Camp Ferguson: Chapter 6

In which our heroes make an unlikely new friend and decide to try some science.

 

CHAPTER 6: HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE WIZARDS

 

“I can’t do this. I just can’t.”

Putting his head in his hands and groaning as the first rays of sun began to filter through the canvas of the two-person tent he now resided in, Danny sighed and looked up at the large Jackalope banner that hung over his cot. Folding his hands and sitting his elbows on top of the books and papers that littered his sheets, he squeezed his eyes—which had bags under them big enough to carry groceries in—shut.

“Umm—okay. Are you there, God? Or Merlin? Or Jackalope spirit? Or whoever? I’m not really clear on that whole thing. Well, it’s me. You know, Danny. Or maybe you don’t.” He sighed. “Anyway, please, please, please help me pass this quiz today. I mean, I don’t know how I’m supposed to be prepared for this. It’s only been, like, a week, and I don’t know anything: the difference between curses and charms, how to track magical creatures, nothing. So I know I never really ask for anything, but I could use some help. Nothing big. Just some divine revelation during the test. Or maybe—”

A loud snore jarred him out of his train of thought, and he glanced over his shoulder to the other side of the tent, where Jack was laying on his back with his baseball cap tugged over his face, still sound asleep.

“Oh, and I guess I should ask about one other thing,” Danny said, resuming his petition to the almighty. “Can you kill Jack for me, please? I know he’s, like, my only friend here and stuff. It’s just that he keeps me up all night while he’s drinking and talking, and then he drags me to those parties over at the tool shed. Even when I don’t go, he wakes me up to talk about how great they were, and he’s always distracting me and stuff. He didn’t even try to study for this thing, and we have to get to class in, like—now? Great.”

Muttering under his breath, he rose and walked over to Jack’s cot, tapping the other boy on the shoulder.

“Jack?” he asked, as gently as he could. “Hey, Jack? Time to wake up. I’m really sorry, but we have a quiz today, remember? You’ve got to get up so we can go to class.”

Groaning, Jack shifted again and threw an arm over his face.

“Screw class,” he murmured. “If I open my eyes and you’re not a crazy hot girl begging to go out with me, you’re in big trouble.”

“Jack, come on,” Danny whined. “The quiz is today. Right now. We have to go.”

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you ten dollars for ten more minutes of sleep.”

“But we can’t. Class.”

“Five dollars for five more minutes?”

“It’s important, Jack. If you just lay around all day, how are you ever going to get better at magic?” Danny asked, a frown of envy crossing his face. “Well, better than you are already, I guess.”

“Ugh. Fine,” said Jack, pulling the pillow out from under his head and handing it to Danny. “I’ll give you all my pocket change and this month’s issue of Green Lantern for you smother me with my pillow. Final offer.”

“Jack, we have a lecture to get to. With the scoutmaster.”

“And you woke me up just for that?” Jack asked, sitting up grudgingly and pulling his new yellow blazer on over his flannel and t-shirt. “I thought something important was going on. Get some perspective, bro. I used to cut classes all the time, and look how I turned out.”

“Uhh—right,” Danny said slowly. “Don’t you want to pass this year of camp?”

“Hey, I always plan on passing. It just doesn’t always work out that way,” Jack replied, swinging his feet, still in sneakers, out of bed and onto the grass under their feet. He pushed his hat up on his head and grinned. “Okay, I guess I’m ready. How long until class?”

“Like, a hot second.”

“What even is that?” Jack snorted. “I mean, do you hear yourself? How long is a hot second supposed to be?”

“I don’t know. Probably about the same as a New York minute.”

“See, I live in New York, and now you’re just making stuff up.”

“I am not,” Danny insisted, but he fell silent as they were interrupted by a shouting voice from outside the tent.

“Jack! Jack Ferguson!”

