How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer (13 page)

BOOK: How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer
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Friday, June 25

Sacrifice a Dream

Water streamed from Pogo's hair and pooled on the floor. “I went to the barn to put his collar back on and he wasn't there. And I can't find Doc.”

Another crash of thunder reverberated through the mess hall.

“Maybe Doc and King Arthur are together,” I said hopefully.

Pogo shook her head and sent a spray of water over the table. “No, he said King Arthur would be in his pen so that I could put the collar back on him.”

My lesson with Ms. Jacqueline was scheduled to start in just a few minutes. Her words, “It is the only time I have. You mustn't be late,” ping-ponged around my head.

“He's an animal,” I said. “They're okay in the rain. He'll find shelter.”

Pogo gave me a disappointed look.

I gave her a glare.

Great. He had to get out tonight of all nights. Now I wasn't going to learn how to decorate cupcakes, and I wasn't going to be able to work for Mrs. Peghiny, and I wasn't going to be able to earn money to buy a new bike. All because of that stupid goat.

Something hit the roof of the mess hall.

A tree branch?

King Arthur was alone in the storm—and probably frightened. He was my responsibility even if he was a stupid goat, and he could get hurt.

I groaned. Why did that goat never listen to me?

“Let's go,” I said.

Rain drenched my hair the moment I sprinted down the mess hall steps. A thunderous boom shook the windows behind us. Even though it was summer, the wind felt cold. The sky had grown even darker. It wasn't pitch-black, but I wished I had my flashlight.

We raced back to the barn. I held a tiny hope that Pogo was wrong. Maybe she had overlooked him. After all, Doc had moved King Arthur to a different stall.

“Doc!” Pogo said. “Are you here?”

I ran past every stall, checking for King Arthur.

Horse.

Horse.

Horse.

Llama.

Horse.

Cow.

No goat.

“Where should we look?” Pogo asked.

“Let's split up.” I motioned to the tracking collar Pogo held in her hand. “That works, right?”

“Unless the storm has taken out the cell towers.”

“We'll chance it.” I grabbed it from her and put it on myself like a necklace. “This way at least we won't lose each other. If I find him, I'll stay put and you come to us. If you find him, you come get me. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“I'll check around the mess hall, the cake kitchen, and the lake. You take the area near the cabins, the sports field, and science lab,” I said as we headed out.

Pogo disappeared into the storm.

A gust of wind sprayed me with leaves and rain, and the dirt trail to the mess hall had transformed into a muddy glop.

I dashed around to Mess Hall Hill. A flash of lightning spiderwebbed across the sky. Trees waved back and forth in the wind, and I prayed a tornado wasn't coming. The wind was blowing the rain horizontally now, and the camp speakers sounded the alarm for bad weather. I didn't care—I had to find King Arthur.

I slipped and slid down the steep drop toward the cake kitchen and lake. Canoes rocked back and forth in the water. Weird. The canoes were always beached on the sand at the end of each day. Why were they in the water? Unless…

I remembered Director Mudwimple said something the first day of camp about the creek bed normally being real low…unless it stormed. All the watershed from Mess Hall Hill would funnel down the ravine and fill the creek. The creek water drained into the lake. If the canoes were floating, it was because the ravine was filling with water.

I sprinted toward the sidewalk leading up to the mess hall. Another flash of lightning gave me a momentary view of the hilltop. Someone was up there, but who?

Then, through the downpour, I spied Victoria gripping a paisley umbrella that had been blown inside out by the wind.

She dodged around the corner of the mess hall. What was she doing? No one would be out in this storm unless they absolutely had to be.

I followed her as she darted behind the storage shed. The wooden fence that separated level ground from the ravine drop-off seemed to be her target. She knelt by a post.

“What are you doing out here?” I hollered as I ran up to her.

Victoria held a chewed lead rope in one hand. The other end was looped over the top of the fence post.

“I don't understand. He's supposed to be right here,” she stammered. “This is where I—”

A crash of thunder drowned out the rest of her words.

“What have you done?”

Her face had gone white. “This is where I left him.”

Friday, June 25

Get Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place

“You took King Arthur from his stall? He's terrified of storms!” I said.

She started blathering on. I could barely hear her over the storm “…everyone stays away from the ravine…I figured…good place to hide him.”

“The ravine!” What if he fell into the ravine?

Thunder crashed around us. Victoria jumped and grabbed my arm.

I shook her off and ran toward the ravine. The normally dry streambed was filling with the runoff. Branches and leaves raced toward Lake Minnehaha.

Another flash of lightning in the black sky revealed something white in the water.

King Arthur.

He stood in the middle of the river, leaning against a boulder. The water was at his knees, moving fast and rising. The boulder was the only thing keeping him from being swept away. I couldn't hear him over the sound of the pouring rain or thunder, but I saw his small mouth open and shut, bleating for help. If he fainted, he might drown before I could get to him.

I turned to Victoria. “There's a rescue ring with a throw line down at the pier. Hurry!”

