Camped out, p.1

Camped Out, page 1


Camped Out

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Camped Out

  Copyright © 2017 Daphne Greer

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Greer, Daphne, author

  Camped out / Daphne Greer.

  (Orca currents)

  Issued in print and electronic formats.

  ISBN 978-1-4598-1541-4 (softcover).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1542-1 (pdf).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1543-8 (epub)

  I. Title. II. Series: Orca currents

  PS8613.R4452C36 2017 jC813'.6 C2017-900835-8


  First published in the United States, 2017

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2017933013

  Summary: In this high-interest novel for middle readers, Max can only go to summer camp if he takes his autistic brother with him.

  Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on Forest Stewardship Council® certified paper.

  Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

  Edited by Tanya Trafford

  Cover photography by

  Author photo by Sharon Alexander


  Printed and bound in Canada.

  20 19 18 17 • 4 3 2 1

  To Big Cove Camp for the best memories. Ever.


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen


  Chapter One

  “Is that you, Max?” Mom calls from the living room. She must have heard me slam the fridge door a little too hard.

  “Yup,” I sigh.

  “Come say hello to Derek!” she shouts. “Duncan’s already been down.” Laughter drifts down the hallway. I’m still not used to a guy laughing in our house—with Mom. Reluctantly I make my way toward the living room, poke my head in and say, “Hey.” Then turn to leave.

  “Max,” Mom says. “Don’t leave in such a hurry.”

  I turn around and stand with my arms folded. The two of them are sitting way too close to each other on the couch.

  “What are you up to tonight there, champ?” Derek asks, as if he’s known me my entire life.

  “Nothing, really. Ian and I are going to shoot pucks outside.”

  Derek glances at Mom.

  “Oh, right,” Mom says. “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind hanging out with Duncan. We were hoping to catch a movie.”

  “You’d be a real trouper if you could,” Derek says, then winks at me.

  Even though it’s been two years since Dad died, it still feels like yesterday. Derek is the first guy Mom’s dated since Dad. The grief counselor said it would be good for her to try “moving forward.” I guess this is what that looks like. Problem is, Mom doesn’t always see the same things I see.

  I want to punch him.

  Instead I say, “Yup.”

  Shortly after Mom and Derek head out to the movies, the back doorbell rings.

  “Doorbell,” Duncan announces from where he’s sitting at the kitchen table. He carries on eating his snack.

  “It’s Ian,” I say. “I’ll be outside if you need me.”

  “I like Ian,” Duncan whispers.

  “He likes you too, bud.”

  Ian greets me with his lopsided grin and a handful of new hockey pucks. “Scored these!”


  “Want to head up to the school to shoot pucks instead of here?”

  “Can’t. Mom went out with Derek. I have to stay with Duncan.”

  “Man, he seems to be hanging around a lot lately,” Ian says as he follows me out back to the shed where we keep the hockey net.

  “Tell me about it. He’s such a moron. I have no clue what she sees in him. He’s nothing like Dad.”

  “Is he really that bad?”

  “Well, for starters, his shoes are way too shiny, and he acts like he’s a hotshot. If he winks at me one more time I’m going to lose it.” I swing my hockey stick into the air.

  “Why don’t we take Duncan with us?” Ian suggests.

  “Nah, it will take him too long to get ready, and by the time we get there, he’ll want to come home and then—”

  “Man, Derek has you totally bummed out.” Ian lets out a big, loud, rip-roaring burp. “Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!” Then he nudges me as he drops one of the pucks. “Forget about him.”

  Ian passes me the puck. I give it a good whack into the net and try to forget about Derek for a bit.

  “Hey,” Ian says between one of his shots. “Did you ask your mom about going to camp yet?”

  “Yeah, but she hasn’t given me an answer. Said she’d know more later on this week.”

  “Oh man, I hope you can come.” Ian takes a drink from his water bottle. “Hey, remember that girl I told you about last summer? Well, she’ll be there with her best friend. They go every year.” Ian nudges me. “You never know…this might be the summer we finally get girlfriends!”

  “I don’t think you can order one up like that. For real.”

  “You never know,” Ian says, stealing the puck from me.

  After school the next day Duncan keeps turning up the volume on his TV. He likes to thrash around in his room during the fight scenes, following the movements of Spider-Man and the bad guys.

  I know he can’t help himself, but he’s been playing the same scene over and over again, and it’s driving me crazy. I decide to go downstairs to get away from the noise. When I’m on the bottom step, I overhear Mom and Duncan’s support worker talking in the living room. Mom keeps mentioning Derek’s name. I tiptoe down the hallway to try to hear what they’re talking about.

  “I’m not sure I can convince Max.”

  “Let’s give him some time to think about it. The deadline isn’t for a couple of days. I’ve got the funding secured,” Alison says. “And if I can help in any way with Max, please let me know.”

  What do I need help with? I don’t need a support worker. Alison is for Duncan, not me! I barge into the living room.

  “Oh, Max,” Mom says, almost dropping her mug of tea. “Are you okay?”

