By Christina Dotson
“Giant puffball. Found in open areas. Edible.”
“Yep.” Rachel nodded at my answer and turned to the next page in the mushroom book.
“That’s a morel,” Andy said. “Also edible. Some people like to pickle them.”
“Eeew! Pickled mushrooms?” Jaimi exclaimed. “We’re not really going to eat these, are we?”
“I don’t believe I would feel comfortable consuming anything you guys identified,” my brother Tony put in.
“Anyway, we’d have to find the mushrooms, first,” I said, gazing wistfully out the window of the school lunchroom. “And if this rain doesn’t stop, we’ll never even make it outside.”
“An entire Sunday wasted,” Andy sighed.
“I’m OK with that,” said Tony. “I didn’t want to go mushroom hunting, anyway. All that tramping around—”
“We know,” I interrupted quickly. “You don’t like the outdoors.”
“Correction,” Tony said. “The outdoors does not like me.”
“What do you mean?” Jaimi asked.
“Noooo!” Andy, Rachel, and I groaned in unison.
“Now he’s going to tell us!” I exclaimed.
“Again!” Rachel added.
Tony ignored us. “I’m glad you asked, Jaimi,” he said. “I have many examples to support the hypothesis that the world outdoors is holding a personal grudge against me. Perhaps the most pertinent example would be the story of the first time I went camping with this very Pathfinder club.”
“Not the honey story again,” I groaned.
Andy banged his head on the table in frustration.
“I was 9 years old,” Tony began, “and the people running our Pathfinder club used their powers of leadership—or should I say abused their power—to convince me that it would be enjoyable to camp outdoors in the middle of winter.”
“It’s called Polar Bearing,” I told Jaimi, “and we do it all the time.”
“I do not,” Tony corrected, “due to the harrowing experiences encountered during my first mid-winter camping excursion.”
“Look, if you’re going to tell this story, could you at least tell it in English?” Andy begged.
“So there I was,” Tony went on, “a mere youth, young and impressionable, blissfully ignorant, ready to embark on my very first camping expedition in my new coat, hat, gloves, and boots.”
“He’s starting from the beginning,” Rachel whispered. “This is going to take all day.”
“We arrived at the camp site,” Tony continued. “At least, I thought it was the camp site. I soon found that I was mistaken. It turned out that we were forced to park the car 11 miles from the actual campsite. We were expected to hike the remaining distance to the cabin.”
“One mile,” I corrected. “Two at the most.”
“By the time we had finished hiking the rugged terrain, my nose and ears were well on their way to developing frostbite, and my feet were bleeding,”
“You shouldn’t have worn new boots,” Andy said.
“That’s when I got my first look at the place where we would be staying. I had been promised a solidly-built cabin with a warm wood stove. What I encountered was a shack that appeared to be sliding off the edge of a hill. One strong wind was going to bring that thing tumbling down upon us, crushing us in our sleep!”
“And yet, somehow, it’s still standing today,” I said.
“Shhhh,” said Jaimi. “I want to hear the story.”
“All right, listen up, kids!” Our pastor stood at the head of the room and addressed us as if we were a large group instead of five friends huddled around a table. “Clearly the rain isn’t going to quit today, so we’re sending everybody home. Tony and Chrissy, your mom is already here to pick you up.”
“Awww!” Jaimi groaned. “You haven’t even told me the part about the honey.”
“Nor have I told you the part where I got set on fire,” Tony added. “But not to worry, I’ll tell you all about it at our next meeting.”
“We’re on pins and needles,” I said, rolling my eyes.
The next chapter will be posted online Thursday evening, March 21!
Read the main story, “Anything Can Happen,” each week in Guide!