Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (

Chapter 52

Pranks, Fun and Honourable Surprises

With input by The Story Lover

I woke ahead of my alarm early the next morning to an incessantly itching nose. I was about to reach up and scratch it when I felt the strategically placed glob of shaving cream in my right hand and heard one of the boys giggle. Instead I made as if to reach up and scratch my nose, then at the last second, I re-directed my hand with the gob of shaving cream in the direction of the giggle.

"Hey!" Josh squawked as Jake, Sean and Marcus burst out laughing. He was standing next to my bunk with a feather in his hand. Brutus sat on the floor next to them. He made a grumbling sound and cocked his head from side-to-side.

"What are you monkeys up to?" I asked.

"We can't even get you when you're sleeping!" Sean said. I noticed that he was holding a can of shaving cream.

"I told you, he's like the terminator," Jake replied.

Josh, who had decided to join us on the morning run, cleaned the shaving cream off his face before the five of us headed outside to meet Mark, Michael and Charles.

After exchanging greetings with the cabin five boys, we started down our normal route. Without actually verbalizing it, we all decided to take it a bit easy for Marcus' sake and I noticed that Josh and Jake were running on either side of him and encouraging him all the way.

Brutus and Daisy were their normal boisterous selves and busied themselves chasing all the small woodland critters that they could find. They also kept a good watch for larger animals that we needed to keep our distance from. At one point, they ran well ahead of us on the trail and when we caught up to them, I was surprised to see a bit of red around both of their muzzles.

"Brutus, come here," I said as I kneeled down and looked at his face.

"Hey all the ripe strawberries are gone!" Sean said just as I noticed the strawberry smell coming from the reddened area of Brutus' muzzle.

"I'll be darned," I said. "These two must have eaten them all!"

"Brutus!" Josh exclaimed.

"Daisy!" Mark added.

The two dogs simply barked, wagged their tails and then took off once again down the trail. We all just looked at each other and shook our heads. Not a single red berry could be found – only green unripe ones were left.

After our run, we began a very busy day that was also kicking off a very busy week at camp. Friday was Talent show night. Our cabin, paired up with Rita's cabin on the girls' side, was to run the show as it were. The campers chose Josh, Jake, and Rachel to act as the show's hosts. As hosts, it was their job to introduce acts and to add some comedy to the routine.

"Hey Tom, can we go to town and get three large watermelons and some bananas?" Jake asked me as we returned to our cabin after cleaning up from our run.

"Watermelons? I suppose we can. What do you need them for?"

"We don't want to eat them, we need them for the show on Friday," Josh added.

"Please tell me this act doesn't also involve a large mallet," I chuckled with visions of Gallagher dancing in my head.

"No, we're not going to break them," Jake laughed. "It's a surprise. Oh yeah…. we need some duct tape too."

I knew that I had to head into Huntsville later that day anyway for an altogether different reason. Unbeknownst to Josh, Shelly and Trevor were flying in to join us at Camp Tonawonka. Shelly would be joining Melissa and Rachel in Rita's cabin and Trevor would be joining one of the junior boy's cabins. Shelly was going to be part of the CIT program and Trevor was joining Bryan in Computer camp.

After breakfast, the boys prepared to head off to their activity groups. I pulled Howie aside and filled him in on my planned errand for the afternoon.

"Hey Dad, I have to run over to talk to Bryan, Sean, and Melissa over at the computer camp. I'll be back in a few minutes," Josh said.

"Sure bud," I replied. "Meet us over near the canoe stands,"

"Ok," he said and then ran off after Sean who had already left to go to the computer camp building.

About half an hour later with the CIT campers assembled, I began a lesson on canoe safety. I noticed that Josh wasn't there, which struck me as odd. I ended up turning the lesson over to Paul and Howie, then I walked over to the computer building.

When I walked in, I could see that Bryan, Josh, Sean, and Melissa were all standing around the same computer screen discussing something intently.

"Hey Joshy, you're missing the canoe lesson. What's up?" I asked.

"Sorry Dad!" Josh said as he stood up. I noticed that Sean quickly turned off the monitor on the computer that they were working on. I thought it was kind of odd, but I didn't make any comment.

"That looks really good and I'll talk to you about it later," Josh said to Sean and Melissa. He then bumped fists with Sean and gave Melissa a brief hug before heading out the door.

"Hey Tom, have you got a second?" Bryan asked.

"Sure," I said.

"Would you mind grabbing a few things for me in town this afternoon when you go to get Shelly?"

"Sure," I replied.

"Shelly's coming?" Sean asked.

"Josh's girlfriend?" Melissa added.

"Yes she is. Don't say anything to Josh though. It's a surprise. She's going to be in your Cabin, Mel."

"I can't wait to meet the girl who managed to sweep Josh of his feet," Melissa smiled. "She was at the school that one time, but I didn't really get to talk to her. She seems nice."

"Josh is going to be over the moon," Sean said with a grin.

Bryan gave me a list of a few things that he needed me to get for him. "One more thing…. Do you have any Microsoft Exam Vouchers?"

"As a matter of fact, I think I do. Do you need them?" I asked.

"Not for me," Bryan said. "For those two," he said and pointed towards Sean and Melissa who, while now gazing longingly at each other, were back to working intently on something on their shared computer. "I want to give them both the ASP.NET exam."

"The ASP.NET exam that's part of the MCSD requirements?" I asked incredulously.

"That's the one. Sean is a hell of an instinctive programmer. I have him working on something and in less than a day of me teaching him some basics and giving him a book on it, he's already working on a real world project. I've got him doing the coding and I have Melissa doing the user interface. She has a pretty good knack for intuitive design."

"Excellent. Go for it," I said enthusiastically and gave Bryan my username and password for my Microsoft Training account so that, after creating accounts for Sean and Melissa, he could transfer test vouchers over from my account to theirs.

We spent much of the rest of that morning paddling around the lake in canoes. Josh, as he always had when he was a camper, partnered with me in my canoe. We spent a lot of time teaching the kids proper paddling techniques as well as giving them lessons in safety.

After lunch, I had only an hour before heading into town, but it was enough time to have a very serious talk with my campers.

"Ok gentlemen…. we had a fun morning and we've got some fun stuff planned for this afternoon, but I need to discuss a serious issue with you. Given that you're in the Counsellor in Training program, I hope that most of you will eventually become camp counsellors. When you do become a counsellor or even a junior counsellor, you'll have a lot of responsibilities. You have to make sure that your campers are safe and happy, but you also have to look out for them in another way. Here in the province of Ontario, there's a law on the books that makes it the duty of everyone who works with children to report any suspected child abuse. That applies to teachers, doctors, nurses, coaches, camp counsellors, and anyone else who works with kids."

I noticed that the kids had all gone quiet and they were all looking intently at me. "First of all, what do I mean by child abuse?"

"People beating kids," Mark said with a touch of bitterness in his voice that probably only Josh, Michael and I picked up on.

"That's right. Physical abuse is a big one. What else?"

"Molestation?" Gary asked.

"That's right. Sexual abuse is another big one. Anymore ideas?"

"How about name calling and generally being mean?" George asked looking at Marcus with a smile.

"That's right. That's called mental abuse. Child abuse is a terrible thing that affects far too many kids. One in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. Many kids go around with unexplained bruises or broken bones. Some kids show up at school hungry. The sad thing is that most abusers are not strangers, but family members." I let that sink in for a moment.

"A friend of mine sent me this letter which describes the type of physical and mental abuse some kids experience. Be prepared as it isn't pretty.

Dear Daddy & Mommy,

            Why do you hate me? I didn't ask to be born, yet you blame me, and it wasn't my fault.

            Mommy and Daddy, I love you so much, yet you don't love me, and I don't know why. I do everything you tell me to do, but it is never enough; I clean the house, but still you beat me, and I don't know why. I fix what you tell me to fix for dinner, but it is never good enough, so I don't get to eat. I get straight "A's" at school, yet you still beat me, and I don't know why. I still love you, Mommy and Daddy; why don't you love me?

            I didn't ask for you to be my parents, but you are, and I still love you. If you didn't want me, why did you have me? Why can't you talk to me without yelling and screaming? Why do you hit me when I just ask a question? What can I do so you will love me and quit hitting and yelling at me? The teachers at school are beginning to ask questions that I can't lie about anymore. They want to know why my ribs are showing, and they want to know what those strange marks on my arms, my back and my legs are from. Mommy and Daddy, please help me be a better kid, so you will love me like I love you.

Your ever loving child

I had to pause for a few moments, to gather my thoughts before I could continue; I looked around and saw some severely shaken kids. And while that bothered me, at the same time it gave me hope; that maybe just maybe thanks to the CIT's a few lives may be saved.

"Those of you who know me, know how I feel about kids. I've gone to great lengths to help kids in trouble and I'd do it again in a moment. I'm not expecting any of you to take the law into your own hands, but what I am asking you to do is to be vigilant. Get to know your campers and be aware of the signs of abuse. If you see or hear something that you feel is wrong or that makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to report it. It's your duty under the law to report it. I don't want you to become paranoid and immediately assume the worst because little Johnny shows up with a broken arm or because little Billy seems to have an unusual fixation on sex for his age. But I want you to use your head and listen to your gut. If your gut tells you that there's a problem, there probably is and you must report that. Report it to a senior counsellor or to a camp director. Make them understand what makes you have that gut feeling that something is wrong. You just might save a life," I said and glanced over at Mark.

I took a few more minutes to answer questions and to describe the signs of abuse. Fighting child abuse was a duty that I took very seriously and I strongly believed in the provincial law requiring the reporting of suspected abuse.

"That was a good talk Dad," Josh said after I'd finished and told the kids to take a short break.

"It's an important subject son," I replied.

"I know. You did good. Would it be ok if I went to see Sean and Melissa at the computer camp this afternoon? They're working on something and they need my help."

"That's ok with me bud. I have to go into town anyway. Howie and Paul just had a light afternoon planned. As long as Bryan says it's ok, you can go."

"Thanks Dad," Josh said and hugged me tightly before running off towards the computer camp. "Drive carefully Dad," he said with a grin.

"I will son," I replied. I could already feel the subtle pangs of our separation, even though I hadn't left the camp yet. It had been a long time, but I still marvelled at how the bond between Josh and I was almost a physical thing. It was certainly a primal bond to say the least.

"Tom?" Mark said from behind me as I was preparing to head into town.

"Marky, what's up bud?" I replied.

"Would it be ok if we went into town with you?" Mark asked with Michael standing next to him.

"We thought you could use the company," Michael added.

"Sure guys, it's ok with me."

Mark and Michael followed me to the camp office where I checked the pair of them out and grabbed a list of supplies that the camp needed along with some petty cash to pay for them. When we emerged and headed for the Jeep, Brutus and Daisy came bounding after us and jumped into the back seat.

"I guess they want to come along too," I laughed. Brutus and Daisy were having the time of their lives at camp, but evidently the allure of 'a ride in the car' was too much for them to resist.

"Hey Tom!" a voice shouted as I was about to close my door.

I turned around and saw Jake and Rachel, dressed in soccer garb complete with shin guards running towards me at full tilt.

"Jake, Rachel, what's up?"

"Don't forget the watermelons... oh, and we need some bananas.... but not ripe ones," he said breathlessly as he screeched to a halt next to the Jeep.

"We need some swimming caps too," Rachel added gasping for breath.

"Swimming caps? You mean those rubber beanie things?"

"Yeah, like they wear at the Olympics," she said with a grin.

"I don't know what you have planned, but I'm really looking forward to seeing it," I chuckled.

Jake grinned at me. "I think you'll like it!"

"I'm sure I'll be surprised. You guys are about the only people on earth still capable of surprising me," I laughed and patted him on the back. "You two best get back to your game," I replied.

"Ok, see you later," Jake said as he turned and raced back towards the athletic field with Rachel following closely behind.

I pulled out of the driveway and headed towards Huntsville with Brutus in the passenger seat beside me. I had the window cranked partially down and he had his head hanging out the window. The air flow was making his ears and lips flap comically. Daisy was doing the same thing out the rear driver side window with Mark and Michael seated with her in the back seats.

"Tom, besides keeping you company, there's another reason that I wanted us to come along with you," Mark said.

"What's on your mind buddy?" I asked.

"After that talk you had with us today and after Sean shared his past with Melissa, I wanted…. I mean I thought it would be a good idea to tell Michael about my past and I wanted you here with us when I did it, because you were so involved in getting me out of that situation."

"Marky, I think that's a good idea. Open communications are very important with any relationship."

"What do you mean.... the situation you were in?" Michael asked in a very concerned voice.

"Michael, Mark and his brother Bryan had a very rough time of it with their father especially after their mother died of breast cancer. He went through more crap than anyone should ever have had to and I know that I don't have to tell you what a strong and amazing person he is despite all that." I reached back and gave Mark's knee a squeeze. "Go on bud, tell him," I said. I smiled as I saw Michael take Mark's hand.

Mark began to lay out the gruesome details of his old life for Michael while Michael sat in shocked silence, his eyes watering. Mark talked for a good ten minutes and finished up with a retelling of how close he came to taking his own life before Josh and I rescued him and sent him west to live with Bryan.

"I'm sorry that you had to go through all that," Michael finally said. "I can't imagine what that would have been like. My parents aren't perfect, but they do love me and they would never mistreat me like that."

"Mark, if you could see how far you've come since that first day that I met you, you'd be as amazed as the rest of us are. You truly are a remarkable young man with a very bright future."

"A future that I want to be a part of," Michael said as he hugged Mark. "I love you Mark."

"I love you too," Mark replied which brought a huge smile to my face.

As if sensing that something serious was going on both Brutus and Daisy suspended their clowning around at the windows and they were both fussing over the boys and giving them plenty of doggy kisses.

A short while later, we arrived in Huntsville and our first stop was the giant Canadian Tire store located near the main highway at the entrance to town. We picked up a number of items that the camp needed and we grabbed the swimming caps that Jake and Rachel had asked us to get.

"I can't figure out why they want watermelons, bananas, duct tape and swim caps," I said.

"It is sort of an odd combination," Michael observed.

"Josh gave me specific measurements for the watermelons!" Mark added with a laugh.

"You're kidding!" I exclaimed.

"No, I'm serious," Mark replied. "He gave me three different minimum and maximum sizes and he said to make sure that they're not misshapen."

"He said he wanted 'pointy' bananas whatever that means," Michael laughed.

After we left Canadian Tire, we headed to the grocery store to get the food items, including Josh's watermelons and bananas. After a great deal of fussing and measuring, Mark and Michael selected three watermelons and a couple of bunches of bananas.

From there we headed to the local Dairy Queen for a cold drink and give the dogs a short walk to relieve themselves before hitting the road and heading to the Muskoka Airport to pick up Shelly and Trevor.

