Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chapter 10

New to Snapshots? Start here

Jason looked up from the cylindrical stainless steel film tank between his palms with a puzzled and slightly startled expression.  “You first?” he asked, his eyebrows arched in surprise.  “I thought this was my story!”

“It’s just…” Alex stammered, unsure what she wanted to say either in response now, or when she had interrupted Jason in the first place.  As great as all that talk of honestly and revealed secrets had sounded, it was an ideal that just wasn’t possible for Alex anymore—not now, or possibly not ever. She had done too much damage—and not the kind that could be undone with some simple apologies and a promise of improved behavior.  No, the decisions she made were of the no-turning-back variety, with some serious consequences for deviation attached.  Even if she could, theoretically, trust Jason with her secret, then that fact alone would make him the kind of person she wouldn’t want to burden with the moral dilemma of whether or not to turn her in.  “It’s just…” she began, measuring her words, “it’s just that you shouldn’t have to feel like you need to bare your soul just yet in order for me to like you.  That’s not fair.  If you aren’t ready to talk about it yet, then that’s OK.  You can just show me what happens next with the film in that light-tight canister thingy there and we can just enjoy the moment.”

Jason looked Alex square in the eye.  “Thanks for sharing,” he said, dryly, a slight smile playing at the corners of his lips.  “Now can I get on with my story?”

“OK,” Alex said, feigning contrition as she hopped up on the counter beside Jason.

“Well, after they found the scissors in the back of my car during a random parking lot check, the assistant principal came and got me out of class.  It was Bio lab, actually.  We were looking at the cellular structure of fungi we’d cultured on bread—honey wheat and potato, to be exact.  It’s crazy the details I remember about that day.” Jason sighed heavily, wiping his palms down the front of his jeans. “When Mr. Peters sat me down in his office and told me they’d found the scissors and explained that the situation was ‘problematic’ in light of the school’s zero tolerance policy, I just sat there, waiting for him to explain what the work around would be.  You know, something like ‘Jason, we know you’re a straight ‘A’ student who was just doing some community service.  Come to a couple Saturday detentions and we’ll call it all good.’”

“Aw, they never say that,” Alex shook her head sympathetically.  “Once you’re in the vice principal’s office, it’s all over,” she said with resignation.

“Not for me!” Jason’s voice squeaked in righteous indigence.  “The last time I had been in that office, I was picking up a commendation certificate for representing the school at an academic bowl!”

“An academic bowl?” Alex repeated, her eyes raised and brow furrowed. “Really?”

“Really,” Jason nodded.  “Alex, stuff like this doesn’t happen in our family.  I had no frame of reference. Which,” he said with a sigh, “is probably why everything else happened like it did.”

Alex sat still, waiting for Jason to continue.  So far, nothing Alex had heard seemed very earth-shattering, but it was clear that whatever happened had rocked Jason’s world.

“I was told to clean out my locker. Class was about to end, and I wanted to get out before the bell rang and I’d have to face everyone.” Jason paused, gathering his thoughts before continuing. He looked again at Alex, more seriously this time.  “Somehow telling this story was easier back at camp. Back when I didn’t have to look straight at someone I like so much and explain what a crumb I really am.”

The room grew silent and Alex simultaneously felt weak at the thought that Jason actually liked her, and an unbearable heaviness at the knowledge that she wasn’t worthy of his interest.  She wanted to say dozens of things at that moment, but what she heard herself say was, Honestly, Jason, I don’t shock easily, and I’m not even sure what it means to be a ‘crumb,’ so try me.  What happened next?”

“I opened my locker, and I don’t know.”  Jason shook his head.  “Something inside just snapped.  The injustice of it all just hit me, and I was suddenly furious.  I grabbed the first thing that I saw, which happened to be my 3-inch thick Calculus book, and I just hurled it down the hall.”

Jason stopped speaking, and, for a moment Alex thought that maybe heaving a math text down the hall was just another big, academic no-no, which she’d have a hard time taking seriously.  She was grateful later that she suppressed the urge to make wisecracks and simply sat next to Jason in silence until he found his voice again.

