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New Writings

Diane said she met some girl named 'Charmaine' and Charmaine had 'psychic abilities' or so she wrote. And she went on about secret night visits to the Padfoot Headquarters House. She told me this was an old stone Manor House used now as offices and a meeting place for adult staff.
Diane said that Charmaine would take her and some of the other counselors there to hold 'séances' late at night.
Charmaine told us that she can speak with the dead. And I saw her do it too!'
'I bet that Max is there too.' I fretted to myself.

Diane said the whole thing 'kind of scared' her, but she felt caught up in it now. '
Charmaine's really nice, but sometimes I want to hang out with the other girls and Charmaine kind of forces me to tag along in her stuff.'
Stuff that frightened her.

Diane's dad had died only a few months ago. He was an ardent smoker.
Her father was a very popular guy in our neighborhood. People would bring their broken TVs and radios for him to repair. He had a workshop in his basement.
But he died slowly and painfully and Diane hadn't come to terms with that yet. If anyone can truly come to terms with losing someone they loved dearly.
She loved her dad and if she let herself think about him, she'd be in tears.
She certainly didn't need Charmaine's mystical musings to upset her more.

She even forced my tent-mate to move out and moved in with me herself. And I really liked my old tent-mate too.'
She then concluded, '
If only you were here! You'd know just what to say so nobody would get upset. I wish you were here right now!'
She signed her letter '
Miss Diane Tompkins, Bluebell Camp, Padfoot' with all the letters in pretty curlicues.
That was it.

I had to get there. If it were possible to want to get there even more than I did before her letter arrived, then I did.
First, I would write to tell her that I was coming. Then I'd go.
But how?

Sean Harby was Tommy Harby's younger brother. I knew Sean from school. Tommy was in my class. Sean was in the year below us. He was the 'good boy' of the Harby clan. He was a straight 'A' student and an altar boy. He once won a bicycle for selling the most oatmeal cookies for the local Cub Scout Troop. But he was also naïve for his age. He was thirteen, but I don't think the puberty bug had infested him yet.
There were lots of Harbys. Five boys and four girls. I knew all of them well enough to say 'hi' or maybe play with, if there was some giant neighborhood snowball fight or something going on, as there was on occasion. But I was really only buddies with Tommy. Other than my friend, Fish, Tommy was my best friend.
My second best friend.

I went down to the Five and Dime to get paper and an envelope for my letter to Diane. Tommy was there too. He was buying his dad some aftershave for a Father's Day gift.
I told Tommy all about Diane and her letter and this Charmaine girl.
And 'Max'.

'Let me talk to Mike,' Tommy said.
Mike was the oldest Harby boy.
'I'm blackmailing him, 'cause I heard him say he went road racing with his pals again last night. He has to do what I say for a while. So I won't tell Dad.'
Mike was always getting in trouble with the police for racing his car on back roads late at night. All the neighborhood kids thought he was a 'local hero' for that.

But I knew what Tommy meant. He meant he'd get Mike to drive us to Padfoot!
It was the prize in the Crackerjack box.
'That would be so neat, Tommy! If he only would! Come on, Mike! Come on, Mike!' I cheered. I was jumping up and down right next to where the Five and Dime sold the miniature turtles and the live, pink and blue-dyed Easter chicks.

Right after dinner, the phone rang. My dad was still not home from work. My mom answered.
'It's for you, Ralphy.'
It was Tommy.

'Yeah, Mike said he'd do it. He'll take us there on Friday. But I have to take Sean along, 'cause he heard me ask Mike and he'll squeal if we don't take him too.'
'Thanks, Tommy!' I shouted. And then I hung up.
And then I had to call him right back.
'What time?'
'Mike says right after dinner. Meet in front of Silber's so no one will see us.'
'OK'. And I hung up again.