Jim Frayne smiled in satisfaction as he tossed his backpack on the floor of his otherwise tidy bedroom. He thrust open the window and breathed in the warm June air gratefully. The scent of flowers and the chirp of birds enhanced his already exuberant mood. “Finished! No more tests, exams, essays, or formulas!” He had nothing but sunny days, cool swims, and long rides to look forward to. Sure, he would be helping Mr. Maypenny in the game preserve, but that could barely be considered work. There would be time for fishing, camping, hiking...

“Well, not until August, at least!” Matthew Wheeler paused in the doorway of his adopted son's bedroom and interrupted his train of thought.

Jim pretended to groan. “You had to remind me, didn't you?”

Matthew grinned. “Sorry, son. I know you've worked hard, and I hope you have a relaxing summer.”

Both men looked at each other. “Not with Trixie around!”

After enjoying a good laugh, Matthew stepped further into Jim's room. “I have something for you.”

Motioning for his father to take the only chair in the room, Jim sat on his neatly made bed and turned to him in expectation.

“What is it, Dad? You know I don't graduate for another three weeks.”

Matthew smiled, thinking of the state-of-the-art computer that Jim would take with him to the University of Virginia. “No, Jim, this isn't your graduation present.” He handed Jim a book.

Jim rolled his eyes. “Well, it has been almost an hour since I had any required reading...” The twinkle in his eyes disappeared as he read the title of the book. Jim felt the smile slide off his face and the room grew quiet.

“What is this?” Jim's terse question betrayed the tension that had his stomach in knots.

Matthew held up a hand. “It's not what you think, Jim,” he hastened to reassure him. “If I could change the title, I would.” He took the copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad that Jim held out to him. “Sit down, Jim.”

Unaware that he had risen to his feet, Jim smiled sheepishly before sinking back onto the bed. “I'm sorry, Dad. I know you would never... The title just surprised me, that's all.”

Matthew nodded. “I should have explained.” He paused. “I want you to understand why it is that I do what I do. This book explains it better than I ever could. While I don't agree with everything the author says, I do have a similar outlook towards money.” He considered his next words carefully.

“In a sense, the title of the book is accurate.” He held up a hand to ward off Jim's questions. “Your father and I led very different lives, and had differing views on money. I'm not saying one is better that the other. There are valid points on both sides of the issue. What's also true is that wealth is not determined only by money. It's important that you understand why we both chose the lives we did, so that you can decide what you're going to do.” Matthew rose and looked out the window before continuing.

“In the next few years, you're going to face a lot of important choices. I want you to explore all your options, and to make informed decisions. You're an intelligent young man, and I know that you'll be successful in whatever you choose to do. And, of course, I will support you in every way I can, no matter what.”

He clasped Jim's shoulder. “Read the book and let me know what you think.”

Deep in thought, Jim nodded, staring at the dark purple cover of the book.


Brian opened the car door, stepped out, and stretched. He took a deep breath of the fresh, clean air of Clarence Fahnestock State Park. More importantly, he sighed in gratitude at the stark contrast in volume from the interior of the vehicle to the outdoors. As Mart pushed past him, he couldn't resist a jab.

“You don't want to stay and listen to the end of the song?”

Mart muttered under his breath and struggled to open the trunk.

“Jim!” he called. “Pop the trunk already!”

“What's that?” Jim called back. “I can't quite hear you over the CD.”

Mart sighed in resignation. “I'm never going to live this down, am I?”

Dan smiled and leaned against the car. “Maybe. Eventually. But probably not.” He peered at Mart across the roof of the car, resting his chin on his arms. “All I know is, Love Will Build a Bridge, right Brian?”

“Oh, yes,” Brian agreed. “And from what I understand, Love is Alive.”

Mart sank to the ground and leaned against the car. “Kill me now.”

Jim raised his eyebrow as he caught Mart's comment. “If we wanted to kill you, we would have done it before we let you play that CD.”

“It's not my fault!” Mart protested. “She made me promise! You know how girls can be!” He paused, a spark in his eye. “Oh, wait. Maybe you don't. I am the only one here who has a girlfriend.”

Dan snorted. “And that's the way it's going to stay. There is no way I'm ever going to let a chick tell me what music to listen to. It's bad enough she's giving you her CDs, but the Judds? Dude, you are so whipped.”

Jim unlocked the trunk, and with the help of Brian and Dan, proceeded to load everything onto Mart while making the sound of a whip cracking.

“Okay! Okay! I admit it! I'm totally whipped. Completely. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. Past the point of no return. Are you happy now?”

Jim shrugged. “That depends. Are you?”

The goofy grin Mart had been sporting ever since he and Diana had started dating appeared. The others rolled their eyes as they picked up the few remaining camping supplies.

