“Hiking through desolate plains, without food, water, or shelter, a band of four brave girls search for civilization . . . Ivy Ling, their leader, urges her companions on, even though she knows they don’t have much left in them. ‘Come on!’ she shouts. ‘We can’t be out on the plains after dark. The dreaded tiger will get us!’ Fueled by fear, the girls begin to run –“
“Could you please stop, Ivy?” MJ Valdez asked, swinging her violin case. “While we don’t, er . . . have shelter, we do have food and water — don’t we Saige?” Not giving Saige Copeland, who was carrying our blue cooler, a chance to reply, MJ continued. “We need to be quiet if we’re going to find the camping site!”
The particular camping site we were looking for was not normal, to say the least. It liked to move around, the tent pulling its stakes from the ground by itself and hobbling away to a new location. To find it, you had to be extremely quiet — a soft sneeze could scare it off. We weren’t exactly very good at the whole quiet thing, what with Tracy randomly reciting the rules of different sports, Saige complaining every few feet, and me animatedly telling a story.
I was beginning to wonder if we could ever be silent enough not to scare the campsite away. Why wasn’t I asking myself if the moving campsite was even real? That ship had sailed long ago . . .
“Are we there yet?” whined Saige.”My arms hurt from toting this cooler around everywhere . . .”
I heard a rustling sound, scrambling, then silence. That meant the tent had run away! “We almost had it!” I burst out, catching a glimpse of a tent pole hurrying away from us. “If only you hadn’t said anything, Saige.” I was beginning to get irritable from looking for the campsite for so long without finding it
Suddenly, Rembrandt and Chocolate Chip, Saige and Tracy’s dogs, darted in front of me.
“You have no plan,” Rembrandt said in a fancy British accent.
I stared at the Border Collie, shocked that it was speaking. Then I narrowed my eyes. “You’re a Western dog, Rembrandt, and yet you’re talking like you’re British.”
“Oh . . .” The dog dropped the accent. “Well, howdy, Miss Ling, pleasure meetin’ you.”
Tracy threw her hands up in the air. “Now dogs can talk! What is the world coming to . . .”
“Hello, master!” Chocolate Chip called to her, grinning and wagging his tail.
Tracy pulled her hair in front of her face and fixed her eyes on the ground, murmuring, “Dogs can talk . . . Dogs can talk . . .”
Chocolate Chip and Rembrandt, side by side, led us off in a new direction, sniffing the grass. “Follow me! Woof!” shouted Rembrandt.
The dogs had already picked up the tent’s trail, and, not wanting to let our pets wander off, we jogged after them.
We arrived at the campsite a few minutes later. A large see-through tent was set behind a fire pit and three logs that appeared to be serving as seats.
Around the campsite was a section of magic ground that, if touched, rooted the tent to its current location for a few days unless it was in mortal danger. Knowing this, the dogs sprang forward and bounded about, making sure the tent would stay put.
The dogs barked at it, threatened to use the bathroom in it, and the tent didn’t budge. We stumbled toward the log-benches and collapsed on them, breathing hard and wiping sweat from our brows. We’d made it! After hiking for so long, we’d finally made it.
Out of the blue, the air all around us took on a strange blue color (haha . . . see what I did there . . . out of the blue, and then blue . . .) and a loud buzzing noise, like a an army of bees, invaded our ears. Then I blinked, and
I DIED OH THE DOCTOR WARNED ME it all stopped, as suddenly as it had begun. The only thing out of place was a neat-ish pile of all the camping things I’d forgotten to bring along: bedding, plastic cups, soap, a lantern, a Frisbee, and a camera.
I scrambled over my sisters and reached the objects first, where I scooped up the camera and put it around my neck. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to bring the camera. It was so unlike me! But I guess that the whole idea of camping in a magical tent that has a mind of its own had freaked me out.
I snapped a picture of MJ, who was watching Tracy investigate the stuff.
That’s a keeper! I thought, studying the image that had appeared on the camera’s tiny screen.
I could hear Tracy playing Frisbee with the dogs on the other side of the tent — they were shouting at Tracy and each other: “I’m more important than you . . . Human, throw to me! Woof!”
I hurried over to them and documented the fun.
When I got back to MJ and Saige, I found that the latter had started sifting through the cooler. “There’s nothing to eat,” she moaned.
I peered over her shoulder and shrugged. There seemed to be plenty of food in the cooler.