Victoria ran toward the lake and I slid down the steep slope of the ravine and into the muddy river. It came up to midcalf on me, and with King Arthur's small frame, it would soon be deadly. The current was powerful and I struggled to keep my feet under me.

“It's okay, buddy,” I called to him. “Just keep your head up. I'm coming for you.”

There was a huge thunderclap, and that was all he could take. He fainted.

I grabbed him as he slipped under. Trying to lift him up higher, I gave him a tug, but he was stuck. I plunged my arm into the water and felt a large rock wedging one of his legs against the boulder.

King Arthur shook his head and began bleating like crazy.

I tried to pick the rock up but couldn't. It was too hard to keep hold of the goat and reach down into swift water. The current kept threatening to push me over.

I searched the top of the ravine.

Where was Victoria?

King Arthur frantically reared up.

I jumped back, away from his horns. “Easy, boy.”

A floating branch smacked the back of my calf. I grabbed it and shoved it into the water and under the rock and pushed down. The rock moved…but then—

The branch snapped.

“No!” I screamed, and I hurled the top part of the branch away. I grasped the shorter piece that was still wedged under the rock and tried again, pushing with all my strength. Cold water swirled around my fingers. King Arthur jerked his head up, and the tip of a horn smacked me in the mouth.

Ouch! I let go of the branch and grabbed my mouth. I tasted blood.

The water was now at his neck.

I didn't have much time.

Tears mixed with rain on my face. “We can do this, buddy.” I rubbed his head. “I'm going to push on that stick and you have to pull your leg out.”

“I'm back,” Victoria hollered. She held up the rescue ring. It was attached to several yards of throw line.

“Tie the end around that tree.” I pointed.

She tied it off and threw me the ring.

I caught it and slipped my head and one arm through it. “Come and help me push down on this stick! We've got to free his leg!”

She looked wide-eyed at the river and shook her head.

“Please, Victoria! Just hold on to the rope.” I begged. “I can't do it by myself!”

King Arthur bleated.

Victoria looked at him, and gripping the rope for dear life, she stepped into the water.

I turned back to King Arthur. “Okay, buddy, we're getting you outta here. But I'm going to need your help too. Doc told me you're supersmart, so I'm going to give some instructions I need you to follow. I'm going to try once more to lift this rock, and when I do, you gotta move your leg. Otherwise, you won't be around to ram any more campers.” My voice broke. We had to save him.

Victoria made it out to us.

“I've got part of the stick jammed under the rock that's trapping him. We gotta push down on it at the same time,” I said.

She nodded and placed her hands next to mine.

I looked at her. “One…two…three!”

The branch shook as our combined weight pushed down on it. I prayed it wouldn't break.

Suddenly the rock shifted and King Arthur's leg jerked up.

“We did it!” Victoria yelled.

I wrapped my arms around King Arthur. “I've got you.” His heart threatened to beat right out of his chest.

Victoria tugged on my shoulder. “We got to get out of this water.”

I nodded and wiggled the life ring down to my waist. “I'll hold him while you pull us.”

Victoria pulled her way back to shore with the rope. Then she began tugging us in.

It wasn't easy with rushing water trying to sweep my feet out from under me and a terrified goat wiggling in my arms.

I slipped as I scrambled up the muddy bank but rolled to the side so I wouldn't squish King Arthur. Victoria dropped the rope and fell down next to us.

In the darkness, covered in mud, leaves, and twigs, I lay on the bank, next to King Arthur and Victoria. We were all three exhausted.

After a couple moments, I realized that the rain had become a steady sprinkle instead of a downpour, and the thunder had stopped. I rubbed King Arthur's head and plucked a wet leaf off one of his horns. “If he could talk, he'd probably apologize for the vomit in your suitcase this morning.”

Victoria let out a small laugh.

I pulled the tracking collar off my neck, hoping it hadn't gotten ruined by the water, and put it around King Arthur's neck, where it belonged.

“I'll go up to the mess hall. Maybe someone's there who can help us,” Victoria said.

“I'll stay with King Arthur.”

I leaned back next to him. His body quivered. I didn't know if it was because he was cold or scared. I held his face in my hands. “You're filthy,” I said. “All that time grooming you? Down the tubes—or down the river in this case.” I rubbed his nose. “Oh well. I'd rather show Mom and Dad a dirty goat than a dead one.”

He nibbled the life ring.

I glanced after Victoria. How many other times had she let him out? More than once. Of that I was positive.

A powerful beam of light blinded me.

“Chloe!”

I stood and waved. “We're over here!” I yelled. “King Arthur's hurt!”

Two beams of light jostled down to where I stood—Pogo and Director Mudwimple holding flashlights.

Mudwimple squeezed any river water I had in me out with her strong hug. “Oh, dear heart, we've found you! You had us frightened to death.”

Doc and Ms. Jacqueline and Victoria ran up.

I pointed to King Arthur. “His leg is hurt.”

“What happened?” Doc asked, bending down to examine Arthur's leg.

I looked at Victoria. She stared at the ground and hunched her shoulders like she was trying to become invisible.

Way to claim it, Victoria.

