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How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer
By Taryn Souders
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Taryn Souders
All rights reserved.
Friday, June 11
Start Off with a Plan
Someone once told me that money can't buy happiness. They obviously never had to ride a baby bike to the first day of middle school.
My parents didn't think there was anything wrong with my existing bike, so they weren't going to shell out money for a new one before school started in the fall. Apparently they didn't realize that in middle school, once you've been labeled a "dork," you're stuck with that label. My dorkiness would come in the form of a hot-pink bicycle plastered with Dora the Explorer stickers. Definitely not a stellar way to debut my sixth-grade year. But the parents said if I wanted a new bike, I'd have to pay for it myself. And of course, the bike I had my heart set on, an Alpine Traverse, cost $385.00.
My best friends, Elenna and Jireh, didn't need new bikes, but they were obsessed with the idea of getting Zoo 'n' Yous. I couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial of giggling girls at a slumber party wrapped up in oversized blanket-pillow combinations that looked like animals. The pillow part of a Zoo 'n' You was shaped like an animal's head, and the attached blanket looked like fur. It even had sleeves to slip your arms into, so you could wear it like a robe — if you wanted the pillow hanging down your back. Personally, I found the whole concept bizarre and could think of a million other ways to spend $49.99 plus shipping and handling.
Either way, Elenna, Jireh, and I all needed money. The only way we could think to earn it was babysitting. The library offered a free babysitting class at the beginning of each summer. They taught CPR and everything, and the three of us had signed up right away.
My plan for summer was simple: make lots of money to buy a new bike.
That was it.
No summer school. No road trips. No awkward family reunions.
And definitely no camps on account of I'd heard they have tons of spiders. (I'm absolutely terrified of anything with eight legs. Actually, anything with more than two and you're asking for trouble. Animals are irritating, destructive, and smelly. And the problems snowball the more legs they have. By the time you get to eight, watch out world!)
My parent's plan, on the other hand, was to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary by taking a two-week-long Alaskan cruise ... alone.
They came into my bedroom one night while I was reading and handed me a letter.
Dear Chloe McCorkle,
Let me be the first to say we are looking forward to having you at Camp Minnehaha. Enclosed you will find a packing guide and other helpful information. Please take the time to read through the electives we offer and get ready for two weeks filled with fun and excitement!
My jaw dropped as my eyes darted back and forth between my parents and the letter.
"Umm ... I have other plans." I folded the letter and held it out to my mom.
Dad barked a laugh so loud I dropped the letter. Based on their responses, strategic negotiating was needed if I wanted to get my way. I could handle this like an adult — after all, I was going into middle school. I decided to use last year's lessons in Peer Mediation about handling conflict. I needed to A.C.T.
–Acknowledge the other person's feelings.
I cleared my throat. "I get that you're going on a cruise, and I need to be somewhere while you enjoy Arctic blasts of air and whale watching. This Camp Minnehaha, while I'm sure it's fascinating, doesn't really fit into my summer plans. Thanks for thinking of me though."
Mom raised one eyebrow and smiled with one side of her mouth — a look that directly translated to Think again.
Maybe reasoning would work.
"But now I'll never be able to get a new bike!"
"The bike you have is perfectly fine," Dad said.
"It's adorable!" Mom added.
Yeah — adorable if you're a DORK.
I tried reasoning again. "I would really like to take the babysitting class at the library with Elenna and Jireh. I can't do that if I'm not here."
"The library offers the class more than once, Chloe," Dad said. "You can take the babysitting class when you return."
It was time to resort to begging — it wasn't very adultlike, but it sometimes worked. I clasped my hands together in desperation. "But Elenna and Jireh are taking the first class," I whined. "Those two will get all the babysitting jobs for the summer."
Dad pulled a brochure from his shirt pocket and handed it to me.
I slowly took it from him and then read aloud, "Camp Minnehaha is a fun, educational, kid-approved career camp, surrounded by gently rolling hills and clear streams." I narrowed my eyes and cocked a brow. "What's a career camp?"
Dad tapped the brochure. "It's where you'll see what it's like to be a cake decorator, athlete, scientist, and veterinarian," he said. "You try them all out the first week, and the second week, you pick your favorite and spend the rest of the time exploring that career in depth."