A second later, a shorter girl with curly brown hair and glasses burst through the flap of their tent, dressed in the telltale purple blazer of Sphinx Troop. Her frazzled gaze shifted from Danny, to Jack, and back to Danny again.

“Where’s Jack Ferguson?” she repeated, breathless from running. “They told me this was his tent. I have to talk to him.”

“God, how come everyone around here’s in such a hurry all the time?” Jack asked, grudgingly raising his hand. “All right, all right, I’m Jack Ferguson. What’s going on?”

The girl blinked at him, tilting her head sideways.

“Huh. Okay. Thought you’d be taller.”

“What?”

“Never mind. I need you to come with me. It’s urgent: a matter of life and death. They said you’d be able to help.”

“Who’s they?” Danny asked, looking nervous.

“Better question: who are you?” Jack asked.

“Oh, I’m Haleigh Adler. Second-year, Sphinx Troop.” Haleigh gave them an awkward little wave. “Hello. And I got your name from a bunch of our recruits. Some of us weren’t at the welcome banquet, but we needed someone, and the first person they brought up was you. One of our new scouts is in trouble. He won’t come out of his tent, and I think he needs some serious help.”

“Okay,” Jack nodded. “Person in need. Possible damsel in distress. Whatever. I’m in. But how come you’re not going to—I don’t know—your troop leader about this?”

Haleigh pursed her lips hesitantly.

“Well, Sam’s not there right now. He got called to some kind of meeting with the scoutmaster and the other troop heads. Plus,” she added, looking around to make sure no one else was listening, “we were kind of hoping to do this unofficially. Like, on the DL. I mean, we want to help the guy, but we don’t really want the scoutmaster’s kind of help. You know?”

“Sort of,” Danny said uncertainly. “Right, Jack?”

“Huh?” asked Jack, turning toward him. “Oh, sorry. I just heard it was a guy we were talking about, and I lost interest.” Reacting to Haleigh’s look of disappointment, he smiled. “I’m kidding. But I’m not kidding about the not understanding part. Why don’t you fill us in on the way over?”

“Jack, what about class?” Danny insisted. “We’d totally be ditching. And it’s a test day.”

“Dude, think about it,” said Jack. “How are you going to do on the test?”

“Terrible, probably.”

“Yeah, me too. We already know how it’s going to turn out, so why bother taking it, right?” Jack looked back to their guest. “Let’s go.”

Haleigh nodded and did a prompt about-face, leading Jack and Danny out of their tent and into the sunshine as they threaded in and around the rest of their fellow Jackalopes, gathered to talk in groups or lounging around on various scattered pieces of disused and abandoned furniture in the spaces between their raggedy tents. Danny couldn’t help but shrink toward Jack instinctively as he felt and saw the gazes of the other campers.

“Jack,” he hissed, tugging at his friend’s sleeve. “They’re all staring at us.”

“What, again?” Jack asked, taking a look around, which prompted many of the starers to quickly turn away. “Dude, it’s been like that since we got here. I mean, everybody seems cool and all, but sometimes I still catch them doing it when I’m not looking.”

“Well, right now, it might be because of me,” Haleigh said over her shoulder. “I know you’re new around here, but in case you hadn’t noticed, the troops don’t really mix too much. Nobody trusts anybody at Camp Propsero, so me going to you guys for help is kind of desperate measures. But we don’t have another choice.”

“It might also have something to do with how you, you know, totally dissed Drake Masterson,” Danny added, looking at Jack.

“That too,” Haleigh agreed as they passed out of the yellow knot of tents and up the hill beyond. “I heard all about it. That was pretty brave. I know a lot of the new recruits are really grateful that you stuck up for them.”

“Hey, it was nothing,” Jack said, grinning but attempting to sound modest.

“Yeah. They’re thinking about starting a campaign to raise money for your funeral.”

“Wait, what?”

“Nothing.”

The three hiked up the sloping hill just outside the ramshackle encampment and onto the flat plain above, following the outer border of the camp and the line of Moai heads that hummed ominously.

