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37: Anticipation

Well—we don’t know where we’re going
Cause we haven’t been there yet
But we’ve done a lot of planning
And we figure we’re all set

There is talk of birds and treasure
Music greenery and food
Of some things we’re uncertain
But we’re in a happy mood

So we’re setting off right smart like
And if anything goes wrong
We won’t worry we’ll just fix it
As the whole thing goes along

June had just arrived, holding true to her everlasting promise of roses, roses and more roses. Edith Godwin’s gift, which was growing outside Rose Hold’s door, was blooming a rich velvety red. The fragrance of the flowers reached to a large flat rock warmed by the sun where, beside it, the wild roses were flourishing, a wealth of silky pink.

     Rock had always been there, firmly established before Grandfather’s house. Long years of converse with Sky, Wind and Rain had given it much tranquillity which was now being shared with a resident who was seeking just that, and it was appreciating being welcomed back into the circle of being which had come once again to Shalisa Creek Bay. This morning, as it so often had done before, it had obligingly transformed itself into a seat for someone just sitting cross-legged enjoying the morning.

     This slab of granite, which had never been asked to leave the area in Rose’s front garden, had been part of her youthful days here, when her parents, Grandfather, and others had utilised the rock for many things. It had sturdily put up with being designated as a table for outdoor meals, a workbench, an anvil, a place for splitting wood, or any other need of necessity which arose in the mind of the person working with it.

     Early morning was a favourite time for Rose. Not the grey pre-dawn light or the gradual return of colour to surroundings, but the warm, bright, full blown show of Sun risen over Horizon and ready for anything which might follow that action.

     Sun was still regarding blue Sky which it had yet to take a turn through or which perhaps was taking a turn around it. Like Fish which swam in, or Sea which flowed past, or both happening at once, none of the participants involved in such a conundrum were concerned with solving it as long as things progressed the way they always had from day to day.

     The serenity of the morning had Rose idly considering what she should get up to next. It wasn’t a serious line of thought, as she sat remembering the fun there had been when Harry had been getting the generator going, of the houses being repaired, of the beach party the autumn past.

     A swim seemed the most likely next move but, as she thought of it, the encompassing quiet was sliced by the sound of her cell phone shrilly shredding her peaceful inner ramblings.

     Startled out of her reverie she got up, still not shaken free from the habit of office years which had schooled her to answer this persistent, obtrusive demand and, rather than deciding if she owned it or it owned her, she hurried into the house to silence the noisy little beast.

     It was a call she would rather have done without. She put the phone down, indignation rising.

     <Field trip? The kids certainly aren’t lacking about what’s happening ‘in the field’—but I guess I’d better do what she says. We don’t want any problems. If that’s what they have to do to finish off this year’s school term then that’s what we’ll do. Except I haven’t the slightest idea as to what a field trip should consist of. I’m not sure I can handle this alone. Think I need some help here.>

     Giving warm Rock a pat as she passed it with a promise of returning soon, she headed for the Currie’s house. Steadfast Rock agreed to wait, having done that for everyone else for so long. Roses looked disappointed. They didn’t have unlimited time to put into waiting. They had to be enjoyed now or not at all.

     “Hi Bettina,” she greeted the big woman who was busy in her kitchen thumping and pummelling a large amount of bread dough, “I have a problem. Got a few minutes?”

     “Always, since coming here,” smiled Bettina. “Grab yourself a cup of coffee and let’s have it.”

     “I just got dumped on by the school board,” began Rose, availing herself of the brewed and ready potful. “A woman just phoned and told me it’s essential that the children should have a ‘field trip’ to make sure they’re not being deprived of a well-rounded education. It appears that most kids nowadays would rather sit and push a computer or watch telly, and the powers that be feel they ought to get out and poke around the great outdoors instead. Suddenly it seems trees and creatures and such have become very important in the scheme of education.

     “I recall there was a report to the effect that close to half the school graduates nowadays can’t read and write or do simple math, but now they need to know about what’s going on somewhere in the wild and woollies. Maybe that’s a not a bad idea, considering their prospects. The backwoods are probably soon going to be filled up with latter day pioneers trying to keep themselves alive on fish and roots.”

     “The children here already know how to do that,” laughed Bettina. “Why didn’t you just tell her so?”

     “Well—I’ve been rather—uh—not too forthcoming with details about their lives here,” Rose explained, “And I guess they think we’re living in a town. We get our mail in the village and that seems to satisfy them as to location. I always try to keep a low profile where the kids are concerned. They’re already in a dicey position and I don’t want the education people to start a rumpus by poking around. Also, I think this particular item is meant to be something other than just a walk in the country to enjoy the fresh air. So—do you know anything about field trips? You’ve brought up a family pretty well.”

     “I don’t recall anything like that,” Bettina told her thoughtfully, “But then, our kids kind of got their education from being out in quite a few fields. They were dragged around so much they don’t want to see any more of it and are busy availing themselves of the comforts of home, occasionally out in the woods. Guess this idea is something new though. Ah—I know—not new. I seem to recall that when our last was in high school the teachers wanted to go skiing so they got all the kids to acquire equipment and they hauled them along and called it a field trip—getting an experience they might not otherwise have had—and probably didn’t want. I think it just means you take the kids camping or something and try to throw in a bit of information about fish streams or plants or insects. Something outside of school—like interesting.”

     “Um!” was Rose’s glum reply. “Well, she told me that they all should write a report about the whole thing. Sort of a ‘what I did this summer’ kind of stuff, I guess. Think she wants to make sure they went—checking up on my honesty. What do you think I should do? Get a bunch of camping equipment together and take them off somewhere?”

     “That sounds about right,” returned the other woman, giving her bread dough some hefty love pats as she shaped it up. “I’m sure if we all get together on it we can hustle up something. How soon do you need the stuff?”

     “Good question. The sooner the better I suppose, while the good weather is here. At least some time before the end of the school session. I’d better give this some thought.”

     Rose, still wondering what to do with this unexpected request which had been dropped on her, came up with the hopeful idea of,

     “Would you care to become a den mother along with me?”

     “Around here, certainly, but I’m not much for hiking and such. Got any camels?” asked Bettina.

     “That would make for an interesting trip,” laughed Rose, “But, sorry, no. Thanks for your help anyway.”

     Her next stop was Tashakawa, who was out pruning and primping her flowers.

     “Hi Tash.”

     The explanations over, Tashakawa agreed with Bettina’s assessment and offered help with gathering equipment.

     “I guess you could look for bird’s nests and detail where they were located and such like,” she suggested. “We used to do that just for fun when we were children and I think in retrospect it certainly was educational.”

     “Uh—want to come along and join the fun?”

     “Camping? I’ve had enough of that on the boat,” was the negative reply. “If you don’t mind I’ll just stay here in this beautiful place you’ve provided and leave Mother Nature alone to look after her own garden.”

     “Okay,” smiled Rose. “See you later.”

     <Um! Dancing Water! She’s so great with everything around us maybe she’d like to come along with us.>

     Dancing Water made tea as she listened to the problem. Setting things on the table she sat down and asked,

     “Where is it you plan to go?”

     “Well... .”

     Rose had it brought to her attention that she hadn’t yet planned on anywhere. She picked up her cup and thought for a moment, then replied,

     “I haven’t been to the tip of the peninsula since—at least since I left here. Maybe that might be a great trek. It’s so quiet and untouched and was kind of a safe place for ‘go walkabouts’ when we were young.”

     Dancing Water, smiling, picked up her own cup and took a few meditative sips, then replied encouragingly,

     “That is a fine idea. Peninsula will be pleased that you have chosen here instead of another place. You will have a grand time. I remember the beach at Peninsula’s far point. It was a place where once a year people came from around to go there for gathering the prized green and pink stone which Tide exposes there. It was used for carving bowls and jewellery and ornaments. I’m sure you have something made of those pretty stones.”

     “Of course,” returned Rose. “I remember they used to take the boats and go along the outside of the peninsula. I got to go a couple of times as a kid, but then it seems the whole idea of collecting wasn’t bothered with after awhile. People got jobs with the logging company and there was no more time for that sort of thing and then—there weren’t that many people anymore.”

     “It was an exciting thing to load the boats,” added Dancing Water, “And all the people would go off in a body for days, stopping along the way and gathering plants, and shells, and fishing too. There are many good places to make camp. They were indeed good times.”

     As she listened to the older woman, Rose’s hopes went up, with the idea of a knowledgeable companion going along with her.

     “Want to come along and help?”

     “To accompany you would be much fun,” Dancing Water replied to her enquiry. “It would be such a fine trip. It was always a place of awe to me, to stand on that great bluff which pushes out to meet Sea and to feel all around the spirits of this place we call home but—I think this time I must wait to look again from the head of Peninsula out to wild, free Sea. It would be a good thing if one day we should all go as a family once more as in the old days, but I feel perhaps this journey now should be for the young ones, all the young together—a walk along a new path of discovery for the children—a going out, to discover not only their surroundings but perhaps themselves. Learning to fish for one’s dinner and to collect food along the way, as well as making camp as you go, gives a feeling of worth and teaches the value of everything we touch.

     “Independence is a fine thing. They should have a chance to do things for themselves. It may be that there is almost too much of help from all the adults around. It is always—how do I do this Aunty, or will you help me with that Uncle, or what have I done wrong here Grandmother. Help is fine when needed but we do not want these young minds not to think for themselves. Heron has had almost too much of Grandmother always at hand. As for yourself—it may be an awakening once more of things perhaps almost forgotten.”

     Listening to this, Rose began to consider that she herself often went to people with requests for this and that, and she wondered if she too could use a lesson in retrieving the independence she’d had as a lawyer before she’d returned and tried to pick up her past.

     “I hadn’t thought of it that way,” she admitted at last, “But yes, maybe I’ve also become too dependent on things here. It’s so easy not to put ourselves out for anything when there’s so much willing help available from everyone, but sometimes solving our own problems is a good thing too.”

     “Help is to be expected from those around us,” Dancing Water assured her, “And we all get together to solve problems, which is a as it should be. Also It is so comfortable here that I myself have been feeling that many hands can do things faster and better, so I am beginning to notice it is not only the children who ask for aid. I myself must not impose on others and it is good to seek help only when I really need it. It might also be just the kind of lesson in self help to please this education person who has called.”

     “I think you’re right,” Rose agreed. “Thanks, Dancing Water. I’d better let the kids in on this and see what they can do with it.”

     Hearing the news Isabel looked incredulous.

     “Field trip?! How ridiculous! Where do they think we’re living—in a city highrise? Maybe we should have a ‘city trip’ so we could find out what goes on there.”

     “Well, I think we’re at least going to have a village trip,” laughed Rose. “I thought we might go for a camping jaunt. I haven’t been on a camping trip for some time and we’ll probably need some stuff to take along. It might be fun.”

     “Do we have to?” asked Isabel, a bit annoyed that the ongoing life the children had become used to was going to be disrupted because of some authoritarian edict.

     “I’m afraid so,” Rose told her, adding her own reasons for the trip. “We don’t want to get them thinking we’re not doing what we’re supposed to and, your father not being here, I tend to do everything they ask so that they don’t come poking around. If that satisfies them, that’s all we’re after.”

     “Oh—I see what you mean,” agreed Isabel. “I guess we are sort of—in limbo. I guess we’d better. I certainly don’t want anyone coming around and taking us away. We’d better get the others together then.”

     Rose smiled, glad to have the big sister in on the decision making.

     “You did so well getting here, I’m sure we can handle a simple camping trip don’t you think?”

- - -

Six young faces regarded Rose as they sat in her kitchen and mushed over ideas for a ‘field trip’ while munching on the expected cookies and apples.

     On being told of the attached requirements Morgan groaned,

     “Oh no! Not another ‘what I did this summer’ report. Can’t they think of anything better than that?”

     “Well, actually,” Rose offered, trying to make it sound a bit more interesting, “I think you’re supposed to get some sort of learning experience out of it. Maybe like Tashakawa said, a report on where certain birds nest, or—like Bettina thought, something about the environment of fish... .”

     She looked with hope and a little desperation at the children, wanting ideas, lacking her own.

     “Hey, a fishing trip?” queried Morgan, brightening up and getting enthusiastic. “We could tell about all the kinds of fish we catch.”

     “If any,” quipped Isabel.

     “And how yummy they are,” threw in Walter.

     “Great!” agreed Morgan, then added after a pause, “Where are we going?”

     They all looked at Rose, who looked back, a little doubtful as to the reception of her destination, but she finally came out with,

     “How about going to the end of the peninsula? I haven’t seen the whole peninsula for years. I remember the point was really something, and none of you have ever been there. There’s an interesting little stony beach at the tip end. It’s a bit exposed so no one ever really stayed there for very long in case the wind came up, but it’s nice to visit. What do you think?”

     They thought it was a great idea since they didn’t have any of their own.

     “We could tell about all the plants and things we see,” said Therése. “Are they different than the ones here?”

     “It’s a bit rougher farther toward the point,” Rose told them. “Our bay is a protected place and is more gentle and sunny and open. The peninsula farther up is rather more overgrown and quiet because the Shalisa haven’t disturbed it that much and it kind of looks after itself and does its own thing. There’s thick damp green moss under big trees, and ferns, and reindeer lichens hanging from dead branches, little ponds and swamps here and there with frogs and things around them, and streams running down the cliffs—things like that.”

     “Mosses are all different kinds too,” Heron put in, “And grasses and reeds. Grandmother used to collect them at home for making things. Maybe we could take along our friend Swan for a walk where he could have new food and water at one of these places.”

     “That’s a great idea,” agreed Morgan.

     “I think we’d better not take him when we’re gong so far though,” demurred Rose, “Maybe when we get back, after we’ve scouted out some places closer to home. He’s still not quite well.”

     “We’ll see all the birds and animals there too,” added Isabel.

     “We can make it a pirate treasure hunt,” Bernice suggested excitedly. “I bet there’s lots of stuff we can find. Lots of ships and pirates must have come here way back and buried their gold and things.”

     Rose, thinking of smugglers and rum runners, smiled and agreed that illegal boating had certainly occurred. Then, fearing that the education system might frown on too much imagination being thrown into a supposedly serious endeavour, she cautioned the youngsters that she figured the treasure hunt would have to be done quietly on the side in case word got out and a lot of other people tried to get in on the prize.

     “Wowsie!” exclaimed Walter. “We’ll do it in secret then, so no one will know.”

     “Well, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of subject matter,” Rose summed up. “Let’s start planning a really great trip. We don’t have to think of it as an order from outside. Let’s just do our own thing. What if you all get a book to write in, about what you see and do as we go along?”

     Visions of fish fries on the beach arose immediately, with the idea of wild herbs and plants being thrown into the pots, as the Uncle Twimby beach bash got rehashed. The fact that it was early summer and Mother Nature had not yet provided ripe berries, and harvestable bulbs and roots were busy turning themselves into thin green leaves as precursors to flowers, didn’t come up as a problem at that moment.

     Rose didn’t interrupt their exuberant planning, wondering suddenly if Grandfather’s philosophy of ‘leave it alone’ extended beyond the bay to the rest of the peninsula. She decided that, as David had pointed out, she was the law-maker now, and it was up to her to make the decisions, and Dancing Water’s words about independence came to the fore. She figured that fish with wild vegetation on the side would be great, since they’d be fishing to eat as they went along and not just for the fun of it. Trying to gather and eat as they went would certainly become part of the educational trip.

     “Okay. What’ll it be?” she asked. “Hike it or—it’s quite a distance by foot so maybe we should take the canoe and—maybe Armand would let us have his little ship’s boat with the sail for a couple of days. I think it would be easy to handle and we can do some of the travelling by water and then camp ashore in places to look at things. What do you think?”

     There was total happy agreement because the optimistic outlook of the young people was that they were quite willing to forge ahead into anything, without worrying about details. Their young minds were arranged for doing things, not thinking about them.

     Scrounging took on an important role immediately. Pots and pans and utensils would have to be every day affairs, preferably metal and enamel. Where bedding was concerned, a suggestion to use fir boughs, was set aside as being a bit of an imposition on the trees around—seven people trying to find enough greenery all at once in one place. Rose felt that they all ought to have sleeping mats because she for one didn’t want to sleep on the hard ground, and figured no one else would either. After the trip the bunks on ELFINSHOE, or the Pirate’s Port bunkhouse beds would be plumper with the mats added. Acquiring those would be part of the village trip when they went to pick up the other necessities.

     As the other adults heard of the field trip plans there were all sorts of suggestions and offers of help. The plans progressed, expanded, expanded some more, far beyond the proportion of the necessity for this expedition, got out of hand and had to be scaled back drastically, finalising with the two boats and whatever else was needed to make a simple camping outing.

     The field trip was taking on the aura of an exciting happening for the six youngsters. They didn’t care if authority had ordered it or not. It was turning into a whopping great fun adventure for them.

- - -

METHUSELAH , cutting a somewhat erratic course, headed into the Shalisa Creek Village wharf with Armand, Rose and six excited young crew members aboard. Not only had the six been learning to sail the big schooner, they were now about to disembark and go shopping in a body for the groceries and other items which were needed for the peninsula trip. They had not been to the village all together since they’d arrived at the bay and now Isabel’s discipline was becoming a bit ragged as she forgot the heavy responsibility of herding brothers and sisters, happy with her own freedom of participation in this outing.

     Came the lesson for tying up the big boat.

     This became a noisy and confused affair as three young people jumped off METHUSELAH, ran along the wharf, grabbed lines thrown to them by the three left aboard, bow stern and spring, tied them in the wrong places, yelled advice to each other and were yelled at by the three left aboard to let the lines go, which they did—along with the boat—causing Armand to make for the engine controls. Lines were retrieved, after they’d been thrown again, tripped over a couple of times, and retied again as Armand tried to give directions, almost unable to supervise because he found he had to be in three places at once—bow, stern and everywhere else.

     “Rose—if you please—help!” he pleaded as Rose stood on the schooner laughing at the antics happening on the wharf and figuring there were enough inexperienced hands around without her addition to the disorder.

     “Here—take the controls—this needs some instruction on the wharf,” ordered Armand, jumping off.

     Not sure what he expected her to do, Rose stood by the controls.

     “Okay,” came the call at last, “Shut her down.”

     “Uh—?” queried Rose, taking the engine out of neutral.

     METHUSELAH flinched and, nosing bow-in toward the wharf, hoped Armand would take the hint.

     “Mon dieu!” came the exasperated but laughing response as Armand made a rapid scramble to board his ship and clear up the problem. “Is it true you are going to be in charge of these six young hooligans on a camping trip? Bon chance! You need a supervisor yourself. You are all going to maim each other along the way. Are you sure a doctor shouldn’t go along to pick up the pieces?”

     “If you mean it, you’re on!” agreed Rose, immediately seizing on an unexpected offer of help, “But that means you have to start joining in right now.”

     “What do you think it is I am doing at this moment?” retorted Armand, shutting down the engine. “As for camping, there wouldn’t be enough wine to go with the dinner if I went along, and tell me—I have heard you before—are you trying to foist this job off on somebody else?”

     “Yes—please?” begged Rose, having found that her doubts about the whole affair were definitely surmounting her positive ideas, and delighted at the thought of another adult getting in on it.

     Armand, laughing as he closed up the schooner, replied,

     “It’s not fair to take advantage of a man who can’t stand to see a demoiselle in distress.”

     “Why not? If you’re that simple-minded I’ll take advantage.”

     “Oiy! Now you call me names. What kind of sales pitch is that?”

     “Let me try another direction,” returned Rose watching the children finishing off as they tied and retied the mooring lines, trying to get them right. “How would you like to look after all the bumps and bruises and stomach aches and festered scratches when we get back instead of caring for them at once when they happen?”

     “You are planning bumps and bruises and stomach aches?!” enquired Armand in mock horror. “This certainly does put a different light on the whole thing. A physician can’t stand by and see such injuries unattended. I’ll start packing at once—a large first aid kit

     “Are you coming?! Oh goody and wowsie as the twins would put it.”

     “What have I talked myself into?” laughed Armand, “Yes, I put myself under your command. I’ll also pack some dehydrated, light and easy to carry food which I will eat if no one else will. Waiting for an elusive fish to arrive for dinner and winding up with weeds doesn’t please my gourmandising nature.”

     “Have you forgotten,” enquired Rose, “That all food was ‘weeds’ at one time until we interfered with them? You could think of it as a field trip for yourself—new and tasty, wonderful wild vegies and such—fit for a gourmand. And will you also bring dehydrated wine? We are going to drink pure, clear, crisp Shalisa Peninsula water.”

     “Perhaps I could become an abstainer for the trip,” Armand backed down.

     “That’s too much to ask. This demoiselle in distress wouldn’t be so insensitive as to expect her hero to give up his wine. You can pack a couple of bottles or so.”

     “That is much more encouraging,” grinned Armand. “Do I have permission from the other participants?”

     “Hey gang,” Rose called to the children, “Uncle Doc wants to come along on the camping trip. May he?”

     When the children heard this there were three cheers for Uncle Doc, and a sigh of relief from Rose, glad that someone who knew something about what made children tick would be with them, and telling herself that—it would still be a trip for all the young together, with the addition of someone whose presence she hoped would add a bit of direction and control. She felt her own was somewhat—relaxed to the point of not existing.

     Newly appointed as half of this laid back branch of authority, Armand was secretly pleased that he’d been able to get himself into the proceedings without actually asking. He had heard the hints Rose had been making to the others and, as the plans progressed, the camping trip sounded to him like just the thing to get him off METHUSELAH and into a bit of exercise and fun.

     As he closed up the boat he snapped the trap door of fun closed behind himself with the thought,

     <Besides, it will be a most enjoyable break. I’m desperate to do something apart from just lazing around here. It’s wonderful, but everyone at the Bay is disgustingly healthy, and I miss the offhand visits I used to get from people in town. My once a week tours are well attended, but it’s not enough. METHUSELAH also wants some air. She’s languishing at anchor. Nobody seems to need things hauled up and down the coast much anymore. They truck it or fly it in unless it absolutely has to go by sea. This sail to the village has helped considerably, and our little ship’s boat will contribute perfectly to the water voyage with some muscle from myself added. METHEGLIN is a bit hefty for young arms, but she and I understand each other and she also has her lateen we can hoist if the wind should oblige.>

     “Okay everybody,” called Rose as the group gathered on the wharf, “Let’s get it together. We’ll do the general store first—the grocery last.”

     Six children rifled through the goods offered for sale at the general store while clerks cast anxious glances at everything they did. They’d seen enough small items disappear into large pockets, unpaid for, in the past, but they were too restrained to say anything because they knew Rose and Armand, and figured at least these children would probably behave themselves with the two in charge watching.

     “Did you give them carte blanche with your credit card?!” asked Armand in laughing alarm as they strolled after the youngsters at a distance, not at all concerned that anything was going to get smuggled out duty free.

     “Yes, and I hope they take advantage of it,” Rose told him. “They’re so used to living on a shoestring I rather hope they do. They’ve been so great around home that a little blowout in the purchasing department might be a good idea.”

     Much discussion was already taking place over what kind of scribblers should be bought. Some were delightfully fat, some were too large but considered really ‘awesome’, some with shiny, glossy covers and spiral bindings were covetted, until finally Isabel voiced cautions about money, and the ones which cost the least were decided on. The fatties, monsters and glossy covers were relinquished, these last not without a sigh or two by Bernice and Therése. They thought the flowers depicted on the covers were so pretty. Isabel promised to draw some flowers on their books for them.

     Pens came next. The bewildering variety displayed didn’t phase the young eyes looking it over, nor the hands willing to touch and balance and try out on the paper set there for that purpose.

     “Those are junk.”

     “We had these once and they got ink on everything.”

     “Don’t take that kind. It leaked in my pocket and all over my hands and wouldn’t wash off.”

     “This seems okay.”

     “But look at the price! Ugh! Put it back.”

     “No crayons you two. You’ve still got some at home.”

     “But they’re all broken.”

     “But they’re still full of colour.”

     The sortie into tools for writing was finally terminated when Isabel, having cast her own eyes on a wonderful pen guaranteed to last for who knew how long, housed in a lovely slim yellow barrel and costing more than it ought to, determinedly put it back and took a package of ten cheapies from a rack, announcing,

     “Okay, this is it. We’re just going to write with them. It’s what we do with the tip that counts.”

     The troupe turned away from the writing goods and began a perusal of other things. All sorts of items were touted as necessities by various members of the sextet until their own good sense began to prevail.

     “Yes, those little flashlights are neat, but we’ve got a couple of big ones at home.”

     Therése fondled a small one-burner cooking stove until Heron came up with the reminder,

     “But we’ll have campfires. They’re more fun.”

     It was becoming plain that sales of any large dimension were getting short shrift with this group.

     “We don’t need nesting pans,” said Isabel decisively, “There are lots of old things at home and we’ll have plenty of room for them.”

     “Yeah, backpacks would be nice, but if we all buy one it’ll cost a fortune,” Morgan told Walter and Bernice. “We’ll use sail bags and duffle bags.”

     Everybody halted and gathered around a bright red dome tent, set up with curving aluminum struts—featherweight, guaranteed not to leak, wind resistant, waterproof floor, insect proof, housing four, total comfort... .

     When she got to that part of the advertising spiel Isabel scoffed,

     “What rubbish. We’d still have to sleep on the ground, and anyway, all of us can’t fit in there.”

     “Besides, we’re going to sleep out under the stars,” enthused Morgan. “And hey guys, don’t forget this is supposed to be a ‘rough it’ trip. The less luggage we have the less we’ll have to carry.”

     This piece of enlightenment began to put a new slant on the situation.

     “We’ll be like explorers,” announced Therése, “Who made things as they went along.”

     “We’ll live off the land like our ancestors did when they went on forage trips,” agreed Heron.

     “There aren’t any bears are there?” asked Bernice anxiously.

     “Of course not,” Isabel assured her, “And anyway, if there are any we’ll scare them away like Rose said they used to do.”

     “Where’s Rose and Armand?”

     Rose and Armand had decided that, as Dancing Water had suggested, this was for the six to thrash out for themselves. Standing back and looking at each other as the youngsters ran around, examining things and conversing with other customers, they came to the conclusion that it was going to be some thrashing. When the toy department got in the way they headed for the coffee counter.

     The two were more than taken aback, therefore, when the six turned up, each carrying a scribbler, with Isabel holding the package of pens.

     “That’s it?” asked Armand, visibly showing his surprise.

     “Well,” returned Isabel, a little hesitantly, “We sort of need your opinion, about sleeping mats, like Rose suggested. Maybe you know more about them than we do.”

     “Oh—okay, they’re over that way I think,” said Rose, and twin sets of feet started running in that direction.

     “Stop running!” came the Big Sister order, heard halfway around the building.

     Feet were throttled back to a quick walk.

     “I believe,” said Armand to Rose, as they trailed behind, “I have misjudged this crew. Would you mind if I intervened? I also have plastic.”

     “Have fun as well,” laughed Rose, and Armand strode quickly after the children.

     “It’s come to my mind,” he suggested as he went along with them, “That the twins really should have a couple of hats to keep the sun off.”

     “Hats?” came the doubled up question.

     “You know,” he prompted, “Like the one Therése has. That floppy black one with the big brim pinned up in front by the skull and crossbones. From the point of view of the medic now attached to this voyage, they’re absolutely necessary. That should keep you safe from too much ultra violet. Bandanas are fine, but pirates have to be careful not to get sunburn and heat prostration.”

     “Heat what?” asked Bernice. “What’s that?”

     “That means you’ll fall flat on your face like dead,” Armand informed her, straight-faced, “And it will take me awhile to wake you up again.”

     Two hats were quickly acquired.

     It occurred to him, as they passed the tools section, that most of the carving items Heron had were somewhat rough and old and, if the young artist intended to do any work along the way, a cut from an old piece of metal would not be a good thing. For safety’s sake, it was suggested, new ones with good sharp-edged blades would be more easily managed in poor light, not that the skill of the user was in question.

     A small set of carving tools joined the pens, scribblers and hats.

     Speculation as to what fun it was going to be singing around the fire brought up the thought that singing was fine, but accompaniment was even better. Since Therése was the musician and her old violin wouldn’t travel too well, perhaps a small harmonica with chromatics might be in order—for the cheer and well-being of the crew by the campfire in the evening.

     It got tested immediately on being put into her hands, as customers and store staff paid attention to—’that noise’.

     Morgan was asked if he knew how to find directions in an unfamiliar environment. The information was elicited that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and the north star was always there. Armand applauded this recital and figured that a hand compass would eke out that information even more so—in a fog—and they wouldn’t get lost that way. Did Morgan have one? No? No mention was made to the effect that all the boats around the bay probably had a few handhelds aboard which could be borrowed.

      Essential equipment. Right!

     “Ah,” said the doctor as they were about to pass by a selection of art goods, “Every safari has an official artist to depict things along the way. Our group must have one too. Cameras are fine but they miss out on the interesting and funny details we all know are going to happen when a camera isn’t around. Besides, we don’t have any. What do you think of this, Isabel? It’s a neat little case, with an easel and fold away tripod, and lots of space inside for paper and drawing tools.”

     Isabel was enchanted, but looked at the price.

     “It’s awfully expensive Uncle Doc,” she told him with doubtful concern.

     “Mmm,” returned Armand, thinking that for him it was a pittance as he weighed money and thoughts of persuasion. “Not that much when considered in the scheme of things. Think how many times we’ll be able to have your sketches to remind us of wonderful days on the road, and I’m sure there’ll be other occasions later which you’ll want to record—and it’s very light for packing,” he concluded, hefting the little case.


