It felt like Thanksgiving. Dana and Kellie leaned back to back on the picnic table bench in the Lodge, with their bellies full for the first time since they left civilization. Their teamwork finally coelesced that morning, with Dana taking over the cooking and Kellie bartering extra fruit rolls for more substantial food. Since the class was breaking camp the next morning and backpacking down five miles to the bus, many were eager to get rid of any extra food to lighten their loads. The lightweight fruit rolls proved to be in high demand.
"Dana, you make yummy freeze dried eggs!"
"Thanks for scoring that box of Macaroni and cheese!"
Kellie nudged Dana with her elbow and cocked her head at Mr. Branson sitting in a corner writing stuff on his notepad."I wonder what grade we got on our tent last night?"
"Without the rocks under the floor, it would have been perfect." Dana sighed, "If we don't tell him, he won't know."
"He doesn't care about comfort. He is grading us on survival and if we apply the information we learned in class." Kellie's turn to sigh, "Don't you pay attention?"
"Huh? What did you say?" Dana played dumb and Kellie played like she was about to choke her until they heard a throat clear in mid-strangle. Mr. Branson sat across the picnic table from them. It was time for a verdict on their tent pitching skills.
"Ahem, your tent was solid, Smith and Johnson. According to Miss Hill's evaluation while you were assembling it, it was placed in the best direction--back against the wind. Nice trench around the perimeter, rain fly, pegs all in securely--not easy this time of year. You used a ground cloth, good. Were there stones underneath?" Mr. Branson looked at them straight in the eyes. The girls gulped. Sometimes, their teacher seemed to have extra superpowers.
"We missed a couple."
"Well, it is a rocky terrain--make sure you get as many as possible, they poke holes in the floor and if it rains, it could leak. A-" Mr. Branson got up from the table with a rare smile "Tents have very thin walls. When I said lights out, you know it means all quiet. But you weren't the noisiest ones. However if you want an "A" from this class you need to work on adhering to the lights out rule."
"Mr. Branson?" Kellie got up from her seat. "What if the conversation taking place after lights out was necessary for team building?" Kellie described their reconciliation in the tent last night . Mr. Branson was nodding his head. "...and I know you noticed we did better this morning than the previous ones."
"Ok, you've made your point." he jotted down 'team building' on his notepad. "Which raises another issue, about the food. Miss Hill said that you, Miss Smith, weren't eating. She was concerned that you had an eating disorder. I'm relieved to see you dined well this morning. So, we'll talk about this some other time."
He headed towards a group of gangly boys, barking "Buckly, McEnroe, Lipovsky and Dean!" They were the noisest ones of the tents, and were about to face their own Outdoor Ed Judgement Day. Kellie jubilently sat down, pumping her arm in victory. Dana laid her head on the table. This "A" was the hardest one she ever had to work for. She sat up with a sudden realization.
"Kells!" she whispered.
"Tents have thin walls!"
"Think about it! How did our teacher know about the rocks? " Dana put her head in her hands, "What if everyone heard us talk about-" She looked to her left and right.
Kellie gazed at her with disbelief. "You mean, boys?" Dana hushed her. "Oh please, what are you? A twelve year old? "
As if on cue, Chris came over to their table. Dana looked like she was about to die.