Sizzling sounds escaped from a frying pan on their Coleman stove. The scent of bacon and eggs stirred sleepy bodies into movement.
"Oohs” and “Aahs" drifted from sleeping bags and the air suddenly filled with activity. After sliding into jeans and warm pullovers, Walt and Susan poked their heads from the trailer. The air was crisp and allowed their breaths to float as misty clouds with words descending on mom and dad.
"Yikes!! It's freezing!!" punctuated the stillness of the woods. Years later they would cherish the delicious recipe of such a morning.
The children had little time for speaking any further. Their parents were smiling as they waited with breakfast, nodding at each sleepy-eyed child with a bright, “Hi kids. Have a good snooze?”
Walt and Susan were so famished they could barely speak. Hunger was slaked, by placing this delicious breakfast into hungry tummies. Now, they felt alive again and able to join the human race.
"Mom, you're the greatest," came first from Walt.
Lean and agile, young and spry Anne thought as she gazed fondly at her boy turning into a man. She remembered his nights of sleepwalking and tortured dreams he later shared with her, not so long ago. Of wild animals chasing him up a tree and once he was sure a bear was crunching his bones.
A story of fear from her little boy was hard on a mother who had such an abundance of love. Now look at him, pajama bottoms overlapping the waistline of his jeans, a tee shirt flapping loosely over bony shoulders. But his blue eyes were penetrating and full of life.
“Go get a jacket or a sweater on,” she said.
Anne turned to gather in the view of her youngest. Susan was prepared for the cool morning with her heavy pullover and track pants. She was busy dipping toast in the egg yolk.
"Yum...yum" was her signal for more. Anne accommodated her.
And Larry also sat quietly soaking up the atmosphere, his meal untouched. Anne knew weighty thoughts clambered for attention. She blew him a kiss and he rewarded her with a grin, giving a thumbs-up.
It was noticed by the children, their faces growing wider as they joined the family circle with their own thumbs up. This was the first day of a well-deserved holiday. It was just as Anne planned, family and fun. Now here they were. She stretched with satisfaction on the lawn chair, listening to tidbits of conversation. Words rose above morning's heavy dew. Her smile overcame the eerie mist that caroused with an early sun as the yolk of bright yellow stretched across an eastern horizon.
"Look! Way over there, loons!"
"No, they're ducks," said Susan.
"Dad? Aren't they loons?" Walt shaded his eyes with both hands, hoping he was right.
"I think they are ducks," his sister insisted.
Anne knew Larry was the outdoors man, the wise one.
"Their flapping is too quick. Besides loons only travel in pairs." He shrugged his shoulders at Walt. "Sorry."
Sounds from far off were now distinguishable. They were ducks.
"Aren't there any loons around?" Walt persisted. He wanted to learn everything he could about the outdoors. It had taken more than a few trips into the woods to get over his fear of the unknown. He now knew no animal was interested in ripping off his flesh. Although he still wasn't allowed to watch scary TV programs. Larry coming into his life had helped settle the boy down and now Walt really enjoyed the outdoors.
"Do you know how to imitate a loon, dad?" Walt asked.
"No, but I promise you'll hear them later, for sure, tonight. Then you'll have the privilege of listening to the most beautiful sounds in the woods."
Walt nodded. Whatever dad promised came to be. And he always held his dad to it too.
In the meantime Anne was making her way to the beach. The family seemed to be adjusting well to each other, especially being in such close proximity. Especially since the trailer was not very spacious.
Back home there was, too often, word fencing between the children, each jealous of any attention the other received. Here they seemed to accept limited living space while learning to enjoy the outdoors. After all they were a fair distance from any town, or other human contact. Unnecessary competition was not part of the agenda.
Their campsite was ideal, with much needed privacy. No other campers had come by perhaps because the condition of the campground was not encouraging for visitors. Besides, the owner Mrs. Cipek preferred to keep to herself. The few short visits made by the Reynolds family to say hello were rebuffed. It was probably well enough to leave her alone.
Anne shifted her gaze towards the carefree 'shush' of waves, slapping quietly yet forcefully against the rocky shore. Looking back towards the campsite she noticed their hardtop trailer was almost hidden from sight. She knew the children were in safe hands with Larry.
They promised each other back at the house to make sure one adult would always be with the children. After all, this was the wild forest. No sense worrying, but you never know what might saunter by.
Their camper was set up approximately fifteen feet from the dining room tent and close to the water. This allowed them to be handy to what passed for a beach. At the same time they were able to take advantage of the refreshing breezes. Anne learned from Larry that black flies did not like the wind, which was fine with her. Fly repellent was available, just in case.
