“I know we were right here,” Sadie is adamant. We’ve walked through the campground several times, loaded down with a cast iron skillet and an old drywall bucket full of dishes. There is no sign of Henry or my uncle Bob.
Bob is not really our uncle, although he used to be married to my aunt Kate (the body builder) before I was born. Somehow he ended up with her best friend, who he is still with, but everyone loves him and he is especially good friends with Henry. They take us camping in the summer, but my mother never comes with us.
Sadie and I usually just play cards in the tent and tell ghost stories by flashlight, but once when we were really little Henry and Bob sent us into the woods to go snipe-hunting. “Snipes are vicious,” they told us, “so one of you has to shine a flashlight in its eyes to paralyze it while the other one bags it alive. But be careful because their sharp claws can cut through the burlap sack.” They pushed us out into the woods, my whimpers elevating as we got further away from the campsite, until they finally called it off. Sadie said she knew it was a trick, but she seemed scared to me.
Kiss-on-the-cheek Teddy, Wooden Leg Peter, and a bunch of other dudes showed up the night before with beer coolers and stayed up really late but were gone when we woke to Henry cooking breakfast over the campfire. I always sit close to the smoke because I love the way my hoodie smells later before my mother washes it. Sadie and I were not surprised to get sent to the washhouse with the breakfast dishes.
I hadn’t paid attention to where we were going. That’s Sadie’s department, and she has never gotten us lost. Looking more closely, I recognize the placement of the logs around the fire pit. I know it’s not a mistake when she flops down on one of them with a scowl and props her chin on her palms. It’s definitely our camp site, but everything is gone. The tents, the coolers, the truck, everything. They threaten to leave us in the woods all the time, but it was supposed to be a joke. Now it feels like something out of a movie.
I sit down next to her in a mixed state of confusion and despair. We hadn’t been any worse than usual. Will my mother come looking for us? After the unsettling reality has been fully absorbed, accompanied by a lot of dialogue about how much we hate them, Henry and Bob emerge from behind a far away tree, laughing hysterically. They had packed up everything, hid the truck, and were listening to us freak out.
I am relieved, but Sadie has fire in her eyes. She crosses her arms in front of her chest and doesn’t speak the entire way home.