I’m hiding in my tent. Some church campout this has turned out to be.
It all started when the girls trashed my tent while I was roasting marshmallows. Josh, Ben, and I had set up our Scout tent–which the girls promptly filled knee-deep with leaves.
As we shook out our sleeping bags, Ben said, “We have to get them back.”
“We could take out their tent poles so the tent crashes in on them,” Josh suggested.
“No, we’ll get in trouble,” I told them. “We need something annoying but not destructive.”
“We’ll let the air out of their air mattresses!” Ben said.
We didn’t use flashlights as we weaved through the trees to the girls’ tent. In seconds we had unplugged the mattresses, zipped up the tent, and headed back to the fire.
When Stacey, Stephanie, and Chelsea saw us, they ran to check their tent.
We laughed. We high-fived. We could taste the victory.
The girls were gone a long time. We thought it was because they were inflating their air mattresses. We were wrong.
Most of the adults were saying good night when my dad called. “Justin!”
“What?” I asked.
“Clean up your tent.”
I looked at our tent. It was a mass of toilet paper.
“The tricks are over. Everyone should get ready for bed soon,” Dad said as he handed me a garbage bag.
So we had to clean up our tent again! Not only was toilet paper wrapped around the poles, it was ripped into little squares all over our sleeping bags.
“The girls are not going to win,” I said.
“Let’s go down to the lake and get some rocks,” Josh suggested.
“Yeah, we’ll put them in the girls’ sleeping bags!” Ben asserted.
“We can’t leave our tent,” I warned. “I’m not cleaning it up again.”
So we split up. Ben stayed to guard the tent; Josh and I went to the lake.
Before we found any rocks, I found something else. An enormous fish carcass with hollow eye sockets leered at us. The fish’s head was at least five inches wide, and the whole thing was more than 18 inches long.
“Check it out,” I said. “Wouldn’t this make a nice sleeping buddy tonight?”
Using two fingers, I picked up the carcass by the tail.
When we showed Ben the dead fish, we agreed that placing it was a one-man job. Josh and Ben found the girls and led them to the fire to play a quick game. I waited until they were gone.
Inside the girls’ tent I placed the fish carcass on the pillow in the farthest corner. That way they’d all be inside the tent before they saw it. I slipped out and went to the fire.
After we said good night, the three of us crept up to the girls’ tent to watch. We knelt in the bushes. I had just clicked off my flashlight when a bloodcurdling scream pierced the night. Then more screaming as girls pushed, rushed, and tripped their way out the tent door.
Sarah, Chelsea’s little sister, was sobbing. Stacey tried to calm her down. Stephanie hit the huge fish with a stick, trying to knock it out of the tent.
Then Mr. Burkinshaw, Sarah’s and Chelsea’s dad, showed up. His hair was messy, and he didn’t have his glasses on. “Girls! People are trying to sleep! Settle down!”
The girls shouted and pointed.
“The boys put a dead fish in our tent, right on Sarah’s pillow!” Chelsea said.
“It was Justin,” Stacey added. “He was the only one not at the campfire when we went to play games.”
“You put it on Sarah’s pillow?” Ben whispered.
“I didn’t know whose it was!” I hissed back.
Mr. Burkinshaw grabbed a flashlight and pointed it into the tent. The fish glowed in the light. The girls screamed again.
He reached into the tent, grabbed the fish, and threw it into the bushes. “Enough of this! Good night!” he said.
Sarah was too afraid to go into the tent. Mr. Burkinshaw hauled her sleeping bag into his tent. He was not smiling.
Ben, Josh, and I didn’t say one word. We walked quietly to our tent.
“You’re going to get it tomorrow,” Ben said.
“Me?” I said. “It was all of us.”
“You put the fish in there,” Josh said. “On the little sister’s pillow, I might add.”
“And it was your idea,” Ben said.
“Thanks a lot,” I retorted as I zipped my sleeping bag all the way closed around my head.
That was last night. This morning I’m hiding in my tent. Josh and Ben? They’re out having breakfast. I peek out the window and see those two traitors eating pancakes, laughing with the girls.
My parents aren’t up yet, which I’m happy about for the moment. Though they’ll hear about my misbehavior soon enough, since the screaming girls woke up half the camp.
I pull on my shoes. Time to apologize.
Sarah is sitting with the other girls playing a game.
“Sarah?” I say. “May I talk to you?”
She nods but doesn’t look at me. She doesn’t move, either, so I figure this won’t be a private apology.
“I’m sorry. About last night. The fish.” I push my hands into my pockets. “I was just trying to get the girls back for toilet-papering our tent. I didn’t know it was your bed.”
“So you’re the mighty fisherman?” Sarah’s dad says as he puts his arm around my shoulder.
I swallow. “I’m sorry about that, Mr. Burkinshaw.”
“Son, there’s nothing like fresh air, a lake, and an apology to inspire my forgiveness. Would you like some breakfast?”
I nod. The smell of food is making my mouth water.
“Will pancakes be OK?” he asks with a grin. “We’re all out of fish at the moment.”
Illustrated by Ralph Butler