“I didn’t know she was there, Lexie.  I didn’t know anyone was in the hall at all.  But when I heard the thud, I turned around and saw Mrs. Beale—sweet, smart, elderly Mrs. Beale, lying in front of the lockers across the hall, and all I remember after that is noise and confusion, and being led away in handcuffs.”
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chapter 9

New to Snapshots? Start here

Alex sucked in the car’s hot dusty air as her brain spun around like the big wheel on the Price is Right

Just like the contestants on the iconic game show, she know she’d be as surprised as anyone by where the metaphoric needle would settle. Although she hoped for some winning verbiage, she instantly knew she’d gone over the mark and met the same fate as so many empty-handed hopefuls before her.

Because if truth was the mark, she not only overshot, she hit a whole new low.

“She’s the woman that destroyed my family!” Alex blurted.

Jason’s brow furrowed in confusion.  “Is she your… stepmom?”

Alex’s face instantly burned with guilt and embarrassment.  She hoped the pre-existing heat was enough to explain the flush she felt creeping across her cheeks.  Of course she could not allow Angela to be her stepmom in this little narrative she was creating.  She’d already told Jason and his mother that she would be staying with her father and his family on weekends, so what sense would it make for her to be so vehement against seeing her own stepmother?

To make matters more confusing, Alex wasn’t even sure where the words came from.  True, Angela was married to her father, but she was in no way responsible for her parents’ divorce, years before Angela and her father had even met.  But the words were out there now, hovering almost visibly in the air between her and Jason, and Alex saw no choice but to simply go with what was.  Plan B, just like Jason had said yesterday.

“She was the last person I expected to see in there!  I had NO IDEA she worked for the Red Cross,” Alex said, sticking to non-incriminating truthful filler until she could invent a brand new character for her increasingly complicated saga.

Jason was quiet for a moment as he listened to Alex.  “So, not your stepmom?”

“It was such a shock, I couldn’t deal with it,” Alex continued.

“OK, so definitely not your stepmother.  I’m guessing a random woman that your dad met when things were falling apart with him and your mom?”

It was beginning to dawn on Alex that she no longer had to invent a fictional persona for Angela.  Jason had done the dirty work for her.  And she didn’t even have to directly lie to him.

“Would it be all right if we talked about this another time?” Alex said, her voice snagging on a jagged edge of honest pain.

“Sure,” Jason said, quickly.  “It was bad enough that you had to go through something like that once—no sense in reliving it.”

Alex was still reliving the actual version of recent events two hours later as she stood at the threshold of Jason’s darkroom in a little nook past the kitchen.  “This used to be the laundry room,” Jason explained, “before my parents added the addition.  At that point, we needed a bigger laundry room anyway, with so many of my mom’s students coming over to do laundry.” Jason looked at Alex before turning the knob.  “Are you ready?” he asked.  “Remember, it is completely dark in there, and I have worked hard to make it that way. “Cell phones stay here,” he said, reaching into his pocket and placing his phone on a sideboard table along the wall. 

Alex nodded, even though she wasn’t remotely sure what she was doing.  At dinner, Jason had handed her a metal wheel that looked like a miniature version of the large metal reels used in movie theaters.  He had supplied Alex with a long strip of old film he’d removed from its roll and sacrificed as a permanent teaching tool, along with instructions on how to thread the film into the reel’s concentric grooves.  It sounded easy in theory, but Alex had spent half an hour after the chocolate crème pie plates had been cleared from the table crinkling the strip of film around the wheel in lumpy, uneven formations.  And that was in the well-lit dining room.  According to Jason, they would be repeating the same process with their film roll of turtle shots in pitch black, along with the added step of removing the film from its sealed metal roll.

Still, Alex welcomed the chance to retreat from the high-energy clamor of Jason’s home and take some time to process it all.   The flood of activity and the range of characters were overwhelming, to be sure: easy banter travelling around the large oak table as fast as stoneware dishes filled with homemade food, the eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Pritchard’s continuous clucking and nodding in a stream of continual agreement, Nanook’s noisy enjoyment of her squeaky toys: overwhelming, yes, but in a day-at-Disney kind of way that left Alex with a feeling of wonder. 

