A Summer, A Fall

by Wes Blake

In July, of the only summer I lived on Mary-Anne Drive in Morganfield, Kentucky, a friend of mine, Zach, asked me to go to vacation bible school. His family went to the big Baptist church on Morgan Street—the one with the swinging fire escape stairs, which my buddy Todd and I always swung up and down until it soared high, carrying us up with it, fingers clinging tight to rust-scented iron, catching that flying feeling, ready to let go and run down the alley and grab up our bikes as soon as we heard the minister’s voice yelling out. I said yes, hoping that I might get a chance to meet some girls during that summer of 1992. I hadn’t seen Whitney since school let out, and had started to feel hopeless about the whole situation— without something to look forward to, or hope for.

Since it wasn’t my church, I felt less pressure to be good. Also, on some level that I may have not have been aware of, I felt a distrust towards churches that were brand new and too big. This Baptist church was huge. Its building was brand new, too. Everybody went there. Maybe because my parents hadn’t chosen to go there, I felt that there was something not quite right or completely honorable about the church.

During the first Bible Study class, the first morning of vacation bible school, I couldn’t help but tell a joke to my buddy, Zach. He laughed. And I laughed harder. The youth minister gave me a mean look. So, I tried harder not to laugh. Which only made me laugh more. I covered my face with my hands, looked down at my shoes and the floor, wrung my hands together, tried not to laugh. Laughed anyway. This went on, in different variations for twenty minutes. I was asked to step outside.

The youth minister stepped out to talk to me. We stood in the Baptist church basement beside the countertop, which divided us from the small dark kitchen. He explained that, if I wanted to stay, I would have to be serious and stop causing trouble. It bothered me that his first recourse was to kick me out. Right away, I didn’t like this youth minister or this church.

Before lunch, we went up to the huge sanctuary to sing. We sang hymns. I sat in the third row. Crystal French, a girl I had a crush on in the fifth grade, before meeting Whitney, was sitting in the row beside me. I tried to make an impression. I decided that since I didn’t like the youth minister or the church that I’d just have fun anyway. So, I decided to crawl under all the pews to the back of the room—all the way to the big door at the front of the church, and walk out. I belly crawled under the pews like a soldier, ’til I got to the back door, stood up, and walked out. Without looking back. I didn’t even crouch. That was the trick. You had to act confident like you weren’t doing anything wrong. You had to believe it in some way, or no one else would. I walked through the church parking lot on Morgan Street, back around, into the side door entrance, and made my way back to the sanctuary. I walked in like I was confused about where I was.

The youth minister stopped everybody from singing, and raised his voice at me. “Where have you been?” he said.

“I was trying to find the bathroom. Is it back there?” I pointed behind the pulpit.

Everyone laughed. His face turned red. “Come with me,” he almost yelled. I could hear everyone laughing in the sanctuary behind me as I followed him. I smiled, but looked away, so he couldn’t see. Once we were out of the sanctuary, he explained that I would have to leave and that I was not welcome here. I should not come back tomorrow.

I said, “OK,” flatly. I could tell this surprised him and made him angrier. I’m sure he expected me to be upset or scared, and beg to be able to stay. Or at least to come back tomorrow.

“Should we call your mother to pick you up?”

“I can walk.”

“I assure you I will call and explain this to your parents.”

“Thank you,” I said flatly and turned to walk out.

I walked up Morgan Street on the broken sidewalks that rose and fell at absurd steep angles like there’d just been an earthquake. I had to watch the ground closely, so that I wouldn’t trip when a new square of sidewalk jutted at a forty-five degree angle. I walked under big trees, and I liked their shade. They made it cooler.

I wondered if I had gone too far earlier. I didn’t really care. I could tell right away that the youth minister was a jerk. I didn’t like him at all. I had known people just like him in other places that I’d lived. I never wanted to go back to that stupid church anyway. I smiled as I thought of everyone laughing behind me as I walked out, and the youth minister’s face turning red. I walked by Todd’s house, on the opposite side of the street. It didn’t look like anyone was home. I was ready for school to start back again. I was ready for fall.