“He seems happy,” Dan commented, after a skeptical scrutiny. “He must be in love if he can still smile after an hour of listening to country music.”

“I'm not so sure.” Brian narrowed his eyes as he felt Mart's forehead. “This may be more serious than we thought. He appears to have slipped into...” he paused and left a dramatic pause.

“Wait for it,” Dan muttered to Jim, nudging him with his elbow.

“Di-sucrosis.” Brian finished with a knowledgeable nod.

Hiding a smile, Jim said, “Okay, I'll bite. Dr. Brian, pray tell us about this condition. Is it serious?”

“Oh, very.” Brian stroked his non-existent beard. “If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications. Essentially, what Mart is experiencing is a stupefied state resulting from prolonged exposure to the very sweet Diana Lynch. In combination with the emotionally charged country music...” he shook his head sadly. “The prognosis isn't good. I'm afraid the only known cure is a weekend camping trip with the guys.”

“Oh, stuff it!” Mart exploded, and would have hit his brother if he weren't loaded down by the camping supplies. “Just wait. You're all going to do tons of stupid things when you start dating. Serious dating,” he amended with a meaningful glance in Dan's direction.

Jim chuckled. “Maybe. I'm pretty sure my stupidity won't include the Judds.”

With raised eyebrows Brian teased, “That's right. Trixie listens to rock, mostly.”

Taking pity on Jim as he flushed deep red, Dan commented, “Well, at least he won't be listening to pop, unlike some future doctors I know.”

Brian shook his head. “Enough already! We should set up camp before it gets dark. I know Mart isn't the only one who's hungry.”

“I'll see to the firewood,” Jim offered.

Dan nodded and took a deep breath of the fresh air. “Thanks, Jim. Boy, it's nice to have someone else chop the wood for a change!”

Brian laughed. “Don't get too comfortable. We should set up the tents before we make supper.” He began rummaging through the pile of supplies. Mart and Dan walked around the campsite clearing debris from the spot where they planned to pitch the tents.

“I think we're ready for the tarps, Brian,” Mart called.

Brian frowned and continued to root through the supplies.

“Brian?” Mart repeated after a few moments. “I said, we're ready for the tarps.”

“Yes, I heard you,” Brian retorted. “I've run into a bit of a snag.”

“What's wrong?” Dan asked.

“Well,” Brian said slowly, “I can find plenty of junk food,” he held up a bag of chips, “and soda,” he gestured with a can in his other hand. “What I can't find are the tents.”

Mart stopped short, frowning. “Very funny, Brian. Hand over the tents! I want to get them set up so we can eat.”

Brian threw down the bag of chips in frustration. “Find them yourself. I'm telling you, they're not here.”

Mart strode to the pile of supplies. “Of course they are. I saw them when I was packing the extra cooler of drinks in the trunk. I had to move them in order to make more room...” Mart's eyes grew wide. “Oh, crap.”

“What do you mean, 'oh, crap'?” Dan asked in a menacing tone.

“Um,let's keep looking, okay? I'll check the trunk.” Mart hurried to the vehicle, frantically searching the empty trunk.

“I'll repeat my question.” Dan stood next to Mart, arms crossed over his chest. “What do you mean, 'oh, crap'?”

Mart swallowed. “Well, the thing is, I had this extra cooler of drinks, and the trunk was pretty crowded, and I may have sort of moved some things around to get the drinks in.”

Dan nodded. “Would you perhaps have moved some of those things out of the trunk?”

Mart's eyes looked everywhere except at Dan. “Maybe? I don't remember,” he concluded miserably.

Brian shook his head. “Well, the important thing is, we have plenty of Coke. That's good for keeping off the rain, right?”

“Oh, yes.” Dan concurred. “Mr. Maypenny and I always carry a can when we patrol the preserve. You never can tell when it's going to rain.”

“Just tell me you didn't 'repack' the sleeping bags,” Brian pleaded.

“Didn't touch them,” Mart assured his friends, then waved as Jim returned with an armload of wood.

Setting the wood in the fire pit, Jim dusted off his arms, then frowned. “I thought you would at least have the tents out of the bags by now. What have you been doing?”

Dan and Brian swiveled to face Mart. “I believe we'll let Mart field this one.”

“See, the thing is, there wasn't a lot of room in the trunk, and...”

Jim saw where the conversation was headed. “You forgot the tents?” he asked, his jaw going slack.

Brian threw an arm around Jim's shoulders. “Well, hopefully love knows more than how to build a bridge. With any luck, it'll keep us warm tonight, too.”

“You're thinking of the Eagles, and they sang Love Will Keep Us Alive, not that it will keep us warm,” Mart informed his brother.

