After Ryan’s apology, the group eventually returned to their discussion of summer camps. Mara hadn’t ever been to one, in fact, she’d never participated in any non-mandatory activity. Her parents sent her to school, but they never had much interest in sending her elsewhere. She told the group of the trips to the mall, and of night spent watching cars drive down the street while she waited for her father to go to sleep. It was the closest she’d come to socialization outside of school.
Sara Beth had been to a few day camps in her life, but never a week long affair such as Julie and Ryan attended. She reasoned that she might not like being gone that long. The stories had been fun to speak of, but nothing very unique, until G-ma began to speak.
“It was sometime in the 1950s, and I begged my mother to let me go away to this camp for girls that focused on arts and crafts, with other stereotypical options available as well. She eventually relented and let me go. I was elated, and on the day I arrived I remember how new it all ways. Everywhere I looked, I saw new people, classes on new art techniques I’d never heard of, and counselors and teachers that seemed to be so smart about knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, and dozens of other things. I was so happy for those first few days.
However it was pretty clear within the first week that my background was different from the other girls. They all had come from rich families. Many of them talked about how their nannies or their parent’s servants would help them by getting supplies ready for their crafts, cleaning up after them, and fetching whatever they needed from the store. We didn’t even have a store near us that I could buy things at, let alone the money for it. Pretty soon I was seen as the ‘poor’ girl. Other girls stopped hanging out with me, helping me in classes, and some even stopped talking to me.
I found myself getting pretty depressed, and ended up writing a letter to my mom asking her to come get me because I was lonely. A week later, instead of seeing her drive up to camp to get me, I got a letter back. Mom was furious that I wanted to come home. She’d saved so much money to give me the chance to go to the camp, and she felt I was giving up far too easily. If pieces of paper could slap you, that one certainly would have. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was staying at camp until it ended, and that I had to make use of it. She said if I didn’t come home with new skills and examples of my work, she’d never let me do anything like camp in the future, including when I would be going to high school. She reminded me of dances I’d miss, school trips I wouldn’t get to take, and more.”
“Oh my”, Mrs. Corum said, listening to the story, “that was so cruel”. The others nodded in agreement. All of the others except G-ma.
“It might have been tough at the time, but it made me stronger”, G-ma replied, “I hated my mom for the next four weeks, but I was determined to prove her wrong. I marched right up to the girls that ignored me and told them that I didn’t care how they felt about me – I was there to learn and I was going to learn. Most of them stayed out of my way, and some even respected me for being so bold. A few of those who respected me even kept in touch with me my whole life. I made friends at that camp, I learned a helluva lot, and I got tough. My mom knew what she was doing”
“But don’t you think she could have handled it a bit differently?”, Mrs. Corum asked, “In my job, I’ve had to be tough with kids, but you don’t have to be mean about it.”
“I don’t think it was mean now, although I guess I did then”.
Before they could continue the conversation, they were interrupted by a shriek. Turning around, they saw Jamie standing near Ryan. He was lying on the ground, looking up at the sky. They looked at her in confusion – what could possibly be wrong? Ryan lied on the ground often enough, and nothing else seemed amiss.
“It’s Ryan”, Jamie said, “He’s not….”
G-ma and Mrs. Corum sprang to their feet and came over to look. Ryan lie there, eyes open, mouth slightly agape, staring at the gray sky.
“Ryan… Ryan…. Ryan!”, Mrs. Corum said, as she patted his face, as if trying to wake someone from a deep sleep. Ryan did not move, the expression on his face did not change, his eyes did not waver.
“How long has he been like this?”, Mrs. Corum asked.
“I don’t know – I just turned around while you were talking to G-ma to ask him a question, and he didn’t say anything to me”.
Who was the last person he talked to.
“It was me”, Mara replied, “A little while ago, before G-ma started her story, he asked me if I had looked at the mountains recently. I told him that we hadn’t – no one head. He said there was something strange about them but that it had stopped. That was it – we only talked for a minute, then he came over here and sat down.”
“It’s almost like he’s in a coma”, G-ma said, assessing the situation.
“How is that possible? We don’t even sleep here – and while he’s felt pain before, he’s never been like this.”, Sara Beth said, standing at the edge of the group.
They all knew there was no answer to the “how is this possible” question – seemingly anything was possible here. But just because it was possible didn’t mean it was supposed to happen.
Quietly they all gathered around Ryan, hoping for some change. As Dim came, the situation remained just as uncertain and disturbing as it had been the moment Jamie shrieked.