2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award winner, Inspirational category
by Nancy Kyme
Publisher Vantage Point
2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award winner, Inspirational category
“Can we have breakfast?" the girls asked. My outburst had awakened them.
The road curved north and we entered a small town. I slowed to the posted limit and admired the pine log exterior and red-checked curtains of a local restaurant. On impulse, I pulled in.
“Here?” all three gasped together.
“It must be good. There are lots of cars,” I observed.
“Can’t we find a Hardees, or a McDonalds?” my daughter lamented.
“Come on, this won’t be so bad,” I coaxed, trying to convince myself. “We’re not complete strangers to these parts,” I declared, thinking of The Blue Bird in Fishtown. “Besides, when you were little we ate in homegrown places all the time.” I grabbed my purse and stepped outside. The Chevy and the Pontiac rumbled past. My eyes followed their progress through the one-light town, cementing my decision. “We have plenty of time,” I said, walking away, and raising the key to activate the car’s remote lock.
They jogged to catch up, fussing to place their tangled manes into ponytails. I tried to exude an aura of self-confidence, to set them at ease. I pushed into the wooden door. It propelled far too easily and slammed loudly against the inside paneling. A few patrons stared. I stammered an apology and the girls eased past.
“Maybe you should lighten up on that weight lifting, Mrs. Taylor,” Angela chuckled.
A waitress came around the other side of a bakery case. “Good morning, table for four?” She grabbed a stack of menus and ushered us to a booth near the kitchen.
“What’s the special?” I inquired, hoping such a thing existed.
“The Wolverine Breakfast,” she said, plopping down the menus. “Two eggs any style, hash browns, sausage, bacon, three pancakes, and your choice of juice.”
“I’ll have that,” my daughter piped up. “Scrambled eggs, with orange juice,” she added, almost in question.
The waitress gave a tidy nod.
“Me too,” Angela echoed. “I will, too,” Katie agreed.
The waitress stared at me, pencil in hand. I panicked. My passengers were more experienced than I thought! And how could they eat so much and be so thin? “I’ll have the same, but with apple juice,” I heard myself order for the sake of speed and ease.
Our waitress reclaimed the menus and sauntered away.
My daughter gazed about, smiling genuinely. “This is like The Silver Diner,” she observed. Angela cleared her throat and grunted a warning.
“How many first-period classes have you spent there?” I ventured, knowing I had never taken her.
KT inhaled sharply, preparing to object. But the other Katie effectively changed the subject by pointing to a wooden sign in the opposite corner. We stood at once, all having the same need to visit the bathroom. When we returned, the table held juices, milk, water, and small pitchers of syrup. We sat down, sipped our chosen beverage and waited for our food.
“Mom,” KT said, “I can’t remember. Were you ever a counselor?”
“Would you like the short version or the long version?”
They snickered at me. “Somewhere in the middle,” KT answered for them.
I smiled, wistfully counting their age, still unable to believe the impossible. They were that age. The age I had been during my last year at camp. I wondered if they wrestled against internal challenges. Did they struggle to find themselves amid the confusion of their outside worlds? Would their current friendships help or hinder this quest?
“You stayed friends with Nancy, Christie and the others?” KT prodded, sensing my sadness.
“Oh sure,” I agreed. “After the CT trip, younger campers monopolized our time. But we squeezed in a few moments here and there. The sounds of construction crept closer and we heard rumors of the girl’s camp to be re-built along the river, having access to the beach. The boy’s camp had adjusted. So, why couldn’t we?” I sighed heavily, reliving my angst. “I had refused to think that far ahead. Mostly, I craved solitude on the end of the dock. I would stare out at the lake or back at the camp, feeling a deep, pensive melancholy. It had taken hold and I couldn’t shake it.”
“I know how that feels,” Katie said. She furtively tucked a blond lock behind her ear and stared into the kitchen.
I nodded thoughtfully and added, “I think that was how Papa felt before he died."
“Why?” Angela and Katie automatically replied. My daughter shot me a perplexed expression. Clearly, she could not fathom the comparison and was too embarrassed to try.
“He died the winter before my first summer at camp,” I attempted to explain. “However, the doctors had told him months before that he was terminally ill.”
“You weren’t dying!” KT incredulously argued.
“No, but hear me out,” I pleaded. “Papa spent long hours sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of his yard. And I don’t mean on the patio near the house. I mean right smack in the middle of a half-acre lot. Sometimes he read but mostly he just gazed into the distance. Once in a while Nanny took him a pitcher of lemonade. The rest of us left him alone. The adults kept their distance out of respect. As kids, we didn’t understand. Back and forth from the pool, the mall, or heading down the street to my cousins’ house, we’d call, “Hi Papa!” He’d smile and nod, wearing a patient expression. It softened his face, making him appear younger. This man who’d been bigger than life, jolly, raucous, caustic, but rarely quiet and thoughtful seemed wholly changed. I’d watch him from the glass door of Nanny’s kitchen having a vague sense of the moment’s magnitude, all the while wondering, ‘What is he thinking?’
