A Story by Katie Foutz Voss

Story for workshop portfolio #4. Happy campers.


“Already everybody, let’s go get ready for games! It’s the last one!” I said cheerfully to my girls. I smiled as they scampered off in excitement to get their tennis shoes on. I couldn’t wait to see how thrilled they would be when she I them about the surprise.

            The last night of camp was always celebrated with s’mores around the fire pit. Every week I--or Rabbit, as I was called at camp--would put on my best excited face for my campers, and I would tell them with great animation that a surprise was waiting for them after song and story time. This method of enthusiasm usually worked for most of the kids.

            I began subtle preparations on the way back from dinner. “After games, I want you all to get into your little pajamas, alright?”

            Most of the girls replied with a chorus of, “Okay, Rabbit!”

            “But why, Rabbit?” came one woeful moan.

            “Because you need to be all ready for bed right after story time, Lacey.”

            “But I don’t wanna go to bed!” Lacey screeched. She had been in tears at least half of the week, and this announcement was not a shock to me.

            I stroked the girl’s hair. “Don’t worry, Lacey. You’re not going to bed yet. Remember, we’re about to go play field games?”

            “I hate games,” Lacey grumbled.

            “Oh, no you don’t,” I said with a grin. “You were so good at the games yesterday! Remember when you threw the ball and hit Grasshopper in the face? That was so funny!”

            “I guess so.”

            “You guess so? I know so. And you’ll have just as much fun today.”

            By then my seven little second-graders had reached the tent. The girls scattered to their separate beds immediately to change their shoes.

            “Thank you all for getting your game shoes on without a reminder!” I said.

            “Rabbit, what’s the game tonight?” Mariah asked.

            “Something stupid,” Lacey declared with her fingers tangled in her knotted shoelaces.

            “Lacey said a bad word!” Abby shrieked.

            “Yeah, she said the ‘S’ word!” Kayla added.

            “Shut up!” said Lacey.

            Abby gasped, and Kayla began to cry. “She said the other ‘S’ word!” Kayla bawled.

            I didn’t even spare a moment to flinch. I grabbed the box of Kleenex from the pile of necessities next to her sleeping bag and dabbed gently at Kayla’s eyes. “Lacey’s just not having a good day, honey. She wasn’t mean to you on purpose.”

            When Kayla was satisfied with mere sniffling instead of voluble blubbering, I walked carefully over to where Lacey was still struggling with her shoelaces.

            “I can’t get them untied!” the little girl whined.

            I took the shoes and began working at the thin, dirt-encrusted laces. “You were pretty mean to Kayla, missy.”

            “I know.”

            “Just because you don’t feel good doesn’t mean you can make the other girls feel bad too.”

            “I know.”

            “After you apologize to Kayla, we can walk over to the field. Would that be okay with you?”

            Lacey nodded and bashfully approached the barely-recovered Kayla. “I’m sorry for saying mean things,” she whispered.

            “That’s okay,” Kayla whispered back.


            Later, outside her tent, I was getting “talked to” by the camp director. The girls were inside changing into their pajamas and twenty yards away I could already hear the snapping and crackling of the fire.

            “I know that Lacey will be alright,” Dale said. “But the fact is, everyone saw her hit Grasshopper in the face, and it looked like it was on purpose.”

            “I’m sorry. She just doesn’t seem very happy at camp. I don’t know what to do.”

            “These things happen, Jenn. Don’t blame yourself.”

            “Thanks, Dale. I just wish there was some way I could make her happy, you know?”

            “Well, everyone’s going home tomorrow. Just try to keep her out of trouble till then.”

            I watched Dale walk away with a frown on my face. I was anxious for Lacey to find some way to enjoy herself before she went home. It was likely that s’mores would do the trick, but something told me that things weren’t going to happen as pleasantly as I had hoped.

            “Are you ready, girls?” I called into the tent.

            They all came stumbling out in nightgowns and flip-flops, blankets and dollies and teddy bears dangling from their dirty fingers.

            “Why are we in our pajamas now, Rabbit?” Courtney asked.

            “Because you need to be totally ready for bed right after the surprise,” I said, loudly enough for every girls’ tent in the clearing of trees to hear. In the tent just next to ours I could already hear the enthused cries of several other girls.

            “There’s a surprise?” Abby gasped.

            Six girls stared up at me with wide-eye expressions and their mouths held in dumbstruck little circles. Still, that one  little girl stared up at her with a scowl.

            “Let’s go over to the fire pit, and after story time you’ll get to see your surprise.” I winked at Lacey. Something has to make this girl smile before she goes home tomorrow. “Aren’t you excited, Lacey?”

            Lacey ignored her and skipped ahead with the girls to the fire pit where they clumped together on a log near the front.

            By the time everyone had been exhausted by a less-than-exhilarating story time and several obnoxiously loud camp songs, I barely remembered to get my campers pumped up for the s’mores. I noticed someone coming down the trail carrying a crate filled with marshmallow bags and boxes of graham crackers, and close behind another person had a box of chocolate bars.

            “Look over there, girls. Are you ready for your surprise?” I whispered, pointing out at the caravan of snacks in the distance.

            For the first time that day Lacey looked legitimately happy about something, and her beaming expression matched that of the six other girls as they watched anxiously for their surprise to appear. When the carriers of goodies finally emerged into the clearing every camper began fidgeting on their woody seats and whispering with sugar-starved lips.

            I felt Lacey nudge my side. “Is that the surprise, Rabbit?”

            “It sure is. Do you like s’mores, Lacey?”

            Lacey bobbed her head up and down a few times, but what I noticed more was the grin sweeping across the girl’s face. It was like an upside-down rainbow after a week of stormy weather. Finally, something to make her smile.

            A few of the male counselors began making the s’mores and handing them out to the campers. There was a resounding sound of crumbly bites being taken and sticky lips being smacked in the aftermath. The fire crackled warmly and the campers talked open-mouthed at each other about how much fun they had on the lake and how sad they were to go home the next day.

            “I’m so glad Lacey found something she likes,” I said to Willow, another female counselor. “I thought after that thing with Grasshopper that she would have to end the week on a bad note. And I hate telling parents that their kid didn’t have fun.”

            “Looks like the s’mores are just what she needed,” Willow replied.

            I looked down to smile at Lacey, but my happiness quickly dissipated. “Lacey!” I exclaimed. “Lacey, stand up right now!”

            The little girl was startled but she stood up, still chewing. “What? Why?” she asked with graham cracker pieces tumbling out of her mouth.

            “You got marshmallow"oh, Lacey, your nightgown"get it off!”

            My only thought was I’m so sorry, Lacey as I grasped the girl’s nightgown from it’s hem and pulled it off her body. Red ants shot out from the sticky garment in every direction as I tossed it into the nearby flames. I pulled Lacey into my own body, to hide the girl from the crowd and save her from more embarrassment. But it was too late. Lacey was wailing and howling at the top of her lungs, ants were still crawling on her legs, and a hundred pairs of eyes were gawking in horror at the naked little girl and the counselor who had gotten her that way.

© 2010 Katie Foutz Voss

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Added on May 9, 2010
Last Updated on May 9, 2010


Katie Foutz Voss
Katie Foutz Voss


1. My name is Katie, Kat, Kate, or Katherine. Never Kathy. 2. You will find me with flowers in my hair and paint on my hands. 3. I love: Jesus, my husband, art, coffee, pajamas, chapstick, the color.. more..