I sighed. “He was wedged between that boulder and a rock.” I knelt beside Doc, who was running his hands over King Arthur. “Will he be okay?”

“I don't feel any broken bones. And he's acting normal.” Doc pointed to the life ring King Arthur was snacking away on. “But I'll want to do a thorough examination back at the barn.”

I saw a bloody bandage taped to Doc's forehead when he stood. “What happened to your head, Doc?”

“A gust of wind and the paddock door. It looks worse than it is.”

Ms. Jacqueline held Doc's hand and moved in closer to him.

“I found him,” Pogo said. “And helped him to the nurse's cabin. While we were there, I noticed your signal wasn't moving.” She waved the phone at me. “Figured you'd found King Arthur. So we headed over this way and Victoria waved us down.”

Director Mudwimple draped one chubby arm across my shoulders and another across Victoria's and she pulled us in. “I am so glad you girls are safe.”

Then she leaned over and scooped King Arthur up. “This guy can catch a ride back to the barn with us in the golf cart.”

Friday, June 25

Make a Truce

King Arthur, Pogo, and I sat in the back of the mega-golf cart. Victoria rode up front with Director Mudwimple, talking about who knows what. Doc and Ms. Jacqueline held hands and leaned against each other in the middle seats. We dropped the two lovebirds off at the nurse's station, and Director Mudwimple let Victoria get out at our cabin. Then the rest of us headed for the barn.

Once there, Director Mudwimple and I added extra wood shavings for King Arthur to sleep on, while Pogo secured any doors, gates, mouse holes, or cracks that he might possibly get through. I was confident he wouldn't be going anywhere though.

“Can I stay with him tonight?” I asked Director Mudwimple.

She chuckled and shook her head. “No, my dear. You need your sleep too. I know you're concerned about him, but he's fine.” She pulled me in for another bear hug. “Thank you for saving his life, but don't ever scare me like that again.”

“I promise I won't,” I said. “But only if he keeps his part of the bargain and doesn't go into any ravines during storms.”

“Naaaa,” bleated King Arthur.

“Are you agreeing with me?” I asked him.

I could've sworn I saw him wink.

• • •

Victoria was sitting on the porch steps when Director Mudwimple dropped Pogo and me off at the cabin.

I was surprised she wasn't inside, showering and using up all the hot water. My jaw tightened.

“I'm going inside,” Pogo said, climbing the stairs. She pulled her shirt away from her body and took a whiff. “Whew! I need a shower.”

“Catch ya later,” I said.

I stood, waiting for Victoria to say something.

She held my stare but squirmed. I didn't care if she felt uncomfortable. Even though she helped rescue King Arthur, I was still pretty miffed she hadn't coughed up the truth back at the ravine.

She cleared her throat. “I didn't mean for King Arthur to get hurt. I just wanted you to be embarrassed—like I was this morning.” She swiped a lock of wet hair behind her ear. “It'd be pretty bad if all you had to show your parents tomorrow was an empty stall.” She sighed. “So I took him. Tomorrow I would have ‘found' your missing goat and been the hero,
for once
. Then the storm got bad, so I figured I'd better put him back—but he'd eaten through the rope, obviously.”

“Yeah, he does stuff like that.”
But that's not news to you.

Victoria stood. “Are you going to tell on me?”

“He could have died,” I said.

“I know.”

“But he didn't.”

She gave me a nod. Truce.

Friday, June 25

9:26 p.m.

Holy cow—what a night!!

The whole camp could've seen me drenched with river water, covered in dirt and leaves, and clinging to a half-drowned goat tonight, and I WOULDN'T CARE!!!!!!

Because all that really matters is that King Arthur didn't die.

Even when
Nath
n
saw King Arthur and me (with a busted lip) in the back of the golf cart soaking wet and dirty, it didn't bother me.
Nath
n
looked concerned at first (because of my lip?), but then he laughed when he saw King Arthur—but it was more like a “Cool! The goat is riding in a golf cart” laugh.

If anyone had told me I'd be rescuing a goat alongside my sworn enemy, I'd tell them that octopuses have toes! I guess she's my ex-sworn enemy. I'm NOT SAYING we're friends—we've just more or less called a truce.

I feel a little sorry for Victoria. I know she's angry for always being compared to JT. She never gets to be a hero. She caused all the trouble tonight, but if she hadn't pulled herself together and helped me, King Arthur would have died. I guess that kind of makes her a hero.

Poor King Arthur—if Victoria comes back next year, I bet he'll faint from fear the minute he sees her!

Pogo is sooooo happy that her crazy, amazing tracking device worked! Her dad's gonna be amazed too, I bet!

I can't wait to show Mom and Dad the barn—and not just King Arthur but all the animals. I'll need to give His Highness another bath and brush him out before they see him, but's that's okay.

Good night—I'm exhausted!

PS Doc and Ms. Jacqueline are totally gaga for each other. It's pretty obvious.

PPS I'm pretty sure King Arthur has eaten more flotation devices than what's considered healthy—even for a goat.

PPPS My lip hurts—I hope it doesn't look too ugly in the morning!

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