The drive to the airport was fairly long and I was grateful for the company of the boys and the two dogs. We spent most of the drive enjoying the scenery, joking around and playing with Brutus and Daisy. The two dogs delighted in spending most of the trip with their heads stuck out the windows of the Jeep. I knew that most dogs were fascinated with going for car rides and Brutus and Daisy were no exception. I'm not sure what the attraction was, but they always enjoyed the experience.

The Muskoka airport was somewhere between Pearson International and the Brampton flying club where Josh and I flew. It was mostly smaller aircraft and general aviation planes, but the airport did play host to the occasional 737-sized commercial jet. Shelly and Trevor were coming in on a Dash-8 turbo prop plane owned by Ontario Northland. When we arrived, the plane was already sitting on the Tarmac.

After leaving the windows down slightly for Brutus and Daisy, the three of us entered the small terminal and immediately spotted Shelly and Trevor. They were talking excitedly with a lady in an airline uniform at the arrivals gate. They ran straight over to us when they saw us.

"Hey Tom!" Shelly exclaimed happily and gave me a brief hug and quick peck on the cheek.

"Shelly, you look wonderful," I said. To look at her, you'd never know just how sick she had been. She was growing up and filling out into a beautiful young woman. Trevor looked as if he had grown several inches as well.

"Josh is going to be so surprised to see you," Mark said after he had introduced Michael and Shelly.

"I can't wait to get to camp!" Shelly replied.

"Me too," Trevor agreed.

"You're going to love Computer camp Trevor. You remember Bryan don't you?"

"Yes, I remember," Trevor said. "It's going to be cool."

"It's going to be nice having you two around." Mark said. "There's two girls I want you to meet Shelly. Melissa and Rachel. They're very nice girls and they're friends of two of Josh's friends. They're only here for a few more days, but they said they'd show you around. They're a bit older than you, but you'll fit in fine. Rita, your counsellor is really nice too."

"I can't believe how big Brutus has grown," Shelly observed a few minutes later as we headed back onto the highway for the trip back to Tonawonka. She was sitting in the front passenger seat next to me and Brutus was wedged in next to her with his head out the window again.

"Look at Daisy's lips flapping in the wind!" Trevor giggled as he pointed at Daisy who also had her head out the window.

Since we were going to miss dinner at camp, we stopped at a local Wendy's restaurant and the five of us ate a quick but hearty meal. We all wanted to get to camp as soon as we could.

A short while later, we pulled into Tonawonka. We stopped at the office and got Shelly and Trevor registered and then headed back outside. Melissa was waiting for us and we introduced her to Shelly.

"I go to school with Josh," Melissa said. "I saw you at the Terry Fox Run. I didn't get to talk to you then though. I'm glad you're feeling better. Josh talks about you all the time."

"Thanks," Shelly said with a smile. "I'm happy to meet you too. Josh says that Sean is a good friend and he says you're very nice too."

Melissa, taking care to avoid anywhere that Josh could be lurking, took Shelly to their cabin to get settled in while Mark, Michael, and I headed back to the Boy's cabins. We dropped Trevor off on our way there.

"Hey Dad," Josh said happily as I entered the cabin.

"Hey Joshy," I replied.

"So Tom, are we playing Cabin 5 again tonight?" Gary asked.

"We sure are," I replied.

"I hope we win again," George added.

"That might depend on Bulldog," Peter said.

"How about it Sean, you think Bulldog will come through for us again tonight?" I asked.

"I hope so," Sean said with a grin.

We knew that the girls would be over to watch the game and the plan was for Shelly to join them in the stands. We wanted to see how long it would take Josh to notice.

"Win or lose, remember why we're playing," I said.

"To have fun!" Jake replied.


"How was the soccer game?" I asked him.

"It was great, I scored with Rachel!" Jake blurted out a second before he realized what he said.

The whole cabin burst into laughter while Jake turned fire engine red. "I mean I scored a GOAL with Rachel! She passed the ball to me and got an assist when I kicked it in!"

"I'm glad that was what you meant," I said between chuckles.

"Yeah, remember what he said about Mr. Willy," Sean said teasing his brother between bouts of laugher. Poor Jake just turned even redder.

"Don't worry kiddo, we're only teasing you because we like you," I said and gave his shoulder a squeeze.

"It was kind of funny," he said through a sheepish grin.

"Alright guys, any more confessions, comments or rude remarks before we head out to play ball?"

"I've got a good Joke," James said.

I thought about it for a second. James was kind of a quiet straight-laced kid so I said, "Ok, James, let's hear it."

"Ok, little Johnny is in school and the kids are learning about food groups and their talking about different kinds of meat. The teacher picks three kids and puts blindfolds on them and puts out three plates with different kinds of meat on them. 'I want you to taste each of those kinds of meat and guess what they are,' she told the blindfolded kids. The kids all tasted the meat first plate and they all guessed that it was beef. 'Very good,' the teacher said and she told them to try the second plate. All the kids correctly guessed that it was pork. When they tried the meat on the third plate, none of them knew that it was venison or deer meat. 'I'll give you a clue, the teacher said. What does your mommy call your daddy when he comes home late?' Little Johnny suddenly jumped up and shouted 'Don't eat that! It's asshole!"

All the boys burst out laughing and I couldn't help but laugh along with them. I was actually surprised that James, of all my boys would come up with a joke like that.

"Very funny James," I chuckled. "Now on that note, you boys had better get yourselves out there and on that baseball field!" I just smiled as my whole gaggle of boys stormed the door and headed outside. It was fun – little moments like this that reminded me why I loved this job so much. It was really clear that my guys were having fun and bonding with each other.

Since we were officially the "visiting team" that evening, we got to bat first. Once again I sent Jake out to bat leadoff. He managed to hit a stand up single, off Bryan's second pitch. Marcus was up next and he hit a nice line drive right up the middle that advanced Jake to third and landed himself on first. Josh was up next and it was as he was preparing himself to bat that the three girls arrived and took their seats in the stands. Josh batted right and the girls were behind him in the left field seats. Josh hammed Bryan's first pitch foul and when he was trotting back to the plate; he looked up and saw Shelly standing in her seat waving to him. His face lit up like a million watt light bulb and he waved back with a huge grin on his face. He picked up his bat and when Bryan's second pitch came, he got ever bit of it and hammered it into the trees beyond the right field fence. It was a towering home run that would have made power hitters like Mark or Sean proud. He rounded the bases and high fived Jake and Marcus who had scored ahead of him and bumped knuckles with a grinning Sean who was just coming in to bat clean-up.

Josh didn't even stop at the dugout. Instead he vaulted the fence and ran straight to Shelly who had come down from the bleachers. He swept her right off her feet with a huge hug and kiss, eliciting wolf whistles and catcalls from the assembled campers and staff.

Undistracted by the mayhem in the stands, Sean hammered Bryan's first pitch over the centre field fence and gave us our fourth run of the inning.

A few minutes later, Bryan managed to get out of the inning and I got a chance to speak to him as I walked to the mound to take his place.

"The two love birds look thrilled to see each other," Bryan chuckled.

"I'll say. Hey, you got a bit roughed up there eh Bry?" I teased.

"Just you wait…. Mark spent some time teaching his team mates how to hit today," he replied and thumbed his nose at me.

Sure enough it only took a few minutes and a few swings of the bat and Bryan's team was only trailing by one run and Mark was coming up to bat. Not surprisingly, he hammered the ball deep and pretty soon Bryan's team was ahead.