  “I heard you guys saying something about me needing help.”

  “What have I told you about listening to other people’s conversations? We’re not talking about you needing help. We’re talking about summer camp.”

  “Really?” Ian’s mom must have called her. Now I feel stupid.

  Mom pats the couch with her hand. “Come sit, so Alison can tell you about it.”

  I plunk myself down next to Mom.

  “Well, there’s a three-week camp I think you might enjoy,” Alison says.

  I turn to Mom. “Are you serious? Is it the same one Ian is going to?”

  “Slow down,” Mom says, squeezing my hand. “Yes, it’s the same one but—”

  “I want to go to camp,” Duncan interrupts.

  I’d been so caught up in the conversation I hadn’t noticed Du
ncan standing in the doorway. He has this ability to suddenly appear out of nowhere. It’s like he has radar hearing and knows we’re talking about something he might want to be in on.

  “Duncan, this one is for me, bud. Besides, they don’t have TVs at camp—you wouldn’t like it.”

  “Actually,” Alison says, clearing her throat, “your mom hasn’t had a chance to tell you this yet, but in order to make camp a possibility we had to get creative.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “When I looked into the camp fees,” Mom says, “I realized we couldn’t afford it, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell you, so I talked to Alison about it, and she came up with a great solution.”

  “So what are you saying?”

  “Well,” Alison says, “Little Cove has several spots each year to help accommodate special family needs. If you and Duncan go together, you would be considered his escort—which means your camp fee would be waived. Duncan’s fee is automatically covered by a grant we receive each year.”

  And there was the catch. Her words hang in the air before slamming into me like a cross-check into the boards. Alison’s face is full of hope as she looks at me. I know she’s only doing her job, but seriously. Going to camp with Duncan? He won’t last a day without his movies.

  I turn to Mom. “This isn’t fair!”

  “Oh, honey, I know it’s not exactly what you and Ian had planned, but I thought you’d be happy that we’d figured out a way for you to go.”

  “Yeah, it will be a real blast. I’ll be the one who has to deal with him when he’s freaking out because he doesn’t want to do this activity or that activity.”

  Duncan’s face falls. As soon as I say it, I feel kind of bad.

  “Actually, that’s where the counselors will come in handy,” Alison says. “They will ultimately be responsible for Duncan. You’re more of a support when they need you, plus there will be other siblings in the same boat as you.”

  “I’m Spider-Man, not Duncan.”

  “Of course you are,” I mumble. “And I’m Clark Kent.” I can’t help myself. Mom taps my leg. I roll my eyes. Duncan catches me. His smile fades. It’s replaced with an expression of sheer determination as he extends his arm. He aims the spiderweb shooting out of his wrist right at me.

  “Would you knock it off?” I say.

  “Boys!” Mom says.

  Duncan plunks down with a heavy thud and squeezes in beside us on the couch. He relaxes his fingers, spread out so far apart it’s amazing he doesn’t snap a finger joint. We sit like sardines crammed into a tin can even though there’s at least a foot of free space on the other side of him.

  Sometimes I wonder what things would be like if Duncan was normal and my dad hadn’t died and we were a regular family that could afford to send their kid to camp, no strings attached. Like that will happen now. And another thing. If I go to camp with Duncan, Mom will be free to see Derek all she wants while we’re gone—and then she’ll forget about Dad.

  Chapter Two

  “No way!” Ian says the next day when I tell him about camp.

  “Yup!” I slam my locker shut. “Just once I’d like to be able to do something without having to do it with Duncan. I thought once we got a support worker things would be different.”

  “Well, at least you get to go,” Ian says, grabbing his math book. “You are going to go, right?”

  “I don’t know if it’s worth it,” I say with a sigh.

  “OMG. Earth to Max. Girls. No nagging from our moms. No homework. We’ll have a blast. I’ll see if Mom can get us in the same cabin. Okay?”

  “Yeah, maybe.”

  Three weeks later Mom is getting ready to drive us to Little Cove Camp in her new car. Well, new to us. Derek helped her get a good deal on a secondhand car. Duncan calls it “the Batmobile” because it’s black. I’ve given up trying to ride shotgun as Duncan needs to sit in the front seat so he can help Batman (aka Mom) navigate the drive, even though, as usual, he’s Spider-Man and is wearing the stupid Spider-Man bandanna cap Mom gave him.

  “You’re not going to let him wear that to camp, are you?”

  “Oh, Max. Let him be.”

  Duncan starts talking into his hand. “I’m coming to save you…” he says to some imaginary person. He continues as if we’re not even in the car with him, making his swishing sounds and weird noises. I lean my head against the window and try to tune him out, but it’s hard because he’s also pretending to be the girl in distress. Her voice is so high-pitched that even Mom has to say something to him. Duncan switches to a whisper.

  As we near the outskirts of the city we get stuck at a red light. It’s across from the chicken and burger place we used to go to with Dad every Saturday. I catch Mom glancing back at me in the rearview mirror. I can tell she’s remembering too. Luckily, the light soon turns green, and we zoom forward.