“How come those things are here?” Danny asked, eyeing them warily. “They sort of creep me out.”

“Well, duh,” said Haleigh, rolling her eyes. “Of course they’re here. Did you really think the BMA would just leave the real ones on Easter Island with all the tourists? They’re incredibly powerful magical artifacts, so they need to be protected. Plus, they keep the camp hidden from satellites and the outside world in general.”

“Sure, that makes sense,” said Jack. “Don’t let them get in your head, Danny.” He laughed. “See what I did there?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yeah, be nice to them. They ain’t got no-body. Get your head in the game.” Jack snickered uncontrollably. “Yep, this is never getting old.”

A few minutes and several dozen head jokes later, the three scouts approached the outer edges of Sphinx Troop, a rather orderly cluster of tents with a far different atmosphere than the chaotic mess of Jackalope Troop. Danny noticed with some envy that the tents, many of which were larger and more elongated to account for the laboratories and group meeting spaces he caught glimpses of inside, were of a much higher quality than the ones he was currently forced to live in. All were set up to a tee with regulations, flawlessly maintained, and spaced exactly the same distance apart in a grid pattern befitting a small city. Dozens of scrawny, anxious-looking scouts stopped comparing their notes or arguing over concepts mostly too complex to put into words to watch the group’s passage with an almost uncomfortable amount of interest.

“Hey, guys,” Jack said, waving at them as Danny tried his best to hide behind him. “What’s up? So, anybody seen a kid that needs saving?”

“Shh,” Haleigh cautioned him, putting a finger to her lips. “Keep it down. We don’t want to draw more attention than we already have. He’s in there.”

She stopped walking and pointed. Dead ahead, there was a neat line of personal tents let up in the living quarters portion of the encampment. They all looked more or less the same as each other, except for the fact that one toward the middle of the grouping had a large circle of grass around it singed and brown, and was illuminated from within by an otherworldly light. The glow was punctuated by frequent bursts of color, along with cracks and bangs that shook the teeth of anyone nearby. The tents to the right and left of it were charred and smoking, and loose stones on the ground were floating up into the air, and then falling back down at random intervals, as if they were struggling with their tether to gravity.

“Well,” Danny started, licking his lips nervously. “This looks—uhh—awesome.”

“So what do we know about this guy?” Jack asked, turning to Haleigh.

“His name’s Lucas, I think,” the girl replied, adjusting her glasses. “Lucas King. He hasn’t come out of there in three days, and if anyone tries to talk to him, he just says we’re all in his head or something. Nobody’s even been inside. The last person that tried got electrocuted and shot out through the ceiling.”

Danny noted the gaping hole toward the top of one side of the tent and gulped.

“You know, Jack, I think I might sit this one out,” he said, trying to slide away. “I forgot, I have an appointment with my doctor, like, next year. And I’d really like to be sort of alive for it.”

“Come on, Danny,” said Jack, grabbing his collar and hauling him back into place beside him. “Don’t wuss out on me here. This guy needs our help.” He gestured at all the Sphinx scouts. “Plus, if things get out of control, we’ve got all of them backing us up. Right?”

“Actually,” Haleigh said, looking slightly guilty, “we were kind of thinking we’d pull back to a safe distance. You know, keep a perimeter in case Sam or someone else comes snooping around.”

“Oh, okay,” Jack nodded, missing the obvious implication. “That makes sense. Good call. We’ll be fine anyway.”

“That’s good,” the girl said, motioning to the crowd around them to back off. “Seriously, we don’t have anything against you guys, and we really appreciate you helping us out with this. But you’re from Jackalope Troop, so you’re just sort of—uhh—”

“Expendable?” Danny asked accusingly.

“Yeah, that’s it. Best of luck.”

Jack, too busy staring thoughtfully at the tent to overhear, took a confident step forward, but Haleigh reached out and grabbed him by the arm.

