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Excerpt from The Misadventures of Belgrade Cabin, a Senior Writing Project

Kate Ortigara, 2010

SUMMARY: This is a the story of a fictional group of girls at the fictional camp in Maine called Camp Chara. However, it is loosely based on my experience living in the real Belgrade cabin and my brush with the real "Finder Hope Belgrade." This selection includes a never-typical day at camp as counselors Annie, the speaker, and Ellie, her ally in the never-ending battle with the girls to get them to clean, try to keep Belgrade, the undeniably worse-behaved cabin at camp, under control.

        “If you girls don’t get this cabin clean by dinner, your group leader Steph will be watching you clean until bedtime.” Julie, our camp director, did not look happy. Our cabin looked like a complete warzone. The floor was not visible, which was fine, because there was probably way too much dirt and dust on it from the girls’ neglect of sweeping the floor. Never had anyone ever asked me how to use a broom before this summer.

        “Okedoke artichoke!” Naomi said cheerfully.

        Julie started walking out of the cabin.

        “By the way,” she said, turning around to reveal her loon-embroidered polo shirt, “Rangeley was already clean halfway through this morning.”

        “We don’t like Rangeley,” Sarah informed her very matter-of-factly.

        “Well, you better try to be nice to them because all Camp Chara girls are all lovely, beautiful young woman who will someday make a difference in the world, even you girls in Belgrade, so try to see the gifts and talents in your fellow campers,” Julie told the Belgradians. I think she was under the impression that the girls were hanging on to her every word. They weren’t.

        Lexi rolled her eyes. Luckily, I don’t think that Julie saw her.

        As Julie exited the cabin, Sarah got onto her soapbox again, “But camp is supposed to be fun and cleaning isn’t fun. This isn’t the army!” I learned to ignore Sarah and started walking back toward the counselor room.

        “Annie?” For once, I don’t think that the voice of the child who had just crept up behind me belonged to Lily. I turned around to see Hannah.

        “I’m hungry.”

        “I’m shocked.” Hannah was always too busy walking around socializing to ever eat a full meal.

        “No, really. I didn’t like lunch.”

        “Well, what do you like, Hannah?” I said, calm and collected.

        “Cup of Noodles.”

        “Oh, really?” I raised my eyebrows

        “And my mom said she mailed some to me, and I was wondering if I got them yet.” How did she find out her mom had sent them?

        “Well, actually, Hannah, you did, but you can only eat them if you don’t let the other girls see.”

        “So can I eat them in your room?”

        “I guess.” I let Hannah follow me into the counselor room, handed her a cup of noodles, and told her to go to the showers to make them and not tell anyone where she was going or what she was doing. I looked out the window to make sure she really was going to the shower house. She was. All of Rangeley was splashing around in the lake on their foam pool noodles. Apparently, to my surprise, the crazy 15-year-olds of Horseshoe had finished cleaning their bunk because they were in the lake as well. They had huge inflatable animals such as whales and dolphins to float on in the lake. They thought they were pretty cool. You’d think that after eight or nine summers at camp they’d know how to swim. Maybe they did, but they obviously preferred non-lifesaving flotation devices to actually swimming or treading water.

        “Look, it’s Maddy!” Naomi yelled with delight as she pointed out the window. The girls all ran over to the window. Outside was a naked child running with her bath towel pinned around her neck like a cape. What the heck? Naomi’s sister Maddy was at least thirteen years old, maybe fourteen; I couldn’t remember what Naomi had told me.

        “Maddy is the only camper to have ever gone streaking every summer since sub-junior year… during the day!” Naomi announced this as if she was extremely proud of her older sister.

        Ellie and I stared at each other in disbelief. Her jaw had dropped. Yup, we were definitely living in the loony bin.

        “Cleaning, girls!” I said and turned around to go back to the counselor room, hoping Maddy would jet past the cabin quickly so as not to give our girls too many brilliant ideas.

        About two seconds after the Maddy incident, Hannah walked into the cabin shrieking. I figured maybe it was because of Maddy’s escapades. She was not holding her Cup of Noodles. She had her hands cupped around something that I assume didn’t belong indoors.

        “Look what I found!” she yelled, “A mouse!”

        “Hannah Talia Cohen! Get that mouse out of the cabin right now!” I said.

        “But he’s not with his mommy! I found him in the shower all alone!” Hannah looked like she was on the verge of tears.

        “What shower?” asked Lily.

        “The third one.”

        “I am never showering in that one again!” Lily was horrified, as demonstrated by the look on her face. Her eyes were wide with fear. That child worried more than any other kid I’ve ever met!

