Every summer the girls go to Camp Waluhili with their mom, who works there as a counselor. It’s for members of the Camp Fire Girls, which is like Girl Scouts only different. You have to be careful at camp because it’s full of poisonous things: snakes, spiders, scorpions. Some of them can kill you.
The girls always nod when she says this, but they don’t really care. They run around and around the meadow until they fall down in the bright yellow flowers and laugh and laugh until they can’t breathe.
Amy learns to tie knots, and she is good at it. She learns directions, and she tries to get Zoe to repeat after her: north, east, south, west. You can remember it by saying: never, eat, soggy, waffles, she tells her, but Zoe can’t remember all that yet. Amy learns how to build a fire: you put together three pieces of wood in the shape of an A, which is easy to remember, and then you put tinder all along the middle part, but not too much because fires need air. Their mom doesn’t let her light the fire, but they sit there with the older girls and eat the s’mores together. Zoe likes to smear the marshmallow on Amy’s legs instead of eating it. But then she asks for more.
The girls learn to swim. Amy’s long body slips into the water like a fish thrown back. But Zoe keeps sinking and getting water in her nose. They give up. They do somersaults in the meadow instead. They play hide and seek. When it takes too long to find Zoe, Amy calls her name, or she says, A to Z, A to Z, over, like a Walkie-Talkie, and then she says that it is time to take pictures. Amy takes pictures of Zoe in the trees. She fixes her sister’s long light hair that gets tangled when they play.
Amy invents other games. Zoe tries to follow the rules, even when Amy changes them, but sometimes Zoe can’t remember, and then she either laughs or cries.
In the sun Amy gets freckles, and Zoe turns brown. Together they try and count the freckles on Amy’s left arm: twenty-seven, or twenty-eight, or twenty-nine, because they always lose count. The right arm is impossible. Amy and Zoe examine their elbows. They ask their mom what elbows are for. Their mom says to bend their arms. The girls try to do cartwheels in the meadow, but they can’t because of their elbows.
Amy has Zoe help her look for arrowheads and fossils. Zoe finds plain rocks and brings them to Amy to ask if they are fossils. Amy knows all about the Cretaceous Period and that we don’t know what color the dinosaurs were so they could have been all the colors, even pink, even hot pink. Hot pink is Amy’s favorite color, although she pretends it is blue. Amy’s favorite dinosaur is the brontosaurus. Amy explains to Zoe that arrowheads were what the Indians used to catch food when the Indians lived in Camp Waluhili, too. Every summer they find at least one arrowhead, but it takes a lot of work, because arrowheads are little, and you have to look hard between the grass and underneath the dirt.
The fossils are seashells because in the old days all of this used to be underwater. Sometimes there are fossils with the imprints of different sea plants. The seashells look just like what seashells look like today. Their grandma has some seashells in the bathroom on the counter by the hand soap from when she went to Hawaii with their grandpa.
Sometimes the girls play games with the campers like Red Rover and tug of war. The older girls like to have Amy on their tug of war team because Amy never lets go. Even if she ends up getting dragged through the mud. Zoe is better at Red Rover because it is easier for her to go berserk, become a human missile, and being so little still, she can often take them by surprise and break right through.
Amy is allowed to learn archery. Zoe complains until something comes along to distract her. The camp teems with butterflies, birds. The older girls stay up late telling ghost stories, but Amy covers her head with a pillow because she likes to wake up when the birds wake up. Sometimes you can spot a bluebird if you’re out early, or even a tanager.