“That said,” she added, lowering her voice confidentially and pushing a strand of curly hair behind her ear with a nervous smile, “if you do, you know, survive this, I think I—I mean, we—might owe you one. Maybe we could get lunch sometime?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Jack, still oblivious. “I like food. Works for me. Let’s do this, Danny.”

He began to approach the tent as Danny swallowed his fear and gave a sidelong glance at Haleigh, who now that he thought about it was actually kind of cute.

“You know,” he said, trying his best to be smooth as he ran a hand through his messy hair to hide how much it was shaking, “I eat lunch too sometimes. I mean, Jack’s usually pretty busy and stuff, so maybe you’d like to go out with me instead and—”

“Keep walking, rookie.”

“Okay.” Danny shamefacedly shuffled ahead to catch up with his friend, heaving a sigh. “I don’t get it, Jack. You could use your magic and stuff, but it’s like you don’t even have to. People just automatically fall in love with you. How do you do that?”

“I don’t know, man,” Jack said with a shrug. “I’ve just always had it, I guess. But hey, look at you. I didn’t have to use a magic spell on you, and you like me.”

“Sure, Jack,” the shorter boy muttered sullenly. “Sure.”

Carefully stepping onto the discolored area of grass and walking up to just outside the tent flap, Jack stood firm and Danny jumped as more pops and bags rang out from inside, along with flashes of light.

“Well, okay,” said Jack, turning his hat back on his head. “Here goes something.”

“Oh, God,” Danny moaned as Jack grasped his shoulder and the two boys ducked into the tent. It took a second or two for their eyes to adjust to the unnatural darkness inside, but once they did, they were instantly awestruck by the sheer state of disarray within: overturned tables and chairs, flipped bed with sheets strewn everywhere, and reams upon reams of crumpled notebook paper, and thousands upon thousands of letters and numbers scribbled in nearly indecipherable sequences across the canvas walls and every square inch of available space.

“Holy cow,” Danny breathed, adjusting his glasses to peer around. “Look at this stuff.”

From next to him, Jack snickered.

“Yeah. Oh, man. This guy has so lost his security deposit.”

“Hey, who are you?”

The sharp demand came from the far corner of the tent, where the two could now make out the shape of a third boy, crouched down and frantically writing down more equations on the wall. Scuff marks and dirt covered his disheveled normally white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up past his elbows, though a vest covered most of it up. He turned sharply toward them, his black hair a disheveled mess under the engineer’s goggles clamped to his head.

“Who are you?” he repeated. “What do you want?”

“Hey, man,” said Jack, taking a step forward and raising his hands peacefully. “Sorry, didn’t mean to surprise you. My name’s Jack, and this is Danny. You’re Lucas, right? We heard that—”

“No, no, no,” the boy cut him off, shaking his head violently and grasping at the plain black tie that dangled loosely from his collar. “I mean, which one of my inner demons or personality fragments come to life are you? I know you’re not real. None of this is. So stop playing games with me, because I’m not buying it. Do you hear me? I’m not buying it!”

At his last exclamation, the ground under their feet trembled a bit and little sparks of magical energy danced through the air like lightning. Danny yelped and clung to Jack in panic, who just looked confused.

“Hold up. What do you mean we’re not real?”

“Please,” Lucas muttered, turning back to what he was doing. “As if you didn’t know. You are me. But very well, I’ll play along. It’s no different than talking to myself. Of course none of this is real: everyone here, wherever here is, talks about magic, but anyone who passed grade school can tell you that magic isn’t real. It’s a superstition. Something to explain away perfectly normal natural phenomena the less gifted can’t comprehend.” He sighed. “I probably sound quite egotistical. But then again, I’m going insane. Can you blame me?”

“Okay, I didn’t understand half the words he just said,” said Jack, raising an eyebrow at Danny. “And I did pass grade school. I mean, I’m pretty sure. You really think this kid’s got a problem? Because he’s still confusing the hell out of me. I don’t know about you, but I’m real.”

