Baker Trittin Concepts/Tweener Press
There was no escaping it. The day had come, and there was absolutely nothing Andy Washburn could do to change it. Every summer it was the same story. His family, along with his cousins and their parents, made the same trip to the same place to do the same thing every year.
“Not this time!” Andy defiantly declared right out loud as he stuffed the last clothes he needed into two large duffel bags. “This trip is going to be different.”
He didn’t even get to pack real suitcases like other normal families when they went on vacation. It felt more like getting ready for a survival trip than something fun. Still, he continued packing.
Andy’s attitude was odd in a way because he was the most athletic member of the two families. He should be the one person in the group who would love the outdoors. His father liked to remark that his son was nothing but muscle and bone. At school, Andy was one of the best at any sport he tried.
This was in direct contrast to his cousin. C J didn’t like sports at all. His favorite activity was playing around with anything electronic. Since his father owned a computer solutions company, C J had all the “toys” anyone could imagine.
Andy and C J’s birthdays were only three days apart. Just before school started again in the fall they’d both be twelve years old.
At least I know C J and Jessie have to go too, Andy thought . . . not that it helped much.
Sarah, Andy’s nine-year-old sister and Jessica, C J’s sister, could almost be twins. Each had dark brown hair and the greenest eyes. Like their brothers, the girls were almost exactly the same age. Both girls still had long hair that they wore in ponytails almost every day.
The boys were best friends, and so were the girls.
Sarah came into his room. “Are you still packing?”
“What if I am?”
“Just wondering. I’ve been done for hours. What’s taking you so long?”
“I don’t feel like going, that’s all.”
“Are you kidding? We’ve gone on this trip for as long as I’ve been alive. Mom said I went one year before I was even born.”
“Want a medal?”
“Never mind. It’s just that we drive on the same roads, to the same lake, stay in the same cabins, in the same old Canada. I think when the fish see us coming they say, ‘Here come the Washburns,’ and then laugh their fins off.”
“Well, you know how much Dad loves to fish.” Sarah left him so he could finish his packing.
Later, Andy walked into the kitchen downstairs. His mother was busy getting some last things together, and Sarah sat at the table eating toast.
Andy sighed. “We’re the only family on our whole street with a fish mailbox, Mom. Do you know how embarrassing that is for a kid my age? Our den looks like a nature show with all those fish hanging on the wall. Sometimes when I walk in there, I think I have fallen under water”
He began to mock, “Every year Dad and Uncle Joe say they’re gonna catch Big Wally, the oldest, biggest Walleye in the whole lake. But they never do.”
His mother smiled as she reassured, “Someone’s going to catch that old fish one day. Remember, they marked him with that bright red tag on his tail.”
Andy interrupted, “How could I forget? Dad keeps the yellowed newspaper picture from the day they did that. He even has to have the number 4112 on his license plate. I think he’s obsessed.”
“Your Dad’s proud of the fish he’s caught. I know he’d love to add Big W to his trophy wall.”
“I know, but then he turns around and tries to teach me everything he thinks he knows about fishing. This time, I’m going to skip the lessons and try to find something else to do.”
“I don’t know, but there’s gotta be something more fun than fishing all day, every day, for two weeks. And I plan to find it!”
“Can I go with you?” Sarah asked with excitement.
“Why not?” Andy replied. “I was thinking of asking C J and Jess if they want to come with us, too.”
“Kids!” their father called from the den. “Time for a final family meeting before we load up the truck and head out.”
“Great,” Andy sighed. “I was hoping he might have forgotten the trip this year.”
“That’s pretty funny,” Sarah snickered. “You know this is about the only thing Dad and Mom look forward to all year.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Andy, Sarah, and their mother headed to the family room. As Andy sat in the recliner, he felt like all those fish hanging on the walls were staring straight at him.
Don’t look at me, he thought. It’s not my fault you were so dumb you got caught.
Even though Andy’s father and his Uncle Joe were brothers, they didn’t look at all alike. Andy’s father was tall, slim, and worked in a pharmacy. His uncle was short and heavy. Unfortunately for Andy, the one thing they did have in common, besides having the same father and mother, was their love for fishing. That didn’t help Andy at all.
“Your Uncle Joe and Aunt Julie will be here any minute. Are you all packed?”
“I am,” Sarah announced proudly.
“Almost,” Andy said.
“What’s the hold up?”
“Nothin’. I said almost.”
“All right,” Andy’s mother began. “This is going to be such a fun trip. Every year as you get older, there are more things we can do together.”
That’s about the last thing Andy wanted to hear. This was the year he had plans to do less with his family, and here they were expecting more.
Andy’s father added, “I talked with my brother this morning, and he told me Aunt Julie, C J, and Jessie can hardly wait.”
Andy’s mother works in a library, and his Aunt Julie manages an office for three eye doctors. Whenever they went on vacation, both moms were transformed into master cooks and bakers. That was something that Andy did like about the trip, though he wasn’t about to admit it.
Their mother instructed, “Hurry back upstairs, bring down your things, and let’s get started.”
Andy dragged himself back upstairs as slowly as possible thinking that might give him just a few extra minutes in his room before starting his boring trip. He hoped his cousin C J would at least bring along some of his latest computer gear to play with. While that thought was still in his head, he heard the sound of a horn in the front yard. He went to his window and looked out, as if expecting to see something different than what was sitting in the driveway.
Andy’s father and Uncle Joe bought exactly the same extended cab pickup trucks, the biggest ones Detroit makes. They were so huge that Andy thought there should be a ladder to help climb in. Both trucks had custom made tops to cover the things that were loaded in back. Each truck had double rear tires which was especially important for the last fifty miles of the trip. They also had double gas tanks for maximum driving range.
