In the Pleasant Summer morning

Warmed by the early sun yet still damp from the dew, the earth sigher with every step the boy took. Muncie had been walking for hours and he knew the scouts would be looking for him soon. The woods were new to him but he walked with ease. Arm stretch outwards phone in hand Muncie swiveled left and right hoping for a signal. No bars, no WiFi, all his phone gave him was the spinning pinwheel of death.
Muncie had studied the sun-faded regional map at Camp Obiwaja. He knew the camp’s road met the highway. H e remembered a bus top and a tiny gas station. Camping had been Mom’s idea. She had cajoled him and promised he would make friends. Muncie refused. She had argued and insisted he try new things. Muncie turned silent. Finally Mom had gotten teary and said “Billy, please” in that voice and Muncie got on the green school bus with bright blue lettering.
The drive to the church parking lot felt like forever. A balloon had swelled in his chest. Driving away with the busload of boys the balloon had grown and grown. Halfway to Camp Obiwaja, the balloon popped and his morning’s brown sugar maple oatmeal spewed over the bus’s backseat. The camp counselors quelled the teasing but Muncie knew that night when lights were out the boys would show the wolves behind their smiling faces. And they did.
At eleven years old, Muncie had skipped a few grades and missed learning how to fit in. No biggie, he accepted it. What he couldn’t accept was camp sing songs hellfire. Muncie couldn’t take endless stories around the fire. He couldn’t take the forced marches called hikes. And he couldn’t take team building exercises with mini marshmallows and dried spaghetti. A half-finished dreamcatcher of shame was stuffed into his backpack. Muncie picked up speed. The ocean sound of the highway greeted him.
The spinning pinwheel stopped and his phone sprang to life. First he sent his location to his mom with a carefully considered text designed to get her racing to pick him up. Sweat dripped off his forehead and smarted his eyes. That is when Muncie saw it. Two feet tall, covered in silky greenish tan hair, a doggish snout and large protruding ears, it blinked out at Muncie from beneath a feathery bush. That balloon rose in his chest. Muncie swallowed it down. The air was sweet and reminded him of rain.
Muncie lived by research. He had studied the terrain, survival skills, escape plans, and local legends. This was a pukwudja, a North American troll thing, dangerous and tricky. He knew where there was one there were more. His brain ramped up as his steps grew deliberate. His mom was blowing up his phone with texts. Muncie Googled and scrolled.
“By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning”
Tilting its head in time to Longfellow’s verse, the creature seemed lulled. With the weight of a dozen hidden eyes on him, Muncie walked out of the woods towards home.

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