“Right,” Lucas scoffed. “Just what a figment of my imagination would say. Well, I’m going to prove it. As soon as I finish this theorem on what I’ve been observing here, I’ll realize that I can’t reconcile it all, and that will prove this isn’t happening. Most likely I’m just in a padded room somewhere because I couldn’t handle the pressure of CalTech and MIT simultaneously and cracked up.” He shook his head, disappointed. “I can’t believe that. I was only taking 46 credits. And besides,” he said, giving a quick glance over his bony shoulder at Jack, “you’d think figments of my imagination would at least have better fashion sense.”

“Seriously, what is it with people and my clothes?” Jack demanded, annoyed. “Is this not how normal people dress? Hey, I’m talking to you, genius. Hello!”

“Go away,” the boy shouted, accompanied by several meaningful flashes of light in the air. “Just go away and leave me in peace, can’t you? I need to concentrate.”

“Jack, we should really stop yelling,” Danny hissed. “That magic he’s giving off is starting to get really unstable.”

He’s unstable,” Jack groused. “I didn’t get dragged forcibly out of bed before lunch to play make-believe with Doc Brown over here.”

“Ooh, nice reference, Jack.”

“That was a reference?” Jack took a deep breath, composing himself. “Okay, sorry. I’m good. Listen, man, you’ve got a lot of buddies out there, and they’re all pulling for you. We are too. Like I said, I’m Jack Ferguson. You can trust me. So what’s it going to take to get you out of here?”

“There is no out of here, obviously,” Lucas shot back. “We’re inside my head. And the only things I trust are facts, numbers, and cold, hard science. There’s a logical explanation for everything. And the only possible one for what’s happening right now is that I’m losing my mind.”

“Okay, put a pin in that for a second,” Jack said, suddenly looking to Danny. “You said something about magic being unstable. That Haleigh chick said the same thing. And about what they do to wizards who can’t control their powers and stuff. What’s everyone talking about?”

Danny grimaced.

“Jack, not in front of the—” He hesitated. “C-r-a-z-y person.”

“Danny, the c-r-a-z-y person probably spells better than y-o-u do,” Jack shot back, rolling his eyes. “Spill. What aren’t you guys telling me?”

“Well,” Danny explained reluctantly, “people with magic are really powerful and stuff, you know? A renegade wizard who doesn’t have control over their magic can get out of control and be dangerous. It’s sort of like a nuclear power plant on meltdown. At least, that’s what my dad says. So the government takes care of them. You know, puts them somewhere secure. For their own safety.”

“Oh, you mean lock them up in a nice white room with bars on the windows and throw away the key,” said Jack, irritated. “That figures. How come everyone in government are such total jerks?”

Danny didn’t have time to answer the question, though, because at that moment Lucas jerked upright, his face a mask of panic, desperately shaking the marker in his hand and examining it from all angles.

“It’s out of ink,” he whispered. “My last marker. It’s gone. If I can’t write anymore, I can’t finish the theorem, and if I can’t do that, I can’t get out of here. Oh, no, no, no. This can’t be happening.”

He grabbed at his head and curled up in a ball as the atmosphere in the room went from unsettling to downright scary. Fissures cracked open in the ground, making Jack and Danny have to leap out of the way, and bursts of energy lanced out of the air and scorched the grass around their feet, along with gusts of wind that rattled the tent frame in its place.

“Lucas, help us!” Danny shouted over the din. “I know it sounds totally nuts, but this is magic. It’s all real, I swear. But there had to be some sign or something. Did you ever have anything happen to you that was weird and that you couldn’t explain? I mean, where were you right before you came here?”

“No,” Lucas insisted, compulsively shaking his head. “No, never. I was just in my room, doing research. I stumbled onto this text about utilizing different portions of the brain and how it could increase the human potential. But I didn’t know how to make it work. That was when I did this.”