Morganfield, Kentucky, in recent years

School started back again. Seventh grade was better than sixth. We weren’t the smallest kids in school. We knew what to expect. As October began, people started talking about the Corn Festival. Todd and I had plans to hang out at his dad’s furniture store, helping them a bit, and being free to wander around some. We’d probably have lunch at the cafe next door with his grandmother. Every fall, this was the big event in downtown Morganfield. A couple years ago, I had helped build a float with the Boy Scout troop that my dad led. Troop 27. Me, my dad, Billy, and Zach designed and built the float the two weekends leading up to corn festival. Then, we had rode it down Morgan Street, standing up, moving slow, wearing our stiff beige button up shirts, merit badges, and wool green pants, waving, throwing candy corn to people standing along the tree-root-cracked sidewalks. I was glad I didn’t have to do that again this year. I had quit the Boy Scouts after the parade, after passing the requirements for Tender Foot. I had wanted to stay and work my way to Eagle Scout, like my dad. I liked the Boy Scout Handbook—the survival techniques, rope tying, helpful images to identify trees, poison ivy, birds, fire-starting methods, and the emphasis on friendship. But, we had a vote for scout troop leader. And I had lost. And I didn’t like the boy who won. So, I quit.

I looked forward to the Corn Festival this year. I had talked to Whitney Drury a couple times this year already. She had come over to Todd’s house one Saturday afternoon, with her mom, and played pool with me and Todd, in the basement. I had even made a joke that she laughed at. I knew she would be at a booth down the road from the furniture store. The booth was for some club she was in at school.

As the weekend of the Corn Festival approached I had something new to think about when I couldn’t sleep. I thought of all the ways that I could finally win Whitney over. I’d have to be brave. I thought of all the things I could say. I thought of what she’d be wearing. How she’d smile at me. I thought of how I could invite her to lunch with us. Just about every night that week I had a worse time than normal—not sleeping. Except, this time, all my thoughts were about what would happen at the Corn Festival with Whitney.

I stayed over at Todd’s place the Friday night before the Corn Festival. We woke up early. Todd’s dad took us with him to B&H. I liked the smell of Todd’s dad’s cigarette smoke as it mixed with the cold fall morning air and faint exhaust from the white diesel delivery truck.

We sat on stools at the long counter, arms resting on the cool metal counter top, watching the thin burgers frying on the long black iron griddle, steam rising off, and listening to the sound of crackling grease. Every square inch of the small trailer by the train tracks—that was B&H—was filled with the delicious smell of frying Angus ground-chuck. The cook slid our white plates in front of us. The burgers steaming and the buns becoming damp with grease. We made short work of our burgers—burning our mouths and going back for another bite right away.

And we hopped back in the truck, headed for the store. I felt nervous as we pulled up to park at the loading dock in the back of the building. I wondered if Todd’s cousin, Whitney, might be helping out with the store today. I imagined inventing some reason to talk to her as she stood at the counter, running her hand through her fine dark brown hair. There was no reason to believe this was even a possibility. She’d never helped at the store, as far as I knew. It was just a distant, absurd, far-reaching hope.

Me and Todd helped his dad move a kitchen set out onto the wide, cracked sidewalk out front. Todd’s grandmother followed us, instructing us where exactly to place the chairs, table, and coffee table. She had the voice of a long time smoker. Just like my grandmother. The only difference being that my grandmother grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky, and she’d grown up in a small town in the western part of the state. She had lived alone since her husband – Todd’s dad’s dad – died years ago. Todd and I used to stay overnight with her sometimes. She let us stay up late. We sat in the living room playing cards with her. She was really nice to me. She treated me like I was her grandson, too. She took us to lunch at the cafe all the time. After we moved the tables to her liking, she stood at the edge of the sidewalk, door to the store open, smoking a long cigarette and pondering the placement.

“Bobby,” she said. “Don’t you think we should move the table closer to the building?”

“Whatever you want, Mom,” Bobby said. “Just tell me where you want them.” He looked back at his mother, waiting. You could tell Bobby didn’t mind moving the tables around more. He really didn’t.

It got closer to nine, and the people started showing up. Cars and trucks lining up in the parking lot behind the furniture store. I kept inventing reasons to leave the counter, where everyone stood around talking, to go out front and check if Whitney was around. She wasn’t. I asked Todd if he knew where her booth would be. He said he had no idea. I didn’t ask him about her often because he’d get mad if I talked about her too much.