  Not long after, we’re on the highway. It feels good that it’s just the three us, without Derek lurking around. Before too long we’re bouncing along an old dirt road surrounded by a forest. Duncan is unusually quiet. Maybe he’s a bit nervous, or maybe he’s saving all his conversations for the staff. I’m worried about what they’ll think of him. As we drive underneath the big wooden sign that says LITTLE COVE YMCA CAMP, my stomach tightens.

  I hope Ian is already here.

  A wooden post with the number 1889 marks the end of the road. Beyond that, a big white pavilion with a verandah wrapping around it takes up most of the space at the end of the field. Smaller white cabins with green trim fill the rest of the area. The field slopes down to meet the water’s edge of a large cove. That must be where we swim.

  There’s a ton of cars parked in the open field, with heaps of sleeping bags and suitcases dumped all over the place. Counselors rush from one family to the next, trying to get everyone settled.

  Duncan untangles himself from the front seat. I swear he’s grown another foot since last year. He might be close to six feet now. Dad was tall. I’m lucky if I’ve grown an inch.

  “I’m here!” he says way too loudly, then raises his right hand in the air with his fingers spread apart. I open the trunk to grab our stuff.

  A tall older-looking guy carrying a clipboard and wearing a whistle around his neck walks toward us. His name tag says Camp Director.

  “Welcome to Little Cove,” he says.

  “We made it,” Duncan says proudly.

  “Fantastic!” the director says. “Now, who might you be?”

  “I’m Spider-Man,” Duncan says without missing a beat, as he does a little skip forward, bends over, does a little jig, then stands straight up, whispering into his hand. “We’re at the kingdom, Batman.”

  The director smiles. “Well, it’s good to have you here, Spider-Man.”

  “His actual name is Duncan,” Mom says, shaking her head and smiling.

  The director reaches out to shake my mom’s hand. “I’m Ben, the camp director.” He glances down at his clipboard, then at me. “And you must be Max.”

  I nod.

  “Hi there, handsome,” a short girl with red curly hair says as she walks by.

  “Hey there, Bella,” Ben says with a chuckle. “You getting settled in?”

  “If Sam would leave me alone, I’d be unpacked by now,” Bella says in a huffy voice. “I told him to stop bugging me.”

  “He’s probably just happy to see you, Bella. Ask your counselor to help you out.”

  “Okay, Ben.” She then looks me up and down. “Hubba hubba. Who are you?”

  I feel my face getting red. “Um…I’m Max.”

  “She’s funny,” Duncan says.

  “Hi, Max.” Bella points at Duncan. “Who’s he?”

  “My brother, Duncan.”

  “He’s cute.”

  “Okay, Bella. I think we’ll move things along so Max and Duncan can get settled in.” Ben puts his arm around Bella’s shoulder and points her in the direction of her cabin.

  “Okay, whatever you say, big boy.
” Bella carries on down the field, blowing kisses at just about everybody she passes.

  “Bella has been coming here for years,” Ben tells us. “She’s the life of the camp.” He glances at his clipboard. “Now, let’s figure out your cabin arrangements.” He flips over a page. “Oh, right. We had a little glitch. Max, I know you were hoping that you and Ian could bunk together, but I wasn’t able to pull it off. We had a larger-than-normal request for special placements and some staffing issues. Max will need to stay in Duncan’s cabin, because the counselor-in-training is still sick at home, and we’ll need his help at night. I hope this is okay?” Ben glances at me, then back at Mom.

  I can tell by the look on her face that she’s worried about what’s going to come out of my mouth. But I just shrug my shoulders. “It doesn’t matter.”

  “Oh, that’s great,” Ben says. “Just so you know, Max, during the day you and Ian will be free to do things together.”

  Mom mouths the words thank you.

  I’m totally bummed. I know it’s not Mom’s fault, but still.

  “Well,” Ben says. “Let me take you to your cabin, and I’ll introduce you to your counselor.”

  Mom’s cell phone rings before we’re halfway across the field. “Hi, Derek. I’m just getting the boys settled,” she says. “I’ll call you before I leave.” She hangs up quickly. I can tell she’s a little embarrassed because she knows about the no-phone rule at camp.

  I give her a dirty look. Can’t he leave her alone for two seconds? I’m really hoping camp is going to be as fun as Ian promised, but it’s not looking good. I’m stuck with Duncan as a roomie, and now I have to worry that Derek will be a permanent fixture in our house by the time I get back home.

  Chapter Three

  “Here we are,” Ben says, pointing to a wooden plaque above the door. “Your cabin is called Hercules. All the cabins are named after different constellations.”

  “I like that,” Duncan whispers.

  As we enter the cabin a mop of curly hair pops out from one of the top bunks. The guy attached to it jumps down and greets us. “Oh, hey,” he says. “I was just fixing the screen on the upper window.” He reaches out to shake my hand. “I’m Cole, your counselor.”

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