The game went on like that until the final inning. Sean and Mark were perfectly matched home run for home run and the game was tied. Because it was getting late, we had to come up with a novel way of deciding the game and we chose a home run derby. Rather than simply sending Sean and Mark up to belt home runs all night, we drew straws to pick three players from each team. Each of the three players would get a single at bat each round and would try to hit a home run. If one team had more homers than the other at the end of the round, they'd win the game. If it was a tie, we'd move to another round.

We used popsicle sticks to decide who would play. Bryan and I each took a handful of popsicle sticks – one for each player and broke three of them in half. Whoever got a broken stick got to hit.

For our team, Kevin drew the first short stick, Jake drew the second and Marcus drew the third. For Bryan's team, Mark managed to draw the first stick, a tall stocky boy named Nathan drew the second and Charles drew the third.

Our side batted first. Kevin played to a full count and then managed to knock a blooper of a home run just over the right field fence giving us our first point. Jake, who appeared to be swinging hard enough to send the ball into next week struck out and Marcus smacked a ground ball up right field.

When Bryan's side batted, Mark went up first and drove the first pitch well over the home run fence. Like Jake, Nathan was swinging way too hard and he fanned. Charles came pretty close to hitting one out, but fell just short.

In the second round, Kevin struck out, but Jake came through with a deep shot to left field that cleared the fence. I knew we'd need at least one homer to stay in the game because it was pretty certain that Mark would hit one. When Marcus came up to bat, we weren't really expecting much since he hadn't been hitting that well. Needless to say we were all surprised when he got every inch of the first pitch and belted it over the wall.

"Way to go Marcus!" I shouted enthusiastically. The rest of the boys made a huge fuss over him and what we hoped was his game winning effort.

Mark strode confidently to the plate and assumed his usual batting stance. I couldn't help but notice as he glanced over at a beaming Marcus for a second before looking at me waiting for my pitch. I tossed the first pitch in there and he fanned it by a wide margin. He did the same with my next pitch and then on my third throw hit a weak line drive into center field.

"I must be getting tired I guess," he said as he returned to his dugout. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he could have clobbered any of those pitches, but in his mind, giving Marcus the opportunity to be the hero was more important. In the end, that's exactly what happened. Neither Nathan nor Charles was able to hit a home run that round and thanks to Mark's selflessness Marcus got to have his moment in the spotlight.

Later that evening, after camp fire, I walked up to him as he was returning to his cabin. "I'm proud of you Marky," I said and put my arm around his shoulder. "What you did for Marcus was really nice and having the courage to share your past with Michael was wonderful too."

Mark looked at me and smiled. "I learned from the best," he said and gave me a brief cuddle. "Goodnight Tom," he said and ran off to join the rest of his cabin mates.

"I hated to lose another game to you guys, but I understand what he did," Bryan said a few minutes later as we stood outside our two cabins. Inside both cabins, the usual evening mayhem was taking place.

"I told him how proud I was of him," I replied.

"Where's Josh? I haven't seen him since the game?"

"I let him, Sean, and Jake walk their lady friends back to the girls' side of the camp," I replied. I chuckled and told Bryan about Jake's verbal miscue earlier in the day.

"It's amazing how we can often say one thing and mean another," he said through chuckles.

"Marky had a lot to say today too," I said. I proceeded to tell Bryan about Mark revealing his past to Michael and how Michael reacted to it.

"I'm really happy for the both of them," Bryan said before we exchanged a quick kiss and went off to our cabins and the insanity to be found within them.

I approached the front door at full alert expecting some sort of trick and I knew that something was up as soon as the whole cabin went still and quiet as I approached. I was just reaching for the door handle when I spotted the "Joy Buzzer" attached somehow to the door knob. Without letting on that I knew what was happening, I gingerly gripped the sizes of the knob and opened the door as if nothing was wrong.

"What's going on? Why are you guys so quiet all of a sudden?" Seven surprised looking boys seemed to slink away as I headed to my bunk. I'd almost forgotten about the buzzer when I heard Jake, Sean and Josh on the porch.

The next thing any of us heard was a sharp buzzing sound followed by a surprised shout from Jake. That of course was immediately followed by a roar of laughter from the boys inside the cabin along with Josh and Sean.

"That scared the Sh…. I mean stuffin' out of me!" Jake said.

"You nearly jumped right out of your shoes!" Josh laughed as Sean doubled over from laughing so hard.

"It was supposed to get Tom!" Gary said from inside the cabin.

I was stretched out on my bunk reading a few minutes later when Josh came over to me. He reached down and started to massage my temples. "Thanks Dad," he said.

"For what bud?" I asked.

"For bringing Shelly and Trevor to camp," he said.

"You're welcome kiddo. I'm glad that they could make it."

"Wait 'til you see what we've got lined up for talent night," he said with a bright grin.

"I can only imagine. We got your bananas, watermelons, duct tape and swimming caps," I replied wryly.

"Oh good. That's all part of it, but there's more too. A lot more. That's why I've been over at the computer camp a lot, and off tonight with Shelly, Sean, Melissa, Jake, and Rachel."

"I know that whatever you're up to I'll be impressed and happy," I said. "I'm always proud of you."

"I know," he replied as he kept massaging my temples. I must have fallen asleep because all I could remember was waking up for the morning run with my book folded neatly at my side and a blanket thrown over me.

The rest of the week was pretty hectic and the preparations for Friday's birthday surprise for Bryan and Marcus along with the talent show were progressing nicely. Whatever Josh was working on, I didn't see all that much of him except for our morning runs and during the day for the CIT program, then again at night after everyone retreated to the cabin.

I was looking forward to Friday, but in one way, I was dreading the weekend. Sean, Jake, Melissa, Rachel, Charles, and Stéphane would be going home. I'd come to enjoy their company quite a bit and I knew that I was going to miss them and I knew the other boys would too.

When the big night finally arrived, everyone was really geared up. The festivities started in the dining hall immediately after dinner. I made my way to the podium and I signalled for the boys to do their part. Josh, Sean, Jake, Mark, and Michael went off to retrieve the gifts and the cake as I approached the podium.

"Tonight is a special occasion for one of our campers and for a member of our staff. Most of you know Bryan from computer camp and I'd like to ask you all to join me in wishing him a very happy birthday," I said.

The assembled campers began to cheer and shout, "Happy Birthday Bryan!"

I paused for a moment before continuing. "It's also a special night for one of my campers, Marcus! Come on up here Marcus," I said as George and Gary prodded Marcus, who was too surprised to move towards the front of the room.

Jake and Sean, with the help of a member of the kitchen staff wheeled in a table containing a very large sugar free cake with enough candles for both Bryan and Marcus. Andy dimmed the lights and the whole group of us sang Happy Birthday to Bryan and Marcus who then proceeded to work together to blow out the candles.

Just as Bryan and Marcus were about to cut the cake, I glanced questioningly at Josh and Mark wondering if this was a prank cake. Josh, as if reading my mind subtly shook his head.

As Bryan and Marcus worked to serve up the cake, Josh, Mark, Michael, and Kevin brought out a covered form on a wheeled trolley as well as a wrapped gift.

"No birthday is complete without gifts," I said. "Marcus, your fellow campers pitched in and we picked up a small gift for you while we were in town. Josh handed him the wrapped box which he tore into with gusto. Inside was a remote controlled helicopter and it was quite evident that he was thrilled. He was positively beaming.

"Wo-OW!" he exclaimed; only his voice had cracked for the first time. "Thi-IS is the gray-AY-test!" He said as his lip trembled, obviously quite embarrassed.

"Halleluiah!" Mark exclaimed above the giggles of the audience. "I told you your voice was going to change Marcus!"

"Hey Marcus," Josh shouted above the applauding din. "It's Ok.... you're a teenager now!"

"Yeah, I am!" Marcus exclaimed with a broad smile. "Thanks a million for this great helicopter and all the birthday cards. I'd especially like to thank the cooks for the great birthday cake." As he headed back to his seat amid the applause, he high-fived all the people along the way.

"For Bryan, we have something extra special," I said as Mark and Michael pulled the cover off a handmade wooden chair. At first I didn't notice anything odd, but I quickly realized that this was not the chair that we had expected. We had taken all kinds of notes and photos of a specific wing back chair and this was not it. I turned to Josh and Mark who, along with Sean, Jake and Kevin were trying hard not to laugh. I realized exactly what was wrong when Bryan put a hand on the chair and it instantly fell into about two dozen pieces on the floor.

Bryan looked absolutely thunderstruck and his mouth was a wide "O" of surprise and the boys were roaring with laughter. I couldn't help but laugh too.

"I guess they got you Bry," I said through the giggles.

It was then that Josh and Mark wheeled in the real chair. It looked beautiful - almost like a throne. After a moment, Bryan touched it gingerly before sitting down in it. After testing it for comfort, he stood up.

"Wow! I'm overwhelmed." Bryan said quietly - almost choked up. Then he smiled. "It's a beautiful chair, but there's no way I'll be able to get it back to Calgary, so I think it should stay here in the computer camp as the tutor's throne. This summer has truly been an honour to help all of you guys and gals with your computer skills. Thank you so much so one of the greatest birthdays I've ever had."

As everyone applauded, we returned to our seats.

Andy and camp director Rachel then took to the podium. "We have a couple more presentations to make this evening before we get ready for the big talent show," Rachel said. "First I'd like to call Bryan back to make a very special presentation to two campers from his Computer Camp. Those of you who are familiar with the way we do things at Tonawonka, know that we like to recognize the special achievements of our campers and this week we have two campers who have achieved something remarkable."

"Thanks Rachel," Bryan said as he took to the podium. "I'd like to ask Sean and Melissa from the computer camp to come forward."

Sean looked shocked and I smiled at him and prodded him on. "Go ahead bud," I said.

He met Melissa half-way there and the two of them stood next to Bryan.

"Sean and Melissa are two of my best students. Together they've been working on a remarkable project that you'll get to see very shortly. They've also shown a real knack for Internet programming. So much so, that without even telling them what they were doing, I had them both write the Microsoft Certified Professional Exams in ASP.NET Web development. This is a test that college and university students take to prove their proficiency in programming and I am VERY proud to announce that they both passed with flying colours!"

Sean and Melissa, while both a bit red in the face from all the attention, were both sporting huge smiles on their faces as Bryan presented each of them with their certificates.

"Passing this test is the first step in becoming a Microsoft Certified Application Developer and I'd like to congratulate both of these wonderful campers," Bryan continued as he shook first Sean's hand and then Melissa's as the applause thundered again with a lot of whooping to boot.

"Before I let these two return to their seats, I'd like to show you exactly what they've managed to accomplish this week. To do that, I'd like to call on Josh Chambers who provided the inspiration and guidance for this project."

Josh stood up to familiar applause and walked to the front of the room with my laptop in tow. He hooked it up to the projector and then took the microphone from Bryan.

"Thanks Bryan. To begin.... while we were in Europe at the start of this summer, I learned something very important about my family. I learned about the heroic and selfless act of a man that I never knew existed. This man, a Canadian soldier in the Second World War turned out to be the great uncle of my Dad.... Tom Davis. He sacrificed his life so that my grandfather, along with several others, could live. So you see, without this Canadian soldier's sacrifice, I wouldn't be here today. Neither would a whole family of people still living in the Netherlands. These people used to be strangers to me, but now they've become like family because of what Lieutenant Ryan Andrew Davis did on April 23, 1945. Sadly, his actions never resulted in any official recognition and that has to change. I wanted to start a petition to try to convince the government of Canada to posthumously award the Victoria Cross, our highest award for valour, to Lieutenant Davis in recognition of his heroic acts. In order to accomplish this, my good friends Sean and Melissa put together a website that would tell Lieutenant Davis' story and that would contain an online petition that site visitors could sign. The website went live today thanks to the outstanding efforts of these two wonderful friends and programmers and thanks to Bryan's constant guidance. This is what they put together," Josh finished and handed the microphone to a surprised Melissa.

"We.... we kind of shared the work," Melissa said nervously. "Sean wrote the code for the underlying logic and I designed the pages and created the user interface. We worked with some of the kids from the art camp to come up with some really nice graphics and we collected World War II photos from the Internet along with some pictures of the medal itself." Melissa seemed more at ease the more she spoke. She clicked her way through the whole website and even demonstrated how the signatures would be tallied and a report generated to send to Ottawa. "It's totally secure and Sean wrote some really good code to prevent multiple votes from the same person and to keep the whole thing honest. At the bottom of the page, you can see the link to the Webmaster, who in this case is Bryan and below that, you see a counter, which records the number of hits that the site has generated. As you can see it now says one.... that was Josh's vote. Now I'll show you how to vote on this petition." Melissa then went on through the boxes of the petition inserting her name, address, and e-mail address and then pressed the 'submit' button. "That's all there is to it and you can see that the counter has turned to 2. Please be sure to let all your friends know the link to this page. I hope it works and gets Lieutenant Davis his posthumous award. Thank you."

Once the applause had subsided for Melissa's presentation, Josh took the mic from her. "The next part of this is something that a whole lot of campers were involved in. In particular, I'd like to thank the Drama Camp. "In just a couple of days, thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, we managed to put together a short video that dramatizes what happened on that day back in 1945. It still needs a little editing, but it will probably be posted in a few hours with the petition. I think you'll like it."

I was already dumbstruck by what I'd seen. The website was unbelievably well done and it was evident that all three of the kids plus Bryan had put a great deal of work into it. What I saw next left me utterly speechless.

Josh started the video and the audience fell silent. Two boys that I immediately recognized as Josh and Mark entered the frame dressed in old fashioned boy's clothes and wearing orange armbands around their arms. They were creeping slowly through bushes as if trying to evade capture. A moment later, they dove for the ground as a group of people (a group of the boys from Cabin 5) dressed in German Army uniforms marched past. Once the soldiers were gone, the two boys jumped up and tried to run the other way when they were stopped by another group of campers in German camouflage uniforms. They marched the boys at gunpoint to a small dark room before berating them with a broken German accent, and interrogating them with shouts and vicious yelling. Josh and Mark did a remarkable job of acting. They actually appeared to be beaten up. They were so good that it was tough to watch.

Finally, the 'Germans' marched the two boys to a rock wall and formed up in a firing squad. Just as they were about to shoot, several bursts of gunfire were heard and campers wearing WWII Canadian Army uniforms burst in and shot down the Germans. The officer leading them, played by Howie, had a pistol and he shot the 'German' officer before rushing to the boys' aide. He was untying their hands when suddenly a wounded 'German' reached up and tossed a grenade at them. The Canadian officer shoved the boys away and dove on top of the grenade. The camera panned to the boys shocked faces as the sound of an explosion shook the ground. The movie finished with the two boys and the Canadian soldiers carrying a stretcher containing the body of Lieutenant Davis down the middle of the street. It then faded to black before cutting to a video of Pieter DeVries speaking in Dutch. The voice of Thomas DeVries could he heard translating as the old man spoke. The old man told his story and spoke of what happened after the war and of looking after Lieutenant Davis' grave. Finally, the camera faded to a shot of the neatly kept grave in Holten cemetery.

