The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.
You can purchase this story in the 2020 Winners Anthology Fueled By Fire here.
“The Camping Trip” by Monroe Colbath, Elmira Elementary School
First Place, Elementary Level, 2020
The Camping Trip
By Monroe Colbath
Elmira Elementary School
Austin sat with his headphones in and his face in his phone. Suddenly, his little sister Celest ripped his headphones out of his ears.
“Whatchu watchin’?” she asked.
“None of your business!” Austin rolled his eyes.
“Mom wants to see us in the kitchen.”
“Oh, no!” Austin thought. “Was this about all the stuff I bought online with my mom’s credit card?”
Austin gulped and reluctantly followed his little sister into the kitchen.
In the kitchen, their mom and dad stood next to each other near the counter. They were both smiling and that made Austin less worried. Even though he had taken precautions to make sure that his parents never found out what he bought, Austin knew there was still a chance that they learned how to use the internet.
“So, your Dad and I have been talking. We think it’s best that we all have a little time away from technology,” their mom explained.
“Mom, we really don’t need that!” Austin protested.
“When’s the last time you’ve picked up a book, Austin?” his dad asked. Austin paused.
“Exactly,” his father sighed.
Celest and Jayla stared blankly at their brother. How could one boy be so dumb?
“Anyway kids. WE ARE . . . GOING CAMPING!!!” Austin’s mom yelled enthusiastically. She did jazz hands and danced around the kitchen.
Celest and Dad joined in dancing and yelling, “HOORAY!”
Austin sulked onto the floor and started sobbing.
The kid’s mother and father started explaining that they were going camping in a place with no Wi-Fi for a week, and that there was a beautiful waterfall near their destination.
Suddenly Austin’s only brain cell started to work and he remembered he had mobile data on his phone.
Austin had a habit of looking at the ceiling when he pictured things in his mind. His face lit up with goofy grin as he imagined all the likes he would get on social media. Pictures of camping trips were popular and got lots of likes.
His older sister Jayla interrupted his train of thought.
“Why do you have that stupid grin on your face? And why are you staring at the ceiling? Gosh, how did I get such a dumb brother?”
“I’m just thinking about all the likes I will get on social media when I post pictures of our trip!”
“Mom said we can’t bring our phones. That was the point of the trip. No phones! You’re such an idiot!” Jayla smirked. She got joy from ruining Austin’s day.
Austin sulked to the floor again. His life was surely ruined.
Two days later, Austin was shoved in a cramped car in between his fifteen-year-old sister Jayla, who was sleeping, and his five-year-old sister Celest, who was reading a book.
“What are you doing?” sneered Austin.
“Reading a book,” Celest replied.
“What’s a book?” Austin said, completely clueless.
“You truly are hopeless big brother, you know that?” Celest sighed.
“Hey! If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it!” their mom scolded from the front seat of the car. Austin cringed.
“Sorry,” Celest sighed.
Some time passed. Austin sat there and counted the zits on Jayla’s face. He counted ten. Then he counted all the freckles on Celest’s face. He came up with about one hundred and twenty. Then he counted all the chips in the chip bag that his mom brought as a snack. But soon, counting pointless things got boring.
Austin sat there and contemplated his existence. How many stars were in the sky? Is the universe infinite? What is life?
“Hey, Jayla!” Austin muttered.
“What do you want?” Jayla replied rudely.
“If you spill cleaning products, do you make a mess?” Austin asked, sounding as if he was lost in thought.
“I don’t know! Why would I know?” Jayla growled.
“Hey, Jayla?” Austin muttered again.
“What?” Jayla glared.
“If you kill a killer, does the number of killers in the world stay the same?”
“Kill two,” Jayla said, blandly.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” By this point Jayla was fed up with her little brother.
“Nothing is on fire, fire is on things.”
Jayla face palmed.
“Jayla, I’m gonna test your intelligence. If you have three apples and your friend asks for two, how many apples do you have?”
“Three,” Jayla muttered
“Your friend forces you to give them the apples, now how many do you have?”
“Three apples and a corpse.”
“Mom! Are we almost there?” Celest asked about five minutes later.
“No, it’ll be three more hours or so in the car,” replied their father.
To pass the time, Austin decided to kick Jayla to see how many kicks it would take to annoy her. Then he repeated the process with his sister Celest. It took twenty-seven to annoy Celest, and it took one to annoy Jayla.
“How much longer?” Austin asked, sure that lots of time had passed.
“About two hours and forty-five minutes,” Austin’s dad said.
Austin thought he might go insane. There was no way on the planet that only fifteen minutes had passed.
“I need to get OUT of this car and go back to my video games!” Austin thought.
Austin sat there and closed his eyes. He tried with all his might to get his brain to come up with a plan. It didn’t have to be a good plan, it just needed to be a plan. If he didn’t come up with one soon, he might DIE!
At that moment, Austin remembered a show he watched called Kirby. It was about a girl who had a radioactive hedgehog named Kirby that could fly, and the government was trying to hunt them down. Anyway, in the show, the girl—Kathy—got kidnapped and was being taken to the president in a car. She told the FBI agent who was taking her that she had to pee, and instead she bolted away and escaped. Boom, Austin had his plan.
“MOM, I HAVE TO PEE!” Austin yelled.
“Ok, let’s stop on the side of the road,” his mom suggested.
“NO!” Austin said. “When is the nearest gas station?”
“Ten minutes. Can you wait?” asked Austin’s dad.
Austin looked at his sister Jayla. He gave her the look that siblings give each other to say “It’s about to go down.”
At the gas station, Austin insisted he go in alone. He was happy when he saw that the window in his stall led out to the back parking lot by a huge forest. All Austin had to do was step onto the toilet seat, lift up the window, shimmy his way out, bolt into the forest, and somehow find his way home. Easy as cake, right?
Austin made one fatal mistake, he didn’t close the lid of the toilet, and he slipped and fell into the gross toilet bowl.
“Darn diddly darn it!” Austin cried. He made a second attempt and grasped at the window sill. It was too high for him to reach, even on the toilet seat.
The third time’s the charm. Austin took a leap and grabbed the windowsill with one arm. His foot dangled into the toilet water, but he didn’t care. Quickly he swung his left arm up to grab the windowsill. He pulled himself up a little just so his fingers touched the clip that opened the window.
Austin was panting, it was exhausting! He wished he hadn’t skipped doing pull ups and sit ups in P.E.
Austin messed with the clip for a while before he heard noises outside the bathroom. It sounded like his dad. In one swift movement Austin let go of the window sill with his right arm and pushed himself up with his left arm. He reached the clip, unclipped it, and shoved the window up. Using the last of his strength, he shoved the upper half of his body out the window, and at that moment his dad entered the bathroom.
“Austin, are you there?” he asked.
Austin tried to get himself out of the window, but he was stuck. Darn all those chips he ate on the drive!
Feeling defeated Austin called, “Hey, Dad, I’m in here. And I’m stuck.”
“What do you mean?” his dad asked.
“I’m stuck in the window. I can’t unlock the stall door. I think you need to call someone.”
Austin’s dad got under the stall door and unlocked it. He stood in awe at his son, who was halfway out of a small window in a bathroom stall.
“How did you . . . ?” he asked under his breath.
“Please don’t ask, Dad.”
Austin’s mom called the fire department, which was thirty minutes away, so Austin was gonna be stuck for a while longer.
Jayla was surprised that they didn’t hang up when their mom said, “My son is stuck in a window in a bathroom stall.”
The fire department arrived. They sent two men named Frank and Jim. Frank was inside talking to Austin, and Celest looked at Jim.
“So, you get a lot of calls like this?” she asked.
“You’d be surprised,” Jim sighed.
Frank came out holding Austin like he was a princess who just got rescued from a tower. “I have successfully rescued the child from the bathroom stall, but how did he get there?”
“Well . . . it’s a long story,” Austin sighed. “By the way, can you please put me down?”
After telling his parents and the firefighters the very long story, and watching his mother’s expression change from angry to furious, he also noticed how the firefighters were obviously holding in laughter.
“Well, Ma’am, I have to say this is the strangest call we have ever gotten. And one woman called us because her pet koala got stuck in a tree. Her pet KOALA!” Jim exclaimed.
“Koalas are supposed to be in trees,” Jayla murmured.
“Exactly,” Frank told her. “Now that I think of it, we have never been called because of an actual fire.”
The two firefighters got in their truck and drove away.
The family’s trip was ruined. They didn’t continue their trip, they just went home, and Austin was scolded on the drive, but not punished.
When he got home, Austin opened up the local newspaper. He was on the front page!
Austin was so proud of himself! He decided to post a picture of the newspaper on social media. In the end, I guess the camping trip didn’t help anyway.