“You're crazy if either one of you think I'm keeping anyone warm tonight,” Dan interrupted. “I may love you, but that doesn't translate into shared body warmth. Just so we're clear.”

Jim shook his head. “Do we at least have the sleeping bags?” He sighed in relief as Mart pointed to the pile of tightly packed sleep gear. “We'll be fine. I've slept under the stars plenty of times. If it really cools off, we may have to keep the fire going during the night, but that's not a big deal as long as we keep an eye on it.” He looked at Brian and Mart curiously. “You've never camped without a tent before?”

Brian shrugged. “Mart and I did our camping with Tom. He always brought a tent, so...”

Jim grinned. “I bet Trixie was pretty ticked off that she didn't get to go camping with you.”

With a snort, Mart agreed. “You don't know the half of it. One time, she even tried to follow us. She managed to get lost about ten feet into the preserve.”

“Well, we won't have to worry about Trixie getting lost, or dragging us into any mysteries this trip,” Brian said. The boys fell silent, suddenly wishing that the girls were with them, and not having a “girls only” weekend in New York with their mothers.

Shaking off the pensive mood, Jim clapped his hands. “Let's get the show on the road, men.” He patted his stomach. “I'm looking forward to a big old hot dog, smothered in onions and barbeque sauce. Are you with me?”

The grumbling of Mart's stomach was his only answer as everyone set about gathering supplies. Jim crouched by the fire pit and arranged the kindling to his liking. Taking his flint and steel from his back pocket, he proceeded to light the fire after only a few swipes. As he watched the kindling catch, he felt Brian pause beside him.

“I've always wanted to ask why you bother with that. You know we carry matches, right?”

Jim cocked his head as he looked up at Brian in surprise. “I hadn't really thought about it.” He studied the flames before continuing. “My dad used a flint and steel. I guess I'm just doing it the way he always did.”

Mart snorted. “I'd like to see our dad use one.”

Chuckling, Brian agreed. “Dad doesn't have the best of luck with campfires.”

“Really?” Dan questioned. “Your dad just seems so, so...”

“Manly? Virile? Testosterone endowed?” Mart looked at his best friend with curiosity.

“I was going to say practical,” Dan finished.

“He is,” Brian admitted. “Campfires just aren't his forte.”

“They weren't my dad's, either,” Dan commented softly, taking Jim's spot and staring into the flickering flames. He reached for a piece of wood and threw it onto the fire, causing sparks to fly. “In fact, I believe his exact words on camping amounted to, 'Why would I want to go out of my way to sleep on the hard, uncomfortable ground when I have a hard, uncomfortable mattress right here?' You can imagine what his views on mosquitoes were.”

Mart shook his head. “How you ended up as a perfectly competent assistant to Mr. Maypenny, I'll never understand.”

“Luckily, an affinity for the outdoors isn't necessarily hereditary,” Brian surmised, smiling at the dark-haired young man who looked completely at peace in nature.

“It sure didn't come naturally for me. When I think of those first few weeks in Sleepyside...” he shuddered. “Poor Mr. Maypenny. He must have wondered why he was being punished.”

“He never would have agreed to you staying with him if he weren't prepared for a challenge,” Jim countered. “You know, better than anyone else, that Mr. Maypenny is no pushover.”

“That's true,” Dan laughed. “He didn't let me get away with squat. From the very first day, I knew what my chores were, and that they had better be done properly.” Lost in remembrance, Dan looked away as he started to chuckle.

“What's so funny?” Mart asked. “Did Mr. Maypenny have creative ways of keeping you on the straight and narrow?”

“Nope.” Dan tried to stop laughing, but it was too late. “I was just remembering the time I woke up early, and thought I'd help out by starting the fire in the stove.”

“Oh, this can't be good.” Picturing several possible scenarios, Jim was already chuckling.

“Well, how was I supposed to know that you can't use green wood to start a fire?” Dan asked indignantly.

Brian and Mart added their chuckles to Jim's. “Oh, man, I can see it now!” Mart exclaimed. “'Mr. Maypenny, sir,'” he mimicked Dan's voice, “'I can't seem to get the fire to take. And why is it hissing so much?'” He stopped and jumped up, pretended to pat out the sparks that landed on his jeans. “'Is there a reason the fire is attacking me?'”

“Close enough,” Dan admitted. “But the real version involved a lot more cursing.”

“You, or Mr. Maypenny?” Brian asked in amusement.

“I learned from the best.” Dan smiled.