He pointed to a Band-Aid stuck to his left temple.

“I thought that technology might be the key to giving the brain the stimulus it needed, since it can’t be done naturally. So I designed a state-of-the-art microprocessor and then I inserted it myself.”

“Wait, what?” Jack spoke up. “You shot a chip into your own head? Are you crazy?”

“Jack, please don’t say that,” Danny groaned as Lucas flinched and the fissures got wider. “But hey, maybe that’s it. Maybe the chip thing messed with his brain or something: made him aware of magic somehow, but not to control it, and that’s what’s happening. That’s amazing.”

“Yeah, right,” said Jack sarcastically. “When we blow up, I’ll make sure I rain down all over the Nobel committee. But if you started this, can’t you just stop it, Lucas?”

“Even if I did believe you, how am I supposed to do that?” Lucas shot back. “I have no idea how the tech might have interfaced with my neural pathways, and it’s not like I can just reach inside and switch it off.”

But Jack mustered up the will to give the Sphinx scout a winning grin.

“Come on, bro. Just humor me for a minute. Seriously, what do you have to lose? Besides, you know you’re not nuts, right? Only the really crazy people think they’re not nuts. I know. I picked it up from the—umm—a place I used to hang out. Get it?”

“Uhh—” Lucas said slowly, looking befuddled, but he squeezed his eyes shut to focus. “Okay. Let me think. The chip was quite advanced, but very, very delicate. We can’t turn it off, but perhaps we can short-circuit it. Our bodies are basically conduits for electrical impulses, and a large enough stimulus could shock my brain into discharging enough current to knock it out. In theory. I have to warn you, I haven’t had time to run the proper calculations.”

Danny yelped and Jack ducked as a chair spontaneously jumped off the ground, flew through the air, and tore out the side of the tent.

“I think I’ll risk it!” Jack yelled, getting down on his knees and crawling over to where Lucas was huddled. “All right, man. Sorry about this, but here goes.”

Before Lucas could react, the Jackalope hauled back his hand and slapped him across the face as hard as he could. Danny gasped. So did Lucas, who looked back at Jack with tears in his eyes.

“Oww! What was that for?”

“Hey, you said a big shock,” Jack replied. “It was the best thing I could come up with. Did it work?”

“No. Now I just feel hurt.”

“Jack, try something else,” Danny begged, backing into a far corner of the tent as fire crept along the grass toward him. “Please. Or we’re totally going to die in here.”

Jack thought for a moment, and then scowled as another thought crossed his mind.

“All right, fine,” he groaned. “I’ve got another idea. Ugh. I’m really, really going to regret this. But what happens in the crazy tent stays in the crazy tent, okay? So do me a favor and just shut up.”

With that, he grabbed Lucas’s collar and pulled the other boy toward him, kissing him square on the mouth. Lucas jerked and his eyes widened in complete surprise, and at that exact same moment, the shaking in the earth as well as the pyrotechnics and gusting winds stopped dead. As stillness returned, the numerous papers and pieces of furniture that had been flying around the tent dropped back to the ground in a chorus of thuds.

“Whoa,” Danny said, slipping down the wall and to the ground as all the energy left his body. “That was, like, too close.”

Jack, meanwhile, got up without a word, dusted himself off, and then immediately headed for the tent flap. He ducked through it, not even noticing when his hat fell off, and headed out into Sphinx Troop. Giving each other an uncertain glance, both Lucas and Danny jumped up and followed him, the latter grabbing the baseball cap off the ground as they went.

“So, uhh—” Danny stammered as the two got behind Jack, who walked straight through the crowd of purple-clothed and goggle-eyed scouts that parted before him without any acknowledgement. “I guess that whole thing worked, then. You okay, Lucas?”

“Surprisingly, yes, I believe so,” said Lucas, blinking at him. “Then I’m not insane? Magic is real? A tangible force that can be measured?”

“Umm—sure?”