The crowd grew. People filled the streets and sidewalks. Todd and I hung out in the back storage room for a while to dodge out on doing work. Then we wandered down the road a bit. People were still setting up booths. It got close to noon. Todd and I went and got lunch with his grandmother at the cafe down the road from the store. This was our tradition. We sat at the table with her and her friend. Todd and I ordered cheeseburgers, again. Todd’s grandmother’s friend’s hand shook all the time, and every time she picked up her glass of milk I thought she would spill it. Me and Todd drank cherry cokes out of straws poked through lidded styrofoam cups, and tried not to make each other laugh too much.

It was almost time for the parade. I started to feel anxious. Nervous. I started pacing back and forth down the sidewalk in front of the furniture store. I hadn’t seen Whitney all day. And it was so crowded now, I worried I wouldn’t see her at all. I didn’t even know exactly where her booth would be. Now, Todd and I sat at an iron white table out front of the furniture store. We drank at our refilled, styrofoam-cupped cherry Cokes, straws creaking as we moved them to our mouths. We sat and watched the parade go by.

“Are you done with your Coke, you stupid gas ass?” Todd yelled at me, over the sound of the crowd and music from the floats. I had been distracted, wondering where Whitney was.

I nodded. He took it and carried it inside the store to the trash can. As the parade wound down to its end, the floats further apart, I felt more nervous. Alone for a moment, I had more time to think directly. I had to find Whitney before everything ended. I saw the last float headed towards me. I had an empty feeling. I heard the door swing shut as it closed behind Todd.

“That’s the last float. Want to walk around?” I said.

“In a minute.”

We walked down Morgan Street. I led the way. “Let’s go down this way,” I said, when we reached the next intersection. We hadn’t gone down that direction yet. We walked down the road. I looked carefully at the booths ahead of us, looking for her. I barely gave enough attention to what was in front of me.

Then, I saw her. Her head was turned to the side, but I could tell it was her. Her short brown hair falling down in a slight curl, just over her shoulder. She stood behind the FFA table. She wore a light-tan Pocahontas-style dress, with ruffles and a turquoise necklace. The light tan dress made her eyes look pretty. It drew their darker brown color out. I tried to think of something to say to her. There were people crowded around the booth.

“Why don’t you take a picture,” Todd said.

“Very funny.” I walked up the road a bit, past Whitney’s booth. “Want to get a Coke?” I said, stopping in the road.

“We just had one.”

“That’s right.” I tried to think of something to say to Whitney. Maybe I should wait until the booth gets less crowded. I looked around, trying to find any reason to stay here for a while. Until the right moment to talk to Whitney. When the crowd cleared a little. When I thought of the right thing to say. A few minutes went by like this. We couldn’t stand here anymore. There were still a few people around Whitney’s table. She brushed her hair back behind her ear with her fingers. I sighed. She looked too pretty. I didn’t have the courage to talk to her. I was making excuses before. I knew. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready.

“Want to head back?” I looked back to Todd, having accepted my defeat.

“Sure,” Todd said.

I almost turned back to talk to her, as we walked past her booth. But I didn’t. I would come back this road a half hour later, but she’d be gone. I had missed my chance, if there had been a chance at all. At least missed my chance of trying to create a chance.

I walked back to the store the final time that day, quiet. I didn’t want to talk. Todd sensed it. He was quiet, too.


Camp Earl Wallace

by Elena Vale Wahl

His name was Mr. Prichard, and I looked forward to his visits so much that my classmates joked I had a crush on him. I was indignant, of course— I didn’t have a crush on some mustachioed guy in a Ranger Rick outfit! It was the 1986–’87 school year, and we were in fifth grade. Mr. Prichard, from the Kentucky State Department of Fish and Wildlife, visited our class every week for conservation lessons. I already loved the Great Outdoors, so he was just closing the deal on something I was already sold on. 

A couple of years earlier, I’d been a Pixie at Boy Scouts’ Camp Covered Bridge, and absolutely hated being stuck in that cheesy-ass program for younger siblings of Webelos. I’d tried Girl Scouts and did a couple weeks at Camp Pennyroyal, but quit in fourth grade. If it wasn’t bad enough that my troop turned into a Mean Girl convention, I was sorely disappointed that none of the moms in charge wanted to do the outdoor venturing promoted in my paperback Girl Scout handbook. No, I wanted to be a Boy Scout, dammit! I loved the rustic two-man tents, the promises of long and grueling hikes, the fire ring where cute older boys did slightly off-color skits, like “The Overweight Outlaw,” that would never fly in my son’s troop today. 