With the flames at just the right height, the boys speared wieners on sharpened sticks and held them over the fire. Lounging in his collapsible fabric armchair, Jim surveyed the beautiful natural environment that surrounded them. A mass of tall, dark trees both coniferous and deciduous separated them from the other campsites and provided a surprisingly effective muffler. Even listening carefully, all he could hear were the comforting sounds of nature. He closed his eyes, trying to identify each sound he heard. Two squirrels chattered importantly while a skunk lumbered through the dense undergrowth. Straining, Jim heard the cry of a hawk. Almost simultaneously, he heard Winthrop Frayne's voice in his mind. “Listen, Jim. What do you hear?”

After a moment, Jim responded silently. “An owl. A hungry owl out for some early hunting.”

“Very good, son. What else?”

Jim frowned in concentration, then pricked his ears. “A fox!” He opened his eyes, straining to penetrate the bush.

Brian, Mart, and Dan stared at him with identical expressions of surprise.

Realizing that he had spoken his last thought aloud, Jim laughed self-consciously. “I was just listening to the animals that are out and about tonight. I think there's a fox nearby,” he explained.

The others nodded and peered into the trees, as if expecting the fox to materialize before their very eyes.

Smiling to himself, Jim continued. “I doubt he'll venture into the clearing.” Checking his wiener, Jim realized that he had let it cook far too long. “I hope there's plenty of barbeque sauce,” he groaned.

Brian smirked. “I thought you liked your food charred a la Trixie.”

“Not wieners,” Jim stated firmly, and reached for a hot dog bun.

“Or do you only like it when Trixie does the charring?” Mart teased.

Jim hastily busied himself with the condiments to hide his flaming face.

“Oh, give him a break.” Dan elbowed Mart. “I seem to remember you eating a fair amount of that hideous dip Di brought to the last picnic.”

Mart moaned and rubbed his stomach. “The first few helpings were good! Then it turned...” he stopped talking to glare at Dan. “Don't start. I couldn't even eat the chocolate cake Miss Trask sent for dessert.”

The others laughed, remembering the woebegone expression on his face when he had passed up the delicious treat. As they enjoyed their smoky hot dogs, chips, and soda, the sun sank gradually behind the trees.

“We should probably hit the sack, guys. The sun will be up early, and we will, too. Isn't Daylight Saving Time great?” he asked. “It must be almost ten o'clock, and there's still plenty of light.”

Mart rolled out his sleeping bag with a flourish. “We can only hope it's sunny tomorrow. If the weather is bad...” he shook his head sadly.

“What happens if tomorrow is bad weather?” Jim asked.

“Undoubtedly, you, my fellow lovers of history, know that tomorrow marks the illustrious occasion of St. Swithin's Day.”

Dan groaned and stripped off his jeans before settling in his sleeping bag. “Undoubtedly,” he agreed. “But maybe you should refresh our memories about why this day is important.”

“Certainly, certainly.” Always grateful for an audience, Mart explained, “Traditionally, if one experiences inclement weather conditions on this day, the next forty days will exhibit similar conditions.”

“So if it rains tomorrow, it'll rain for the rest of the summer?” Jim asked.

“That's the idea,” Mart agreed.

“Mart,” Dan interrupted, “if it rains during the night, I don't think you'll have to worry about the next forty days.”

“Oh?” Mart questioned.

“If it rains during the night while I'm sleeping under the stars because you ditched our tents in favour of food, I will personally break both your legs, and you'll be stuck indoors for the rest of the summer, rain or shine.”

Brian and Jim nodded in agreement.

“Right.” Mart hastily zipped his bag and closed his eyes, praying fervently that they would experience only clear skies for the duration of the weekend.

Jim lay in his sleeping bag and savoured the gentle warmth of the early morning sun. With his eyes closed, he studied the myriad of colours and patterns against his inner eyelids, and smiled. There are some advantages to forgetting the tents, he conceded. Remembering who had forgotten the tents, Jim opened his eyes to check on his fellow campers. Furthest from him, Mart slept peacefully, if not quietly. A strange rattling and whirring which Jim assumed were snores emanated from the sleeping bag which completely covered his head. Jim had to chuckle. Farm boy, indeed! Paranoid about bugs, are you?

His gaze rested next on the figure between him and Mart, and the chuckle died. Studying Dan's face carefully, he frowned. In sleep, the dark-haired young man looked older and more serious, and Jim wondered if he were dreaming. Despite Dan's healthy appetite, his chin appeared pointed, his cheeks hollow.

Looking to his other side, Jim saw Brian sleeping, a picture of calm serenity. After only one day of not shaving, his chin already sported a heavy shadow, but there were no shadows beneath his eyes. He'll be just fine as a doctor, he thought, because he can sleep anywhere.

Jim's early morning reverie was interrupted by a loud scuffling in the bushes. He focused his attention, his eyes growing larger as he judged the size and weight of the animal. He forced himself to remain completely still as the uninvited guest burst into the clearing.

