Sally and Anita finished packing a few of their belongings and climbed into the back seat of their father’s Cadillac limo. Sally loved the old classic car. Her brothers often lifted the hood and stared at the massive 1932 V-16 engine. Whenever Father took them for a ride, Sally, Anita, and Alice curled up on the plush back seat, and the four boys unfolded the two jump seats. For privacy, Mother rolled up the window that separated the front and back seats.
“What’s happening?” Sally asked Anita. “Why are we moving? Why aren’t we taking anything much with us?”
“It’s Father,” Anita said. “I heard him tell Mother yesterday that he was tired of his work and wanted to do something different.”
Anita turned to look behind them at the sign that seemed to shout “Malibu Beach” in big red letters. “There goes my summer,” she groaned.
“He’ll find something else to do that he likes,” Sally said.
“You don’t get it,” Anita groaned. “Father gets restless. He starts a business and gets it going really good, then he just stops working, and we run out of money. He doesn’t stick to anything for very long. Once, when you were 4, he opened a health food store. We lived in Hollywood and had lots of stuff. Suddenly he just walked away from it. We ended up living in the car for a month. I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Mother rolled down the window behind her. “Try to think of living in a tent as an adventure. People camp all the time,” she said after looking at all the gloomy faces.
“Some adventure,” Anita mumbled.
“We just have to make the best of this,” Mother said, not explaining anything. She turned around and rolled up the window.
They rode in silence for a long time. Suddenly Father brought the car to a stop in a parking lot on a low bluff above the sea. “This is Huntington Beach,” he said.
Everyone scrambled out of the car and stood staring at the water and the wide expanse of white sand.
“That’s our home,” Father said. He pointed to a large white tent.
“It’s gigantic,” the boys yelled. They took off down a set of concrete steps and rushed to the tent.
Mother led them on a tour. “Father has partitioned off bedrooms, a kitchen, and living room,” she said.
Sally entered the girls’ room. Three cots sat near the back tent wall, and a large wooden dresser stood on the opposite side. She spotted a little desk and chair too. “We’ve got furniture,” she said to Anita when she came into the room.
Opening a drawer of the dresser, Sally saw all her favorite summer shirts and shorts. Excitement crept into her heart. The second drawer held her collecting gear and drawing equipment. “Thanks, Mother,” she whispered.
“We don’t have electricity,” Mother said, as Sally and the others entered the kitchen. “The top of the tent wall has plastic panels that let in light, and we have several battery-powered lanterns for use in the evenings.”
“No electricity,” Anita groaned. “What about cold drinks? It gets hot around here.”
“Madam, take a look,” Glenn said, pushing a shock of red hair from his eyes. Glenn was only 14, but all the kids thought of him as the leader.
Lynn grabbed a handle on a huge white metal box and lifted it. Anita, Sally, and Alice peered in. Two bags of ice sat in a compartment on each end of the box. The middle section was stuffed with food and soda.
“The boys will be in charge of keeping the water drained and the ice replaced,” Father said, coming into the kitchen. “Mother will explain what’s expected of each of you. I have to go now,” he said.
Soon Sally heard the V-16 engine start up and speed away. Now where is Father going? she wondered.
“Alice and Grover will help me keep the dishes done up,” Mother said, pointing to the sink that consisted of two plastic bins on top of a table. A wooden cabinet perched on the back of the table held dishes. A long table with nine chairs completed the kitchen-dining area.
“Sally, you will be responsible for keeping the tent floors swept and the rugs shaken out. It’s important for everyone to rinse their feet in the tub of water that sits beside the door before entering the tent,” Mother said. “Bathrooms and showers are just at the head of the stairs on the bluff above us.
All seven kids poured from the tent into the sunshine. They threw themselves onto the sand.
“It’s going to be a long summer,” Anita moaned.
“Not long enough,” Bob said, looking out at the waves.”
“I’m not going to sit around and feel bad. I bet we can find pop bottles lying around,” Lynn said. “People leave them all over the beach.”
“They’re worth three cents each,” Glenn said.
“I’m taking a taxi to town to buy groceries,” Mother said, coming out of the tent and heading up the steps to the parking lot. Anita, please watch Alice and Grover.”
“Let’s draw some pictures,” Sally suggested. “I’ll get some supplies,” she said, running into the tent. When she came outside again, Anita had set up a folding table and several chairs. Soon everyone got busy drawing.
After a while Sally wandered down to the water’s edge. She watched the tiny bubbles in the mounds of foam cast up by waves burst around her feet. She waved at her brothers who screamed and leaped over waves just beyond her.
“He’s gone!” Anita screamed, running down the sand toward Sally. She had a tight hold on Alice’s hand. “He was here a minute ago!”
“What’s going on?” Glenn, Lynn, and Bob shouted, thrashing their way out of the surf and running up the beach.
“Grover’s gone!” Sally cried.
Glenn started shouting instructions. “Anita, go look out on the bluff. Maybe he headed up to the bathrooms.”
“Bob and Sally, search the shore to the right. Lynn and I will go left.”
Sally and Bob ran down the beach. Mother had sent her to school very young, so they were in the same class and did lots of things together. She liked the way he always looked after her.
Sally studied the water after each wave hit the beach and retreated. She dreaded what she might see. I hope he didn’t wander into the ocean and get caught by a wave, she thought. Her heart thumped, and tears trickled down her cheeks.
She stopped a woman who came down the beach. “Have you seen a little boy with thick curly hair?” she sobbed. “He’s my brother, and I can’t find him.”
“I haven’t seen him,” she said.
Sally and Bob headed back to the tent. The others already sat on the sand, talking about what to do next.
Before they could decide where to get help, a taxi appeared in the parking lot at the top of the stairs. Mother got out and headed toward the tent carrying two large bags.
“Where’s Grover?” Mother asked, walking up to the kids and looking at their tear-stained faces.
“We don’t know,” Anita said. She burst into tears.
“We searched everywhere,” Glenn explained. “I think we should go get help from the lifeguard.”
“Let’s go,” Mother agreed, putting the bags down.
“Look!” Sally screamed, pointing down the beach to her left. Everyone turned and stared. A small lump tumbled out of a retreating wave and lay still on the wet sand.