"Sounds thrilling," I said. "You know animals and I don't get along and you want me to spend time pretending to be a veterinarian?"
When I was nine, my parents got me a hamster that I named What (because he always had an expression on his face like he was asking a question). Every time I picked him up, he'd pee on me and then bite my finger. After six months, he escaped from his cage and was never seen again. I couldn't even keep a hamster safe and healthy. I didn't need to go to some career camp to know I'd never be a vet.
This was horrible! It wasn't just the fact that going off to camp meant I couldn't hang with Elenna or Jireh. It also meant that when middle school started in the fall, I was going to be riding my baby bike. Put that together with my terrible hair problem, and I was going to be looking like the World's Biggest Dork.
My hair? Totally out of control. On a good day, I looked like an electrocuted lion. And if the humidity was extra high, I could be mistaken for Medusa. Mom always said I was beautiful, but moms are supposed to say nice things.
My hair I couldn't change, but my bike situation I could ... or at least I had hoped.
Dad looked at me sadly and moved toward my door. A dagger of guilt poked my conscience. I knew they signed me up for camp thinking I'd enjoy it. I hated disappointing them.
I glanced at the brochure. "Cake decorating, huh?" Ever since the show The Baker's Dozen aired on TV, I'd obsessed over every episode. Thirteen people would compete in decorating cupcakes for $5,000.
Mom joined Dad near my bedroom door, signaling the end of the family meeting. "Get some sleep, sweetie. In the morning, we'll go shopping for the things you'll need. You leave the day after tomorrow." She winked. "I'm so excited for you!"
I flipped through the camp brochure and paused at the "Cake Decorating" page.
A few weeks ago my friend Mrs. Peghiny, the owner of Peghiny's Ice Cream Parlor, had introduced her new ice cream flavor, Cupcake Confetti. She told me she also wanted to sell cupcakes at the parlor since the ice cream was sooooo popular. The only thing stopping her was she didn't have time.
A brilliant idea popped into my head. My forced exile to Camp Minnehaha just might work in my favor — as long as Mrs. Peghiny agreed to my plan.CHAPTER 2
Saturday, June 12
Leave Mr. Snuffles at Home
Saturday afternoon, Mom and I returned home with bags loaded with sunscreen, Bug-Me-Not, a flashlight, a ton of batteries, and every hair product that came in travel size.
As I laid my camp things on my bed to label them, Mom came in holding a turquoise leather-bound journal with silver-sequined dragonflies. She grinned and handed it to me. "I noticed you kept picking this up when we were at Murphy's Attic, so I bought it when you weren't looking."
I took it from her. "Cool. Thanks."
"You can use it to express your feelings. It will help you process things about separation anxiety or worries about middle school."
Processing emotions was a mega-big deal to Mom. Last week, she sat Jireh, Elenna, and me down for what she called a "here and now" to tell us it was healthy and normal to openly express our emotions. She'd overheard a small part of a conversation we'd had in the backyard. I'd said that "bottled" was the way to go, and they had both agreed. After the therapy session she put us through about how we shouldn't keep our feelings bottled up, she concluded with her usual lecture on hormones. I explained we were simply talking about canned sodas versus bottled sodas and which tasted better.
How awkward was that?
I touched one of the dragonflies on the cover of the journal, wondering how it would hold up shoved into my suitcase. "Do you think I should I take it to camp?"
We were about to start packing when Dad hollered something from the kitchen about the dishwasher spewing soap.
Mom rushed out the door.
As I plopped my suitcase on the bed and flipped it open, I glanced at the clock on my desk. If I hurried, I'd have plenty of time before dinner and after packing to make it down to Peghiny's Ice Cream Parlor.
I'd never packed for camp before, and the more items I placed into my suitcase, the faster my heart pounded. I'd been to sleepovers millions of times, but this was completely different.
I glanced at Mr. Snuffles, who was on my bed. I named him Mr. Snuffles after my favorite Sesame Street character, Mr. Snuffleupagus. He was a small, gray elephant who wore a T-shirt that said Someone in Colorado Loves Me. In his trunk, he held a red rose. My grandpa had given him to me for my third birthday, and he'd quickly become a favorite. After Grandpa died two years ago, I had treasured Mr. Snuffles even more.