Jason seemed to read her thoughts.  “Welcome to my thinking place,” he said, taking her hand and leading her into the darkness beyond the threshold.  “No matter what’s going on in my life, I always find clarity here.”

“Kind of ironic, don’t you think?” Alex laughed.

“In the most awesome way possible,” Jason said, reaching toward what Alex could only assume was a counter.  She drew back her hand.  “No,” Jason said, pulling her hand back toward his.  “Follow my movements,” he said, picking up an object that he placed in Alex’s hand. 

“A punch can opener?” she guessed.

“Yep,” he confirmed, popping the top off the film canister faster than Alex could get into a can of soup.

Alex could hear the film unfurl from the tightly wound roll.  Jason placed a metal film reel in her hand.  “What?”

“Yeah, you’re going to try it,” Jason laughed.  “Why do you think I had you practicing all that time?”

“Oh, no, I’ll ruin it, Jason,” Alex protested.

“Here,” Jason said, I’ll help you get started.  Alex could feel his fingers as he clipped the end of the film beneath a pin in the center of the reel.  He gently guided her hands and helped her slowing guide the trail of film into the invisible groves.

“The thing I love about being in here,” Jason said, “isn’t just the quiet, or the anticipation—both of which I do love—but also the revealing of truth.”

Alex stiffened.  Was this a confrontation?  Did he lure her into the darkness to force some kind of confession? For a second, she wanted to bolt, but instead asked, “What do you mean?”

“All secrets are revealed in the dark room,” Jason said.  “You start in pure darkness with a strip of celluloid and some high hopes, and, if you’re careful, patient, and a little bit lucky, you end up with a miracle—a memory that you’ve captured forever.”

Alex felt sick to her stomach.  She’d had high hopes not so long ago herself.  She’d been neither careful, patient, nor lucky and was pretty certain that all she’d really remember of the summer was the accumulating ball of guilt tangling her insides into knots.

 “And that reminds me,” he said, slowly, “That I still need to explain to you why I am not the goody-two-shoes you seem to think I am.” He guided the last couple inches of film around the metal wheel and then popped the rolled film into a light-tight canister.  He flipped on the lights, and sat down on what was, indeed a counter.  He patted the spot next to him.  “Have a seat,” he said.  “It’s time for this particular secret to be revealed.”

“No, wait!” Alex burst out.  “Me, first.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chapter 8