“I woke at twilight one weekend in August and saw he’d been there all night. He faced the house with his back against the north wind. A harvest moon hung low on the western horizon, amazingly beautiful, burnt orange and fully round. Equally magnificent to the east, the rising sun cast a crescent glow over the neighbor’s garage and bathed his profile in golden light. His attention roved between the east and the west, between the setting moon and the rising sun. Literally, he sat in the middle of night and day. Figuratively, he sat in transition between one world and the next.”
“Okay,” my daughter sneered. “You just need to stick to the story and quit getting into these weird philosophical bents.”
“Wait,” I leaned into the table and whispered, “During my last ten days of camp, I understood Papa’s solitude. He felt change coming.”
Suddenly, the waitress appeared like a culinary genie, placing steaming plates of heaping food across the table. Her wiry arms crossed everywhere at once.
KT, Katie and Angela smirked at me, noting the irony of her timing.
Angela grabbed a sausage and took a huge bite as the waitress walked away. “So,” she mumbled, “Tell us about the changes you felt coming.”
“But, stick to the story,” my daughter added.
“My memories are thirty-years-old, and much of it has faded, but parts of it feel like they happened yesterday.” I met their eyes, smiling warmly. “Thanks for listening. I’m a little nervous about this reunion.” They casually nodded, munching their food, and I took advantage of the silence.
Chapter 59 A Fateful Accident
“Come on,” Beth pleaded, placing an impatient hand upon her twelve-year-old hip. Her sandaled foot propped the door. A hot breeze ruffled through the cabin’s confining quarters. “Now mascara?” she protested. “And I hope you aren’t going to change your top again!”
“I had to. It was wet. Why do you come to camp anyway?” I needled, knowing she could handle a bit of teasing.
She stifled a giggle and rolled her eyes toward the rafters.
I held a tube of mascara, a hand-mirror, and twisted about, trying to find a streak of sunlight in the shaded cabin. Finally, a shaft illumined my face and I spread the wand of mascara over my eyelashes for the first time since returning from our CT trip. It was a moment of pure pleasure to see stubby, blond tips transform into lush, long lashes like a Cover Girl commercial. I admired the effect from every angle. “Don’t your folks have a cottage around here?” I asked, returning the mirror to the window ledge, beside my collection of fossils from the lake.
“Yeah, on Glen Lake. But, they want me to make friends my age,” she said, flipping hair from under her collar.
I tossed the damp shirt over the open lid of my steamer trunk and said, “Then you should walk to meals with Bonnie, Debbie, and Missy.”
“They already left!” she huffed.
“We aren’t late, you know. We have at least ten minutes from the time Lou Ellen rings the bell. It’s only been five minutes.” I maneuvered for the opposite windowsill to reach a pair of earrings. Whippoorwill had been designed to hold four regular cots plus the counselor’s slightly larger bed. Having mine added to the mix meant our cots stood barely a foot apart and our trunks touched sides. Since August had arrived, bringing warm nights and still days, the cabin felt especially cramped.
“Actually, Joanna told me to get you to meals on time,” Beth grinned, thinking she pulled rank.
“Ha! I don’t believe that,” I said. In fact, nothing about Joanna intimidated me anymore. Instead, she made me laugh. I had discovered her droll wisecracking extended to everyone, not just me. No matter how hilarious a situation, even if the entire camp howled from gut splitting laughter, Joanna would simply crack her gum in the back of her molars and share a tight smile. It was the same smile she wore when killing spiders. The girls in Whippoorwill adored her because she never lectured on cleanliness or spiritual growth and allowed whispering and card games during the afternoon quiet hour. We’d huddle on her bed and she’d tell me about my sister. It humbled me to learn of Susan’s successes at camp from someone who valued her friendship.
“If you don’t put your shoes on now, I won’t wait any longer!” Beth interrupted my thoughts in a final ultimatum.
“Guess what! That’s all I have left.” I shared an overblown smile. Grabbing my sandals, I turned to sit on my trunk. I plopped down in a hefty force of habit, anticipating a rock-solid wooden lid beneath me. “Woaaaah,” I realized too late that I’d left it open. Down I fell into my clothes, desperately trying to save myself. I flung my arms wide and leaned forward. The sandals weighted my left arm so it fell short, but my right arm violently struck the open lip. I recoiled from the sharp metal edge as if a bolt of electricity had shot through me. Then, gravity took me down anyway.
I heard Beth giggle as I sat in my clothes. What was I doing? No one ever fell into her trunk! Sensing damage, I tilted my arm in front of my face. Midway between elbow and wrist, a deep chasm of puckering disfigurement had appeared. Tiny white balls resembling fish eggs pushed to the surface of my pale forearm. “Wow,” I marveled, profoundly amazed as my high school science book attained a whole new level of reliability. Who knew my body perfectly resembled one of its colorful illustrations! Mentally, I analyzed and cataloged the findings. "The round white balls are individual cells. And the black dots in the middle are their nuclei. All of this is sandwiched between pinkish layers of dermis and epidermis!”
I hung suspended in time, numbed by objectivity and the thrill of discovery. But then my heart galloped into a jump-start and ripped a jolt of pain down my arm. Dark blood flooded the gap and my impersonal study came to a close.
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