Unfortunately, he no longer looked like a treasure.
He was dingy — even for a gray elephant. His head flopped to one side because no stuffing was left in his neck. Several places on his body were so worn that wisps of stuffing poked out. His T-shirt was ragged and sported spaghetti sauce stains from when I used to set him next to me at the dinner table. His eyes didn't even match. One of them had fallen off a long time ago, and Mom had sewed on a button to replace it — only it didn't look like the other eye at all.
Even though I loved him, he wasn't getting into my suitcase. I'd rather eat a full pan of Mom's meatloaf (which was gross) than be caught with Mr. Snuffles at camp.
He sat there, looking at me. His mismatched eyes seemed to be pleading, begging to come with me.
"I am not bringing you," I told him. "Everyone will think I'm a baby."
I tossed him onto my beanbag chair and threw a pillow over him. I didn't need a guilt trip from Mr. Snuffles.
Ten minutes later, I set my packed suitcase and sleeping bag next to my dresser.
Clothes — check.
Shower junk and hair-taming goops and gels — check.
No babyish stuffed animals — check.
Mom poked her head into my room. A blob of suds rested on the top of her head like a small tiara. "Dishwasher's on the fritz. The kitchen floor is covered in soap! Gonna grab more towels but wanted to check —" She stopped and raised an eyebrow at the sight of the packed suitcase.
"You seemed pretty busy, what with the dishwasher spewing bubbles, so I figured I'd go ahead and pack." I plopped into my beanbag chair (sitting on Mr. Snuffles), clasped my hands behind my head, and crossed my ankles. "It's all good. I used the list — and if I forgot anything, y'all can just turn the cruise ship around and bring it to me."
She smirked. "Ha-ha."
"Can I bike down to the ice cream parlor real quick? I want to say good-bye to Mrs. Peghiny."
Dad hollered again, and Mom glanced down the hall. "Be back in time for dinner — and don't fill up on a lot of ice cream."
* * *
After dinner that night, I pulled the new journal from my suitcase. I'd never had one before and I wasn't sure how to start "expressing myself."
Dear Paper Shrink,
In the end, I decided to just stick with the date and time.
Saturday, June 12
Mom got me this journal to "process feelings." I think she feels guilty for sending me off to camp.
Mom and Dad are making me go to Camp Minnehaha for two weeks while they go on a cruise. I am not about to let their Arctic adventure ruin my summer though.
I came up with a NEW plan!
This afternoon, I told Mrs. Peghiny about the cake decorating class at Camp Minnehaha. I suggested she could pay me to decorate her cupcakes —'cause I would be like a REAL cake decorator after camp. It took a little bit of convincing, but in the end, she said that if I took the class and did well, she'd try me out as her cupcake decorator! I bet I could even compete on Baker's Dozen after going to camp!
Plus, it will be way better than babysitting, duh!
Speaking of fun, Mom and Dad think the camp will be fun ... which is what adults always say when they actually have no idea what's going to happen.
I've hidden Mr. Snuffles — I'll really miss him, but I can't bring him. Because the only thing worse than MISSING Mr. Snuffles would be the way all the kids would laugh at me if they saw him!CHAPTER 3
Sunday, June 13
Watch Your Parents Drive Away
On the long drive to camp, I told Mom and Dad about my moneymaking plan. Dad said it was a good idea, and Mom said she liked the fact I was focusing on positive outcomes (she's always saying stuff like that).
"We're here," Dad said.
We turned off the county road onto a gravel drive and passed under a huge Welcome to Camp Minn haha sign. The fact that the e was missing and the sign now ended with "haha" was not encouraging.
The parking lot swarmed with boys and girls who looked my age or close to it, tugging and lugging suitcases and sleeping bags. Dad parked, and I dragged myself from the van to stretch my cramped muscles.
The scent of pine trees and sunscreen filled my nostrils. "I bet this is what Christmas in the tropics smells like." Then, a breeze brought the stench of sawdust and manure to us — what summer camp with barn animals smells like.