So, when Mr. Prichard offered us a week at Camp Earl Wallace, I jumped at the chance. It was all the high-adventure stuff of Scouts without the uniforms, and even came with a Holy Grail: The Outdoorsman Badge. And, man alive, did he pump up that Outdoorsman Badge. In order to get it, you had to earn nine smaller badges in skills as diverse as skeet shooting, first aid, and motorboating. 

That Outdoorsman Badge was the first thing on my mind when I shoved the camp registration in my mom’s face that night. She smiled bemusedly, saying, “I need to talk to your father.” I knew the budget was the big issue, since I was always begging for new enrichment activities. But since this was the only sleep-away camp I’d asked for that summer, she gave me a “yes” by the next day. Somehow, between my dad’s construction-worker paycheck and her assortment of odd jobs, they managed to pay for most of what I wanted. 

On a sultry morning in July, we met the school buses in the parking lot at the Louisville Zoo. A couple of classmates joined me for the week. April, who was smart as a whip and good at everything she tried, had been my friend since first grade. Her dark-blond hair hung in one of those blunt cuts that never go out of style. In contrast, her mother Frieda’s heavy brown mane seemed like a ’70s holdover. Frieda worked as a dietitian in Louisville, but had roots in Eastern Kentucky. I did too, but the only hillbilly family reunion I ever attended was for Frieda’s family, not mine. Tamara, a tall, confident black girl, was new to our downtown magnet school. Louisville was very segregated, and I couldn’t tell you where Tamara lived. But she seemed like someone who was going places in life. I envied her self-assurance, and the way she seemed more comfortable in her pubescent body than I did in mine. 

While April and I were not rich, our families worked hard to instill good manners and an appreciation for education and culture. We didn’t yet know that some of our campmates were from a rougher, tougher side of the city. But we were about to get an education. 

Our cabin was enormous. I honestly think it held at least thirty bunk beds. Our counselor, Jennifer, had an un-bunked bed in the middle, right across from the door. She lounged on it, her permed brown hair hanging to the side, as we dragged in duffel bags and bed rolls. And on the knotty pine wall, I spotted the following lovely poem, penned in Sharpie: 

“One night of pleasure, nine months of pain,
three days in the hospital, a baby to name
A girl pulls down her reputation, a boy sticks in his education,
and that’s what making love is all about.” 

Well. I already knew where babies came from, but geez. We weren’t even sixth graders yet, so the graffiti made me wonder which cabin-mates were hanging with a fast crowd. 

But there wasn’t much time to reflect on knotty-pine sex ed. We had badges to earn. The camp divided us into smaller groups at badge stations, where we got a warning-laden overview of each outdoor skill, and were then turned loose. Casting a reel was easy, despite being terrified by tales of kids landing fish hooks in eyes and hands. I’d gone fishing with my dad, digging worms out of the garden and putting them in a coffee can, so that was old hat. Next, I fell in love with skeet shooting. The shooting instructor, an old country boy with three days’ stubble, showed me how to line up the fat sights on a shotgun and shatter a clay pigeon. It handled a lot easier than Dad’s pistol, and the pieces splintered with a satisfying crackle. It was like breaking dishes, but with no yelling from Mom. 

Badge sessions were broken up with meals and canteen, when the snack bar was open. Because the State of Kentucky operated the camp, everything came to us at-cost. I could get a Mountain Dew and a Snickers for only a quarter each, when the going rate at Wish’s Drug Store was fifty cents apiece. 

Swimming was another diversion. A chain-link fence surrounded the pool, but the bath house lacked enough stalls for the large groups of girls. I remember changing in an open field, a few girls holding up towels to shield us from the male counselor in the lifeguard chair, who wasn’t looking at us anyway. “We’re all girls” was a rallying cry, and changing clothes in front of same-sex peers was a badge of honor. Plus, showers were the old- school kind: three spigots with no dividers. The water had two temperatures: ice-cold or hot as hell. I remember April, Tamara, and I sticking in one arm or leg at a time, squealing in pain, and frantically turning the knobs. 

As the week wore on, however, a bit of darkness crept in. I could tell some of the girls were talking about me, snickering behind raised hands. I was skinny, awkward, and too eager to be cool. In fourth grade, I’d been separated from April and the other two girls in my friend group, and placed in a fourth-fifth split class with a bunch of kids who were new to our school. Those that weren’t tough and fast fell into step behind the ringleaders. The first semester, a girl named Dara was the bullying target. After Christmas, it was me. It rattled me to such a degree that even the next year, when I rejoined my friends in a fifth-grade-only room, I felt I constantly had to jockey for position, worried that other friendships held with a faster glue. 