Chapter 8
New to Snapshots? Start here
“That’s it?” Alex tried not to let her voice betray the disappoint that washed over her. “I mean, it’s really, really unfair,” she added, hoping she sounded sympathetic.
It’s not that Alex didn’t care that Jason had been suspended from high school in the middle of his junior year—it’s just that the reason was ironically predictable. Of course, the only kind of trouble Jason would get into would be the sort that could be categorized as an injustice. It made perfect sense that he’d be one of those unfortunate honor roll kids victimized by the rigid zero tolerance public school policies that you read about in the newspaper from time to time: the Boy Scout who accidently forgot to take his pocket knife out of his backpack after the campfire, the dutiful grandson found with a stray butter knife in the back of his car after helping Grandma move over the weekend. Only Jason was the community-minded volunteer busted with a bin full of scissors he and his mom had used during an arts and crafts workshop at a homeless center.
No friend of nonsensical laws, Alex couldn’t help but feel outraged. But she also couldn’t help the feeling of inadequacy that was creeping back into her mind now that she realized that Jason still had no real flaws. Before the disappointment had a chance to sink in, she noticed that Jason was shaking his head. “If only that were it,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish that was—” Jason’s stopped his sentence abruptly as he swerved around an obstruction in the road and skidded the car to a stop.
“You OK, Lexie?”
“Yeah, but what was that?”
Jason grabbed the rearview mirror and squinted into it. “Yep. Just what I thought. Come on, Lexie, it’s time for a photo shoot.” Jason exited the car, immediately opening the back door and pulling out an enormous black bag. “See?” he said, pointing to the hump in the middle of the road. “That’s got to be the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen.”
“Wow.” Alex said. “A turtle? That big? No way!”
“Hey,” Jason said, approaching the big, brown bump, “I know you’re probably just fast enough to get to the other side of the road before the next car passes on this country road, but let’s not take any chances.” He swung his bag across his back and bent down to pick up the turtle, which he could lift with two hands and obviously more effort than anticipated. Holding the turtle, he stood in the road and glanced around.
“What are you doing?” Alex asked.
“Assessing the light,” Jason answered, before taking a step toward a grassy area on the opposite side of the road from where their car was parked.
Alex followed him as he as hauled the turtle toward the open area, heavy bag on his back and the weight of the turtle in front forcing his gait into a doubled-over waddle.
Jason placed the turtle carefully on the ground and began pulling equipment out of his bag with pro-level efficiency. He twisted a lens onto a camera body as he sank to the ground snapping rapid-fire shots the whole way down. Alex lost count of the number of angles at which Jason approached the turtle: crouching front views, camera-tilted side shots, and extensive set of close-ups captured while he was lying on his stomach mere inches from the bored-looking tortoise. Jason shot frame after frame, stopping only to switch out various filters on the arsenal of lenses he swapped on and off his camera body.
Before watching Jason at work, Alex would have listed photography among her hobbies. She enjoyed snapping photos of her friends and activities and even inanimate objects that caught her eye. She liked testing out the various effects programmed into her point- and- shoot digital camera, and considered herself pretty adept at knowing when to use the “sunset” mode over the “party” setting. But watching Jason effortlessly handle equipment she didn’t even recognize convinced her that when it came to photography, she was operating at approximately Pre-K level.
“Hey, Lexie, why not get into a few of these shots?” Jason asked, motioning her in the direction of the turtle.
Alex slowly approached the reptile, crouching stiffly about three feet away from where it was idling inching its way across the grass. Jason chuckled. “I was thinking of something a little more fun, “ he said. “Why not get behind it,” he suggested.
Alex moved closer to the turtle, heeding Jason’s suggestion to approach it from behind. “These guys have some pretty vicious chompers, but their necks are only long enough to use them on annoyances in close proximity,” he said.
Alex sat on the ground, legs splayed on either side of the turtle. Jason instantly began snapping pictures. Alex got brave and actually leaned on the turtle’s shell at one point, but that move signaled an end to the turtle’s patience. He snapped into the air and began to waddle away. Jason snapped a couple parting shots, before sliding his lenses and filters back into his well-organized camera bag.
“Can I see?” Alex asked, reaching toward the camera hanging from Jason’s neck.
“Not yet,” Jason answered.
“Why not? Come on, I want to see!”
“Then you’ll have to be patient,” Jason laughed.
“Because we have a lot of work to do first.”
“Work? What do you mean?”
“We’ve got to spend a couple hours in the darkroom after dinner tonight if you want to see these pics,” Jason explained.
“You used film?” Alex blurted. “Why?”
“Because it’s much more fun. You’ll see. Patience, Lexie, patience.”
Alex gave the camera strap a gentle tug. “Errr…” she growled playfully. “Patience isn’t my gift.”
“Then the darkroom is the perfect place for you to learn a valuable life skill,” Jason answered with a laugh.
Alex and Jason continued a light, friendly banter as the got into the car and headed back down the road. Indeed, the encounter with the turtle had lightened the mood to the point where Alex felt uncomfortable reintroducing the unfinished subject of Jason’s suspension. She was dying to know what ever bit of information was still left in his story, but it felt wrong for her to jump back in to the conversation, especially considering her lack of patience had already served as a topic.
It wasn’t long before Jason but her out of her misery. “So, Lexie, we have unfinished business to discuss.”
“Yeah, I was just thinking that,” Alex said.
The sense of relief that flooded through her veins lasted as long as it took for Jason to open his mouth and say, “So what exactly was going on in that Red Cross class yesterday?”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chapter 7