My mother spoke under her breath. "Oh my."
That didn't make me feel any better.
Where were the clear streams and the gently rolling hills? All around me were what looked like mountains. The mere thought of hiking up and down them made my legs ache. But Camp Minnehaha was my ticket to non-dorkiness. Stay focused, Chloe!
At the top step of the registration office — actually it said Reg st ation Off ce — perched a woman just under five feet tall and just over three feet wide. She greeted the campers and parents grouping near her. "Welcome, welcome, welcome! Hello, hello, hello!" She could give Mrs. Claus a run for her money when it came to both size and cheeriness. Dressed in khaki from head to toe, she looked prepared to go on safari. Wire-rimmed glasses balanced on the tip of her nose. "I'm Director Mudwimple."
She barreled down the three rickety steps toward us, amazingly fast for someone her size. I hoped she wouldn't gain too much speed and run into me. She grabbed my hand and shook it in a two-handed, crushing grip before she moved onto the next person in her path, talking nonstop. "If you have any medications, just leave them in the nurse's office. Also, you'll need to fill out some medical forms, waivers, that sort of thing. The registration office is just behind me, and they'll give you your cabin assignments, career information sheets, and the daily schedule. Orientation is at three o'clock, and here is a map of the camp." She'd circled back around to where I stood, shoved a map into my hands, and took a deep breath before starting in again on her well-rehearsed welcome speech. I couldn't listen as fast as she could talk.
Despite the shade of the pine trees, the afternoon sun toasted me like a marshmallow. Wavy lines of heat rose from the tops of cars, and beads of sweat trickled down my back. I wriggled my shoulders in irritation. Folding the map Director Mudwimple gave me into a fan, I waved the tropical Christmas–smelly barn breeze toward my face, and we walked inside the Reg st ation Off ce.
A ginormous stone fireplace stood in the center of the air-conditioned room. Couches and armchairs were scattered around in small groupings, like tiny living rooms all set up in one giant space. Kind of like pictures of log cabins I'd seen in Mom's home-decorating magazines. My eyes followed the stones up the tall fireplace but stopped at the sight of three mounted heads. A deer, a boar, and ... wait for it ... a llama, stared back at me from the fireplace's stone wall. The llama's long neck stretched out over the hearth, its ears pointed forward. And in spite of the glassy stare in its eyes, it looked alert. Cake decorating or not, camp was creepy.
Excerpted from How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders. Copyright © 2016 Taryn Souders. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Friday, June 11: Start Off with a Plan,
Saturday, June 12: Leave Mr. Snuffles at Home,
Sunday, June 13: Watch Your Parents Drive Away,
Sunday, June 13: Get Run over by a Goat,
Sunday, June 13: Leave Pine Needles in Your Hair,
Sunday, June 13: Visit the Funny Farm,
Monday, June 14: Startle His Royal Highness,
Monday, June 14: Put Victoria in Charge,
Monday, June 14: Delight in Flushing Toilets,
Monday, June 14: Open Personal Mail in a Public Area,
Wednesday, June 16: Throw a Chicken,
Friday, June 18: Assume Sign-Ups Will Be a Piece of Cake,
Saturday, June 19: Make a Mess in the Mess Hall,
Saturday, June 19: Throw a Pity Party,
Saturday, June 19: Chuck It and Hope for the Best,
Saturday, June 19: Entertain a Trade,
Saturday, June 19: Steal a Pair of Underwear,
Sunday, June 20: Forget to Lock the Gate,
Sunday, June 20: Row, Row, Row Your Goat,
Sunday, June 20: Put a Plan into Action,
Monday, June 21: Let Victoria Take a Walk in the Woods,
Monday, June 21: Start a Food Fight,
Thursday, June 24: Pour Yourself a Glass of Sea Monkeys,
Thursday, June 24: Roll, Roll, Roll Your Goat,
Friday, June 25: Swallow Some Shower Gel,
Friday, June 25: Presume Everything Will Be Fine,
Friday, June 25: Sacrifice a Dream,
Friday, June 25: Get Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place,
Friday, June 25: Make a Truce,
Saturday, June 26: Try Not to Be a Dork,
About the Author,