It felt good to be here, almost in isolation, as if they were the only people left in civilization.
Anne slipped quietly from the chattering and the cacophony of receding voices. She tightened the sweater thrown over her shoulders and waded through ferns grasping at her jeans. She felt comfortable here. It was so peaceful. Her family appeared quite content, enjoying their escape from the hubbub of Truro.
It almost seemed the ‘ups and downs’ of looking for Danny was a distant dream. In fact, it was more like a distant memory. This was a time to be selfish and forget about the boy. If he didn't want to meet them or be part of their lives, then so be it. As the movie said, “Hasta la vista, baby.”
She could feel the aroma from the trees stroking her senses. Anne had come to enjoy the elements of nature she knew Larry needed regularly. It was his escape. And now, finally, all of them were here, together.
Well, not quite. Roy wasn't here. A real shame, she thought. He too loved the outdoors.
She closed her eyes and saw his freckled face. If only he wasn't so hurt and disappointed about the breakup. She wished he were here right now, looking across the lake with his mom. Anne wished she could remind him how much she loved him. She hadn't had much of a chance to tell him lately.
Maybe Roy' father would bring him for a short visit; perhaps stay long enough for a swim. Or join them at a campfire, with hotdogs and marshmallows. He'd like that. He's almost like Danny, a missing part of the family. She wondered what both of them were doing this very minute.
Watching from the shore she saw what looked like a collection of rocks spread out upon the surface of Economy Lake.
"It's really an island, dear."
At first Larry’s voice startled her. But his warm embrace from behind was soothing. Strong arms wrapped around her, and his soft kiss on her neck took away any shivers she had picked up standing alone.
"Remember last summer? I promised to take Walt camping on a little island, someday. Well, you're looking at it.” Mrs. Cipek told me it used to be occupied by an old trapper who spent the winter there. He must have been a recluse---"
"Or a fool," Anne interrupted. “Who would want to live on that speck of land?”
"Mrs. Cipek says it’s much larger than seen from here. Apparently he used to have his food flown in. It was way before the gravel highway was built alongside this lake.” He smiled as he kissed her, “Just thought I'd throw in a bit of history."
"I still find it hard to believe anyone would want to live on that little piece of rock. Is it really an island?" Anne asked.
"Yes. From here it does look tiny, especially with the mist obscuring the view. But up close it's large enough for a whole family of tents and really great to camp on. That is, according to Mrs. Cipek. Actually what you see can easily fool you. Her topographical map shows a second much larger island right behind it.
I can't see it from here. Want to try a little overnight there? I've got our pup tent, for just the two of us. Sound great?"
"No way, I'm perfectly happy with the nice comfortable beds in the trailer. Thank you very much; besides, what about the kids?"
"They're old enough to survive one night by themselves," Larry said, arching his eyebrow. “In fact they’re alone right now.”
"You're a real tease. And I am tempted."
"Maybe we could all jump in the canoes and explore the shoreline around the islands. It's probably a mile around," he said.
Then reality set in. From across the air the sound of another disagreement---
"Mommm!! Susan won't give me any more toast. Come on, just one more."
"You already had six, that's too much. Mommm! Walt is being a big piggy!"
Anne moved gracefully, if you would call it that, pushing away a few willows. They whipped and pulled at her sweater. “The great outdoors brings out the best in people,” she laughed, heading towards the commotion. What a family, she chuckled. Two of her children were squabbling nearby. Another stubborn one lived in Halifax and a phantom one recently ran away from a perfectly good foster home.
"Okay. What's the story?" she asked. It was hard not to laugh out loud, watching Susan and Walt making faces at each other. "I wonder who's got the longest tongue?" she asked. "Now if only I had a ruler." The children got the message. They closed their mouths and scooted off together. Maybe this was the right time to have a contest skipping flat stones across the lake.
Anne spent the next while focusing on how to enjoy their week together at this isolated campsite. Mrs. Cipek thoughtfully had the campsite grass mowed and the land tidied up. It was also kind of her to give permission for the Reynolds’s to camp so close to the water.
"At no charge," Mrs. Cipek had said, "If you don't mind the missing extras."
There was no working pump and they soon discovered the lavatory was an isolated outhouse a hundred feet away. A door with rusty hinges threatened to fall off during the usual human rituals. "Roughing-it" was something they planned on anyways. Larry said they could survive without extra services. How true. This was nature at its best. Anne was determined to have a good time, even if those pesky mosquitoes tried to drive her insane.
