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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 36: Brown 12
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Derek looked up in the direction of the voice.
"Yeah, you. Do you work at this camp?"
There was a boy several years older than Derek, probably almost twenty, he thought. He was standing on the front porch, what might have been a veranda, of a somewhat rustic cabin-like house.
"No," he called back. "Sorry."
"So what, then, do you live around here?"
He didn't really see why it was anybody's business, but thought it would be easier if he made something up. "No, I was taking a bike trip, but I got a flat tire. Do you know anywhere I can get it fixed?"
"Sure, I can probably fix it," the boy said. "They've got all kinds of patching equipment down in the supply house at the lake, and I'm one of the lifeguards so I've got the key."
Derek smiled; something was going right for a change. "Thanks. That would really be a big help."
"Let me get the keys, and I'll be right out." And with that the boy disappeared inside the cabin.
A camp with cabins and a lake, swimming and who knows what–so far this world seemed pretty normal. Derek found himself wondering where the dark underbelly was, which way it would twist next. Then he had a strange thought. If this is all a dream, could he control it? Had he been taking the dreams he'd had and turning them into nightmares by his expectations? In the last world, he thought his host was a vampire, and died in his sleep. Before that he let the wind and rain lead him to expect ghosts, and got a poltergeist. The beautiful old mansion had him thinking about axe murderers, and he was shot by a deranged killer. Maybe he was turning pleasant dreams into terrifying horror pictures because that's what he thought they should be. Right now he was at a pleasant summer camp with a nice older kid about to take him down to the lake to fix his bicycle tire. Why should he expect it to be something else? He could use a vacation; he should relax and enjoy this one.
The kid was back, coming down the steps, and calling to him. "So, kid, what's your name?"
"I'm Derek," he said. "Derek Brown."
"Welcome to Camp Shiloh, Derek. I'm David Plummer–call me Dave."
Derek began wheeling his bicycle down the path. "So, David," he said, "what kind of camp is this?"
"What kind of camp? Oh, I get it. You mean like band camp or football camp or something?" Derek nodded; that was as good a meaning as any. "It's just camp; arts and crafts, swimming, archery, canoeing, nature walks. We had a scavenger hunt last night, and I think there's a treasure hunt planned for tonight. And we sing goofy songs in the mess hall after lunch, and spend money on candy and soda at the snack bar in the afternoon. There's a talent contest on Friday night. I don't suppose you play an instrument? I'm trying to get a band together."
"Sorry." Derek had taken lessons on the trumpet in school a couple years before, but he wasn't very good, didn't have one with him, and didn't think that was the kind of instrument David had in mind. Anyway, they had reached the lifeguard shack by the lake, and David was unlocking it.
"It was worth asking. Let's take a look at this bicycle of yours."
Derek quickly unpacked the baskets, dumping his freshly-washed clothes on the grass, so he could invert the bike. David immediately and expertly removed the errant wheel and popped off the tire to reveal the inner tube.
"It doesn't look too bad, actually. Nowadays people don't usually patch inner tubes–they just replace them. But that's lazy. This one's actually in very good shape, it just happens to have picked up a nail or something somewhere. Fix that hole, and it should last quite a while. And...there it is."
David laid the inner tube out on a table, and proceeded to apply cement and a rubber patch. After smoothing it out, he attached it to a pump and let a bit of air into it so that it wouldn't lie flat. "We don't want the glue to stick the tube together," he explained.
"So, where are you from, and where are you going?" David asked, and Derek found himself looking for answers.
"Well, I'm from a little town upstate called Mahwah," he said, "and I was really sort of taking a bicycle tour to see what's beyond home, camping where I could."
"I've never heard of Mahwah. Is that anywhere near Newark?"
Derek thought that almost every state had a Newark, but he had no idea which one this was, or even whether it was any state he knew. "No, not really. It's above Newark some distance."
"Wow, that really is upstate. You've traveled quite a distance."
You have no idea, he thought. "How long will it take for that to dry?"
"Oh, it says an hour, but that's really for inflatable pool things. For a tire, I'd say let's give it the afternoon and we'll mount it this evening."
"I really do appreciate this."
"Don't mention it. Glad I could help."
"I guess I'm going to need a place to stay tonight. Any ideas of what's around here?"
"Sorry, I'm clueless. Mom drops me off at camp, and I stay on the grounds until she picks me up at the end of the week. I think this is my sixth year here, and I have no idea what's beyond the end of the driveway. But tell you what." David stared at him a moment, and bit his lip. "I don't think anyone would know if we sneaked you into the cabin for the night. And even if they knew, I don't think they'd care. We've got an empty bunk; I'll let the guys know you're using it tonight."
"Oh, that's...thanks, that would be a big help."
"In fact, if you're hungry, I'll sneak you into the mess hall. It's almost lunch time."
Derek was, in fact, quite hungry. Lunch, even in a place called a mess hall, sounded very good. "Where should I put my stuff?" he asked.
"Well, I'll help you carry it back to the cabin," David said. "By the time we have you set up with a bunk, we should hear the lunch bell."
Derek liked the sound of that, and scooped up as much of his stuff as he could carry. David grabbed the rest, and they walked back to the cabin.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #86: Novel Conflicts. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: