Chapter Thirteen

"I want her fired." The woman glared at the camp administrator.

"Reese, you know I don't have sufficient grounds to dismiss her." Kyla's even tone belied none of her emotions.

The closed door to the kitchen pantry did little to muffle the women's voices. Jojo and the kitchen staff alternated between trying to hear what was being said and trying to cover the sounds of the conversation from the visitors who walked through the dining hall on their tour.

Reese folded her arms in stubborn resolve. "You mean that little bitch can ignore my child because I'm gay and get away with it? Damn it, Kyla, I'm a board member and a major contributor to the agency. I'm also one of the staunchest supporters of this camp. You really don't want to cross me on this one."

Kyla signed. Okay, here we go. This was not the first time she had tangled with the explosive woman. Despite her own desire to throttle the camp counselor in question, Kyla knew irrefutable proof of discrimination was needed, not just the word of one person.

"I can promise that Spirit won't be Jennifer's counselor."

"Not good enough. If she's still on payroll come Monday, I will pull Jennifer out of camp and you will have made a very serious enemy."

Shit. "Reese, if I can find a good reason to let her go, I will. But I'm sure the board of directors doesn't want a wrongful dismissal case on their hands, either. I can't just fire her because you're angry."

"I'll call you on Monday, Kyla. And don't forget the board approves salaries and staffing positions, too. Just remember who signs your paycheck." And with that, Reese walked out.

The kitchen staff had the good sense to act busy and ignore the irate parent.


"A moment of your time." Kyla approached the camp director as Silver walked by.

"Sure," Silver looked around the nearly empty dining room. "Here, or…?"

"Let's go for a ride." The administrator dug her keys out of her jeans' pocket.

Oh Boy. Silver followed her out of the dining room and up to Kyla's truck.

"Okay," Kyla started the engine and put the truck into reverse. "We have a challenge and I need your help."

Silver blew out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. Thank God, it's not something I did. "What's going on?"

Kyla shared her conversation with the board member, though she omitted the threats that Reese had thrown at her.

"So, what do you need from me?" Kyla turned and stopped the truck onto a deserted dirt road.

"Documentation. I have no doubt that Spirit is homophobic, which, in and of itself, is not grounds for dismissal. But, if she has said or done anything that would have disregarded another employee's right to a discrimination-free workplace…"

Silver picked up on Kyla's train of thought. "Then she would violate personnel policies, which is grounds for releasing her from employment."

"Exactly. I want you to see if there is anything that I can work with. No hearsay, no speculation. I need it by tonight.' Kyla turned to face her director. "I'm sorry. I know you don't need to deal with this shit. You have a camp to run and a staff to worry about. But, I'm being pressured." She rubbed her forehead to ease the pounding. "And I can't afford to screw this up. Either way."

"You know I'll do my best." Silver looked out the window then turned to face the camp administrator. "Want me to call you if I find anything?"

"Yeah, Lori and I will be up late tonight. Call me either way."

They sat for a moment; both lost in their thoughts as they appreciated the few minutes of peace and quiet.


The last visitors drove away at three ten and Spike locked the gate behind them.

When the staff went to the tents to change out of their uniforms, they heard the news that they would be meeting in the Lodge at four o'clock.

Silver sat on the front lawn and looked at the lake. She played the conversation with Kyla over and over in her head. How can I find out what Kyla needs to get to the truth? Who would know if anything were happening? She mentally ran down the list of staff members and settled on one person. Hope I'm right.

From there, Silver outlined a plan to gather information and document her findings. Gonna be hell to pay if I screw this up. Guess that's why I get paid the big bucks. She smirked at her own joke as she stood up and then walked towards the nurse's office in hopes of finding something to fight her growing headache.

By three forty-five, her headache had subsided. She sat in the Lodge watching the staff trickle in for the meeting. As Spirit walked in with Berry, Silver caught the look of disdain on Crew's face. I need to move quickly to resolve the Spirit issue. Not just for Kyla's sake, but for the entire staff's well being.

Silver stood up at exactly four o'clock. "Great job, everybody, on Open House. We counted 654 guests. I heard lots of compliments on how good the camp looks and on how friendly and professional you all are. Take a look at the new schedule that Spike is passing out. There have been a couple of changes."

The director looked at her agenda. She had deleted some items, mostly program activities such as new songs and games. Silver knew the staff could learn those at the weekly in-service meetings.

"There are a couple of things that got bumped earlier in the week. We'll fit them in during the rest of what's left of today and tomorrow Since the campers arrive day after tomorrow, we don't have much time to finish up, so let's get going." She put her clipboard on the picnic table and looked to Pepper for confirmation that the assistant camp director was ready.

"Unit Counselors, Pepper will read staff assignments for Session One. She'll tell you what program you are assigned to and which staff members you will be working with. If you haven't already turned in your requests, it's too late for Session One. But you can still give them to her for the remainder of the summer. You have from now until dinner to pick up your supplies from Spike and to start setting up your unit. Remember to make a welcome sign, check that you have toilet paper and supplies in your bathrooms, and ensure that your unit is cleaned and ready to go. You'll have time tomorrow afternoon to move your gear into your unit's staff tent. Dinner is at six thirty tonight instead of the usual six o'clock. Lifeguards, wranglers, and other non-counselor staff, see me after the meeting. Okay, Pep, you're up."

"Thanks, Silver. Okay, guys, before I give out assignments, I have two announcements to make. Luckie stand up, please."

The woman stood and smiled.

"Luckie has accepted the position of CIT Director. She'll be working with our Counselor in Training kids the last five weeks of the summer." Pepper led the staff in applause. "The first three weeks of camp, she will be helping out in different units and programs as well as writing her curriculum for her CITs. Congratulations, Luckie, I know you'll do a great job."

Pepper's demeanor turned serious. " You may have noticed that not all staff members are here. Spanky and Robin have decided that this job isn't a good fit for them. They are packing up their gear and will be leaving very soon. I have their addresses in case anyone is interested in keeping in touch with them. Just so you know, it isn't anything anybody did or said, they just knew that they weren't happy here and it is best that they leave before the campers arrive."

Nobody seemed surprised or upset by the news, so Pepper continued. "Since Robin was a Unit Leader, there is a position open. It's a little bit more money and a lot more responsibility. If you are interested in a promotion, leave a note on my desk Silver and I will decide by tomorrow who the new Unit Leader will be.

If you are not part of the Unit Counselor or Unit Leader group you can leave now and meet Silver and Spike at the office."

About one-third of the staff, including wranglers, lifeguards, maintenance and kitchen staff stood and walked out of the room.

"Okay, let's do week one assignments." Pepper listed the six teams of counselors. Each team was a mix of experienced and new, loud and quiet, and serious and playful staff members.

High-fives and smiles were exchanged as the counselors divided up into their assigned teams. Pepper watched them leave as they headed out the door to their units.

Not bad. Gotta keep an eye on the Sky Meadow group, but that's no surprise.

The night before, Pepper and Silver met for two hours after training was done and the other staff had gone to bed. Each counselor's name was written on a piece of paper and like pieces of a puzzle, they were grouped, regrouped and regrouped again until the directors were satisfied that they had six balanced teams.

Balance was the key to a successful team. A variety of personalities and interests of the four or five staff members assigned to a team ensured that each camper would have an adult they could relate to. Pepper smiled. The campers come in two days.


Scooter sat on the lawn. Her white T-shirt and khaki shorts covered her red bathing suit. She flipped through the waterfront section of the Crisis Team handbook as she waited. The sun warmed her body and she allowed herself to lie back on the grass and relax as she read.

"Hi ya." A shadow partially blocked the sun.

Scooter glanced up; mildly annoyed at the interruption until she saw who was standing beside her.

Her laugher caused the other person to cock her head in confusion.

"Something funny?" The wrangler drawled.

"Yes, well, no. I mean it's stupid, but funny. Okay, it's dumb, but see, you're casting a shadow." Scooter pointed to the dark outline of the wrangler's body as it crossed her own. "And I wondered whose shadow it was, and when I looked up… its Shadow's shadow."


"Anyway, hi. The petite lifeguard patted the ground. "Sit next to me."

Shadow laid on the warm grass and closed her eyes. The burr of a motor was the only interruption to the stillness. Nice. I could get used to this.

"Wake up, Shadow."

The wrangler felt the gentle brushing on her forearm but her brain refused to process.

"Come on, everyone is here."

One blue eye opened and she found herself peering at Scooter. "Huh?"

"Hi. Everyone's here for the training."

Shadow rubbed her forehead to clear the fog from her brain. "Wow, how long was I asleep?"

"Only about fifteen minutes." And I enjoyed sitting next to you while you dreamed. "Do you know you talk in your sleep?"

Shadow blushed, unsure of what she had dreamed or what she might have said. "Yeah, I know. I must have been really tired." What the hell did I say? She noticed she wasn't the only one who was blushing. Oh, shit.