“Holy sh-!” Only Jim's upbringing stopped him before he completed the thought.

Three pairs of bleary human eyes turned to face him. As they followed his line of sight, Jim's fellow campers gasped in unison. Keeping level heads, Brian and Dan remained perfectly still, their eyes never leaving the bear cub meandering through the small clearing. In a moment of panic, Mart began to scramble out of his sleeping bag.

“Freeze!” Jim's ordered in a terse hiss.

In deference to the more experienced woodsman, Mart proceeded to freeze, balancing his weight on one knee as he tried not to tip over. All four campers watched while the bear cub nosed the lawn chairs they had neglected to put away the previous night. Mart jumped noticeably when the cub knocked one chair into the one beside it, sending them both crashing to the ground. Surprised by the clatter, the bear cub took off at a dead run, knocking over the other chairs in his panic.

Brian wiped his brow and started to speak, but was stopped by the cautious hand Jim held up. Within seconds, the others saw the reason for his warning. A much larger and more intimidating version of the bear cub lumbered into sight, eyeing each of the young men sternly before following the trail of her cub.

When Jim relaxed enough to allow a chuckle, the others followed suit. Mart collapsed back onto the sleeping bag from which he had only partially extricated himself. Brian moved to right the overturned chairs. Sitting up slowly, Dan continued to watch the place where the bears had disappeared. Before moving to help Brian with the lawn chairs, Jim noticed a line of beaded sweat on Dan's forehead, but quickly forgot as Mart recovered the power of speech.

“Ah, the habits of the Ursus americanus, of the family Ursidae, can be strange, peculiar, unpredictable, and downright terrifying. I recently read of a case in which a woman came home to find a bear rooting through her pantry, and eating the oatmeal it found.” He shook his head. “At least that particular bear was making a healthy choice. Others have been known to--”

“Hey! Mart!” Dan interrupted with a mischievous grin as he stretched and proceeded to roll his sleeping bag. “Does this mean we're going to wake up to a bear sighting each morning for the next forty days?”

Mart stopped mid-sentence and looked around. “It's sunny!” He let out the rest of the tension he was holding with a large whoop. “Perfect weather for the rest of the summer!”

Jim chuckled. “Of course, that depends on how you describe perfect. Honey would say the perfect temperature is eighty-four, but Mother would put it much lower. Diana likes it cool, too. And we all know how Trixie feels about the heat! Since today looks like it's going to be well into the nineties, do you really think the rest of the gang is going to be happy with this weather for the rest of the summer?”

Brian grinned. “If it forces Honey and Di to wear those little tank tops and short shorts, I have no complaints!”

Jim and Mart turned to glare at the normally responsible oldest member of their club, then gave in to reluctant laughter.

“And don't tell me you two don't notice when Trixie pulls out those jean cut-offs she only wears when it's insanely hot.” Brian raised his eyebrow in Dan and Jim's general direction. They looked at each other for a moment before shrugging.

“Jean cut-offs? Why, whatever do you mean, Brian?” Jim questioned, attempting a dignified air.

Mart snorted. “The ones that caused you to drop your jaw and the platter of veggies you were holding the first time you saw her in them.”

Jim flushed and hastily turned to rummage in his backpack. “Right. Those ones. I think I remember now.”

Mart nudged Dan. “And this is the guy who's going to lead us on a hike? We'd better hope we don't run into any pretty girls on the way, or we'll wind up lost in the woods forever.”

Dan rubbed his hands together. “I, for one, hope we do run into a few pretty girls. You guys are charming and all, but...”

Mart rolled his eyes. “Right, right. I should have known. Tired of talking to all the girls in Sleepyside who hang on your every word, are you?”

“It's always good to make new friends. Isn't that the Bob-White way?” Dan's riposte was delivered with an innocent smile.

“Time to hit the trail,” Jim called. “We'll eat some granola bars as we walk. And we have lots of snacks packed for rest stops,” he reassured, anticipating Mart's concerns.

Ten minutes later, their backpacks were packed and they were on their way. “According to the guide I picked up, there's a good trail nearby that shouldn't take too long. We'll be back in plenty of time for lunch,” Jim predicted.

Five hours later, they were tired, hot, and very, very frustrated.

“Finally!” Mart exclaimed, bursting into the clearing and dropping to his knees. “Food! Sweet food!” He clutched a bag of potato chips, holding them close to his chest with a dreamy smile on his face.

“Mart, you've been eating trail mix non-stop since we left! If you eat any more, it's going to start coming out of--”

“Whoa!” Dan interrupted Brian. “I do not want to think about Mart's digestive process. The only thing I'm interested in is sitting down.” He collapsed onto a lawn chair, arms and legs spread wide.