“All those things that happened,” Lucas murmured, mostly to himself. “That was me. Fascinating. To think that my device must have interacted with my brainwaves to allow me to perceive and manipulate a constant, universal force that nobody else knows exists. I have to write this down. This could fill in the holes in the law of gravity. Or why neutrinos have mass. They’ll have me on Ted Talks for this.”

“So you really think magic’s just another force of nature, like gravity or something?” Danny asked, scratching his head. “No offense, Lucas, but that does sound kind of crazy.”

“Everyone thought Einstein was crazy, too, Danny,” their new friend replied, rummaging through his pockets for a piece of paper to write on.

“Right,” Danny murmured. “But he went and started that bagel chain with his brother anyway.” He was no longer paying attention because, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a flash of red, and turned to see Haleigh off to the side of one of the nearby tents, in an animated conversation with the same blonde Centaur girl who had spoken to him and Jack at the welcome banquet. As if sensing him watching her, the girl raised her head, took a long look at Jack, and then glanced over at him. Danny gulped, snapping his head back around and hurrying to keep up with Jack, who suddenly turned and made a beeline for a nearby square-shaped tent. A girl in a towel just coming out of the door screamed and jumped out of the way.

“Hey, you can’t go in there,” she said. “This is our shower hour. Get lost.”

But Jack completely ignored her, barging right through the door into the fortunately empty shower tent. Still not saying a word, got into the nearest stall without bothering to remove his clothes, tilted his head up, and pulled on the chain, dousing himself from head to toe in water.

“Uhh—Jack?” Danny asked, as he and Lucas cautiously entered the tent. “You okay?”

“Eww,” Jack groaned, opening his mouth to gargle with the water. “Never again. Seriously, never again. No offense, Lucas. Glad you’re okay, man.”

“None taken,” Lucas said, a bit bashfully. “After all, you did save my life in there, I think. Who knows what could have happened if you hadn’t shorted out that chip?”

“Can you not say it like that, please?” Jack asked, rubbing vigorously at his face as the water soaked his yellow blazer, jeans, and the shirt underneath. “Ugh. What else could go wrong today?”

“About that,” Danny jumped in, “I don’t know if you really want to hear this right now, but you remember that girl in Centaur Troop from the banquet? I—umm—sort of saw her around. Recently.”

The shower stopped running as Jack let go of the chain and turned his full attention to Danny, still dripping as he rushed to him and peered over the edge of the stall.

“What? When? How recently?” he demanded.

“Well, about thirty seconds ago.”

“How around?”

“Like, right around the corner. I don’t know, Jack. I feel like she might be following us or something.”

Instead of being worried, however, Jack burst out of the stall and ran over to him, grabbing the other boy by the shoulders and grinning from ear to ear.

“If she’s following us, that means she’s keeping tabs on me,” he said excitedly. “And that means—yes!” He pumped his fist. “Oh, yeah. I knew she was into me. She likes me. I totally feel it.” He gave a quick look out the door of the tent, which was still standing open, and clapped Danny on the shoulders again. “Thanks, Danny. You’re the best. I’ve got to go. Catch you guys later.”

With that, he bent over and planted a big, enthusiastic kiss on Danny’s cheek before dashing headlong out the door, grabbing his hat out of the boy’s limp hand as he went. Danny, meanwhile, groaned loudly in disgust.

“Ugh. Oh, God, Jack. Come on!” he cried. “I ditched class for this!”

He then ran into the shower stall and jumped up to grab the chain, yanking on it and drenching himself as well.

“Is life always like this for the two of you?” Lucas asked, sounding more curious than puzzled.

“Pretty much, yeah,” Danny gurgled through the stream of water. “Surprising, right?”

Lucas cocked his head to one side, staring out the door after Jack with a look of total fascination.

“Not really, no.”


Check out Kyle Robertson’s new novel, Camp Ferguson, available online now at Amazon.com and via Kindle devices!

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