(Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold or its characters. I have no connection with Nick. This is just for fun.)

A Letter for Helga

From: Arnold
Base Camp
Somewhere in Central America

To: Helga G. Pataki
1234 Vine St.
Hillwood City
State of Anticpation

Dear Helga,

How are you? I hope this letter finds you all right. I know it has been a long time since you last heard from me. I hope you'll forgive me for not keeping in touch since I left Hillwood eight years ago. I've been very busy the past few years having a wonderful time, and I guess I don't always write as often as I should. When I first left home (I still think of Hillwood City as home) I wrote everyone quite a bit, but I have slacked off over time. But I still try to keep in touch with the old gang. You may remember that I did write you a few letters after I left, but as you never answered them I assumed you didn't care so I stopped writing. I did not know at the time that you had come down with a lengthy illness. If someone had told me, I would have kept on writing. Sorry. My fault. I should have asked after you. But now I'm writing you again. After all this time I hope you'll not hold it against me. I'm afraid this is going to be a long and rambling letter, so I hope you will be patient. But I have news and I'm writing to tell everyone in the old gang to let you all know. More of that later.

I guess it will come as no surprise to you that Gerald is still my best contact back home. He and I still write each other almost weekly. We exchange e-mails when we can, but because of our remote location, we still rely on letters most of the time. Good old Gerald gives me most of the news. The rest of the gang drop a line from time to time, so I keep up pretty well. Harold never writes. I guess writing isn't his thing. But he gets Sid or Stinky to say hello for him. And Phoebe and Rhonda drop an occasional line. But Gerald is the best. He sure seems to be raking in the dough with his DJ business. Gerald tells me he now has enough to pay for Harvard Business School. He's going to own Wall Street by the time he's done!

Everyone else in the old gang still seems pretty much the same. (Except for Lila. Wow! Who would have guessed? The news just about floored me when I heard it. But enough about her. I remember you and her were never close for some reason. Besides, that's all stale gossip now. But still, what a shocker!)

I guess you and the rest of the gang are all anxious about getting out of high school. Won't be long now. Phoebe wrote to tell me the two of you are thinking of going to Hillwood University. I'm thinking of HU myself. They say it has an excellent medical program. Perhaps we'll see each other. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My family and I are doing just fine. I still can't believe it. Even after eight years. One day I'm with you and the gang at PS 118, then pow, everything changes. I come home from school, and there's a phone call that they found my parents alive in the jungle. Talk about being hit by lightening! Just a week later I'm flying to Central America. I'll never forget that last week in Hillwood. Such a rush to get ready and packed for the big trip. I couldn't believe I was finally going to see my parents after all that time apart. And rushing about to say good-bye to everyone. I'm really sorry you fell ill that week. I never got to give you a proper good-bye. I really did miss you when the rest of the gang came down to the airport to see me off.

We have a great life down here. Father spends most of his time collecting rare plants in the jungle for medical research. I help him out when I can, and am getting pretty good in botany. (I'm thinking about medicine when I go to university.) Mother is conducting an archeology dig around an old Mayan site, lost in the jungle for many years. Her team has cut down the jungle, and exposed an entire ruined city. You have to see it to believe it. We live in a small house nearby, right where the foothills meet the jungle. It has a big garden, with all kinds of colorful flowers whose names I don't know, and there are all kinds of palm trees and vines and exotic stuff all around. It is a very remote part of the country, very rugged but beautiful. I guess I live the kind of life most kids would envy. Mom and Dad make me do my schoolwork, but I have plenty of time for fun. I ride horses every day, go swimming and sailing on the lake, and have learned the basics of mountain climbing. When I'm old enough, I'll even learn how to fly a plane. It's pretty essential if you work in this part of the world.

Dad took me on one of his plant gathering expeditions last summer, and we climbed the tallest peak in the area. Gathered all kinds of mountain flowers. He's also teaching me biology and zoology. (Nadine would go crazy if she could see the bugs they have down here!) You will not believe it, but all the fresh air and exercise seems to have given me a growth spurt. I've grown considerably taller since I last saw you, and I believe I could now look down on you for a change! Also, from helping out with the digging at the site, I've developed some muscles. Lets just say Wolfgang had better watch out if I ever meet him again!

The only drawback to living here is that it is very lonely. I guess that's why I still try to keep up with everyone back in Hillwood. We are far from any settlement, and the only people around are the teams of students who help Mom clear the lost city. When not exploring, I spend a lot of my spare time reading. I read any and everything I can get my hands on, and Gerald is good to send me the latest comics about the Z-Files, but Mom and Dad insist I read a lot of books as part of my schooling, and it's not so bad once you give it a chance.

You'll laugh at this, but I've even developed a taste for poetry. There's a funny story behind it. Funny as in strange. When I left Hillwood, all the gang came down to the airport to see me off. Well, except you. You were sick. What was it anyway? I asked after you, but no one knew what was wrong. Oh well, forget it. It's not like it's anything important after all this time.

I thought for sure Phoebe would know, but she was very vague for some reason. Not like her at all. You know Phoebe, always so scientific and precise. I'll never forget her saying goodbye that day at the boarding gate. She seemed very upset and unhappy. That was so unlike her. I told her she should be glad, because I was going see my parents, who I thought had been dead for six years. She told me she was sorry, and she wished me all the joy in the world, but there was something bothering her, and she just couldn't talk about it. So just to tease her I asked if she had been sworn to secrecy, and she jumped like I had shocked her. It was very strange.

Then Phoebe said she had a tough problem that she didn't know how to solve. So I told her about a trick Mr. Simmons had taught me to help with problem solving. It's very simple. You take pencil and paper, and just write down whatever it is that is bothers you. All the facts, figures, and even your feelings. Then you read it, and you see if you can identify any patterns or make any connections. It is supposed to help you focus. Mr. Simmons says it really helps you concentrate. The idea is that once you know precisely what the problem is, then you can solve it. I used it once or twice, and it does help. I sometimes find that just writing a friend has the same effect, which is why I write such rambling letters. Just pouring out my feelings I guess. But back to my story. So I tell Phoebe all this. And then it was my turn to be shocked. Phoebe gave me a grim look I've never seen on her before, and she said, "You know Arnold, for someone who is nice and kind and smart and sensitive, you really are dense sometimes." She sounded really angry about it too. Then she hugged me and said she was sorry to spoil my day, and wished me all the best in the world. Very, very strange. And then my plane started boarding, and I had to leave. So I never found out what she meant.

Now where was I? Oh, right, poetry. Well, it seems that when my back was turned, someone slipped a book of poems into my luggage. I didn't discover it until much later. It took a while, but I started reading it one day when I didn't have anything else to do, and now I really like the stuff. The funny thing is no one has ever fessed up to putting it into my bag. I've written and challenged everyone who was at the airport, but everyone denies they put the book in my bag. I figure it had to be one of them. My bag was with me in the Packard all the way to the airport. And I know no one could have put it there at the boarding house. I had packed it myself the night before, and it was by my bed all night. So it remains a mystery. No big deal.

But I would like to thank whoever did it. I suppose some people just embarrass easily. I know how they feel. (I guess that's something you never had to worry about. Believe me Helga, you're lucky you're so tough. Nothing bothers you.) Have you ever noticed how some people are tough and hard on the outside, but soft and mushy on the inside? Some people don't like to admit they have a soft spot. But I admit I like poetry. Especially the love poems. Though why I don't know. It's not like I have a girl friend or anything. Like I could have a girl friend when we live a hundred miles from the nearest town. Maybe we only like love poems when we don't have anyone to recite them to.

Got to stop now. My stupid sister just threw a snake in my bedroom window. Later.