After the Apocalypse
Chapter 51: Time Out Of Mind

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

The next day, Katie, Carrie, and Erin made the first pitch to the younger Winter Campers, taking their case to Steve Clark and Jerry Reid. The five of them gathered in the unused half of Chippewa cabin, where Carrie wasted no time in pressing the point.

"Look, guys," she began, "we don't want to cause any trouble here, but-"

"And we want you guys to understand that we're all really grateful for what you've done for us. We really are." interrupted Katie quickly.

"Um, okay," said Jerry, clearly confused about what was going on.

"But we think it's time we got more of a say in what's going on around here. As long as we've been here, you guys have been controlling everything, and we're tired of it," said Carrie.

Steve attempted to stall for time while he grappled with the situation. He'd been the youth leader at three straight Winter Camps, but he'd never had to contend with any significant problems before. "Got something in mind? What sort of role do you see yourselves playing?"

"Just that we should be included when important things are being decided. Everything."

"You don't trust the guys who are running the show? I mean, just look at who we're talking about. This is a great bunch of guys, and we're lucky to have their brains to help us out. They keep thinking about things that never occurred to me. Why would you want to get in their way?" said Steve.

"Yeah, he's right," said Jerry. "There's no real pressure in letting those guys do what they do best. Why would you want to inflict that kind of pressure on yourselves?" Privately, he was concerned that things might get a little messy, and he wanted to avoid being drawn into a fight, or even an argument.

Katie was amused by the Scouts' questions; she had to admit that they had a good point. She waited for Carrie to respond, and the answer came back quickly.

"It's the right thing to do. Simple as that. Everyone's in this together, so we want to have some control over these things that are affecting us as much as they're affecting you guys. We're holed up on unfamiliar ground, and we don't have the same comfort level that you enjoy. This rustic lifestyle isn't exactly something we're comfortable with, and we need someone who's in a position to make decisions and who really understands what we're up against."

"How's that gonna help?" asked Jerry. "I mean, what you're saying seems kind of reasonable on the surface, but we're gonna need a better argument than that if we're gonna get you what you want."

"What we deserve," insisted Carrie, her intensity rising.

"Whatever. And even if you are calling some of the shots, I don't know that we can overcome the 'rustic lifestyle' you're talking about. We're talking a nuclear holocaust here, not a vacation."

"To be fair, it's not like we're being deprived of anything that we need, given the limitations of what we've got here," said Katie, still trying to keep things from exploding.

"So you're not trying to overthrow the guys. Good to hear," said Steve, with a faint note of sarcasm evident in his voice.

"What it comes down to is this," said Erin, breaking her silence. Her role in the argument was to serve as the good cop, giving the guys an out when Carrie pushed them too far. "I don't know that we feel like we're fully a part of this operation in any way. Not just as far as calling the shots, but anywhere. We need to get more connected to what's going on and what you guys are doing."

"Okay, I don't think anyone would have any objections to some effort there. We could use that to get someone working with Steve and Jeff and the rest," said Jerry. "I suppose part of the problem is that all of us don't really know all of you very well. Apart from Dave and Renee, that is."

The quintet laughed as they thought of the quick connection that Renee and Dave had made. As the laughter subsided, Katie saw an opening.

"What we need," she said, "is a little insanity. Time to just let loose and scream at the world, if you will. Things have been far too serious for far too long."

"They've had to be."

"True. But there's just way too much pressure crushing down on people here. I mean, do we absolutely have to be 100% serious all the time? You guys seemed like a pretty fun bunch on the 'Net."

Steve thought that over for a moment. "Yeah... we were." After a few seconds, he continued. "And I know what happened, and why this had to be, but that ought to be over. Face it, we're trapped, but-"

"We can't let this defeat us. Nobody knows what we're going to wind up having to do, but we can't just sit around here 24-7. I don't know; maybe the problem is that my girls really don't feel like we're really part of what's going on here. That's something that we probably need to work on changing."

Katie realized that she'd talked herself into a mild state of depression. She forced herself to snap out of it. "C'mon-if this were the second day of Winter Camp, what would you guys be doing?"

"You're right. Kickball. On the lake. Twenty minutes. Round yourself up a team!"

Once they'd found a patch of ice which was free of ice-fishing holes and laid out a diamond, the game commenced. It proved to be exactly what everyone needed-there was a frenzied spirit of play which Steve had to admit had been the missing ingredient. When darkness fell and the game had to be called, the score was Winter Camp 28, Tundra Stomp 27-but nobody really cared, or even thought that the score mattered. The Winter Campers remembered times gone past when the revived spirit of fun had been all that mattered at camp, and the Tundra Stompers had for the first time begun to feel like an integral part of the new order.

As everyone walked back toward the cabins to warm up, there was excited talk of the game, and plans were being made for a rematch the next day.

"Good call, Katie," said Tim. "Looks like this is just what we needed."

"Same time tomorrow, right?" said Katie.

"Maybe, maybe not. We've got this tradition called Snow Soccer that you girls might find fun. We ought to give that a try too."

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