This one takes place when Will's mother takes the kids back home after years of living abroad. She's hooked back up with an old boyfriend and Will is trying to get used to his new situation before going off to camp in Maine, a mysterious location to him.
Mother came and went often with Meehan, looking for work, arranging things, and at night they went to movies and out on "dates". There was a babysitter, a teenage girl from Manhasset. Her name was Kiki, and she had a brother, a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam. Will lived out in the front yard and the sidewalk. The openness, no fences, was new and vaguely threatening. Sometimes he found himself wishing there was a mango tree he could climb to get a view of the horizon. There was no mountain in the distance to measure the clouds by. But it was easier here to be a child. They were not hidden behind walls and barbed wire from the dangers of the street. It was like getting a taste of something long promised, a sense of security, of belonging. Will wanted to be strong enough to get to the top of the hill on the lemon-colored Schwinn. He wanted to make friends. What was beyond the hill? The newness of everything was a little frightening.
The day came he was going off to camp. He didn't sleep, happily anticipating this adventure. He had a trunk stuffed with a brand-new wool blanket, new tennis sneakers, a wooden tennis racket, flashlight, bathing suit, towel, toothbrush in a little case and soap in its own container. Mother had sewed nametags into all his clothes, even the towels, cutting them off a roll, an impressive litany of his name repeating in a loop. An eight-week sleep-away camp deep in the heart of the Maine woods. Will imagined the pine needles under bare feet, the life-and-death adrenaline rush of sleeping under the stars. Just as the bicycle was the vehicle of entry into the life of the suburbs, camp in Maine would be his rebirth as a native of primeval forests, the life stream of the mysterious Earth.
They gathered on the Upper East Side. A bus was pulled up on the street. The driver loaded the trunks into the cargo space above the curb. There was a deli three doors down. Mother bought Will a sandwich with a couple slices of pickle in a waxed paper bag for lunch. The knot of boys on the sidewalk said goodbye to their parents. Mother hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
"See you in four weeks," she said.
The excitement level on the bus was high, and snatches of conversation between the returning campers promised an eclectic club of adventurers. The sleek air-conditioned bus was way more comfortable than the steamy sidewalks of the city. Will waved one more time to Mother, and then they were off, rumbling through the Bronx and onto the highway bound for the northern forests.
His traveling companion was George, a phlegmatic dark-skinned boy who seemed to relish good humor and adventure even if he didn't say much. It wasn't long after they'd started that the bus passengers began to break into the deli lunches everyone seemed to have carried on board. In a burst of Dale Carnegie inspiration, Will took his slice of pickle, showed it to George and whipped it over his head, spinning into the seats a few rows behind.
"Food fight. Food fight," instantly reverberated up and down the bus.George and Will watched with bemusement as lunch items flew through the air. Reluctantly, the adults at the front of the bus walked down the aisle, imposing order, clucking distantly. The bus was a stinking mess for the rest of the journey, but Will savored it as the odor of triumph. Hours later, they pulled off onto a dirt road through thick stands of pine trees and emerged on a roundabout driveway in front of a large, freshly painted barn. It stood on a hill above a small blue lake. A flagpole in front of the barn flew the Stars and Stripes. The sun was high in a cloudless sky.