New to Snapshots? Start here

Chapter 7

“What’s this?” Alex awoke to the rattling of the dorm door and the rich—albeit loud— tones of her roommate’s southern accent.
“Hmmm?” Alex murmured, not quite awake.
“There’s this big old suitcase just sitting here in the doorway,” Kristin announced.
From the moment she heard the word “suitcase,” Alex knew it was going to be a great day. The airline had come through! Her favorite jeans, converse sneaker assortment, and colorful collection of mismatched socks found their way back to her without incident.
Alex bolted out of bed and rolled the suitcase into the room, reveling in her good fortune. As she rummaged through her belongings, in search of work clothes for the day, which was easy, and the outfit she wanted to wear later to Jason’s which was suddenly difficult.
She took a deep breath, in an effort to calm down from the flurry of excitement when she was struck by the next indication that it was an above-average day. “What smells so amazing?” she exclaimed.
“Only Anna’s original blend of breakfast goodness,” Kristin laughed. “Part French toast, part bacon, with a dash of cheesy scrambled eggs, and freshly brewed coffee.”
Alex hurried to get ready for the day, eager to get to the dining hall while the food was still hot. She slid into the back of the line and took a warm plate from the stack at the end of the stainless steel counter. The cook, Anna, approached the counter from the kitchen side, carrying a platter piled high with golden brown squares of steaming French toast. “Plenty more where this came from, so eat up!” she said, placing the platter next to a big bowl of scrambled eggs and wiping her hands on the apron tied around her ample Italian frame.
Alex glanced across the counter in disbelief. How could all this food have been prepared by one person? She searched Anna’s face for signs of fatigue, but all she got was a wink when Anna caught her looking.
Alex filled her plate, and headed toward the long, wooden table where Brandon, Bill, Susie, and Jason were already sitting. “Here’s the thing,” Brandon was saying as Alex slid across the wooden bench and picked up her fork to dig in.
“Oh, boy, here we go again,” Pete said, approaching the table and straddling the bench. “‘Here’s the thing’ from Brandon is pretty much the same as: ‘grab a shovel, it’s getting deep.”
“He just saw the job list for the day and found out that he’s on dish duty,” Bill said. “He’s lobbying now for us to go on paper plates for the rest of the summer.”
“Paper plates? For everyone? All summer? Dude, that’s expensive,” Pete said, laughing.
“No, no, here’s the thing,” Brandon said, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth, “What’s expensive is all that hot water. And soap. And what about Anna?” Brandon continued, picking up steam. “What is more valuable than that woman’s time?” he insisted.
“That’s why they drafted you to do the dishes,” Bill quipped. “Her time’s too valuable. But you? They can keep you washing all day. Better grab a dish towel.”
Brandon groaned in defeat.
“So where is this duty list?” Alex asked.
"It actually hasn’t been distributed yet,” Bill said. “Young Brandon just happened upon the information prematurely. I think Michael is getting ready to organize things,” Bill pointed with his chin toward the counter where Michael was handing his empty plate to Anna, thanking her for breakfast as he grabbed his clipboard and ran a hand over his bearded face.
Michael perched on the edge of one of the long, wooden tables in the dining hall and called everyone to attention. He announced that he was breaking the group up into teams to tackle various projects around the property. According to Michael, the teams and chores were randomly assigned—a fact that was reflected as the staff began to absorb the particulars of their various fates for the coming hours. Brandon was, indeed, on dishes, while Alex was assigned to a crew that would be cleaning out an old carriage house a couple miles into the woods on the camp’s grounds. She certainly didn’t mind working outside, or the trail walk to get to her job site, although she had to admit that she was secretly hoping she’s be assigned to a team that included Jason, or even Kristin. Instead, she’d be experiencing this episode of camp bonding with Bill, Suzy, and the CIT Jack, who seemed surprised that he’d be called upon to function independent of his sidekick, Josh. Alex had to laugh at the concept of being disappointed about being separated from friends she didn’t even know when she woke up the previous morning. She decided that everything about her life was fairly random right now anyway, and she may as well just go with it.
