This is a work of fiction.
“Oops,” Andy said.
“What?” Dan said.
“I forgot we still have the cabin tonight, so we don’t need to move to the camp site until tomorrow.”
“That’s okay,” Emily said. “We need it tonight.”
“Oh, right. So who’s riding with who?”
“Can you come with us?” Dan asked Freckles.
“No,” Sammy said. “Freckles rides with us.”
“Sammy, that’s up to Freckles,” I said.
“Or,” Curly said, “you can ride with us, Dan.”
“Thank you, Curly,” I said.
“There’s no room,” Sammy said.
“Yes there is. And Sienna, would you like to ride with us, too?”
“Can I, Mom?”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. Then I can take Andy, Steven, and Berkeley. So unless you want to take your car too, we can just go in two vehicles.”
“That’s an environmentally conscientious idea!”
“What?” Sammy said. “You do speak English, right?”
“Sammy, don’t be rude.”
“I’m not. I just don’t understand a word he says.”
“That’s fine, but there’s no need to be unfriendly. So Freckles, Dan, and Sammy in the back, Lydia and Sienna in the middle, and Curly in the front.”
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Sammy said.
“How so?” I asked.
“You told us before only your purse gets the front. You keep changing the rules.” He wiped pretend sweat from his brow. “I can’t keep up with all the changes.”
“Sammy, just stick a sock in it, will you?” Curly said. “Let’s go.”
Sammy huffed and puffed, but eventually, everybody was in the correct vehicle.
The drive back to the city went without incident. We met at a huge mall.
“Would you guys mind getting the equipment?” Emily said. “I need to run and do laundry. Berkeley has absolutely no clean clothes.”
“Are you going to your house?” Andy asked.
“No, just going to have it done some place. My washing machine is so slow and I have about fifteen loads to do.”
Emily left, and the rest of us went into a large store that sold camping equipment.
“It looks like they’re out of three-man tents,” I said.
“That’s sexist,” Sienna said.
“Sorry, you’re right. They’re out of three-person tents.”
“Can we cram into a two-person tent?” Andy asked.
“I don’t think we should,” I said. “I think a four-person tent would be better.”
“Or we could look for a different store,” he said.
“I think the larger tents are better,” I said. “That way there’ll be room if some people want to sleep over.”
“I’m buying one too, in case Sienna and Lydia want to share. Mine only holds two people. So four four-person tents.”
“Maybe we should get a bigger one,” Andy said. “If all the boys want to share, that’s kind of a lot. Me and my boys plus Berkeley and Freckles, that’s five.”
“Freckles sleeps in our tent,” Sammy said.
“Not this again,” Curly said.
“Sammy, I’m not going to tell you this again. It’s up to Freckles what he does and who he spends his time with.”
“Can all us girls share a tent?” Sienna asked.
“I don’t see why not,” I said. “We just need to ask your mom.”
“I’m going to McDonald’s,” Sammy said. “Do you want to come with me?” He looked only at his brothers.
“Can Dan come?” Freckles asked.
Andy started to say something that sounded like “yes,” but Sammy said, “No, just me and my brothers.”
“No thanks,” Curly said.
“Yeah,” Freckles said. “I want to stay with Grandma.”
“Are you still going?” I asked him. He nodded. “Okay. We’re going to finish shopping and then go out to eat. Do you have money to call me from a pay phone?”
“Yeah.” I made sure he had my number and then he left.
We decided on two four-person tents and a six-person tent.
“Do we need any more gear?” Andy asked.
“Marshmallows,” Sienna said.
“They don’t have those at this store,” Andy said.
“Oh, sleeping bags!” I said. “Three for your family and three for Emily’s.”
We picked them out and paid. It was time to go grocery shopping, but the little boys were getting fractious, so Andy took them for a run in a nearby park while I took the older kids to the supermarket.
Our first stop was for marshmallows. Sienna put ten bags into the cart.
“How about nine,” I said. “Three for each family.”
“How about four!” She added two more bags.
“Okay, but no more, or your mom will kill me.”
“Why would she kill you? She’s not your mom.”
“No, but she trusts me not to let you buy too much of this kind of stuff.”
The kids helped me load up the cart, and Curly persuaded Sienna not to buy ten pounds of everything. He did it with grace, and I was grateful to him.
Just as I was paying, Sammy called. I said we’d be there shortly. We piled everything into the van and I drove to the McDonald’s Sammy was at. He was standing outside, holding a bag.
“What’s in there?” Dan asked, as Sammy climbed into the van.
“Food, obviously.” He opened the bag. “For my brothers.”
“No thanks,” Curly said. Freckles looked torn.
“We don’t eat in the van,” I said. “Sammy, please put your food away or go back inside and I’ll come back when you’re finished eating.”
“But I’m full, and it’s no good cold.”
“Those are the rules. I’m sure I can warm it up for you later.”
“You can’t warm up fries!”
“It’s up to you, but the rest of us are going to meet up for lunch soon. You can stay in the van if you want, but you must put the food away or eat it some place else.” Glumly, Sammy handed me the bag, and I put it away. “Thank you.”
I called Andy.
“Where would you like to eat?”
“Emily and me were just talking about that. There’s a great place nearby that has a bit of everything. It’s cleaner than McDonald’s, but still appeals to people who like fast food.”
“Sounds great.” He gave me the address and said Emily was picking him and the boys up and they’d meet us there.
The food was amazing. Even Sammy found some more room.
Once we were stuffed, Emily said, “I still have laundry left. Would it be terrible of me to ask you to take Berkeley with you?”
“That’s fine with me,” I said. “How many people can fit in your car?”
“Five, if they don’t mind being smooshed together in the back.”
“Okay. I can carry six. Should I take Steven, too?”
“Please,” Andy said.
“Lydia and Sienna, what about you?” I asked.
“Andy, if you would’t mind helping with the laundry, I could take the girls shopping,” Emily said.
“Yay!” Sienna said.
Lydia looked uncomfortable.
“I’ll help Andy with the laundry,” Curly said.
“Why do you want to do that?” Sienna asked.
“So I can talk to Andy,” Curly said.
“Sounds good,” Andy said. “So who’s going back to camp?”
Freckles, Dan, and Sammy all said they wanted to go back.
“All right,” I said. “So I have six people. Freckles, Dan, and Lydia in the back. Steven and Berkeley in the middle. Sammy and I in the front.”
“You’re letting me have the front?”
They were, and when we got back, I put the two little boys into the tent Lydia and I had previously shared. They fell asleep almost as soon as they got into their new sleeping bags.
“Can we go to our camp site?” Dan asked.
“No, I can’t leave your brother and Berkeley alone, but we can set up our four-person tent.”