Home > Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe

Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe
Author: Sarah Mlynowski





I can’t believe I came back here.

The wooden bridge, the leafy trees, the white sign that says Camp Blue Springs in chipped blue paint.

Last time I was here was eight years ago. I was eleven. Eleven! I had braces and had never kissed a boy, despite my nickname.

Oh, wow, that nickname.

I was tortured, humiliated by my nickname on these very grounds. And yet, I am here again. Willingly. I must be some kind of masochist.

There’s a small green building, the camp office, to my left, and a gate blocking the road in. A guy—skinny, seventeen, maybe eighteen, spiky dark hair—steps off the porch and meanders over to my car.

“Heeeeeeeey,” he says, scratching his goatee. “Are you staff?”

“Yup,” I say. “Checking in. Samantha Rosenspan.”

“I’m Eric. Would you like to park in the lot just after the gate, mayyyybe?” He draws out his words, sounding slightly confused.

“I would love to park in the lot just after the gate, Eric,” I say.

“Fannnnnntastic! You’re going to Bunk”—he looks at his clipboard—“Six?”

No way. That was my cabin last time. I’m in the same bunk! “Six for the win,” I tell him.

“Let me grab your bags for you,” he offers.

“Thanks.” I pop the trunk of my dad’s twenty-year-old Honda Civic, which lives in my parents’ driveway, and which I am borrowing for the summer. My dad can’t drive anymore anyway.

The late afternoon sun warms my cheeks and I take a deep breath of the fresh pine air. It really does smell good up here.

Eric pulls one of my black duffel bags onto his shoulder, and I take the other. “Let’s just leave them by the stairs,” he says. “The Tank will drive them to your bunk.”

I don’t know if the Tank is a machine or a person, but I like that it/he will handle my heavy lifting. “Thanks. Do I just walk to Bunk Six after I park?”


I wonder if it’s still in the same spot as it was eight years ago. “Near the flagpole? Lower Field?”

“Sounds right. I’m new.”

I get back in the car. He opens the gate with his sandaled foot, and I drive through. There are about fifteen other cars in the parking area. The clock on my dad’s dashboard says 5:05. The rest of the staff got here yesterday afternoon, but I told them I had an exam and couldn’t drive up until today, which was only a half lie. I did have an exam, but it was last week. My boyfriend, Eli, is leaving for Europe tonight. Since he’s going to be traveling for five weeks, we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. I basically moved into his parents’ basement in Greenwich for the last week. He slept upstairs officially, but crept downstairs as soon as his parents fell asleep.

We met my second week at NYU. I was trying to get into my room, jamming my key in over and over, holding a plastic bag. He opened the door. Turned out I was on the wrong floor. His dorm room—the one I was unwittingly trying to break into—was directly below mine. He asked me if I had anything good in the bag. He’d been studying and wishing he had cupcakes, so he wondered if I was the cupcake fairy. Regrettably, all I had in the bag was a new bottle of shampoo, since mine had somehow exploded all over my shower bucket.

I apologized and went back upstairs.

But since I was trying hard to be Brave College Sam, I went back the next day holding another bag. I knocked on the door. “Cupcake fairy!” I said.

With the exception of a few family holidays, we’ve been glued together for ten straight months.

Until today.

Eli’s cousin Yosef just got out of the Israeli army—and wanted Eli to travel with him.

I get it. I do.

A summer of traveling in Europe is objectively awesome. I told Eli he should go.

So then Eli suddenly had summer plans, and I realized I had no idea what I was going to do. Stay in New York on my own, in the dorm? Get an apartment? A job? Go back to Rhode Island? My besties from high school wouldn’t be in Providence over the summer. And my friends from NYU, Lauren and Emily, weren’t staying in the city. I tried to find an education-related summer job, but had no luck. I could maybe get a restaurant or retail job, but rent was so expensive, I wouldn’t save anything. The prospects seemed bleak.

Then in March, I saw Danish on the subway. I hadn’t seen her in years, since she’d been my counselor in training at Blue Springs a million years ago.

We bumped into each other. Literally. We were on the 6 train, and it was crowded. We were both standing and she smacked me in the arm with her bag before recognizing me.

“Sam! Is that you?”

It took me a few seconds to place her. She used to wear her hair short and striped with blue, but now it was all brown and down to her waist.

“It’s me! Daniella Morganstein! Oh wow, it’s been years!”

“Danish?” I said. That had been her nickname. I have no idea why. Did she speak Danish? Or eat Danish?

I hadn’t seen anyone from camp for years. On purpose.

She nodded, her head bouncing like a bobblehead. “Yes! It’s me! Do you live in the city now?”

“Just moved in September. NYU. You?”

“I’m at the New School. But my girlfriend is a senior at Tisch! What are you studying?”

“I’m majoring in education,” I said.

“What are you doing this summer?”

“I’m not sure, actually.”

“Really? Oh, oh, oh! Come back to camp! I’m unit head for the little kids! The juniors! They’re so cute! I need another counselor for the eight-year-olds! Staffing for these kids is impossible! Please be my counselor for the eight-year-olds! You would be perfect!”

“I would?”

“Yes! You were one of the good ones. Nice. And sporty! Didn’t you play softball? And you want to be a teacher!”

“Yeah, but . . .” I hesitated. “I mean, I didn’t have the best time there.”

She slapped her hand over her forehead. “Shit. I just remembered. Zoe Buckman. She was in your bunk, right?”

“Yes,” I said, my cheeks flaming.

Zoe Buckman. My absolute nemesis.

First Zoe had glockshmeared me—that’s when someone pours bug juice on you when you’re sleeping and covers you in baby powder.

Then she found my diary and read it to everyone in the bunk.

Then she stole my white bra and hung it on the flagpole.

And then came the shower incident. Which led to the nickname.

And then came the overnight. Where I got my period. For the first time. Before anyone else in my bunk.

“Zoe was horrible,” Danish groaned. “Your whole bunk was the worst, actually.”

“It was?” I felt oddly gratified. I hadn’t been “too sensitive.” It wasn’t “in my head,” like my mom said.

“Yes! But! None of the girls your age from that year came back. None of them!”

“None? Ever?”

“Well, they came back as campers, but none of them were asked back as staff. Some of the guys, but none of the girls. Botts is head of inters. He’s your age, right?”

Seniors were the oldest campers—twelve- to fourteen-year-olds. Inters were ten- and eleven-year-olds. Juniors were seven- to nine-year-olds.

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