“Do we have to go home?” I whine from the passenger seat.
“Yes sweetheart,” dad is exasperated. I had already asked the same question ten times. I don’t want to go home. Ever. I stare out the window and watch the trees flip by. The sun begins to set along with my mood. It won’t be long now.
“Shoot,” dad bellows startling both me and our dog, Rusty. The highway is blocked off.
“I guess we’re in for another adventure after all,” dad says, unsuccessfully hiding a smile. He comes to a stop a few feet from the road block. An officer approaches our bus converted camper and dad struggles to open his window. “Good evening officer. What seems to be the problem?”
“There is a forest fire out of control. Where are you headed?”
“Thompson,” I grumble.
“Well, I have good news and bad news.”
“The good news?” I ask.
“The town is safe and has not been evacuated.”
“And the bad?” dad asks.
“You won’t be going home until the fire is contained.”
I clap my hands with joy sending Rusty’s tail into a frenzy of excitement. Dad turns and scowls at me. I stop mid clap and pat Rusty’s head instead.
“You can go to the campground over there.” He points to a dirt road off to his right. “It’s pretty nice, on the river, and close to town if you need supplies.” The officer hands dad a piece of paper. “Your expenses are paid. For the, uh,” he winks at me, “inconvenience sir.”
“Thank you officer,” dad accepts the paper. “Someone will notify us when it is safe to go home?”
I shake my head. There is no need for someone to come tell us to go home. We don’t need to go home. We can live at the campground.
“Yes sir.” The officer waves us on our way, a smirk on his face.
Dad pulls into a spot on the river’s edge grumbling about how crowded it is. Dad’s version of a great camping spot is one where you park on the side of the highway and hike in to a secluded spot. When we get out, Rusty wastes no time in making new friends and leads us to the river’s edge to meet another dog. The dog barks once at us.
“Shylo,” a man yells running over with a ball.
My hand instantly goes to my mouth to hold in a giggle. I thought it was the dog who was supposed to fetch.
The man approaches dad, “Sorry about my dog. He’s friendly although I should have him on a leash.”
I roll my eyes and quickly look away when Rusty and Shylo introduce themselves as only dogs can.
“Not to worry,” dad says extending his hand and introductions are exchanged.
Richard and Shylo will be our camp neighbors.
Richard and Shylo are our neighbors for a little over a week as firefighters contend with the forest fire. The impromptu camp has inspired me to write and I go through pages of paper.
“You write a lot,” Richard observes, “Is it a diary?”
“Actually, they are poems and stories. I’m going to be a famous writer when I grow up,” I say with a little spitefulness.
“Is that so?” Richard raises an eyebrow. I can’t tell if he is trying to tease me or not.
Afraid of my dreams being made fun of, I put my head down, “Umm hmm. It is,” I say quietly.
“Well,” he says loudly forcing me to look up, his smile is genuine. “Me too.”
That night Richard asks me to read him a story. I’m scared. What if he thinks my writing is silly? My hands are trembling, my heart racing as I read the story anyway. I look up when I’m done. He sits staring at me with his mouth agape. Speechless.
We leave the camp within a couple of days. Once a week Richard takes me for a soda and we share our writings. His limericks are insightful and funny. His encouragement, support and faith in me is priceless. After his constant badgering, I enter one of my poems into a contest. My disbelief and excitement mix, conflicting emotions within me, when I receive a letter that my poem has been chosen to be published in the anthology.
I am a writer. I’m still working on the famous part.