Although the video was only three or four minutes long, I was breathless from its impact - I think everyone in the room was.

With tears streaming down my face, I stumbled to my feet and made my way to the front of the room. Josh, almost having to hold me up, pulled me into a tight hug. I thanked all three of them and Bryan profusely and shook their hands before I took the microphone.

"I…. I am at a complete loss. I don't even know what to say except thank you. To each of you, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. What you have done here is beyond remarkable. You've managed to set in motion something that I sincerely hope will result in the long overdue awarding of the VC to my great uncle. Each of you is a remarkable young person and you have made me the happiest person alive today. Josh, Sean, Melissa, Bryan, Mark, Howie, and all of the rest of you who were involved in this.... thank you."

That evening, I sat next to Bryan to watch the talent show.

"That was a pretty emotional presentation the kids did for you." Bryan said as he put his hand on my shoulder. "You OK now?"

"Yeah, I think I got my fight back," I answered, "but right after the presentation, I was totally blown away. I sure wasn't expecting that. I can't believe that Josh was that strongly attached to the events that happened in the Netherlands. I thought maybe he might start a letter writing campaign to the Members of Parliament, but the website! That's a fantastic approach."

"Actually Sean came up with the initial idea after Josh had told him about the amazing coincidence and how he wanted to work on getting a posthumous VC for your grand uncle. Both Sean and Melissa got excited about the idea and when Josh saw the possibilities.... I just let them run with it. Although I kept close tabs on what they were doing, the amount of actually coaching I had to do with them was pretty minimal. What really amazed me was that they were all so dedicated to it.... there was no fooling around or joking about it."

"I'm amazed how you slid that exam past them without them really knowing about it." I said.

"That was easy." Bryan replied. "They'd hit a bit of a snag at one point while they were programming the site and I suggested that if they both read what was in the test separately and answered all the questions, they might find the snag in their website problem. It worked. I had them print out their answers and I was amazed. I submitted their individual tests to Microsoft and I was able to print out the certificates this morning."

It wasn't long before the three hosts took to the stage and I discovered what the watermelons were for. Josh, Jake, and Rachel were dressed as Vikings of a sort. Their helmets were made out of hollowed out watermelon rinds that were covered in duct tape with duct tape covered bananas sticking out the sides like horns. The three of them turned out to be the first act and they earned roared laughter as they, accompanied by Shelly on the piano performed a rendition of the Monty Python spam song. The skit involved spam-obsessed Vikings and the kids did a great job of re-creating it.

"I guess they must be using the swimming caps to keep the watermelon out of their hair," I observed to Bryan.

"Yeah, that was Rachel's idea," Bryan laughed.

Rather than going out of character, they kids remained in their Viking garb as they introduced each act. About half-way through the show, Jake disappeared leaving Josh and Rachel on stage. They introduced the next act, which turned out to be Sean, Jake, Stéphane, and Charles. The four of them, Sean and Jake on their guitars, Stéphane on the keyboard from the music camp and Charles on a set of drums, also from the music camp, proceeded to play an incredible acoustic rendition of "On A day Like Today" by Bryan Adams. They were absolutely phenomenal and, as far as I was concerned, they could have passed for a Bryan Adams cover band.

For the next act, it was just Rachel on the stage to introduce it. "Ok, I'm supposed to call Melissa and Shelly to come up and join me here in the stage," she said.

As the audience clapped, Melissa and Shelly, walked up and stood next to Rachel at the side of the stage and suddenly the lights were lowered. "Sean, Jake, and Josh will perform the next act and they asked that it be dedicated to Rachel, Melissa, and Shelly." Andy announced over the PA system. The light shone on the three girls who looked surprised.

When the lights came up Sean and Jake were side by side with their guitars, Josh was sitting at the piano and Charles was on the drums. The four of them began to perform "All For Love" by Bryan Adams, Sting and Rod Stewart with Sean performing Bryan Adams' part, Jake performing Sting's Part and Josh taking on Rod Stewart's part. The song choice, as a dedication to their girlfriends was perfect and they delivered a phenomenal performance. When they were done, they earned a standing ovation and the three girls were smiling radiantly at them.

"I didn't know he could play the piano," I said to Mark as we sat in the audience watching.

"He can't normally. He took some lessons a long time ago, but Shelly taught him how to play this song over the past few days."

"He learned to play that well in three days?" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, he says it not too hard. He can't play much else though!" Mark added.

There were a few more acts and then Mark and Michael took to the stage and performed a really good rendition of the classic Abbott and Costello sketch "Who's On First?" They had everyone laughing their heads off at their intentionally over-the-top performance.

After the show finally wrapped up, we headed back to the cabins. Everyone agreed that it was a resounding success and that everyone had a great time. As usual, I made the rounds of my boys, congratulating them on their part in the talent night festivities. With a little reassurance, I made Marcus happier with his voice, and made sure that he didn't have any soreness in his throat. I finished up with Josh. After fluffing his pillow and tucking him in, I sat down next to him.

"Joshy, you never cease to amaze me kiddo. Coming up with the idea for that website and the movie is remarkable. Then your singing and piano playing with Jake and Sean was fantastic."

"I had fun with the talent show. Did you like the Viking helmets?" he chuckled.

"Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny. You guys were great hosts."

"I phoned Mom and told her about the website. She said she'd have a look at it before she went to bed."

"I guess every vote counts Son."

Josh looked at me as his mischievous grin came across his face. "That's right Dad. Good night." We hugged each other and I wondered what was going through his mind now.

That Saturday morning, it was pouring rain and after breakfast, the mood in the cabin was somewhat somber given that there was little to do. I put on my rain gear and walked over to talk to Bryan and the two of us, after surveying the central field came up with an idea. It was just rain with no sign of thunder, so it was perfectly safe to put our plan into action. After calling on Paul to join us and filling him in on the details, we went back to our cabins to get the kids ready.

"Ok boys. I think I've had enough of sitting around in here. Let's get our bathing suits on and head out to the field."

"In the pouring rain?" Sean asked.

"Sure, a little water won't kill you. Besides, we'll be wearing bathing suits. Jake, grab the soccer ball," I said.

A few minutes later, the thirty boys, three councilors and three junior councilors from the three cabins met on the field and I took a moment to explain what we were going to do. At first the guys were pretty skeptical, but it didn't take them long to get right into it. We ended up playing a bizarre game that seemed to cross baseball, football and soccer. The wet and slippery grass was perfect and allowed us to slip and slide all over the place. We didn't really keep score; we were just having too much fun. We simply divided ourselves into two teams and had the time of our lives. The hours seemed to melt away and before we knew it, we had to hit the showers and get dressed for lunch. The whole lot of us were coated from head to toe in mud. We looked as if we had been wallowing in the mud. The only colour on us aside from brown mud was the bright white of our shiny teeth as we smiled and laughed constantly. We turned a dull rainy day into a perfect day of fun. We didn't even notice when Andy and Rachel walked over to see what all the fuss was about and ended up video-taping our fun.

After lunch we joined the rest of the camp to watch a movie in the dining hall. We let the kids mix it up and Josh got to sit with Shelly, Mark with Michael, Sean got to sit with Melissa and Jake got to sit with Rachel. The cook staff made up a huge vat of popcorn that seemed to disappear as fast as they could refill it.

Halfway through the movie, my cell phone vibrated. It was Susan.

"Hi Susan," I answered quietly, "Hang on a second while I step out." I didn't want to disturb all the moviegoers' interest in the movie.

