top of page

Adventures in Akadia

Chapter 11

The Campfire


     On the night of Mystiboo, the kids returned to their tents and were treated to the gentle sounds of the forest and nearby river. As they drifted to sleep, their experiences in Akadia so far replayed in their mind. They thought about the magic door that had brought them here. They marveled at how a memory that felt so long ago had actually happened just a few days earlier. The kids thought about how much fun they had with Aurelia and Barky and wondered when they would see them again. And finally, their thoughts turned to their first interactions with the Quotidians and how much fun Mystiboo was. Each day in Akadia had been beautiful.

     The following morning, the children woke to the sound of raindrops drumming on the roof of their tents. As they stirred under their covers, they could instantly feel that today was much colder. Opening the front flap of their tents, the children caught glimpses of one another through the downpour and exchanged puzzled looks. The kids weren’t immediately sure what this meant for them. Rainy days back home were straightforward – you stayed inside where it was warm and dry. But what do you do on a rainy day in Akadia? Wink, now wearing an even bigger hat and a coat made of thick fabric, approached the kids’ tents and provided the answer. 

     “Mornin’ kiddos!” he greeted. The weather had clearly not dampened his enthusiasm and he added, “Time to ge’ goin’. We go long way t’day.” 

     The kids’ expressions quickly went from puzzled to worried. Still standing safely inside their tents, none of them seemed eager to venture out into the cold rain. After a brief silence, Elizabeth spoke up, “Shouldn’t we wait until the rain stops? We’ll get soaked out there!” 

     Wink shook his head, “This wha’ day gives. We still need t’go.”

     Each of their hearts sank as the reality that this was going to be a very different day settled in.

     “But I don’t have my jacket!” Jamari protested.

     Unfazed, Wink responded, “Check da’ packs. Relly take care of you.”

     In unison, the kids disappeared back into their tents to further examine the contents of their backpacks. Just as Wink said, Aurelia had taken care of them by packing a poncho-like coat. One by one, the children emerged from their tents wearing their new coats.

     As the kids stood facing Wink, he gave them a smile and said, “You lookin’ ready. Let’s go!” 

     Wink first led the kids to a canopy where a handful of Quotidians had prepared slurpy-lurp for them. As always, the kids loved the food, but their worry about the day ahead made it taste a little less sweet. As they ate, Lukas asked, “So how far are we going today?”

     Wink rested his chin on his walking stick and thought a moment before responding, “Hmm, I thinkin’ we go til’ the campfire.”

     Lukas was visibly confused by Wink's response. By this point, he had memorized the entire map of Akadia and "the campfire" didn’t match anything he had remembered.

     When the kids finished their breakfast, they handed their bowls back to the Quotidians that had prepared it.

     “Thank you,” Gabriela said with a smile.

     The Quotidians smiled back and gave a variety of parting words, including “Good luck kiddos”, “Be safe friends”, and “Come back soon”. 

     Already a few steps ahead, Wink called out, “Alrigh’ kiddos, let’s go!”

     Leaving the cover of the canopy and taking their first steps into the downpour, the kids repositioned the hoods of their coats to fit more snuggly around their faces.

     Wink led the kids in the direction of the mountains, which were currently hidden behind fog and clouds. Passing a final group of tents, a few Quotidians peaked out their heads to give a final encouragement to the kids.

     “You can do it, kiddos!”, one called out.

     “See ya kiddos! You be great!”, another added.

     The kids appreciated these kind words, but it did little to help them feel more excited about the day ahead. 

     The group approached the river at the edge of the camp. Wink led them to a spot where a group of stones were lined up and spaced apart, providing a pathway across the river. Wink hopped from stone to stone effortlessly and was quickly to the other side. 

     “Okeekay, c’mon kiddos!” 

     Jamari stepped forward and began hopping from stone to stone. The sneakers he was wearing didn't provide much traction and he nearly slipped into the river.

     “Careful!” Elizabeth called out.

     “I’m being careful!” Jamari snapped back, still recovering from the jolt of adrenaline.

     After Jamari was safely across, the others cautiously followed one by one. Lukas was the last one over the river and he let out a sigh of relief as he made his final jump to the shore. Wink cheerfully said, “Very good kiddos! Now into the fores’.”

