The Snickerdudels

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Gray: A Christmas Surprise

Tor, Holly, and I did a really good job of helping with my sisters until Christmas, and I got money every week. I spent some of it on soap from Holly’s mom and some of it on Pokémon cards, which my parents didn’t like.

For Christmas Holly and her mom went to Holly’s grandma’s, and Tor and his parents went to Moe’s house. I didn’t remember what Akita, Rocco, and Meghan were doing, but Rocco called me one night because he was at his Grandma’s and he was really bored.

On Christmas, I got more Pokémon cards, and Uncle Jeremy, my parents, and Mom’s parents worked together to get me my own Nintendo DS with a Pokémon game and Mario Kart. I thanked them all multiple times, and I was happier than I had been since summer.

Tor called me the next morning, practically crying, telling me that he finally got his own camera, and it was a nice one, and that he could start taking pictures like he had always wanted to. His dad even told him he could learn to edit his pictures on the computer.

“I have so much to learn,” Tor said, “and I’m going to get super good at it.”

I told him my good news and he got more excited, because now we could play games together and trade Pokémon. Right after Tor and I hung up, Holly called me.

“Do you want to go camping?” Holly asked.

“In the middle of winter?” I asked.

“My mom wants to go to Georgia and camp for a couple days. It’s way warmer down there.”

“I’ll ask my parents.”

“Okay. I’m calling Tor and our other friends. Call me back in, like, and hour and tell me what your parents say.”

“When are we leaving?” I asked, but Holly had already hung up.

I went to find my parents and ended up in the living room, where Dad was helping Grandma find something on TV to watch, and Mom was knitting.

“Can I go on a camping trip with my friends?” I asked when Grandma had decided on a TV show.

Mom looked up at me, her eyebrows knitted together. “It’s December.”

“Holly’s mom wants to go to Georgia for a couple days, and she said Holly could invite all of us.”

“You and Tor?” Dad asked.

“And Rocco and Akita. They came over to camp in the backyard, remember? And Meghan. She’s our friend from school.”

“They were nice,” Mom said to Dad.

“We’re talking about him going to Georgia with a woman we’ve never met.” Dad said.

“You can meet Holly’s mom before we leave,” I said. “She’s really nice.”

“Go play for a little bit, and your mom and I will talk about it.”

I turned to go away, but at the last second ducked into the kitchen to listen.

“Don, we never get to travel,” Mom said, talking quiet enough that it was hard to hear. “It’s good for him to get out into the world and meet new people.”

“We don’t know whether we can trust this lady,” Dad said. “He’s talked about her before, and she’s one of those weirdos who are selling herbs and stuff instead of going to the doctor.”

“We can meet her and see what we think.”

“Georgia is a long drive. If they’re driving. God, we can’t afford a plane ticket.”

“I’m sure they’re driving if all those kids are invited.”

I creeped out of the kitchen, and when I was past the door to the living room, I ran down to the basement. I was pretty sure that my parents were going to let me go. I grabbed my new DS and started playing Mario Kart. I played a few races before I heard footsteps coming down the stairs, and then a knock on my door.

“Come in,” I said.

Mom and Dad walked into my room. I closed my DS and they sat down on either side of me. They lectured me on how to behave with strangers, which I already knew, and then said that they wanted to meet Holly’s mom before we left to get the details of the trip.

“So I can go?” I asked, bouncing up and down.

“If we decide that it’s safe,” Dad said.

“I’ll call Holly,” I said. I grabbed the phone, dialed her number, and waited for her to pick up.

“Hello?” “It’s me,” I said.

“Can you go?” Holly asked.

“Yeah, but my parents want to meet your mom first. Can you come over?”

“I’ll go ask. Hold on.”

On the other end, the phone hit a hard surface, and I heard feet slap against a hardwood floor. Then I could hear voices in the distance, but I couldn’t understand anything. Feet again.

“She said we’ll be over within half an hour. Is that okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “See you.”

“See you.” Holly hung up the phone.

“What did she say?” Mom asked.

“They’ll be here ‘within half an hour.’” I said, making air quotes.

