Authors: Meg Cabot
Tags: #Mystery, #Fantasy, #Romance, #Young Adult
Many thanks to Beth Ader, Jennifer Brown, John Henry Dreyfuss, Laura Langlie, Ingrid van der Leeden, David Walton, and especially Benjamin Egnatz
C H A P T E R
don’t know why I’m doing this.
Writing this down, I mean. It’s not like anybody is making me.
Not this time.
But it seems to me like
ought to be keeping track of this stuff. Somebody who actually knows what
And it isn’t as if you can trust the Feds to do it. Oh, they’ll write it down, of course. But they won’t get it right.
I just think there needs to be one truthful account. A
So I’m writing it. It isn’t a big deal, really. I just hope that someday somebody will actually read it, so I won’t feel like it was a complete waste of time … not like the majority of my endeavors.
Take, for example, the sign. Now that’s a classic example of a wasted endeavor if I ever saw one.
And if you think about it, that’s really how it all started. With the sign.
Welcome to Camp Wawasee
Where Gifted Kids Come to Make Sweet Music
That’s what the sign said.
I know you don’t believe me. I know you don’t believe that in the history of time, there was ever a sign that said anything that stupid.
But I swear it’s true. And I should know: I’m the one who’d painted it.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t
to. I mean, they totally made me do it. They handed me the paint and this giant white cotton sheet and told me what to write on it and everything. Their last sign, see, had met with this very tragic accident, in which someone had folded it up and stuck it in the pool house and some noxious chemical had dripped on it and eaten through the fabric.
So they made me make a new one.
It wasn’t just that the sign was stupid. I mean, if you got a look at the kids standing under the sign, you’d have known right away that it was also probably libelous. Because if those kids were gifted, I was Jean-Pierre Rampal.
He was this famous flutist, by the way, for those of you who don’t know.
Anyway, I had seriously never seen a whinier bunch of kids in my life. And I’ve been around a lot of kids, thanks to the nature of my, you know, unique gift and all.
But these kids … Let me tell you, they were something else. Every last one of them was all, “But I don’t
to go to music camp,” or “Why can’t I just stay home with you?” Like the fact that they were going to get to spend six weeks away from their parents was some kind of hardship. If you had told me, at the age of ten or whatever, that I could go somewhere and be away from my parents for six weeks, I’d have been like, “Sign me up, dude.”
But not these kids. I suppose on account of the fact they were gifted and all. Maybe gifted kids actually like their parents or something. I wouldn’t know.
Still, I tried to believe in the sign. Especially, you know, since I’d made it. Well, with Ruth’s help. If you can call Ruth’s contribution help, which I wasn’t so sure I would. It had consisted mostly of Ruth telling me that my lettering was crooked. Looking at the sign now, I saw that she was right. The letters
crooked. But I doubted anyone but me and Ruth had noticed.
“Aren’t they cute?”
That was Ruth, sidling up beside me. She was gazing out at the children, looking all dewy-eyed. Apparently she hadn’t noticed all the screaming and sniffling and cries of “But I wanna go
But I sure had. They were kind of making
want to go home, too.
Only, if I went home, I’d be stuck working the steam table. That’s how you spend your summers when your parents own a restaurant: working the steam table. There was even less of a chance of escape for me, since my parents own
restaurants. It was the least fancy one, Joe Junior’s, that offered the buffet of various pasta dishes, all of which were kept warm courtesy of a steam table.
And guess which kid traditionally gets put in charge of the steam table? That’s right. The youngest one. Me. It was either that, or the salad bar. And believe me, I had had my fill of deep-sea diving into the ranch dressing tub for stray cherry tomatoes.
But the steam table wasn’t the only thing back home that I was trying to avoid.
“I hope I get that one,” Ruth gushed, pointing to a cherubic-faced blonde who was standing beneath my sign, clutching a pint-sized cello. “Isn’t she sweet?”
“Yeah,” I admitted grudgingly. “But what if you get
I pointed to a little boy who was screaming so loudly at the idea of being separated from Mommy and Daddy for a month and a half, he had gone into a full-blown asthma attack. Both of his frenzied-looking parents were thrusting inhalers at him.
“Aw,” Ruth said tolerantly. “I was just like that the first year I came here as a camper. He’ll be fine by suppertime.”
I supposed I had to take her word for it. Ruth’s parents had started shipping her off to Camp Wawasee at the ripe old age of seven, so she had about nine years of experience to draw upon. I, on the other hand, had always spent my summers back at the steam table, bored out of my skull because my best (and pretty much only) friend was gone. In spite of the fact that my parents own three restaurants, in which my friends and I can dine any time we want, I have never exactly been Miss Popularity. This might be on account of the fact that, as my guidance counselor puts it, I have
Which was why I wasn’t so sure Ruth’s idea—of me putting in an application to be a camp counselor—was such a good one. For one thing, despite my special talent, child care is not really my forte. And for another, well, like I said: I have these
But apparently no one noticed my antisocial tendencies during the interview, since I got the job.
“Let me just make sure I got this right,” I said to Ruth, as she continued to look longingly at the cellist. “It’s Camp Wawasee, Box 40, State Road One, Wawasee, Indiana?”
Ruth wrenched her gaze from Goldilocks.
“For the last time,” she said, with some exasperation. “Yes.”