Jim wandered into the campsite last, a puzzled expression on his hot and flushed face. “I could have sworn that other path would bring us right back here.” He sat down, still studying the map.

Brian shook his head. “Give it up, Jim! We were lost, and you know it.”

“I was not lost!” Jim protested, glaring at his friend. “I just didn't know exactly where we were. There's a difference, you know.”

“Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe,” Dan teased.

“To-may-toe, to-mah-toe,” Mart agreed, nacho crumbs tumbling out of his mouth.

“I can't wait to see the expression on Trixie's face when she finds out the most wonderful boy in the world had us wandering around in circles for hours,” Brian teased, holding a water bottle to his lips to hide a wicked grin.

Jim looked up sharply. “Now wait a minute. There's no reason the girls need to hear about our extended hike.”

Mart snorted. “I should say not. Of course, we would never be able to convince Trixie that stalwart Jim isn't quite the fearless leader she believes him to be. Somehow, she would make getting lost my fault.”

“Your growling stomach can be pretty distracting,” Dan pointed out.

“How did Trixie describe Jim when she wrote that letter to us at camp?” Brian turned to Mart, stroking his chin. “Ah, yes. Something about Jim being 'the best there was, the best there is, the best there ever will be!'”

Dan raised an eyebrow. “I highly doubt she used the words of the Hitman. He's your hero, not Trixie's.”

“Whoooo!” Mart drew out the syllable as long as possible, then elbowed his brother in the ribs. “He got you on that one.”

Even Jim got in on the wrestling imitations. “Oh, yeah!”

Mart looked up from the sandwich he had hastily slapped together. “Come on! Let's eat and head down to the beach. We can throw a Frisbee around until it's safe to go in the water. Unless Jim would like to continue butchering the catch phrase of Randy 'The Macho Man' Savage.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Well, Mr. Flair, it looks like you've gone ahead and had lunch without us.” He looked at the empty chip bag, drained water bottle, and half-eaten sandwich in Mart's hand.

With a sheepish grin, Mart reached for the bread bag. “In that case, I would be pleased to perform the service of chef extraordinaire. Is it everyone's wish to have their yeast-risen carbohydrate base coated in a delectable combination of egg yolk and oil?”

Green eyes, black eyes, and brown eyes stared blankly.

Mart sighed. “Mayo?”

Comprehension dawned, and they nodded.

“Besides,” Mart continued, “a Royal Rumble is best suited for the water, anyway.”

“Was that a challenge?” Brian tilted his head and studied his brother.

“It did sound like a challenge,” Dan agreed, casually flexing his biceps.

“Well, in that case...” The boys made quick work of their sandwiches and headed to Canopus Lake, tossing barbs back and forth all the while.

After several hours of highly competitive water Frisbee resulting in many dunkings and various minor injuries, the guys—Mart in particular—were feeling the effects of the sun. Brian gave him a mild reprimand.

“Didn't you reapply sunblock?”

“Yes,” Mart glowered. “Several times. Perhaps if I had not been the target of so many thorough and frequent dunkings, each application would have lasted for more than two seconds.”

With a rueful chuckle Jim remarked, “At least you didn't get pantsed.”

Dan grinned. “What? I thought you preferred swimming au natural. Don't tell me you've never gone skinny dipping at the lake back home.”

“That's different!” Jim protested.

“Skinny dipping?” Mart and Brian asked together, frowning.

“Alone! I was alone! It was hot, and no one was around!” Jim's face was a bright, flaming red, and only part of the colour could be blamed on his sunburn.

“There better not have been anyone around.” Brian gave Jim a meaningful look.

Deciding he had sufficiently punished Jim for narrowly defeating him in the Frisbee competition, Dan changed the subject. “So, what's for supper?” he asked.

Jim's eyes lit up. “Steak. Beautiful, red, delicious steak.”

Mart's mouth began watering. “Why didn't you say so?” He eagerly rummaged through the cooler, pushing aside the bag of melting ice. “Did you bring potatoes?”

Jim smiled, pleased that he could provide his friends with a meal they enjoyed. Tossing the potatoes in the glowing coals of the fire, he fondly reminisced.

“Remember the clambake on Cobbett's Island?”

“Do I! Clams, corn on the cob, chickens, lobsters, and potatoes all cooked by placing seaweed over...” Mart paused and frowned. “What did Captain Clark put the seaweed on, again?”

Brian looked at him as if he had grown an extra head. “He created steam by placing the seaweed on top of hot ro-” He stopped abruptly when he knew he'd been tricked. Sure enough, Mart was grinning broadly.

“Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?”