She sat up and pulled slightly away from the lifeguard. Her mind raced with a thousand thoughts going through her brain. Shadow barely noticed the binder that was held out to her. "Oh, um, thanks."

Some of the staff had gathered on the lawn near the office. Spike gave them the Crisis Team handbooks. The orange colored binder was filled with pages of information concerning the appropriate action to take in the event of emergencies such as lost campers, missing swimmers, building or forest fires, and evacuation procedures.

"Welcome to the Crisis Response Team. The word crisis causes people to panic, so we use terms that won't alert the campers if there's an incident. We'll spend time over the next two days practicing different scenarios so we'll be prepared for anything and everything."

"We call this team the Lineleaders instead of the Crisis Team. If you hear a radio call for the Lineleaders, you need to respond. Make sure you're always carrying one of these." Spike pulled small fourteen-channel radios out of a backpack and handed one to each person.

"It's your responsibility to make sure you're on the right channel and that you have charged batteries in your unit. The counselors will also have radios as will the Camp Ranger. The main channel for camp is channel two. But if a call for the Lineleaders occurs, switch to channel eleven. The radios the counselors carry only have ten channels. Channels eleven and twelve are specifically for Lineleaders."

Shadow played with the buttons on her radio, pushing them to change channels. On the backside of the hand-held unit was the number thirty. Hey, my old basketball number, cool.

She focused back on Spike; sure that she did not just hear the words bear and coconut used in the same sentence.

"Black bears are not common, but we usually have one or two each summer. Usually they're just looking for an easy meal, so make sure you empty the trashcans at the barn and waterfront every night. Ranger Bill and Tex will run the garbage out to the dumpsters every evening. If someone does see a bear, report it. Again, bear is another word that scares people, so here at camp we call them coconuts."

Bears are coconuts. Check. Shadow shook her head in amusement. Only at camp.

"Last term you need to know is LDB. That's a signal that we have a missing swimmer or boater. LBD stands for lost bather or boater drill. Let's head down to the swim docks. Today we're going to focus on water-based drills. Time to get in the lake and learn how to do search and rescue underwater style."

Scooter didn't miss the look of panic in the wrangler's eyes.

The lifeguard reached her hand down and helped pull Shadow to her feet. "It's gonna be okay, Shadow. But it is time for you to learn to swim."

Shadow swallowed hard and nodded her head. "Alright."


Dinner was a noisy affair. Spike decided it was time to run the staff through a "theme meal". Instead of a fork, spoon and knife, each staff member was handed a kitchen utensil with which to eat.

Scooter laughed as a potato masher with a twelve-inch handle was given to her.

Shadow looked at her own utensil, a large spatula. She was grateful that most of the food could be eaten with her fingers. She watched the others attempt to use a variety of implements. At least I didn't get that. Pax was trying to load mashed potatoes onto a whisk.

The wrangler stretched her long legs under the wooden table. Well, this afternoon wasn't so bad. The Lineleaders had run through a Lost Bather Drill. Most of the staff including Shadow had lined up in the sand next to the cross-dock. They were in the Red Zone, which was designated for beginning swimmers, and in shallowest part of the Yellow Zone for intermediate swimmers. The depth of the water in these areas varied from an inch to five feet. I stood in three feet of water; not much, but that's more than I've been in for years. She smiled at her progress.

The staff had been instructed to stand shoulder to shoulder with arms linked. They walked towards the other cross-dock and shuffled their feet in the sand. Even though they could not see below the surface of the water, had a drowned swimmer been there, they would have felt her.

Those with stronger swimming skills donned masks and dove off into the deeper section of the Yellow Zone.

The lifeguards, with the exception of Pax who was running the drill, had searched the Blue Zone for advanced swimmers. Shadow watched them dive, resurface, take a breath, and then dive again. Amazing.

She glanced at Scooter who had changed out of her bathing suit and dried her short blond hair. The lifeguard looked up in time to catch blue eyes watching her. Shadow blushed and gave her a quick smile before trying to eat with the spatula.

After dessert was served, Jo watched from the kitchen window. She enjoyed the looks of sheer pleasure on some faces as they finished their slice of chocolate cake.

"Anybody want seconds?" Twenty staff members raised their hands.


Silver caught up to Pax as she was leaving the dining room. They walked together down the staircase, stopping long enough to pet Indy who was waiting at the bottom.

"Pax, I need your help. It won't be easy and I can't tell you all the details, but I trust you and hope that you are willing to trust me enough to help me."