Loaded for trip, each truck had a full-sized fishing boat and trailer hitched on behind. Not only were the trucks filled to the gills with clothes, food, and supplies, but the boats were completely loaded too.
I don’t know why he has to copy my dad all the time, Andy thought. At least Uncle Joe’s is a different color.
Sadly he went back over to his bed, pulled both duffel bags off onto the floor, and began dragging them to the door. They sounded like double earthquakes as each bag hit every step on the way down the stairs
“Can’t you pick those things up?” his mother asked.
“Too heavy,” he grunted. “Sorry.” Actually, he was happy he’d done something she didn’t like since that’s the way he felt about this whole trip idea, and, as far as Andy was concerned, his parents didn’t seem to care if he was happy about it or not.
Andy helped his father cram the last few things in back of their truck while his mother locked all the doors, checked the windows and timers, set the alarm, and then closed the front door behind her.
That’s the end of my freedom, Andy thought.
“Hey,” C J said as he walked up to Andy. “Here, I brought a couple of radios so we can talk, truck to truck.”
“That’s a great idea,” Andy said. He liked the way his cousin knew about all kinds of electronic gadgets . . . at least that kept things a little more interesting.
“We can use them to tell everyone we need a pit stop, or gas, or something,” C J said.
“All right everyone, time to go,” Andy’s dad announced. The two families piled into their trucks, and the latest installment of the Washburn family adventure was about to begin. Their trip took them almost straight west on Interstate 90. That was another thing Andy thought was boring . . . just one straight ribbon of road for miles and miles. In South Dakota they’d be turning north on Interstate 29 and head up through Fargo. That would be the first chance for anything exciting to happen.
That’s because not far from Fargo, the families would have to pass through the boarder crossing between the United States and Canada. Andy liked to imagine a time when the guards would stop his dad’s truck and find some reason to send the family back home.
Andy’s mother collected all kinds of fun things through the year for Andy and Sarah to do along the way. There were some old favorites that had come on every trip before like travel Battleship, word games, and others. But this year Andy had the radio. He picked it up, turned it on, and called, “Hey, C J, you there?”
“Yes, I’m here, and I’ve been here trying to talk to you for the last fifty miles. Where you been?”
“I had mine turned off. You know . . . to save the batteries.”
“Don’t worry about that. They’re rechargeable. You can keep the thing on all the way to Canada and back if you want to.”
That was C. J all right. He was always thinking.
“So, you guys tired of sittin’ yet?”
“I sure am. I think this trip gets longer every time.” Andy’s mother turned and smiled back at him.
“How’s it going in your battle wagon?” Andy asked.
“My mom’s asleep already, and Jessie is right behind her.”
Sarah sat up a little straighter in her seat so Andy wouldn’t think she was tired.
“I brought a bunch of wireless stuff to try out this time,” C J continued.
“You name it . . . I’ve probably got one. I had to leave a few more clothes at home this time around so I’d have room for all the extra stuff.”
“So what have you got?”
“I can connect my laptop by satellite so we have the Internet up there this year.”
“How can you do that?”
“I’m testing a satellite uplink and a downlink dish system.”
Andy laughed. “My Dad might be a couch potato, but you’re a mouse potato, C J”
“I don’t get it.”
“Your computer. You’re on it constantly.”
“I know, but part of it is to help my dad decide if he likes certain computer products. Plus, I brought a boat load of junk so we can build some stuff if we want to.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“We can talk about it later. Hey, was that your dad’s fishing boat that just went whizzing past us?”
Andy’s dad quickly slowed down and looked out his rear view mirror.
“Just kidding,” C J laughed. “Sorry.”
The truck sped up again. Andy keyed his radio and said, “Guess my dad thought that wasn’t very funny.”
“Well, I forgot to tell you to use the earplug and mouthpiece. These conversations are supposed to be private.”
“I’ll do that. Where’s mine?”
“In the pouch with the charger and extra rechargeable batteries.”
“Okay, I found it.”
“Do you have it connected yet?”
“Yes,” Andy assured him.
“Good, because I wanted to ask you something.”
“That’s not funny considering where we’re going. It’s nothing but hunting and fishing in all directions.”
“I know. What’s your question?”
In a hushed voice his cousin continued, “Tell me if I’m wrong, but it didn’t seem to me that you cared all that much about fishing last year. Am I right?”
“I don’t hate it. It’s just that I’d like to do something else besides only fishing, that’s all.”
“Same here. So I have an idea.”
“Shoo . . . I mean go ahead.”
“You and I should be old enough by now that they can trust us to go off on our own once in awhile.”
“We don’t have any idea what’s around those cabins we stay in. Except for the boat dock, the store, and a few float planes that come in, what have we really seen anyway?”
“I thought the same thing while I was packing.”
“So,” C J continued, “suppose we go along with fishing the first couple days, like we always have. But this time we ask, real nice of course, if we can do some exploring.”
“And see what they say?”
“I’m all for that. Let’s talk about it at the next pit stop.”
“Who’s Roger, this is still Andy.”
“It’s just radio talk. It means okay.”
“You mean some poor kid named Roger is really named okay?”
“Cute, Andy, real cute. I’m gonna catch some winks. Talk to you later, out.”
Andy’s mind was already racing full speed. The very idea that his cousin was thinking the same things he’d thought about was a welcome surprise. What exactly might they find out in those north woods? Just the thought gave him goose bumps.