30 September 2011

"Bayla Changes Her Tune"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Bayla! Bayla! Bayla!"

Bayla Rodrigues did her best to ignore her younger brother, sitting on the front porch of their house, eyes closed, earbuds in. She could hear Jasper's footsteps approaching over the sounds of They Might Be Giants.

"Bayla! Can you hear me? Bayla! Look! Bayla!"

Bayla sighed. Jasper stood behind her now, bouncing and rattling the floorboards. Bayla pulled out one earbud and looked at him.

"What?" she said.

Jasper held out a glass jar. "Look!"

A small, black-and-yellow shape buzzed around inside the jar, bouncing off the glass. Bayla made a face.

"Is that a bug?"

"It's a wasp!" Jasper declared, hoisting the jar aloft in triumph. "I found it in the kitchen!"

"Does Mom know?"

Jasper's manic grin dimmed, and he lowered his arms. "She's in the office."

"That would be a no. You'd better go tell her. If there's a nest right outside the window or something—"

"Right! I'll tell her!" Jasper ran down the steps and disappeared around the side of the house.

Bayla put her earbuds back in. "Gonna be a long summer," she muttered, and popped her chewing gum.

From the porch, she could see from Lake Burrell all the way to the main lodge. In the middle was a large clearing, which had been an open field until last spring, when her parents had decided to expand their hotel to include a number of free-standing cabins which would also be used for a kids' summer camp.

To be fair, the summer camp idea hadn't come up until the open house event, when Bayla's math teacher, Mr. Malena, had mentioned that Camp Washakie on the east side of the lake was shutting down due to some kind of EPA notice.

Despite Bayla's repeated and vocal protests, her parents had been dead set on opening a new summer camp, and the local community was disappointingly supportive. Jasper actually welcomed the encroachment of other children, but Bayla was not looking forward to an entire summer surrounded by noisy grade schoolers.

She watched as one of the bellhops put up a sign pointing the way to summer camp registration. The staff had been setting up all morning, which also meant that Bayla's parents had been running around and had no time to spend with her.

Her earbuds went silent. Bayla had already listened to this album three times today. She pulled out her earbuds, picked up the paperback book on the porch next to her, and opened it.

"Hello?" said an unfamiliar voice.

Bayla looked up and saw the most beautiful teenage boy she'd ever seen. He carried a zebra-print duffel bag in one hand and had a leather jacket slung over his other shoulder. He wore dusty boots, dark jeans, and a "Skullcrusher Mountain" T-shirt.

"Hello," Bayla replied.

The boy looked around the porch. "Is this the summer camp?"

"It's, uh, right behind you."

He looked back, nodded, and smiled at her. "Cool. Thanks."

Bayla watched the boy walk away and realized that she had accidentally swallowed her gum.


Image: "that old view" by Rob Pringle, July, 2010