Noting the head tilted in profile and the quirked brow, Brian couldn't resist the challenge. “That's it. I'll show you what the Rock is cooking.”

He and Mart began grappling, their sibling rivalry always ready to erupt. As they pushed and shoved, Dan turned to Jim.

“You know, I was always disappointed when I couldn't go on trips with you all.” He watched as Mart attempted to give Brian a purple nurple. “Somehow, I'm not so jealous anymore.”

Jim snorted, unable to take his eyes off the disturbing sight of Brian yanking his brother's swimsuit upward into the vicinity of his armpits. His eyes grew larger as Mart turned the tables on his brother and forced him to the ground. Brian lay on his back, struggling as Mart sat on his upper legs. With one of Mart's legs on either side of his waist, Brian was trapped.

Jim and Dan turned to each other, eyebrows raised. Clearing his throat, Dan addressed the combatants.

“Guys. Two words. Brokeback. Mountain.”

Brian and Mart froze, then scrambled to their feet with comical alacrity. Jim and Dan laughed until it hurt, and then laughed some more. Brian and Mart took it in turns to glare at their best friends while trying to restore their injured pride.

To Mart's great relief, Jim soon remembered the food. “It's about time to put the steaks on, don't you think? The potatoes shouldn't take any longer than twenty-five minutes, so...”

Embarrassment forgotten, Mart hastened to supervise the placing of steaks in long-handled broiling utensils. “It's a good thing Cook trimmed the fat off the steaks. Otherwise, we'd have some serious flare-ups.”

“Worse than using green wood to build a fire?” Dan asked by way of apology.

“I don't know about worse,” Brian responded, “but certainly just as painful. Remember, the first aid kit is beside the cooler. And the best treatment for a burn is to submerge it in water immediately. In our case, dump the bag of ice into the cooler. But, better yet--”

“Don't get burned,” Jim finished.

“Right.” Mart's attention was clearly on the steak. “How many minutes per side?”

“I think Honey said three minutes per side.” Brian frowned. “That doesn't seem right, though. Jim, what do you think?”

With a rueful grin Jim admitted, “I was hoping you guys would know. I'm afraid my method involves letting them cook until they smoke, then scraping off the black.”

“Well, you're in good company, then.” Dan winked.

Sighing, Brian stated what each of them was again thinking. “I wish the girls were here.”

Dan grinned wickedly. “But if the girls were here, we wouldn't be able to do this, now would we?”

“Do what?” Jim asked, peering around the campsite, curious about which of their activities could possibly have to be censored by the appearance of their female friends.

“This.” Dan sat up in his lawn chair, concentrated, and let loose a burp that echoed through the stillness.

“Mangan! And we haven't even eaten yet!” Mart's voice was filled with both disgust and respect.

Dan inclined his head. “Thank you, thank you. Perhaps after supper...”

“Supper!” Jim exclaimed, and hurried to check the steaks. Brian carefully removed the hot potatoes and sliced them open to cool. Mart tossed him the tiny packets of butter and the container of bacon bits he found in the cooler.

“Load them up good, Brian,” Mart commanded, licking his lips.

Mart's wasn't the only stomach to growl. Much later, the boys leaned back in their lawn chairs after enjoying a delicious meal. The sky darkened as the sun dipped below the tops of the trees. Nocturnal animals took the place of their daytime counterpoints. The melancholy hoot of an owl was the only sound. Covering a yawn, Brian stretched and rose from his seat.

“I'm bushed,” he admitted with a reluctant sigh.

Jim, Dan, and Mart also rose and joined Brian in cleaning up their supper. With a minimum of fussing, the food was stored and placed in containers in the hope that no bears would be attracted to their site. Exhausted from the physical activities of hiking and swimming, it didn't take the boys long to fall asleep.

Only a few hours later Jim woke with a racing heart and a clammy brow. As the last trace of his dream disappeared, he ran a shaky hand through his hair and struggled to free himself from the confines of his sleeping bag. He drank in the cool night air in deep gulps and tried to collect his thoughts. When his heart rate slowed to a regular pulse, he opened a lawn chair as silently as possible and sat down to stare into the last glowing embers of the fire.

Lost in thought, he didn't notice a figure watching him; didn't see the person follow him to the fire. Only the jarring creak of a lawn chair alerted him to the shadowy presence beside him. He acknowledged Dan with a short nod, and the two sat in silence.

Dan was eventually reduced to stating the obvious. “Couldn't sleep?”

Jim shrugged, reluctant to elaborate.

Looking away, Dan tried again. “Bad dream?”

Something in his tone make Jim look up. Even though Dan was looking away, he could see that his eyes were shuttered. Jim's plan to remain silent slipped away in a wave of compassion.

