalized the bunk assignments!"
"Yeah, fine," Sneakers called back, and the clipboard bearing camp nurse came to join them. "So?"
"So, well... The way it works out, we will be putting a new boy in Pentland with you."
"You sure that's a good idea?" Jack asked. He'd lived in Pentland the summer before, when he was still a mere camper; Pentland was the bunk traditionally reserved for boys who'd been at the camp for five or six years, at least. They all already knew each other and had established cliques, which made it difficult for new kids to break in.
"I wouldn't worry. The boys in Pentland are... Nice," the nurse said.
Sneakers and Jack shot each other suspicious looks. "Nice," Jack repeated slowly. "Not quite the word I'd have picked. They are the same kids who were there last year, right?"
"Well, the new boy's name is David, and I'm sure you can look out for him, Sneakers," the nurse finished, cheerfully ignoring Jack's comment. "I've got to go hand out meds, and don't forget to drink a lot of water if you're carrying luggage up and down hills all day."
"...And I want you to write home every day, or at least once a week. Oh, I'm just going to miss you so much, it'll be so different not to have the three of you around the house!"
David bit back the urge to point out that if his mother was going to miss having him around the house, she maybe shouldn't force him to go to camp to begin with. But that seemed futile at this point; they'd had the argument a handful of times already, and here he was, standing in a dirt parking lot with a trunk and bags of bedding lying in the dust at his feet, while his mother enthusiastically hugged each of her children in turn.
"Now, David, try and have a good time, please?" she begged. "Promise me you'll/ try?"/
"Yes, Mom," he groaned. "I'll try."
"That's my boy." She pinched his cheeks and he winced, then gave her the obligatory kiss on the cheek in return. He half-hugged his father and watched silently as his parents got back into the car for the trip home, abandoning their three children for the next eight weeks.
He had to admit that the check in process was streamlined; no sooner than they'd unpacked the family station wagon had the camp nurse checked off their names and waved down counselors to help move their things into bunks and get them set up. The three counselors had already assured their parents they'd be taken care of, and so Esther and Mayer left without even seeing the main camp grounds.
Well, without really seeing them. A good amount was visible from the parking lot, as the camp was built on a fairly steep hill that sloped down towards the lake, leveling out only for a few playing fields in the middle. If it hadn't been for a few trees in the way, the whole of the main camp grounds would have been visible.
Sarah and the female counselor who was helping her gathered her things. She took enough time before heading off to hiss in David's ear, "Remember, we've never seen each other before. And we're definitely not related."
"Just like school," he answered, and made a face at her back as she walked away.
"So, Les," the counselor whose nametag identified him as Cowboy started, picking up a few bags, "is this your first time at camp?"
"Yeah," Les said. "Are you a real cowboy?"
"Well, when I ain't here for the summer, I work on a ranch in New Mexico... So yeah, I guess I'm a real cowboy."
Les's eyes went wide, but before David could stop himself, he said snidely, "Yeah, sure, I'll bet all the ranch hands out west talk with a thick New York accent."
The counselor started to answer, then stopped and shrugged instead. He shot David an agreeable grin, apparently not too upset that he'd been caught.
The other counselor, Sneakers according to his nametag, snickered and elbowed Cowboy in the side. "C'mon, both bunks are this way. This is the boy's half of camp; the girl's half looks just about the same, but if you're caught over there you're in a lot of trouble, so don't get too curious."
David nodded a little, paying more attention to trying to memorize the path they were taking than the speech—though he did wonder if the speech had been prewritten, or just delivered enough times that Sneakers didn't have to think about it as he spoke. It seemed just a little too smooth.
Cowboy and Les chattered back and forth as the group walked, until their paths split, and David's began to slope back uphill. He panted a little bit, not used to the steep hills or rough terrain. "Don't worry, you'll be in good shape by the end of the summer. Play soccer?"
"Too bad; camp was always the best way for me to get in shape for the season. There." He stopped and pointed through a few trees, towards two large bunks. "I'm your bunk counselor, my name's Sneakers."
"Yeah, I figured. I can read real well."
"That's better than most of your bunkmates." Sneakers rolled his eyes, as they approached the cabins. They were almost identical, built with a door on either end and a large porch out front. Lots of windows, electricity—not all the cabins had it, according to the camp brochure, and David was relieved to see his did—and bathrooms inside. The senior units were the nicest ones in the camp. Thank God for small favors...
They walked up the steps to the bunk labeled /Pentland/.
"So who's back this summer?" Blink asked.
"Jack's a counselor now, Rich and Rob are, too," Mush said, sitting backwards on a chair and leaning over the top of the back.
"Sneakers and Paint were up at check in," Racetrack put in from his position lying on his bed.
"And I ran into a lot of people down at the waterfront," Snitch added, bouncing a tennis ball off the wall and catching it. "Swinger and her sister, and Hotshot, and your best friend, Blink."
"Don't tell me."
"Smurf," he finished.
Blink groaned and kicked the leg of the bed he was sitting on. "Well, that's just great."
"It won't be so bad," Mush reassured him, standing up and turning the chair around so he could sit more comfortably. "Come on, it's our last year, let's make the best of it."
"Yeah. Hey, ain't it Spot's third year?"
"Hey, it is," Snitch agreed, and rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "I totally call hazing him. It's gonna be fun."
"Speaking of hazing," Blink murmured, and nodded towards the doorway. Their newest bunkmate—the only one they'd never met before—had finally arrived.