     After a dozen paces, they stood looking directly at a wall of evergreens. Leaving the Quotidian camp behind, Wink guided the children into the heart of the woods. Their morning went relatively well, all things considered. The forest's thick canopy shielded them from the rain and the path was smooth and not too steep. 

     Early in the afternoon, the children discovered their journey was about to become much more difficult. The forest gave way to reveal a clearing at the mountain's base. In the distance, they could see the path became much steeper and that, without the protective canopy of the forest, they would now be exposed to the pouring rain.

     “Oh, perfect,” Jamari said sarcastically as he readjusted the hood to his coat.

     Lukas, speaking to no one in particular, asked, “Wouldn’t it be a better idea to wait until the rain stopped?” 

     Wink squinted as he looked up into the rainclouds. He looked as if he were examining, or somehow reading, the clouds. Wink shook his head and responded, “We need t’go. The rain not gonna stop.”

     The kids looked to Wink, confused at how he could be so sure. Without further explanation, Wink carried on straight toward the steep mountain trail.

     Even in good weather, the trail would have been difficult. With the ongoing downpour, the trail had been transformed into a mucky obstacle course. Every step became increasingly difficult as the kids’ shoes collected more mud. It felt nearly impossible to make progress; with each step forward it seemed they would slide right back down.

     As the path up the mountain grew steeper, the rain decided to fall harder. At this point, the kids found themselves struggling to stay upright, taking turns stumbling and falling over. Before long, they were all coated in a layer of mud. The kids felt, and looked, miserable.

     As the kids struggled, Wink was gracefully ascending the mountain side. Jamari was having the best luck keeping up with Wink, but only barely. As he stopped to catch his breath, Jamari looked back and noticed the others lagging behind, especially Elizabeth.

     "Come on! You're taking forever!" Jamari shouted, his voice barely audible above the downpour.

     Elizabeth, still on her knees from her last stumble, didn't respond. 

     Noticing Elizabeth's struggle, Gabriela slid down to be next to her. 

     "I got you, Elizabeth," Gabriela said reassuringly, holding out her hand. 

     Elizabeth looked up, seeing the offered hand, and took it willingly.

     "Thanks," Elizabeth replied, the exhaustion evident in her voice. 

     Just as Gabriela began to pull Elizabeth to her feet, she lost her own footing and they both went tumbling back to the ground.

     Jamari groaned in exasperation. He took in a breath to shout something else at the girls but was interrupted by Wink holding up his hand, signaling for Jamari to remain silent.

     Lukas soon caught up to Jamari and Wink and was followed a few minutes later by Gabriela and Elizabeth.

     Gabriela, unaware that she was speaking for the entire group, huffed out, “Wink, I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

     Wink examined their surroundings before responding, “We almos’ there.” 

     Looking to Elizabeth, Jamri scolded, “Try to keep up this time!”

     “I’m trying!” Elizabeth shot back.

     Wet, cold, muddy, and tired, the group pressed on a short time longer. They navigated past a group of taller rocks to find a small level area that looked perfect for a campsite. There were a few trees around with some logs and stones scattered about.

     Finally, Wink said the words the children had been waiting most of the day to hear, “A’right, that enough. We stop here.”

     The moment after Wink had said these words, the rain quickly slowed to a stop and the clouds began to break, revealing a beautiful sunset.

     The children looked into the sky with amazement, pulling back their hoods for the first time that day. 

     “We build campfire,” Wink said as he set down his pack and his walking stick, “Gabby and Lizzy, you find wood?”

     “Sure,” Gabriela responded as Elizabeth nodded.

     “Lukey and Jammy, you find rocks to put aroun’?”

     “Okay,” Jamari replied.

     Despite everything being soaked, Wink was able to get a fire started. He then got right to work gathering ingredients for a simple stew.

     The children huddled around the fire, holding up their hands and rubbing them together. 

     Wink was able to prepare dinner in record time and brought each child their own bowl. The kids quickly devoured the food and it provided much-needed warmth. After giving the kids a chance to eat, Wink added a log to the fire and sat among them. After a moment, he looked up at the children and said, “How we doin'?”

     None of the kids seemed eager to respond. Elizabeth and Lukas looked toward the ground while Jamari and Gabriela stared toward the fire. When the silence persisted, Wink looked to Elizabeth and asked, “Lizzy, how you?”

     Elizabeth, wiping some mud off her face that she had just discovered, replied in a low and emotionless, “Fine.”

     Wink kept his gaze locked on Elizabeth, “Lizzy, how you?”

     Elizabeth let out an agitated sigh and then went quiet, deciding whether or not to say what was actually on her mind.  

     Finally, in a saddened voice, Elizabeth replied, “I’m not feeling very good.”

     “Why?” Wink asked.

     A lump had entered her throat and Elizabeth responded, “I feel like everybody here doesn’t like me.” 

     Surprised by this response, the kids each looked to Elizabeth.

     “Everybody?” Wink questioned. 

     “Well…no,” she paused and, somewhat embarrassed, finally admitted, “Just Jamari.”

     An awkward silence gripped the air and Jamari slowly looked away from Elizabeth and into the fire. Wink didn’t immediately respond, and instead allowed the silence to persist until Elizabeth was ready to elaborate.

     She continued, “I feel like Jamari treats me differently than the others. It feels like he doesn’t even want to be around me.”  

     Wink gave a slight nod and turned to Jamari, “Jammy, you understan’ Lizzy?”

     Jamari hadn't anticipated this question and needed a moment to think about it. He had obviously been there for all of his interactions with Elizabeth but this was the first time he was hearing her perspective. Jamari took a quick glance at Elizabeth, and then shifted his gaze toward Wink as he replied with a quiet and sympathetic, “Yes.”

     Wink quickly followed up in a gentle tone, “Whachu understan’?”

     Jamari took the stick in his hand and prodded at the fire. He now understood what Wink was really asking. Wink wasn't just asking did you understand what her words meant, he wanted to know if Jamari understood how she was feeling. As he reflected on all the past run-ins with Elizabeth, and how he had treated her, it made sense that she felt this way. In a subdued voice, Jamari responded, “Elizabeth feels like I don’t like her and that I think she is annoying.”

     Wink, keeping the same gentle tone, turned to Elizabeth and asked, “Tha’ righ’?”

     Elizabeth nodded as she wiped away a tear. Wink turned back toward Jamari and asked, "Jammy, how you?"
     Understanding that Wink was now interested in his perspective, Jamari began to explain, “Well it’s not that I don’t like her-”

     Wink held up a hand to interrupt Jamari and then used the same hand to point toward Elizabeth. Wink was signaling for him to talk directly to Elizabeth.  

     This was the first time Jamari had ever had a conversation like this. He shifted a little on the log where he was sitting and then looked toward Elizabeth, “It’s not that I don’t like you. I just feel like you are always trying to stop me from having fun.  Even here in Akadia, it seems like you're always telling me what to do.” 

     Wink, showing that he heard and understood Jamari, gave a nod. Turning to Elizabeth, he asked, “Lizzy, you understan’ Jammy?”

     Elizabeth gave a small nod of her own.

     “Whachu understan’?”

     “Jamari feels like…” 

     Just as before, Wink held up his hand and signaled for Elizabeth to talk directly to Jamari.

     Elizabeth looked over to Jamari and said, “You feel like when I’m around, nobody is allowed to have fun.”

     Wink asked Jamari, “Tha’ right?”

     Jamari, his posture showing a sense of relief, nodded and replied, “Yeah.”

     Wink straightened out his back and said, “You both understan’.” He then set his hands on his knees and asked, “So whachu two gonna do?” 

     Jamari and Elizabeth both looked thoughtfully into the fire and Elizabeth was the first to speak, “I think I can do better at having fun with the group and not being bossy toward Jamari.”

     Jamari added, “I think I can do better at not goofing off so much and trying to see if I can include Elizabeth more.”

     Wink nodded, “Thank you Lizzy. Thank you Jammy.”

     As the group continued to warm themselves by the fire, they each felt as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Even for Gabriela and Lukas, the conversation had helped them feel like they understood Elizabeth and Jamari better.

     Wink and the kids spent the rest of the evening talking about how wild the day had been as they snacked on some treats Wink had brought along.

     Once the kids started to let out their yawns, Wink said, “Let’s get some sleepy”. Then, with a grin, he added, “I don’t know for sure, but I bettin’ it won’t rain tomorrow.”  

bottom of page