- - -

Morning was bright and the sea calm as the two little craft made their way out through the Gap past a smiling Guardian, both boats carrying an air of excitement and expectation along with their crews as they turned to head up the coast of the peninsula. METHEGLIN, now nicknamed ‘The Admiral’s Launch’ by Therése, her little rigged lateen filled with a moderate breeze, Isabel, Morgan, Walter, and Armand aboard, headed out from shore to take advantage of the free power offered, while BRIGHT LEAF, lighter and more easily moved by paddle, carried Bernice, Therése, Heron and Rose quickly and smoothly closer to shore.

     The arrangement of crew to begin the journey had been determined by—gambling. No one except Rose and Armand could quite decide where they wanted to be. Paddling the canoe would be a treat, and learning to sail the tender would also be one. Discussion threatened to turn into contention as places were jockeyed for, traded, minds were changed, and protectionism for seats already spoken for threatened to enter into the negotiations.

     It was Fitz who solved the problem by bringing out his old blue pasteboards and telling them,

     “Three highest to BRIGHT LEAF. You can switch over as you go.”

     Thus it was that the two boats found their crews for the first leg of the journey. The canoe, with Therése playing her new harmonica, her three companions singing along, forged quickly ahead, trailing music and song back to the little sailboat as it tacked out in the light wind.

     Morgan, unable to restrain himself for too long where the idea of fishing was concerned, took out his old fishing rod as soon as the boats cleared the Gap and were on their way, and as luck would have it, he got a strike almost immediately.

     “I got one! I got one!” he shouted excitedly.

     Walter, even more excited, stood up in the stern of the boat, and leaned over to get a better look, with a resultant splash, and an immediate call from Armand, as he threw his white floater hat over the side,

     “Man overboard! Isabel—keep your eyes on Walter and don’t take them off.”

     Walter, finding himself suddenly among the fish, began to yell,

     “Wait! Wait! Don’t go away!

     Tossing a bright orange fender astern after the hat as he put the tiller hard over, Armand swung the little boat in an arc, hauling in on the sheet as they came about.

     “Morgan—when we get close take the tiller and steady on—don’t run your brother down, we want to come alongside. I’ll see if I can haul him aboard from the stern. When we get close, throw out the main to slacken speed.”

     METHEGLIN, following up on the trail of the fender and white hat which led to the splashing boy, came up close.

     “Strike the main,” ordered Armand and, flat on his stomach in the boat, he reached over the stern while they edged up to Walter and as the little boy swam to them, he grabbed him by the shoulders of his lifejacket and hauled him inboard.

     There was laughter and raillery as he came aboard dripping, but Armand, after allowing the incident to be treated as a joke at first, simmered them down with,

     “Well done everybody, and we have to thank Walter for allowing us to practise our return and retrieval skills by his standing up, and falling overboard which, in this or any other small boat, is a definite ‘no-no’ for all good sailors. A slight heel from a gust of wind and you’re over the side. Now suppose this had been bad weather. I think maybe we wouldn’t be laughing so much. Did you notice how hard it is to see a person’s head in the water with even a slight chop? Many boaters carry long poles with weighted bottoms surrounded by flotation to keep them upright, topped with a flag and an automatic flashing light which makes them very visible. My hat was a poor substitute as a marker for our overboard crewman. If we should take METHEGLIN out again this way it might be wise if we carried such equipment.

     “As well, Walter is not a large weight to hoist aboard, but imagine if it had been me and I had been injured and unable to help myself. Hauling a heavy man aboard a small boat is not an easy task. I know because I have done just that. Unfortunately, we all learn one way or another that boats are not toys, though lots of people treat them that way. We at least know that the sea is very wet and deep and cold. That’s why we must always wear our lifejackets while we’re sailing and it’s a good thing that today we all followed that good rule of dinghy sailors. We have all had an object lesson. This may be a holiday but that doesn’t mean we can act like fools, because Sea is not going to make exceptions for us.”

     There was a subdued silence for a moment, until Morgan, unable to suppress his good spirits further, made a grab for his fishing pole with,

     “Uncle Doc, my fish is still on the line!”

     It was. It was too small. It was put back.

     Fish and Fools reached an uneasy détente as hat and fender were retrieved, and then, disappointed but hopeful, Morgan rebaited his hook.