MJ pulled a bag of celery sticks from the cooler and pointed it at Saige. “You could have packed the food,” she pointed out, popping a vegetable into her mouth.
Tracy walked up behind MJ and wrinkled her nose at the celery.
I brought the camera up to my eye and captured the moment, Tracy leaning on her BFF’s shoulder. Another one for the scrapbook! Turning the camera off, I said, “I’m hungry. Who’s making dinner?”
MJ kindly offered to make some eggs and helped each of us find a snack. Stuffing her face with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Tracy told us the eerie story of the Doctor’s trip to the planet Midnight.
A sudden chill running down my spine, I stood up and went to get a bottle of water. The apple I’d been eating was lying on the log, marking my spot.
Over the sizzle of the eggs cooking, Tracy’s low voice reached me: ” . . . and that’s when something knocked on the side of the stopped tour bus.”
Unscrewing the cap, I interrupted, “But there’s nothing weird about that. Someone was just saying hello, right?”
Tracy grinned at me, her first genuine smile of the day. I guess creeping out her little sister was entertaining. “Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, dear Ivy. You see, the sun of the planet Midnight would turn anyone who was in its rays to dust . . .”
When I went back to my seat, my apple was gone. It had probably just fallen off the log, but the first thing I thought was, Does the thing from Tracy’s story steal people’s food?
I searched the grass around the log, and when I didn’t find it, I demanded, “Tracy, give me my apple back.”
“But I don’t have it!” she protested. “What would I want with your stinking half-eaten apple?”
There was nothing for me to do but except the fact that my apple was gone.
We all had something different for dinner. Tracy ate an egg and gave the remains of her PB & J to Chocolate Chip. I feasted on carrots and a sandwich.
MJ had tea and toast with raspberry jelly on it.
Saige, with her PB & J and a banana, was happy to report that she hadn’t had a single vegetable all day (Tracy was eating my carrots, making Saige the only one who hadn’t had vegetables). “Caroline’s not here to make me, so I don’t have to!” she sang.
“I’m still the oldest, so listen to me when I say this,” warned Tracy. “Eat your vegetables, Saige Copeland, or face the wrath of a very tired Tracy!”
I thought I saw some of the defiance leave Saige’s face as the eldest spoke those words.
“And no matter how old I get, it’ll still be fun to tell!” said MJ. She handed a celery stick to Saige. “So eat.”
Very, very slowly, hatred in those turquoise eyes, Saige raised the celery to her lips. She popped it in her mouth and chewed it up, grimacing. She swallowed, then stuck her tongue out at each of us in turn, though I wasn’t sure what I had done.
As we ate a dessert of ice cream sandwiches, MJ played her violin for us, and, as we finished our food one by one, we joined her in singing The Campfire Song Song.
♪Lets gather around the campfire And sing our campfire song Our C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song And if you don’t think that we can sing it faster then you’re wrong But it’ll help if you just sing along♪
♪Bom bom bom . . .
C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song
C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song
And if you dont think that we can sing it faster then you’re wrong
But it’ll help if you just sing along♪
As the campfire started to flicker out and the last rays of sunlight disappeared, we all decided that it was time for bed. While it wasn’t that late, we were tired from tracking the campsite all day, and we stumbled to the tent to spread out our blankets.
I tripped on my way to the tent and scraped my knee. MJ put a Band-Aid on it and then kissed it, just like my mother used to do for me. I thanked her, said good night, and, still smiling from the unexpected blast from the past, entered the tent.
With all four of us in the tent, it was sort of cramped and very cozy. Surrounded by the comforting murmur of my sisters, I snuggled deeper under my rainbow blanket. A summer breeze drifted through the open door of the tent, cooling me down.
“The sides of tents are always really uncomfortable,” Saige complained, shifting around in her sleeping bag.
“Tell me how you know this, again?” I demanded grouchily. Saige’s voice had brought me out of my happy place.
Just as I’d expected, Saige didn’t have anything to say to that. She’d never been camping before (neither had MJ or I), so how could she have known that the sides of tents were always really uncomfortable? For all we knew, the tent could have just been fed up with Saige’s grumbling.
Uncertain what light to read with, I grabbed all three: the lantern and both flashlights. It was only after I’d turned them all on and settled back against my pillow that I realized I hadn’t brought a book. Sighing, I switched all the lights out and waited for sleep to come.
P.S. Review of the tent coming soon! Use this link to buy the tent at Amazon. It’s called “PicnicPal.” A small amount of the purchase will support this site. And here is the Life at Camp poll . . .