“Well,” I said with a shrug, “I just wanted to make sure I told Rosemary the right address. It’s been over a week since I last got something from her, and I’m a little worried.”
“God.” Ruth no longer spoke with just
exasperation. She was fed up. You could tell. “Would you stop?”
I stuck my chin out. “Stop what?”
,” she said. “You’re allowed a vacation once in a while. Jeez.”
I went, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” even though, of course, I did, and Ruth knew it.
“Look,” she said. “Everything is going to be all right, okay? I know what to do.”
I gave up trying to pretend that I didn’t know what she was talking about, and said, “I just don’t want to screw it up. Our system, I mean.”
Ruth rolled her eyes. “Hello,” she said. “What’s to screw up? Rosemary sends the stuff to me, I pass it on to you. What, you think after three months of this, I don’t have it down yet?”
Alarmed at the volume with which she’d announced this, I grabbed her arm.
“For God’s sake, Ruth,” I hissed. “Zip it, will you? Just because we’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean there might not be you-know-whats around. Any one of those doting parents over there could be an F-E-D.”
Ruth rolled her eyes again. “Please,” was all she said.
She was right, of course: I was overreacting. But there was no denying the fact that Ruth had gotten seriously slack in the discretion department. Basically, since the whole camp thing had been decided, she’d been completely unable to keep anything else in her head. For weeks before we’d left for counselor training, Ruth had kept bubbling, “Aren’t you
? Aren’t you
?” Like we were going to Paris with the French Club or something, and not to upstate Indiana to slave away as camp counselors for six weeks. I’d kept wanting to say to her, “Dude, it may not be the steam table, but it’s still a
I mean, it’s not like I don’t also have my unofficial part-time career to contend with as well.
The problem was, Ruth’s enthusiasm was totally catching. Like, she kept talking about how we were going to spend all of our afternoons on inner tubes, floating along the still waters of Lake Wawasee, getting tan. Or how some of the boy counselors were totally hot, and were going to fall madly in love with us, and offer us rides to the Michigan dunes in their convertibles.
And after a while, I don’t know, I just sort of started to believe her.
And that was my second mistake. I mean, after putting in the application in the first place.
Ruth’s descriptions of the campers, for instance. Child prodigies, she’d called them. And it’s true, you have to audition even to be considered for a place at the camp, both as camper as well as counselor. Ruth’s stories about the kids she’d looked after the year before—a cabin full of sensitive, creative, superintelligent little girls, who still wrote her sweet funny letters, a year later—totally impressed me. I don’t have any sisters, so when Ruth started in about midnight gossip-and-hair-braiding sessions, I don’t know, I began to think, Yeah, okay. This might be for me.
Seriously, I went from, “It’s just a job,” to “
want to escort adorable little girl violinists and flutists to the Polar Bear swim every morning.
want to make sure none of them are budding anorexics by monitoring their caloric intake at meals.
want to help them decide what to wear the night of the All-Camp Orchestral Concert.”
It was like I went mental or something. I couldn’t wait to take mastery over the cabin I’d been assigned—Frangipani Cottage. Eight little beds, plus mine in a separate room, in a tiny house (thankfully air-conditioned) that contained a mini-kitchen for snacks and its own private, multiple-showerhead and toilet-stalled bathroom. I had even gone so far as to hang up a sign (with crooked lettering) across the sweet little mosquito-netted front porch that said,
Look, I know how it sounds. But Ruth had me whipped up into some kind of camp-counselor frenzy.
But standing there, actually seeing the kids for whom I was going to be responsible for most of July and half of August, I began to have second thoughts. I mean, nobody wants to hang out next to a steam table when it’s ninety degrees outside, but at least a steam table can’t stick its finger up its nose, then try to hold your hand with that same finger.
It was as I was watching all these kids saying good-bye to their parents, wondering whether I’d just made the worst mistake of my life, that Pamela, the camp’s assistant director, came up to me and, clipboard in hand, whispered in my ear, “Can we talk?”
I’ll admit it: my heart sped up a little. I figured I was busted… .
Because, of course, there was a little something I’d left off of my application for the job. I just hadn’t thought it would catch up with me this quickly.
“Uh, sure,” I said. Pamela was, after all, my boss. What was I going to say, “Get lost”?
We moved away from Ruth, who was still gazing rapturously at what I would have to say were some very unhappy campers. I swear, I don’t think Ruth even noticed how many of those kids were crying.
Then I noticed Ruth wasn’t looking at the kids at all. She was staring at one of the counselors, a particularly hot-looking violinist named Todd, who was standing there chatting up some parents. That’s when I realized that, in Ruth’s head, she wasn’t there underneath my crappy sign, watching a bunch of kids shriek, “Mommy, please don’t leave me.” Not at all. In Ruth’s mind, she was in Todd’s convertible, heading out toward the dunes for fried perch, a little tartar sauce, and some above-the-waist petting.
Lucky Ruth. She got Todd—at least in her mind’s eye—while I was stuck with Pamela, a no-nonsense, khaki-clad woman in her late thirties who was probably about to fire me … which would explain why she’d draped an arm sympathetically across my shoulders as we strolled.
Poor Pamela. She was obviously not aware that one of my issues—at least according to Mr. Goodhart, my guidance counselor back at Ernest Pyle High School—is a total aversion to being touched. According to Mr. G, I am extremely sensitive about my personal space, and dislike having it invaded.