Wednesday, 12 July 2017

What are little boys made of? (Part Two and write of passage number forty-three)

My heart sinks when the bus on the way back from Butchart Gardens stops near Elk Lake, where several young kids are lined up.  It's day camp season in Victoria.

I was a day-camper for my first three summers in Victoria, ages 9 to 11 -- eons ago.  In those days, there were few day camps and we were transported daily by ancient, retired city buses.

Now, the hapless and hopeful counselors must marshal their charges on to city buses, to fidget and chatter cheek by jowl with unenthusiastic passengers.

This lot look roughly in the 6 to 8 range with a couple of taller boys who are either big for their age or some kind of junior assistants.  There are about fifteen children in all, and they have been instructed by their twenty-something counselors to stand.  Most of them ignore this, being small enough to fit several to a seat.

One little boy (there's always one) is sitting by himself, inches away from me.  His name is James and he's spent the first ten minutes of the journey playing with a rubber frog he's retrieved from the sandy pails dangling from the fingers of the distracted female counselor.  She has a nose piercing and purple hair-ends; she's busy pivoting to keep an eye on everyone in her end of the bus.  Her bearded co-worker is overseeing about half a dozen kids in the back of the bus.

For the next ten minutes, little James dozes off, but as he rouses, it becomes clear he isn't happy.  His small face screws up, and tears start dripping down his summer-coloured cheeks.  I wave to catch his counselor's attention, point discreetly in James' direction and draw imaginary tears under my eye.

He looks up at her in abject misery and butts his head against her hip as she reassures him that "we're almost there".  (This is debatable -- we're still in the upper reaches of Douglas Street.)

One of the big boys slips in beside him and tries to jolly him out of it, gently poking him, and trying to draw his attention to what's out the window, finishing with a droll "Drip-drip-drip".  Female counselor tells him this isn't helpful and to cut it out.

I'm a little worried, given my proximity, that wee James is bus-sick. but it's becoming clear that his discomfort is growing; he's starting to grab a bit at his groin and cry harder.  In other words, he's really wee James.

Mercifully, the group's stop is not quite downtown, and, out on the sidewalk,  I see James at the head of the fleeing line, clutching his counselor's hand.

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