Alex was glad she’d selected her most weathered pair of Chucks as she side stepped puddles from a recent rain as most of the team trudged along the uphill trail a half hour later. Jack’s wiry frame was carrying up him the hill in more of an energetic hop, “So, explain again, exactly, what are we doing?” he asked.
“Dude, we’re just cleaning out this old building, really that’s it. Throwing out trash, that sort of thing,” Bill said, reiterating what Michael had explained back at the dining hall.
“No, I mean, seriously, who is going to use some old building two miles out into the woods? Shouldn’t we be, like, blowing up basketballs or something?”
“Ah,” said Bill, “So it’s the ‘why’ you want to know, rather than the ‘what’?”
“Sure,” Jack shrugged.
“I think the carriage house would have eventually just crumbled away unnoticed, had it not become unexpectedly important last summer. “ Alex stepped over some branches and dried leaves so she could hear Bill’s voice.
“A group of girls got caught in a storm in a bad storm after a canoeing mishap. Dee, the CIT, had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, and Christina, the counselor, who is Meg’s niece, got injured, and the only place they found for shelter was this old carriage house,” Bill said. “I think the whole episode reminded everyone that the building is here, and can be useful. I think Michael wants to use it as a base for some deep woods campouts in the future.”
As the group approached the old stone structure, Alex had to admit it had a certain charm. It looked like something out of the set of an old timey movie, and Alex felt suddenly adventurous. With some effort, the group pushed through the large wooden doors and into the damp, musty interior.
“What? There’s a whole truck in here?” Suzy exclaimed. “None of the stories ever mentioned that. How are we supposed to get a truck out of here, and where is it going to go, if we do?”
“I think we just get it outside and let it be,” Bill said, shaking his head, “But I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting it, either.”
Everyone stood still for a moment, staring at the rusty tools, rubbish, and unidentified clutter. Old beverage cans and rusty bolts rolled across the floor. A filthy pair of overalls hung from the wall, hovering above what was left of a pair of leather work boots.
“Um, this might be a bad time to bring this up,” Jack said, “But do we have any supplies? You know, brooms, garbage bags…” his voice drifted off.
“Ah, yes!” Bill said, resuming his air of Sr. Counselor confidence. “Right there in the corner. Michael came up in the ATV yesterday and dropped off everything he said we’d need. We’re just to pile up the trash, and they’ll come out later to haul it away. Let’s get all the little stuff out first, then we’ll work together on the truck, and sweep everything out at the end.”
Bill’s burst of leadership set the tone as the group hauled out armfuls of rusted metal and dusty rubbish which they bagged up and tossed into a growing mound by the path. A couple of sweaty, dirty hours later, there was nothing left but to deal with the rusted shell of a truck which was almost as large and infinitely less mobile than the average proverbial elephant in the room.
“OK, I’m just going to call it out. Does it even have an engine?” Jack asked.
“Frankly, I’ve been afraid to look,” Bill admitted. “If it has a transmission, we can put it in neutral and push it out of here.” Bill wrestled with the hood and discovered that the truck did, indeed, have some semblance of inner workings. Jack jumped inside and began pulling on the stick shift when his eyes suddenly got large before he looked downward and began shrieking. He barreled out of cab of the truck, gasping, shrieking, and sputtering, creating an instant sense of alarm until it became obvious that he was also laughing.
"Use your words!” Bill advised. “What’s going on?”
“M…mmm…bahahah…mi…mice!” Jack finally gasped. “There’s mice nesting in the seat and…and I sat on them! I could feel them wiggling and then…then…one crawled between my legs…ewwwww, I’m scarred! ”
“Mice!” Suzy screamed, backing as far away from the truck as the small space allowed. “This is as close as I’ll ever get to that truck again.”
“That’s actually bad news,” Bill said. “Once we get it into gear, we need as much muscle as we can to push it out. Since you’re the smallest, I was going to have you steer us out, Suz.”
“No way,” Suzy said.