Once outside, I returned to the call. "Hi again Susan, we're all watching a movie.... it's a lousy, rainy sort of day here. How are you doing?"

"I'm doing just fine. Josh called me and I went to the website for your uncle's memorial petition. What a beautiful site.... and Josh said that a couple of campers put it together. That's hard to believe!"

"It's true Susan," I replied, "Melissa and Sean are very smart when it comes to programming a website. Josh just gave them the idea and they ran with it. They managed to complete a Microsoft course to boot with flying colours.... it's a course that's usually taken by university level students. Naturally, Bryan had his hand in that, also in guiding them through the construction of the website."

 "The short video put me in tears.... it was so emotional.... so realistic and I don't mean just because Josh and Mark were in it.... everyone just played their part perfectly." Susan added.

"I felt the same way Susan.... I had tears bubbling down my face when I saw it. Just another reason to be proud of Josh, right?"

"Tom, there isn't a day goes by that I don't have to give thanks for the outstanding young man you've made of Josh. Hey! How are you and Bryan getting along?" Susan asked with a smile in her voice.

I almost laughed, knowing the innuendo in her question. "Well Susan, we're doing just fine actually, although privacy is at a premium, but we bear in mind that this summer is for the boys and that compensates for a lot. Sharing this experience with our boys has actually brought Bryan and I closer in many other ways."

"Tom, that's really nice, but the two of you need some time to yourselves. Maybe the lot of you, Mark, Michael, Josh, Bryan, and you should leave a few days early and come home for a few days rest before you have to get back to school. We've got lots of room to put everyone up.... and you know, I've never met Michael or Daisy."

"I'll think about that Susan and thank you for the suggestion," I replied. "I'm glad you liked the website. I'll talk your suggestion over with Bryan and the boys and let you know. OK?"

"OK Tom, I'll wait to hear from you and good luck with the petition.... I'm sure it's going to be a success. Bye for now."

"Good bye Susan." I ended the call.

That evening after we had our supper and finished our dessert, Bryan put his hand on my shoulder. "Come with me," he said, "I have a surprise for you." We got up and I followed him from the Dining Hall to the Computer Cabin.

Once he flicked on the lights, he took my hand, directed me over to his computer, and had me sit down in front of it on his new chair. It WAS comfortable. He booted up the computer, went to the favourites, and loaded the site. As he worked over my shoulder, he scrolled down to the bottom of the site. I was WOWED! There were already 257 hits on the site.

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed.

"I think it's time for you to add your vote Tom." Bryan said.

It was a piece of cake entering my name, address, and email address. There had been a comments box added to the site.

I thought for a moment, and then typed: 'The bravery of my grand uncle gave me a life that I would never have thought possible. His sacrifice gave me my adopted son, the most precious gift that any man would be proud of.'

I pressed the 'submit' button.

"OK, now look at this," Bryan said as he scrolled quickly through the comments that others had submitted. He stopped at Josh's submission.

It read: 'There has never been any other man, living or dead, who has had such an impact on my life. Without Lieutenant Ryan Andrew Davis' selfless act, I would never have lived and I would never have had the privilege of calling his grand nephew, Thomas Ryan Davis, my Dad.'

I got a bit choked over that. Bryan hugged me from behind and kissed my cheek. "Hey, it's OK Tom," he whispered, "it gets better. I have one more I want to show you."

Bryan scrolled the list again and showed me a submission from a Member of Parliament. I was astounded. His comment read: "At the opening of Parliament in the fall, this will be the first item up for vote. This is my promise to the memory of this gallant Canadian soldier."

"It was Mark that sent the link to our MP." Bryan said.

I sat there with the happiest feeling washing over me. "WOW! It's going to happen!" I said.

With his left arm still wrapped around me and his chin resting on my shoulder, Bryan said, "There's some more I want to show you."

He scrolled down up to another group of names. "Do you recognize any of these names?" He asked. Again, I was astounded – there had to have been fifty votes with the name 'DeVries' attached to it. "Josh has been busy today sending out emails to everyone he could think of," Bryan continued. "The Devries have been passing the link throughout the Netherlands. There has to be at least another fifty signatures with the Netherlands suffix."

I turned in the chair, looked at Bryan, and kissed him quickly. "IT'S GONE INTERNATIONAL and in only 24 hours! Thank you Bryan..... you've worked so hard with the kids on this site. You're a miracle worker."

Bryan reached over and turned off the computer. "For the kids, for you, it's not work.... it's a pleasure."

I stood up and Bryan took my hand and guided us towards the door. He flicked off the lights and pulled me into a hug before we kissed passionately in the dim light of the cabin.

With a big smile, I said, "Susan was right.... we need to have some time together. She wants us back home a few days before Labour Day, so we can have some time for each other."

"Yes, our Mother Hen is right." Bryan smiled. "We'll have to clear it with Andy and Rachel, but I think it's a good idea. Come on, we'd better get over to the camp fire before they come hunting for us."

We didn't see it coming as we stepped out the door. Two buckets of cold water quickly drenched over us – one from each side. The cold water left us breathless. We stood there motionless, sopping wet, and in shock.

"YEEESSSS!" Both Josh and Mark yelled as they waved the buckets in the air. "WE GOTCHA!" The rest of the Campers from Cabins 5 and 6 were whooping and hollering as they took pictures and enjoyed the spectacle from a distance. Brutus and Daisy came running up to us barking away happily, then licking the water from our legs.

Once the shock wore off, I started laughing, "ALRIGHT YOU GUYS!" I shouted, "Payback's a bitch!"

"And we know where each of you sleep!" Bryan exclaimed.

"Ahh come on Dad.... you wouldn't do anything bad to us would you?" Josh asked. "It was just a bunch of clean water. We wanted a way to celebrate the success of the website."

"Bad?" I questioned. "No Son, I wouldn't do anything bad, but you never know when I'm going to strike."

"That's right," Bryan agreed, "and justice will prevail. Not war mind you.... justice. Now you guys get over to the campfire while Tom and I put on some dry clothes."

As the boys scattered, laughing and giggling ahead of us, I was hatching a plan in my mind as Bryan and I headed for our cabins. "Bryan, let's not actually do anything physical to any of them to get even.... how about if we just tease them with little things like a piece of string draped over the door knob and squeezed into the door jamb or a small box with a bit of dirt in it laying beside their shoes."

"Tom, you're devious. It'll drive them crazy. How about if they wake up one morning with a maple leaf in their shoes.... we'd have to do it ours too so they wouldn't get suspicious. Let's invent the excuse that it was put there by the ghost of the native chief who drowned in Lake Tonawonka many years ago. We can spread these little teases over the rest of the summer.... maybe one odd thing once a week."

"Yes, but never on the same day of the week. Let's do the string thing tonight before we go down to the campfire and see how they react." I suggested as Bryan went towards the door to Cabin 5.

"It's a plan," Bryan agreed as I carried on to Cabin 6.

Bryan was waiting for me after I'd changed and was just putting the finishing touches to the string on the door knob gimmick. We were enjoying a giggle as we went towards the campfire circle. Sean and Jake were playing the guitars and singing, a beautiful rendition of 'Til the Day We Meet Again'. The words sure sobered my mood.

The next song amazed us. I didn't think these kids would know the old westerns. While Charles picked up two sticks and started drumming on a log, Josh and Shelly sang 'Islands in the Stream' accompanied by Jake and Sean on their guitars. The harmony was beautiful, but the way they continuously smiled, holding hands, looking directly at each other made me realize what a great couple they were going to become.