“Oh,” Dad said. He and Mom left my room, and I jumped up and down. I picked up the phone again and called Tor.

“Hello?” Tor said.

“Are you going on Holly’s camping trip?” I asked.

“Gray? Uh, my parents haven’t decided. Holly told me that Akita can’t come, though.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well I really hope you can.”

“Me too,” he said.

“Tell me when you know. Bye.”

“Bye.”

I put down the phone and went upstairs. It was raining, but I sat in the dining room and stared out the window, waiting for Holly and Iris to walk down the driveway. I was getting antsy when, finally, I saw two people in bright yellow raincoats turn into the driveway.

“They’re coming!” I yelled.

“No one cares!” Mary yelled from somewhere.

Mom and Dad were at the kitchen table, watching Holly and Iris walk up the driveway. “Why didn’t they drive?” Dad asked.

“Holly’s mom hates driving,” I said. “It’s bad for the planet.”

“Great,” Dad said, sipping his coffee.

“Don,” Mom said. “Be nice.”

When Holly knocked on the front door, I ran over to open it, my parents trailing behind me.

“Hi,” I said. Holly and Iris smiled and stepped inside. They took their shoes off on the rug before stepping onto the hardwood.

“Anywhere we can put our jackets?” Iris asked.

“I can take them,” Dad said. Holly and Iris took them off, and Dad walked back towards the kitchen.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Mom said. “I’m Leandra.”

“I’m Iris,” Iris said, “and this is the light of my life, Holly.”

Holly smiled up at her mom, then at mine. Mom smiled back. “Come in, come in. We don’t all have to stand.”

We call sat down at the dining room table because it was bigger than the kitchen. “Georgia, huh?” Mom asked. “We’ve never been.”

“I love it there,” Iris said. “They have some beautiful state parks and campgrounds.”

“I’m sure,” Mom said. Dad came in and sat next to her. “Which campground will you be going to?”

“Oh, one here, one there.” Iris said. “No need to put all of our eggs in one basket.”

“Which ones, then?” Dad asked.

“Mom likes to choose the one that feels right in the moment,” Holly said. “It’s a lot less stressful.”

Dad looked at Mom, and I thought he rolled his eyes.

“Holly and I have been camping in Georgia hundreds of times,” Iris said reassuringly.

“When would you be leaving?” Mom asked.

“Tomorrow morning.”

Dad nearly spit out his coffee.

“We have to have enough time to get the kids back before their rigid school system comes after me, right?” Iris said. “It only makes sense.”

“It is a long drive,” Mom said. “We just need to figure out what to pack for Gray.”

“I’ve been camping before,” I protested.

“I can send you a list,” Iris said. “But if you don’t have something, Holly and I will have one to spare. Just let us know.” She smiled at me, and I smiled back.

“A list sounds great,” Mom said. “What time tomorrow morning?”

“Oh, Holly and I will probably leave the house around four. We can pick up Gray first, and then Meghan and anyone else who can go.”

“Four in the morning?” Dad asked. “That’s crazy.”

“There is a lot of ground to cover, even to the closest state park,” Iris said.

“Like twelve hours,” Holly said. “We’ll have lots of road trip games.”

“Don’t mind him,” Mom said, smiling at Iris and patting Dad’s arm. “He’s just a worrier. We’ll have Gray packed and ready in time. I think it will be a great experience for him, because we don’t get out of the house much.”

“I’m really excited,” I added.

“Then we’ll see you in the morning,” Iris said, standing up. Dad retrieved their raincoats while Holly and Iris put their shoes on. After they put their jackets back on, they left. Mom and I waved.

“I think it’s a bad idea.” Dad said. “How do we know she’ll get them back in time for school?”

“Holly wouldn’t let us miss school,” I promised. “She gets all A’s.”

“Unlike someone,” Dad said. “Maybe you can learn a thing or two from her.”

I scowled and went downstairs to play DS. A couple hours later, Tor called me.

“I’m going!” he said. “Mom and Dad even decided that I can bring my new camera. It’s going to be so much fun.”

I jumped on my bed, and we talked about what we were bringing until Mom came down and made me stop talking so that we could pack.

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