THROUGH THE STORM
A/N: To start off, I'd like to say that this started as a hand-written one-shot, and I haven't decided if I'll post it or not. I wanted to fix it because I wrote it while irritated so it was way too short. Doing it like this, rewriting it and fixing it dramatically, will make for a much better ending…well, as best as it can get in an apocalyptic piece. Because yes, this is another piece for my Disasters series. I hope you guys like it.
Mr. Ratburn's class met up behind the school's gym, backpacks loaded with supplies for their annual retreat. Parents and fundraising had paid for the excursion, which would take many students farther than they'd ever gone—into Canada to a resort straight from Nigel's childhood. He'd gone plenty of times as a summer camp, but this was a late spring trip to celebrate the coming end to the school year. Yes, that meant extra work beyond just planning a trip because the students needed passports, but everyone was willing.
Accompanying the students would be Miss Sweetwater and Mr. Ratburn, as Miss Sweetwater's class would be accompanying them as well. Other adults included Principal Haney, Jonathon Weeks (Elwood City Schools Board of Education member), Mr. Morris, and a bus driver provided by the charter bus company (name unknown). The trip would take a week—two days of driving, five days of educational fun—and the students were eager to get going.
As they were separated into cabin groups, the bus's compartments began to fill with backpacks and duffel bags. Lingering parents with teary eyes waved as their children boarded the bus in these small groups, but none of them left, not yet. They hated to see their kids leave at all, and for many it was a first time experience. And for some, like Bitzi Baxter, this happened every summer as she relinquished her son into his father's loving care…yet she was still crying more than everyone, and eyes turned in her direction as many wondered silently if she was alright.
Finally the last group was aboard the bus. Faces were pressed to windows as hands waved. Slowly the bus departed as the parents waved back, well, most of them, as Bitzi Baxter was kneeling on the pavement sobbing like a lost child. They hated to see their kids go because of their parental instincts screaming that this would be the last time they ever saw their children despite rationality saying the statistics were against such a fate.
The parents slowly made their ways back home and into their daily routine as their kids moved farther and farther away. They sang songs and played games under Miss Sweetwater's guidance, none of them noticing the New England countryside changing over the course of hours. Food was served in the form of bagged lunches from two huge cardboard boxes, lunches that were prepared personally by Mrs. MacGrady. She'd put uplifting Post-Its in each one, and students traded them around like fortune cookie phrases, happy with her effort. The hours ticked by slowly for some but quickly for others, though many didn't notice how far they'd gone until the bus came to a slow spot at sunset in a circular driveway surrounded by cabins. Behind them was thick Canadian forest.
They had arrived.
Camp counsellors arrived to greet them, and the camp director led everyone to the mess hall, the kids at least. The adults remained behind with some other helpers, loading the bags onto carts and rolling them up mulch-covered pathways to designated cabins. Miss Sweetwater and Mr. Ratburn worked to get students' bags where they expected them to sleep—Arthur and Buster would share a bunk, as would Muffy and Francine, Maria and Jenna, and so forth. After some critical thinking they realized this was probably a fruitless effort—Muffy would likely complain so much that she'd end up in Miss Sweetwater's designated bed, a private full-sized mattress with its own private bathroom, and the boys might get into fights that led to them sleeping in sleeping bags outside just to keep them spread apart from each other.
So the bags were eventually piled in a corner near the bathrooms, and the adults made their way into the mess hall for a much-needed hot meal. The menu was kid-friendly chicken nuggets, fries, and juices (grape and apple for most, orange for a few), and apple slices were included as well for a fruit serving. The adults lapped it up as happily as the children, but they were all ready to call it a night.
Soon they would, and things would begin in this miniature world of bliss. Students would become one with nature, following a strict schedule from six a.m. until as late as nine p.m. for an astronomy session. The kids would forget Elwood City as they were invited to walk on a lake shore looking at rocks and bugs, hike through woods looking at trees and bugs, and dig through sandboxes to get puzzle pieces (and some stray bugs of course) for a group puzzle event.
Things were blissful, and none could know that this would be the last time they would live such carefree lives.