Pax turned to face the Camp Director who was fidgeting with her hands. "Silver, of course I trust you. You should know that by now. What do you want me to do?"

Pax and Silver walked up Sky Meadow Hill and into the amphitheater that overlooked the lake. The two women sat on the wooden platform stage. There was a clear view of the path behind them.

Silver shared the earlier conversation with Kyla, adding that things were probably worse than Kyla had stated.

"If Spirit has done or said anything derogatory to another staff member, especially one she thinks might be gay, I need that information right now. I have to give it to Kyla by tonight."

Pax watched the seagulls as they flew close to the lake's surface. She thought back to the rude comments and digs that Spirit had made during the last ten days. But is that enough? Or, am I just making the incidents seem worse than they are?

The voice of the camp director brought her back to the discussion. "Pax, it doesn't matter how minor it seemed to you. If anything at all happened, it would help if you tell me about it."

"Okay, well, speaking for myself, it's mostly little things. But, Crew did tell me that she overheard Spirit threatening to find out who all the lesbians are and to make trouble for them."

"Did she say what kind of trouble?" Silver played with a small pile of pine needles that she had collected from the platform. She made a small A-framed structure, then knocked it over and laid the needles flat side by side.

"Crew didn't hear anything specific. But, she and Spirit did have fire watch duty together at Echo Point; so there might be something more."

"Okay, I'll talk to her. Anything else you can think of?"

"It's probably nothing, and I don't even know for sure that she wrote it, but I found a piece of paper when we were cleaning up the boats from the canoe trip. It's a list of names. I have it in my backpack in the office."

"Well, let's head that way if you don't mind showing me the note."

Pax nodded her head, stood, and extended her arm to help Silver up. They walked back to the trail in silence and turned to go down Sky Meadow Hill.

"Pax, if you could keep your ears and eyes open, I'd appreciate it."


"And I probably don't need to ask you, but would you…"

Pax put her arm around Silver's shoulders. "Keep this confidential? Of course I will."

The office door slammed behind them as they entered the wooden building. Pax pulled a folded piece of paper out of her backpack and handed it to the director. Silver looked at the names and symbols that were written in the distinctive handwriting.

Crew - XXX

Spike - X

Scooter -???

Shadow -? X

Pax - No :)

Lemme - X

Doodle - No :)

Silver - No :)

The list had every staff member's name with an X, a question mark, or a smiley face beside each one. Crew's name was heavily circled in blue ink.

So, X if you're known to be gay. Question mark if she's not sure. Smiley faces if she thinks you're straight.

Silver scanned the list for her own name, surprised to find a smiley face. If she only knew I have a girlfriend.

She unlocked the filing cabinet and took out Spirit's personnel file. Silver compared the handwriting on the note to a "who to call in case of emergency form" that Spirit had filled out when she was hired.

Bingo. Now just to talk with Crew and see if she can give me specifics. Wonder if she knows she's at the top of the list- literally.

Two hours later, Silver returned to her office. The slamming door matched her mood. She picked up a plastic cup and threw it against the wall, shattering the cup into tiny pieces.

Damn it! How could all of this be happening and I not be aware of it? She dropped into her chair and slouched down into a comfortable position. What did I miss? The director wracked her brain, looking for signals or incidents that she might have glossed over. Nothing came to mind.

She looked over the documentation that Crew had written out. Spirit had been very subtle, only being aggressive when she was alone with another staff member. No witnesses; just her word against theirs. Mostly just name calling, but there was one near fistfight with a woman who Spirit accused of staring at her in the shower-house. Oh, my hell, she had a towel covering her and was strolling around. If she thought there was a problem, why didn't she just get dressed?

But the incidents that truly disturbed her were those that involved Crew.

At first, Crew thought the counselor was family. "She was flirting with me, for God's sake", Crew recalled. "She even said she thought I would like a soft, warm body to share my sleeping bag. I didn't do anything to encourage her, I swear it, Silver."

But, as the next couple of days passed, Spirit's attitude changed. Her smiles towards Crew turned into cold stares. Once, when giving her a lifejacket, Crew accidentally brushed the counselor's hand. Spirit growled, "Don't touch me, you damned dyke."

Crew also confirmed that one night as she passed Spirit's tent, she overheard the blond telling Berry that Spirit would "find out who all the freak lesbos were and torment them until they quit their jobs". She mentioned that she had started a list…

Tears were trickling down Silver's cheeks. Why didn't Crew tell someone she was being harassed? She wouldn't have had to go though it. How could I have missed what was going on?


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