“Then I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning,” Alex said, climbing up into the cab. “Shoo, mice!” she commanded, wiggling the gearshift into neutral and settling behind the wheel. “Let’s get this thing out of here.”
It took 40 minutes, a lot of muscle, and some creativity, but the group finally pushed the old truck out of the carriage house and into a small nearby clearing. Exhausted, the all leaned against the rusty hull. The sound of their breathing was the only sound to be heard until the silence was pierced by a loud rustling through the still woods. “No more mice…” Jack groaned, feebly.
“If that’s a mouse, we’re all in trouble,” Bill said, glancing down the path. “Hey! Kitchen Boy!”
“Mock if you must, but I come bearing refreshment,” Brandon said, lifting aloft a large thermos.
“No mocking here!” Suzy cried, as Brandon passed out paper cups and began filling them with lemonade.
“I’m just relieved it was just you guys up here,” Brandon said. “I kept seeing that flashing light, and I got thinking about that story you hear every now and again about Johnnie Walker.’
“Johnnie Walker?” Bill repeated. “What are you talking about? And what flashing light?”
“Well, it’s just one of those stories you hear some times, you know, the old civil war legends. In these parts, most revolve around the 137th regiment, which organized only two days before they began marching to catch a train headed to the seat of war—”
“The ‘seat of war’?” Alex repeated—who talks like this?”
Bill groaned. “Oh, not again,” he said, turning to the others in explanation. “This kid is like an encyclopedia of local history. He’s got very little in the way of useful knowledge, but he can drone on like a professor when it comes to this sort of thing.”
“As the regiment assembled so quickly, there exists in the local lore many stories of sad goodbyes as the soldiers prepared to march out.,” Brandon continued. “The legend of Johnnie Walker is one such story. They say Walker’s fiancé was not at her homestead when he came to say goodbye, and that he was forced to join his unit without seeing her. As the story goes, the unit later ended up marching within a mile of the girl’s house which was said to be situated around a lake or perhaps a pond. Walker, albeit unwisely, left the unit under cover of darkness for one last chance at saying goodbye.”
“They were marching through the darkness?” Bill asked.
"I don’t know. Maybe. ”
“I don’t think they marched much at night,” Suzy agreed.
“Maybe they were marching. Maybe they were camping. I don’t know. It’s just a legend. The point is, Walker set out on his own and was never seen again. Often at night, or in rare case by day, a lone light is seen bobbing through lakeside forest areas, not unlike we have here at Camp Edson. Seeing the flashing lights merely reminded me of this bit of local lore.”
“What lights?” Bill asked again.
“I don’t know,” Brandon said, “Whatever lights you guys were flashing.”
“Oh!” Jack said, jumping up and down in glee, “It’s this!” he said, grabbing a broken mirror hanging from the side of the truck. “The mirror must have been catching the sun as were pushed it out of the carriage house!”
Once the ensuing laughter died down, Bill said, “You know, all that crap Brandon was spouting really does have the makings of a camp legend. I’ve always felt we were a bit shy on camp lore around here. Let’s develop this!” He said, pointing his finger first into the air, and then toward Brandon. “Yes, work that up a bit, we can add Story Time with Brandon into our camp fire time. But for right now, grab a broom. Let’s get this place swept out and call it day.”

Alex couldn’t remember when she had enjoyed a shower more than the one she took back at the lodge. Rust colored dirt flowed down the drain for what seemed like forever. The warm water felt good on her sore muscles, and her fresh mint shower gel made her feel awake and energized. She had to admit that she enjoyed the time with her new friends, but also that she was glad that the rest of the day would be spent with Jason. She was nervous and excited for the hour-long drive to his house, and wondered if the time in the car would present an opportunity for Jason to share his secret.
Much to Alex’s delight, they were barely off Camp Edson’s grounds when the subject came up. Alex had made some reference to school, which seemed to jog Jason’s memory.
“I keep forgetting you weren’t here when I told my story,” he said. “I guess I should fill you in on the whole ‘why Jason’s homeschooled’ saga.
Alex was surprised to feel her heart thump inside her chest. She was ready to hear anything Jason was about to say. Everything, that is, except, the words that actually came out of his mouth.