We set up camp at our new, far less green, campsite. On dirt, in fact.
This site didn’t have the gentle slope of the last one. If we had grass skis we could have built up some serious speed rocketing down to the bottom of the hill.
“Tell your father I’m taking Brandon for a shower,” Mum growled at me. She wasn’t talking directly to Dad, which was never a good sign.
“Come on, soldier,” Dad said when Mum had walked off with two fresh towels and my little brother. “Let’s cook your Mum up a big bacon and egg breakfast. Maybe that’ll cheer her up and she’ll forgive us.”
Us? Way to share the blame. There’d been no ‘us’ when I’d forgotten to put the bin out last week.
But I didn’t say anything. I could see the puff had gone out of his huff. Usually Dad was an upbeat sort of a guy. He worked for an accounting firm and said it could be the most boring job in the world but he loved his customers. Sometimes people were a bit upset and stressed when they came in but he always made a point of getting them to laugh before they left. The eternal optimist floating around inside my dad’s head was never far away from the surface.
“Let’s make a smiley face out of her egg yolk,” he grinned, as if that was all the day needed to set it to rights.
When Mum came back she wasn’t looking much happier, even though there was the delicious smell of frying bacon in the air. If anything she seemed angrier: it was like she was starting to shake. I figured she was still mad at Dad for making us sleep on a poo mattress and she was building herself up to blow. She does that sometimes.
Brandon looked like he’d been crying, but it’s been my experience little kids do that sometimes too.
Dad quickly placed Mum’s breakfast onto one of the plastic plates he’d bought at the store, and then he put some bacon on a plate for Brandon and sat him down on a rug.
“Tristan. Meg,” Mum said in a quiet, deliberate voice. She’d accepted the breakfast Dad made her, but was avoiding making eye contact with him. “Here’s the soap. Go and have a shower. Scrub yourselves thoroughly. From head to toe.”
I was starving but knew better than to argue. Clearly Mum wanted to talk to Dad without us there. Hopefully she was going to tell him to pack everything up and we could go home where things like poo disappeared when you flushed the loo and didn’t reappear under your bed.
“Eat your breakfast, Darling,” Dad said as we prepared to leave, all the good cheer he could muster in his voice. “It’s bacon and eggs. Your favourite.”
“It’s Good Friday, David,” I heard Mum say icily as Meg and I grabbed our towels and headed to the shower block, which was quite a walk from where we were now. “We’re not supposed to eat meat, just fish.”
A fair way up the road, Bruiser and Crusher appeared and began following us towards the amenities. “It’s the stink-bug,” said Crusher. His bright yellow shirt made him look like an oversized budgie. “And he’s got a wee little stinky sister with him.”
Hilarious. He must have spent hours thinking those up.
“Who are your mates?” asked Meg. She might be two years younger than me but Meg can hold her own in most situations. Especially where boys are concerned – I guess that’s because she’s spent her whole life practicing on me.
“Ignore them,” I said, not really expecting her to and not really wanting her to. “They’ll go away.”
Meg isn’t one for turning the other cheek, even on Good Friday.
“There’s something not right,” she said loudly enough for the nearby campers to hear, “about boys who follow a girl into the ladies’ showers.” And then she disappeared through a door in the girls’ side of the shower block.
Embarrassed by the attention they were getting from a couple of older people in a campervan and a mother taking her daughter to the bathroom, the two boys changed direction and walked past the building to who knows where. China, I thought hopefully, or maybe off a cliff.
Worried they might come back, I decided not to dawdle. I undressed quickly and turned on the tap, of which, oddly, there was only one. Holding my hand under the water, I waited for it to heat up. The temperature didn’t seem to be changing.
After a full minute it dawned on me the reason there was only one tap was there was only one temperature – cold. Well, that’s maybe what the temperature would be in the middle of summer back home. Right now, in crisp mountain air, and with the morning temperatures slowly descending towards Winter, it was freezing.
It occurred to me if I went back without having a shower Mum would scold me worse than if the tap was hooked up to hot water and not cold. I braced myself and stepped quickly under the water. Every pore in my body seemed to retract back into itself. I became one giant goose bump.
By the time I got out of the shower I was shivering. A washing machine on spin cycle would have more chance of staying still.
Walking back to our campsite, the looks on Meg’s face and mine matched Mum’s perfectly. When we arrived back at our tent we were a matching set of three grumpy campers, chilled to our bones.
“Time for your shower,” Mum told Dad coldly. “And take shampoo and conditioner with you.”
I passed Dad the soap and Meg got him a towel.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs”