People might be wondering where the “science” part is in this story. It’s coming, but I’m not sure when.
This is a work of fiction.
We spent a while preparing the spaghetti with meatballs (everyone agreed that chopped up hamburger patties were a great meatball substitute), and we also made pancakes, hashbrowns, and all the usual breakfast things. Andy blended up a lot of different things and Sienna and Lydia each had a small amount of the resulting smoothie.
“Yuck!” Sienna said.
“It’s good,” Lydia said. Her voice was just slightly above her usual whisper.
Sammy said, “She’s weird.”
“Yeah,” Sienna said. I waited a beat for Emily to step in, but she said nothing.
“Everyone has different tastes,” I said. “There’s no need to call people weird. Would you like some more, Lydia?” She nodded, and I gave her what was left in the blender.
“I can make more,” Andy said.
“Can you show me how to make this?” I said.
“Sure. I’ll write it down.”
“It looks like puke,” Sammy said.
“It kind of tastes like it,” Sienna said.
“Don’t be silly,” I said.
“We’re not,” Sammy said. “It looks disgusting. I don’t want to look at it anymore.”
“It doesn’t look so great,” Andy said, “but it tastes wonderful.”
“I highly doubt that,” Sammy said, giving him a dirty look.
“Enough,” I said. “Is anybody ready for dessert?”
“Yes!” Sienna said. Berkeley nodded.
“What’s for dessert?” Freckles asked.
“Dad brought cookies,” Dan said.
“Oreos!” Sienna said.
“They’re homemade chocolate chip cookies,” Andy said.
“Gross,” Sammy said.
“What?” Curly said, echoing my thoughts. We all knew how much Sammy loved chocolate chip cookies, especially his mom’s homemade ones.
“I said gross.”
Freckles said, “But you love—”
“Shut up,” Sammy said.
“Hey Sammy, that’s enough,” I said. “Let’s all get some dessert.”
“I’m full,” he said. He got up and walked toward the boys’ tent. He didn’t go in, but sat down on the grass.
Why was he acting so unfriendly? Not wanting dessert was just odd. A twelve-year-old boy in good health could never be too full to eat dessert.
“Sorry,” Emily said, “I didn’t bring anything.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I have just the thing to go along with those cookies. Be right back.”
I went to the van and came back holding a bag of marshmallows.
“Marshmallows?” Andy said. “Are we having hot chocolate?”
“We could, but I thought we’d roast these over the fire on sticks.”
“I’ve never had a roasted marshmallow,” Sienna said. “What’s it taste like, Mom?”
Emily looked at her daughter. For a moment, I thought she wasn’t going to answer her question, but then she did.
“It tastes wonderful.” To my surprise, a tear slid down her cheek.
“Why are you crying?” Sienna said.
“I’m thinking about my Great Uncle Roger,” she said. “When I was six, my parents took me to his cabin in the woods. He lived . . . a different lifestyle from everybody else in the family. They didn’t understand or even approve, but they wanted me to know him.” She cleared her throat. “He was quite old then, and I think Mom and Dad knew he wasn’t going to live much longer. He was kind of thin but seemed healthy enough. He built a fire and we roasted marshmallows. They taste like a summer night in the woods with a little smokiness added.” She cleaed her throat again. “I never saw him again. He died a month later. He was such a nice old man. He took me into the woods the next day and showed me how he chopped wood. He actually showed me how to build a fire, but my parents wouldn’t let me make one when we went back to the city.”
“He sounds like a wonderful man,” I said. “Would you like to roast some marshmallows in his honor?”
We did. Andy came up with the idea of toasting Great Uncle Roger, so we all carefully touched our marshmallows together over the fire. The whole time, Sammy sat and watched, but didn’t join us.
“I wish we didn’t have to go home,” Sienna said. “I wanna eat marshmallows forever.”
“Me too,” Dan said. “Can I have another one please?”
“Yes,” Andy said, “but just one more.”
“After this one, I think we’d all better stop,” I said. “There aren’t many left.”
Sienna said, “Do you sleep in those?” She pointed to the tents.
“Yes,” Lydia said, because Sienna was looking at her marshmallow and wouldn’t have noticed a nod.
“Is it cold?”
“No. We have sleeping bags.”
“Mom, can we sleep in one?”
“We don’t have a tent,” Emily said, helping Berkeley with his marshmallow.
“Can we buy one?”
“They sell them at Walmart,” I said.
“Are they expensive?” Emily asked.
“I suppose we could set one up in the yard if I can figure out how.”
“I wonder how much one of these camp sites costs,” Andy said. “I’m gonna call and find out.” He took out his phone and pressed a number. “Yes, hello, I’m Andy. I was in cabin 8 and wondering how much one of those camp sites costs. Big or small. Um, what size is this one?”
“Big,” I said.
“Big, please. Really? Is that per night? Wow. So there’s a firepit and room for tents and such? Are there any free near . . .” He turned to me. “What number is this one?”
“Thanks. Are there any near site 31? Thanks. I’ll take number 32. For . . . eight nights. Starting today. How many tents can fit? I have two kids.” He listened and then asked the other person to hold for a sec. “Emily, if we split the cost, we can share site 32 for eight whole nights!”
“But we don’t have any equipment.”
“Go for it,” I said. “Let’s all drive to the city and buy what you need.”
“Please Mom,” Sienna said.
“How much is my half?”
Andy told her.
“Nope.” She grinned at him and they made the arrangements to rent the camp site next to ours.
“I don’t want to come,” Sammy said, when I told him we were going into town.
“Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t leave you alone here.”
“You did before.”
“Yes, but not while we go into town. You can stay in the van if you really want to be alone, but you can’t stay here. What’s bothering you?” I had a sudden thought and blurted it out. “Are you missing your girlfriend?”
He gave me a horrified look and said, “Who said I had a girlfriend?”
“I’m not sure who it was.”
“You told me not to lie, so why are you lying? Fucking Freckles. He can’t keep his mouth shut, can he?”
“Sammy, don’t be rude. I came here to check if you were okay and tell you what we’re doing. Please tell me what’s wrong. I’m also not going to object if you have a girlfriend, so you can tell me her name and use my phone to call her if you want.”
“That’s a nice name. How old is she?”
“Would you like to call her from the van while we’re shopping?”
“Okay. Let’s go. But let me know if you change your mind about calling her. And about lying, yes that’s right I told you not to lie, but sometimes we don’t want to tell somebody something that might hurt them or get others hurt, so we alter the truth a little. Lies for the sake of lies are never okay, but protecting somebody is sometimes okay.”
“What’s this?” Dan called. He was standing beside the boys’ tent. Freckles came over, saw whatever it was, and looked worried.
“Oh, just something Grandma was showing me.”
Sammy and I walked over. Dan was holding up Freckles’s knitting. I could see that he’d done more since I’d last seen the project the previous afternoon.
“It’s supposed to be socks,” Sammy said. “Grandma tried to teach him how to knit. What a sissy little boy he is.”
“We were all knitting,” Curly said. “I’m making a hat, and Sammy’s—”
“I’m not making anything,” Sammy said. “I took it off after dinner. No normal boy does that kind of girl stuff. I bet Freckles is gay.”
“I guess I’m gay too,” Curly said. “I’m going to finish my hat and give it to Mom.” He held out his hand to Dan. “Can I take that? I’d better put it back in the tent before Sammy pees on it.”
Dan laughed and handed it to Curly. I had no idea what Sammy’s problem was, and while I wasn’t sure about Curly’s method of defusing the situation, defused the situation was, at least for the moment.
Part 10 will be posted on Sunday, September 20.