She now had it figured out. Repellent was designed to attract bugs, not repel them.
"Okay, time to get organized. Walt! Susan! Dishes. Where are you?"
"What about me?
"You too," Anne said as she linked arms with her husband.
A great big morning hug and a long kiss established the first rule of the day. Love at work. Now, where were those kids?
Amazing how they disappear just before chores, she mused.
Walt heard dad calling but felt compelled to continue sitting on a log beside the shore staring out over Economy Lake. His excited eyes shone in fascination taking in all the sights.
He noticed everything. That swirl of clouds, were dancing just for him. Peeking sunshine managed to cover part of his bare leg and the slapping from gentle waves provided a peaceful kind of music. Larry had taught him to carefully listen to sounds within the woods. Now he was enjoying himself following dad's instructions.
Although still a young boy, Walt had this empathy with people and animals. Once he tried to outstare his cat. They sat for at least ten minutes until Walt figured out what was going on. The animal wasn't trying to outdo him.
JC was simply curious and was observing the way Walt’s hair was slicked back, and the curve of his chin. Even the way Walt swaggered when he felt good about something was the cat’s observation.
The boy closed his eyes and allowed the natural silence around him to cover his wiry frame. He was like his cat, absorbing everything around him. His bare feet felt the coolness of the lapping water. He listened carefully to the piping melody from a chickadee as it called to him. Camping and just resting like this was awesome. Coming here was turning into a neat holiday.
Walt wondered how the Scouts were doing.
Then reality wrestled its way into his thoughts. Pleasant images were clouded by the possibility of another boy coming into the family picture. It brought a scowl to his face. Danny. The very name caused an anxious feeling to jiggle in his chest.
If that kid was here right now, he thought. "Scram!" escaped from his lips. Walt looked around rather sheepishly. Did anyone hear him? They might think he was, "Duhh." He glanced down at his fishing gear. He almost forgot, it was the call of the open water and the possibility of catching a "big one" that brought him to the shore.
He carefully checked over his collection of spinners. Red and white as well as yellow and green combinations suggested he had an arsenal to fool any rainbow trout. Did fish actually get tricked just because he offered them a variety of colors and shapes? Some of his lures had feathers and hooks. Better bait might be one of the two-dozen juicy looking dew worms he collected from their lawn a few nights ago.
Dad taught him how to catch them. "Use the edge of a flashlight beam," Larry had said. "And look for their stretched out bodies on top of the soil. Then grab them before they get away!" Larry would then pinch his son on the arm and the two of them would wrestle and tumble around on the living room floor.
Walt really loved his dad. He was more like a pal, or an older brother like Roy, except Roy wasn't around much. He spent most of his time in Halifax and hardly came to visit anymore. Maybe if Walt had paid more attention to Roy, Larry wouldn't be so interested in another son.
Most of the time Walt called him, "Dad," instead of Larry. His new dad liked that. “Dad, when are we going fishing? Dad, I'm going to catch the biggest, hugest, monster fish in this lake!" Walt liked to say the “Dad” word and act out his statements. Maybe one day he'd even hitchhike to Hollywood and become an actor and be famous...
"Whom are you talking to, son?"
Walt almost fell into his pile of lures and hooks scattered around his legs. "You scared me. Were you listening?"
"Sorry and yes."
"Want to fish?"
"First, dishes, then fishing. Didn't you hear me calling?"
"I know, but it was so nice and quiet. Not like the noisy Friday traffic in Truro. I had to stay a while longer." Walt continued to stare across the water, his head tilted at an angle, as if wanting to ask a question. "Ok dad. Work first."
Later they did go fishing.
How come some dads never spend enough time with their sons before they grow up? Walt wondered. Like watching baseball games or going fishing like Larry does with him. Sometimes it was important for just the two of them to be together. Good for me my dad does, the boy thought.
Walt stood on the old wharf, fishing rod in his hand. Squinting eyes scanned a parade of waves rolling in against the shore. His hand lifted back in a long gentle arc, then swung forward. He released his thumb from the control, watching the monofilament line streak across the lake’s surface. Plop of lure, shiny along the bottom, then retrieval. No fish this time.
But, it felt good to know dad was standing beside him, watching. After all, he did teach his son to do it just right.
The man was so proud of his new son. Goose bumps on Larry’s neck rippled as he admired the lean young man a short distance away. Walt was growing so straight and tall in his blue and white t-shirt and GWG jeans. Dark brown hair was blowing in the wind.
My very own son, Larry thought. And I love him so much.
Is there room for another child in our home? He wondered.