        “Hannah!” I repeated sternly.


        “Get the mouse out of the cabin now!”

        “He needs a name!” yelled Lexi.

        “I already named him!” said Hannah. She would have already named him.

        “Then what’s his name?” asked Alexis.

        “Finder Hope Belgrade.”

        Oh boy.

        “Put the mouse outside now,” I said again.

        “Quit being a poop!” Hannah yelled at me.

        “Outside now. No questions asked.”

        “Can I put him in a box?” Hannah asked.

        “I don’t care. As long as he’s outside.” I didn’t really care about technicalities.

        “How do you know he’s a boy?” Sarah asked. I didn’t want to see where this question was going.

        “Girls! The mouse…” I started to say before Hannah cut me off.


        “Ok. Whatever.” I guess I’d have to go along with this ridiculousness. “Finder Hope Belgrade needs to go outside right now.”

        “You can put him in the box that my mom sent treats to me for my pony in,” Dani offered. Dani found a way of inserting the fact she brought her own pony to camp into half of the sentences she spoke.

        “And we need to give him food, too,” Sarah said.

        “He can have my Cup of Noodles!” Hannah said.

        “Why do you get Cup of Noodles?” asked Lexi.

        “Because I have ADHD,” Hannah said, “and sometimes I get hungry between meals.”

        “So what?” said Sarah, “That’s not fair!” In addition to being the cabin’s official judge of what was fun, Sarah also was the one to deem which aspects of life were fair.

        “Girls. This is stopping right now,” I said, “Either the mouse is going in a box outside right now or I’m bringing the mouse to Maggie right now for her to take care of it.”

        The girls put Finder Hope Belgrade in a box with horse treats and uncooked Cup of Noodles and brought him outside. Great. The cabin is still a pigsty and the girls are all outside crowded around a terrified little mouse in a box that they are “rescuing.”

        “Ellie, what are we going to do? The parents will be here in less than a day and the cabin is a mess. And this stupid mouse just made stuff worse!”

        “Should I go get Julie?” I was starting to think that Ellie looked up to Julie just as much as Hannah did. However, I guess it wasn’t a half-bad suggestion. It’s not like I had a better idea.

        “I guess. Go get Julie.”

        Five minutes later, Julie was back at Belgrade cabin. Luckily, this time she didn’t come inside to see the extreme mess the girls had been neglecting to clean all day long.

        “Oh, Belgrade girls! You are taking caring of one of God’s creatures! What good stewards of the Earth you are!” Julie said with a twinkle in her eye. She looked like she was so proud of the girls that she was going to cry.

        “Can we keep him?” Hannah asked, giving Julie a sad puppy-dog face.

        “Well, girls, you have a cabin to clean, and mice don’t like lots of noise like you girls so often make. I think that this mouse…”

        “Finder Hope Belgrade!” I can’t believe that Hannah even corrects Julie!

        “…that Finder Hope Belgrade will thrive better is his natural environment. I will take him back to my personal cabin to nurse him back to health so I can release him into nature.”

        “But isn’t his mommy in the shower house?” Hannah asked.

        “I am sure that Daisy will help his mommy to find him at my cabin. Not only does Daisy watch over the little campers at Chara, but she also watches over all the little animals.” Nice save, Julie. Way to use the fantastical camp fairy as proof that this darn mouse will be okay!

        Hannah let a single tear run down her cheek.

        “Good-bye, Finder Hope Belgrade. I will miss you so much,” Hannah said as dramatically as if she were acting in a movie.

        “Girls, if you can get this cabin clean by dinner, I will give you all Daisy Bars!” I was relieved to find out that even Julie wasn’t above bribery! I wouldn’t mind one of those chocolate bars, either; for stressful times like a summer at camp, chocolate is an absolute necessity.

        “We all need to say good-bye to Finder Hope Belgrade, first!” Naomi insisted.

        “Can you announce at dinner that Hannah Talia Cohen was a hero today and saved a mouse from the junior camp shower house?” Hannah bright green eyes sparkled at the prospect of this event.

        “Of course, my dear,” Julie answered, “ now say your last good-byes to your little friend.”

        The girls all said good-bye to Finder, then I forced them back into the cabin to wash their hands. Ellie and I dried the tears that they all shed for Finder, then reminded them of the Daisy bars Julie had wagered for the cleaning of the cabin. At 3:00 p.m., eastern standard time, exactly two hours after lunch and two hours and forty-five minutes before dinner, Belgrade cabin finally started to clean.

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All Information Copywright by Chimes Publication, Saint Mary's College 2010