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Ben, King of the River
By David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2001 David Gifaldi
All rights reserved.
I can't wait! Our first family camping trip! I hope Ben doesn't ruin it.
Ben is my brother. He's five ... and different. Mom says he has a developmental disability. He was born that way. He was born with other problems, too, which is why he's had four operations so far. Mom says Ben's a fierce fighter. He is. But he also has diaper blowouts, allergies, and doesn't like new things.
That's why I'm worried
I read Ben his ABC books on the way out of town. When it's time to recite, he gets to G okay. Then skips to L-M-P and Q-R-Z.
"No," I say.
"NO!" he says, throwing the book on the floor.
"Mom, Ben's being difficult," I say.
Ben covers his upper lie with his tongue. Then reaches over to give me a hug.
Even though he's five, Ben still wears diapers. He's working on using the toilet, but he needs practice.
Inside the rest area stall, Ben giggles as Dad tickles his feet and makes grunting noises to get him in the mood. Hearing Dad make bathroom sounds is funny. I have to laugh.
"You got any better ideas?" he asks.
I sure don't.
"Chad!" Ben says, spreading his arms for a hug.
"Gee," I say. "He even has to hug on the toilet."
The campground is great. Much better than the pictures in the brochure. We pull into site 14, close to the river. "Can we go for a hike now?" I ask.
Of course we can't. There's a ton of stuff to do first. Mom cleans the picnic table and sets up lunch while I help Dad with the tent. Ben's way of helping is to charge inside before the tent is even up.
"Video," he says before long.
"Campers don't watch videos," Dad says.
I pick up a pine cone. "Look at all these," I say. "You can line them up like racecars."
"No!" he says.
"No, yourself," I say.
I feel like a real trailblazer after lunch when we hike the river trail. My nose goes crazy taking in all the sweet smells coming from the trees and needles and wildflowers. We see a blue heron and two kingfishers. After a while, Ben starts whining and asking for a video.
"Don't you want to go to the waterfall?" I say.
"No," he says.
When a bug flies around his head, he screams, pulling his arms and shoulders in like he does to protect himself.
"It's just a bug," I say.
"Maybe I'd better take him back," Mom says.
"Baby," I say under my breath.
Dad and I hike on till we come to a footbridge that overlooks a waterfall. It has a great name—Wizard Falls. We look hard to figure out why. Then I see it. "Look at the shape of the white water, Dad— up above. A wizard's hat!"
A lady with a dog asks if we'd like a picture together. Dad gives her his camera. The dog comes right up to me, jumping up and licking my face.
"You must be a dog-lover," the lady says.
"I'd like to have one," I say.
"Hear that, Dad," she says.
Dad nods, but we both know Ben is allergic to dogs.
Ben is in his swimsuit when we get back. "He's been waiting patiently," Mom says.
Dad and I change and the four of us go to where there's a beach area with people swimming. Ben runs right in up to his knees, then turns around with his arms raised high like he's King of the River.
The water is freezing cold, but Ben doesn't mind. He sits down, water lapping his chest, and plays with the stones and stuff on the bottom. Dad takes a dip and runs, howling for his towel.
Excerpted from Ben, King of the River by David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson. Copyright © 2001 David Gifaldi. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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