In idle moments, I perused the knotty-pine walls of the cabin, reading more naughty graffiti, curious about the bad kids who had penned it. One stuck out at me. “Stacey hates Titty Babies.” I turned to Brandi, a petite girl with the permed bob and teased bangs so many girls wore in ‘87. “Hey, what’s a titty baby?” 

She smirked. “Oh, just somebody who cries all the time.” 

I bit my lip. Clearly, she thought I was one, as did her friends, who giggled in the background. 

At home, I was the only girl, and I could cry myself to sleep in my room, without anyone knowing. But at school, I often got upset when I was overlooked or criticized, and once the tear spigot opened up, it was impossible to turn off. My crying jags were first identified as a problem in second grade. I remember a meeting after school, where my teacher confidently announced to my mother and me, “We’re gonna have this under control by Christmas break.” 

But three years on, it wasn’t under control. It was getting worse. And I’d developed perfectionistic tendencies that exacerbated my emotions. Outdoors camp sounds like a great place for a kid to de-stress. But my self-imposed pressure to excel at everything was fanning my anxiety into flames. 

As I recall, Camp Earl Wallace gave us just two sessions to master each outdoors skill before taking our badge evaluation. Often, the counselor in charge would give us a pointed warning of what not to do right before the eval. I still remember the boating instructor saying, “Whatever you do, do not put the boat in reverse when you start the engine, ’cause you’ll run the boat into the dock.” 

And what did Elena do? Ran the boat right into that dock, with a solid THWACK against the rubber bumper. Laughter from my peers. Immediate disqualification. And there went my Outdoorsman Badge! But then again, I lacked the arm muscles to pull the bow back for Archery, and couldn’t do the crawl stroke well enough for Swimming. 

April, of course, got the Outdoorsman. And if I remember correctly, Tamara got hers, too. And this budding perfectionist was so, so salty about being bested by them. 

But there was another prize waiting for me at Camp Earl Wallace. At dinner, the camp director announced a Talent Show. Anyone could enter, and it would be the last night of camp. The girls started to buzz around the bunk beds, asking each other, “What are you gonna do?” 

I knew I wouldn’t get tapped for a group routine—after all, they didn’t like me enough. But maybe, just maybe, I could perform alone. I’d never sung a full solo before, just a one-liner in a church musical. And even that, I’d gotten by violating a social norm (which was kind of becoming my thing). “Elena,” the youth choir director said when he cornered me. “You are singing way too loud. I mean, your voice sticks out above everyone else’s. If you want a solo, we can do that for you, but you gotta back off a little.” 

He said I was loud. He didn’t say anything about being good. And at my school, April and her best friend Julie were the ones who wrote songs and performed them in front of the class. Everyone saw them as singers, not me. 

But could I change that? And what song was good enough? I looked no further than Heart’s Anne and Nancy Wilson, the big-haired queens of girl-power rock. Their over- emotive ballads were just as angsty as I was. And which song? “Alone.” You see, I was already boy-crazy, and the thought of cornering one of my many crushes, confiding my true feelings, and maybe, just maybe having them return my affections was a page out of my fantasy book. 

So for two whole days, I snuck off to the woods around Camp Earl Wallace, wailing, “Till now, I always got by on my own, I never really cared until I met you . . . ” The Show became my new Holy Grail. If I couldn’t be an Outdoorsman, maybe I could be a performer. 

On the last afternoon of practice, I ran into a snag. My mom and dad had sent a few dollars with me for the canteen snacks, dollars I watched like a hawk. Nicole, a heavy girl with long, brown hair, had bummed a quarter off me at canteen a couple days before. She was sitting on the front porch of the cabin when I spotted her. 

“Hi, Nicole, can you pay me back the quarter I loaned you?” 

“I ain’t payin’ you back. You’re the one who gave me the quarter.” 

“But you’re supposed to pay me back!” 

“So what? It’s just a stupid-ass quarter! What’re you gonna do, sue me?!” 

Foolishly, I tried to get some other girls to take my side on the matter. They either ignored me or laughed. “But it’s not fair!” I wailed. In my heart of hearts, I knew I was being ridiculous, but I couldn’t get over my indignation at how rude she was. It wasn’t just that I was almost out of canteen money. I was tired of people being snotty and getting away with it. Counselor Jennifer was nowhere to be found, so I stalked my tear- streaked face up to the nurse’s station. 

Miss Connie, a country sort of woman, listened to my whiny diatribe about the quarter while she bandaged up somebody’s skinned knee. After a couple minutes, she’d had enough. 

“Ilonna,” she said, mispronouncing my Spanish name like so many Kentuckians did, “it’s just a quarter. For crying out loud!” 

“But she was mean and it’s not fair!” 

“Well, whoever said life was always gonna be fair?! I got kids in here who need medical attention and you’re cryin’ about a quarter. Here, I’ll give you one.” With a sigh, she fished her purse out of the desk drawer. 

As I recall, I accepted the coin she pushed into my hand with a ‘thank you,’ but it really wasn’t what I wanted. I’d lost the battle, and could only hope everybody forgot about me crying. 

Some kids would’ve backed out of the Talent Show at this point. I mean, hadn’t I embarrassed myself enough? But my emotional eruption only made me more determined to go through with my solo. I had something to prove. I didn’t want that brat to feel like she’d gotten me down. And I wanted to be remembered as the girl who could sing, not as the Titty Baby. 

That night, I was a nervous noodle, wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts, pacing around. The Talent Show was quite informal. There was no real stage, just a sea of hyper girls gathered around the flagpole. Performers gave their name and song title to the MC, and waited to go to the middle of the crowd. 

I remember a girl named Jamie who went before me. The crowd roared their approval as her name was announced. Petite, her hair perfectly poufed, she slouched in her acid- washed jeans as if to say she was too cool for her mama’s warnings about posture. The floodlights reflected off of her Ray-Bans as she brandished a small boombox. She pressed play and lip-synced Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye.” 

Her performance, and the crowd’s reaction, just increased my nerves. I wished I had brought a tape. I wondered if the crowd would be as excited to hear from me, or if they’d boo because I was a titty baby. But then again, I rationalized, Jamie didn’t even sing. Maybe people would be impressed with me. 

And then, they called my name. And it was just like standing in line for The Beast at the Kings Island amusement park. There was no backing out. I was gettin’ on this coaster. 

I cleared my throat and swallowed, blocking out the giggles and whispers. 

“I hear the ticking of the clock, I’m lying here, the room’s pitch dark . . . I wonder where you are tonight, No answer on the telephone . . . And the night goes by so very slow . . . Oh I hope that it won’t end though . . . Alone . . .” 

Gulping another breath, I wailed the next section: “’Til now I always got by on my own I never really cared until I met you And now it chills me to the bone How do I get you alone? How do I get you alone?” 

My voice cracked on the high pitch of the melisma before the final chorus, but I kept on belting until the final “Alone!” rang out across the crowd. 

And as the MC congratulated me, I took my place back in the crowd, wiping away tears. Not because they bullied me or because anything wasn’t “fair.” I was crying happy tears because I was proud of myself. I sang the whole song. Was it perfect? No. But did I do something not everyone had the cajones to do? Hell yeah. 

Just a couple days after Camp Earl Wallace, my mom put my brothers and I on our first airplane flight for a trip to Disney World. My dad didn’t attend. That fall, my parents split up. At thirteen, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, which explained my fits of anger and crying jags. However, I didn’t learn to manage my symptoms well until I was in my 30s. I kept singing through the tears. Eleven years after that camp talent show, I performed in a vocal recital for my music degree. There were arias in French, German, and Portuguese, but no hits from Heart. Today, I teach music for a living, and I have a YouTube channel with a few solo tracks. Earlier this week, I bumped into Mr. Prichard on the Facebook page for Camp Earl Wallace. I still love the Great Outdoors, so much that I became one of only two female leaders in my son’s Boy Scout troop. In effect, I got my childhood wish for scouting adventures. But not my wish to chaperone camp this summer. COVID-19 shut it all down. But I still live by my own version of the Girl Scout Law:

“On my honor, I will try, to not let my voice crack on the high notes, and not let the Mean Girls get me down . . . and not run my motorboat into that gol’dang dock!!!”


Kentucky native Elena Vale Wahl is a music teacher and YA author. Her work can be found in Red Tricycle, Scary Mommy, and on her website. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.