Then it happened. I thought I knew my brother, but he surprised everyone there. Andy asked if Jake or Sean knew a song 'Children of the Universe' or 'I Wanna Live'. Sean said he could chord to it and after a short introduction, Andy, with a strong tenor voice, sang one of the most moving renditions of a song I'd only heard once before, when it was sung by John Denver. I watched the kids as they were mesmerized by the opening words -

'There are children raised in sorrow

on a scorched and barren plain,

There are children raised

beneath the golden sun,

There are children of the water,

children of the sand,

and they cry out through the Universe,

their voices raised as one....

I wanna live, I wanna grow,

I wanna see, I wanna know,

I wanna share what I can give

I wanna be, I wanna live....

Have you gazed out on the ocean,

seen the breaching of a whale,

Have you watched the dolphins frolic in the foam,

Have you heard the song the humpback hears

five hundred miles away

telling tales of ancient history

of passages and home.....

I wanna live, I wanna grow,

I wanna see, I wanna know,

I wanna share what I can give

I wanna be, I wanna live....

For the worker and the warrior,

the lover and the liar,

for the native and the wanderer in kind,

for the maker and the user,

the mother and her son,

I am looking for my family,

and all of you are mine.....

We are standing all together,

face to face, arm in arm,

We are standing on the threshold of a dream,

No more hunger, no more killing,

no more wasting life away

It is simply an idea and I know its time has come....

I wanna live, I wanna grow,

I wanna see, I wanna know,

I wanna share what I can give

I wanna be, I wanna live....

We were all blown away as we all cheered and gave Andy a standing ovation for his inspirational performance.

As soon as the applause ebbed, I walked around to the other side of the circle and tapped Andy on the shoulder. "Andy, that song probably inspired a lot of the kids, but I thought you were going to be a lawyer. I'll bet you could make a bigger dime if you took up a career with that voice of yours."

"Not a chance bro...." Andy replied smiling. "I like that song because it serves a purpose for these kids, but I'll be able do a lot more for them and others in the field of law."

As I stood up, I ruffled his hair. "I love surprises Andy. Thanks for a job well done." His smile followed me as I went back to sit beside Bryan once again. I looked at Bryan smiling, "With a voice like that, he's going to be lawyer."

"Imagine it...." Bryan said with a giggle, "....his final summation being sung to the jury in the form of an aria.... all his clients will be found innocent for sure!"

As we were laughing at that scenario, Shelly stood up.

"Two years ago I was a pretty sick girl." she began. "The doctors, my parents, my family didn't have a great deal of hope for me. It seemed that even the chemo wasn't doing its job. Then along came a young boy named Josh Chambers and he gave me hope. By the time I was healthy enough to attend school again, I was two grades behind the other kids my age. With a lot of hard work and a lot of encouragement from my family and from Josh, I gained those two years back at school in nine months."

"WAY TO GO SIS!" Trevor shouted.

Right away everyone started to applaud, cheer, and whistle – no one louder than Josh.

Shelly put up her hand and smiled. "Thank you very much, but the point I wanted to make is that I'm not just another dumb blonde. HOWEVER, being blonde I have license to tell you a blonde joke and laugh with you. So here goes.... A blonde was standing in front of a soda machine outside of a local store. After putting in sixty cents, a root beer pops out of the machine. She set it on the ground, puts sixty more cents into the machine, and pushes another button; suddenly, a coke comes out the machine! She continued to do this until a man waiting to use the machine became impatient. 'Excuse me,' he said, 'can I get my soda and then you can go back to whatever stupid thing you are doing?' The blonde turns around and says, 'Yeah right Mister! I'm not giving up this machine while I'm still winning!'"

It took a moment for a few of the younger kids to understand the joke, but everyone was laughing as Melissa stood and walked over to Shelly's side.

"OK folks, I have another one," Melissa began, "but you are going to have to think a bit in order to get the laugh.... There was this guy, let's call him Bob, who hadn't been to a class reunion in decades. When he walked into this latest reunion, he thought he recognized a woman over in the corner of the room, so he approached her and extended his hand in greeting and said, 'You look like Helen Brown.' 'Well,' the woman snapped back, 'you don't look so great in blue, either!'

There was a pause, and then a chorus of groans and finally applause as the audience caught on to the punchline.

With everyone still laughing, Sean and Jake struck a sour chord on their guitars and then began the introduction to a song as Rachel came over to stand beside Melissa and Shelly.

Right on queue, the three girls started singing a great rendition of 'Thank you for the Music' - a lively tune that brought everyone to their feet again with our applause. It was a fitting end to a wonderful impromptu concert.

As all the campers dispersed to their cabins, Bryan held back. He looked at me and winked. I'd forgotten all about our little tease with the doorknobs. Once the circle was cleared, Bryan and I took our time to make sure that the fire was out, and slowly – very slowly – sauntered up towards the cabins. Sure enough, from edge of the clearing, we could see our boys collected in front of their respective cabins. I said good night to Bryan and poked him gently on the shoulder. I was having a hard time keeping a straight face as I approached my crowd of boys.

"I ain't gonna touch it," I heard George say.

"Don't look at me," Jake said.

"Hey I'm not stupid," Sean said. "I'm not going to try it."

"Here," I heard Marcus say and as I watched from the edge of the small crowd, he started poking the door with a long stick. Naturally, nothing happened. I was loving this. "Josh, maybe Tommy's getting even with you for the water bombing.... you should be the one to open it."

It was time to make my presence known. "Hey there fellas.... what are you doing out here. I thought you'd all have your teeth brushed and be in bed by now," I said as Josh touched the doorknob. The look of shock and bulging eyes on the boys' faces was priceless as their eyes darted between me and Josh with his hand on the doorknob. "Come on now, let's git!"

I didn't look at the doorknob. I moved Josh aside with the side of my arm, grabbed the knob palming the string as I twisted the knob. With a little slight of hand and distraction with a nod of my head, I was able to transfer the string into my shorts pocket without them seeing. S-l-o-w-l-y they continued to follow me into the cabin as I walked normally over to my bunk. Slowly? They were creeping tenderly, their eyes still darting all around the cabin.

I carried on, went and brushed my teeth disregarding their suspicious behaviour, although under any other circumstance, I'd have paid great attention to such behaviour. As I returned to my bunk, Sean had the door ajar, checking out the edge of the door and looking very perplexed. Scratching his head, he closed the door and returned to his bunk.

That night as I went around the bunks and talked to each of my campers, they were all a bit nervous - each of them asking if I was mad or upset about the water bucket shower. I assured each of them with a smile that I wasn't - I just considered it a somewhat harmless prank and had no hard feelings about the incident.

When I reached Josh's bunk, I sat on the edge. "Josh I can't thank you enough for all you've done for the website. You've even got all the folks in the Netherlands voting for it. It's really the greatest gift I've ever had."

"I did it for both of us Dad. I did it for the whole family. I'll bet Grandma will be happy about it too."

"Did you see the comment from the MP?" I asked.

"Yeah, Mark did that for us. He really wanted to.... he loves us too."

"I know that Son... his life would have been quite a bit different if you hadn't come into this world. Good night Josh. I love you." I said as I tucked him in with a big hug.

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I really wondered about the depth of the changes that had happened in this world because of my grand uncle's sacrifice. The dream was vivid - he stood there in his uniform smiling. Although his lips didn't move, the sound of a voice was deep and clear. "The sacrifice seemed little – this honour overwhelming. Thank you."

I felt myself smile. He saluted and I went into a deep sleep.

Dear Mommy & Daddy © 2010 by The Story Lover All Rights Reserved

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