A storm is coming. Mr. Crosby, the Scout Master, turns up the radio and yells over the weatherman for everyone to start packing up. His son Jerry is helping him pull up tent stakes. The camp fire hisses. Lanterns go out. Still, boys mess around. The ones just back from the lake snap towels at each other’s butts. Other boys play cards, betting with loose change. Some boys pretend they’re at a party. They dance and chug soda and wave their shirts in the air.
I’m pulling poles from my tent, trying to decide which group I would join if Mamma hadn’t come camping with us. She’s packing the car. Her headlights light up the campsite. I pretend not to hear her yelling, rushing me to hurry. They shouldn’t have let her come. She’s not a Scout Leader. Jerry, his son, never gets to mess around either, but I don’t think he wants to. He’s spends all his free time reading, or else he’s working on badges. He’s not even old enough to drive, and he’s almost Eagle.
Earlier today, when we were fishing, Mr. Crosby put Jerry in charge and went in the woods to pee. Two boys stripped Jerry and pushed him into the water. When Mr. Crosby came back, and everyone started saying Jerry took off his clothes and jumped in, I didn’t say anything.
Mr. Crosby put his hands on his hips. “Jerry,” he said. “Don’t lie. Lying only makes it worse.”
Jerry turned to me. “You know I didn’t jump. Tell him.”
Even though the ground was rocking and it seemed like all the fish would jump out of the water, I fibbed. I said Jerry jumped.
Lightning strikes, Jerry screams. There’s several cracks of thunder. Boys start undoing their tents. By the time Mamma and me have everything in the car, the storm’s here, spitting rain sideways and blowing everyone and everything around. I get in the car. She puts on a bright yellow poncho and goes to help the other boys. Jerry jumps into the backseat with me, getting the seats all wet.
He’s holding his arm, gasping.
“The wind,” he says. “Picked up my tent. When I was working on it. Dropped me. My arm, I think it’s broken.”
“Don’t apologize, not for that.”
“Then what are you apologizing for?”
The yellow shape of Mamma rushes by.
“I—I’m sorry I said you jumped in the lake.”
He must’ve not closed his door all the way because it swings open. He reaches for the handle. The rain’s loud. The fire’s out. In the darkness are the shadows of boys running back and forth. Tents flip. Jerry cries for his dad. Makes me remember all the times I screamed for Mamma. All the times I acted like a child. Lost in the grocery store or mall or on the beach, crying, until one of the legs going by stopped and bent and someone helped me find her. I push him.