“Not bad,” he clarified, “just...unsettling.”

“Yeah. They can do that, can't they.” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Is that what you...last night...”

Dan's hooded eyes widened in surprise. “How did you...”

Jim looked away uncomfortably. How do you tell another guy you were watching him as he slept? He compromised. “You had that look on your face when the bear woke us up.”

Still studying Jim's face intently, Dan nodded, then fell silent. Jim felt his earlier tension return. Is this something I want to talk about? He looked away and took the chance to unobtrusively study not only Dan, but Brian and Mart. The Belden brothers slept soundly, their faces calm and serene.

“Do you think they ever have bad dreams?” Jim asked.

Dan, too, studied the sleeping brothers. Then, so quietly that Jim had to strain to hear him, he answered, “I hope to God they don't.”

And with that statement, Jim knew that if he were ever going to talk to someone, this was the right time, and the right person.

“My parents. I dreamed about them.” With those few words, Jim told Dan everything he needed to know.

“I went with Mr. Maypenny into town this week.”

Unfazed by the apparent irrelevance of the statement, Jim waited.

“Every July he goes to the memorial in town. His dad died in the war, you know.”

“I didn't realize that,” Jim admitted.

Dan nodded. “He lost an uncle, and some cousins, too. There's a reason there aren't many Maypennys left.”

The statement hit home. Jim felt an uncomfortable weight as he was reminded that he was the last of his family line, just like Dan. Will my family name die with me? Jim wondered. He felt an overwhelming urge to live, and to live vigourously.

“Do you dream about your parents?” Jim asked. I need to know, he thought. I need to know if anyone else feels what I feel.

“Sometimes. It's been worse this week, after seeing the monument. Am I being selfish?” Dan asked. “I'm proud of my dad. Proud that he served his country, proud that he died in that service. But sometimes... sometimes I wish he had been a carpenter, or a teacher, or anything other than a soldier. If he hadn't gone away, maybe mom wouldn't have taken sick, and I wouldn't have had to...” Dan stopped, having reached the limit of what he could bring himself to share.

“You're not selfish.” Jim's words reassured them both.

“And I don't mean to complain about the dreams,” Dan continued. “They're good dreams, mostly. It's just that when I wake up, I feel so horribly--”

“Alone.” Jim finished the sentence without thinking. “And talking to the people around you would only make them feel bad, too.”

Green eyes met black, and an understanding was born.

“So, what brought on your dreams?” Dan asked. “Or do you always have them?”

With a sheepish smile, Jim showed Dan the book he had placed under his pillow.

“Dad gave it to me last month,” he said by way of explanation.

In the darkness, Dan could only squint and guess at the words.

Jim took the book back. “It's about money.”

If Dan was confused about how a book on money would cause Jim to dream of his parents, he didn't show it.

“I don't know what to think. I love both my dads. And I respect them both, too. I mean, my birth dad was amazing. He taught me everything I know about nature and animals. He taught me right from wrong, and I always knew I was loved.” Jim's eyes shone in remembrance of that love. “My family never had a lot of money, but we had each other. And it was enough.” He sighed. “But look at Wheeler International. Do you have any idea how much Dad donated to charity last year alone?”

Dan shook his head.

“You wouldn't believe me if I told you. I asked Dad about it a few weeks ago, after he donated all that money to the Sleepyside Hospital. I always knew he donated a lot of money, but...” Jim shifted restlessly. “He's making a difference, too. A big difference.”

Dan frowned. “Of course he is. You know that your birth dad and Mr. Wheeler are both different, but good men. What is it that's bothering you?”

“I have to decide what kind of man I'm going to be. What I'm going to do to make a difference.” He turned to face Dan. “Is a boys' school really the right way to go? Or was it just a juvenile dream that got me through the years with Jonesy? Would it be better for me to go into business and make sure that at least one big corporation is donating to charity? I just don't know, and I'm going to have to decide soon.”

“Sometimes, there can be more than one way to accomplish a dream,” Dan said hesitantly. “Only you can know what's right for you. And Jim, you're allowed to change your mind. No one expects you to have all the answers right now.”

Dan seemed to be speaking about more than just Jim's situation. He studied the young man, but read only friendship and concern in his eyes.

“I guess sleeping on it a few more times won't hurt,” Jim acknowledged. “At least, not much.”

Returning to their sleeping bags, they lay down and stared into the night sky. A cloud passed in front of the moon, then drifted away, and Jim felt more at peace than he had in weeks.

“Happy dreams, Dan,” he spoke softly.

“You, too.” The firm reply was comforting, and Jim fell asleep easily.

Mart jammed the last sleeping bag into the trunk and slammed the lid shut. “There! All loaded.” He turned to glare at his friends. “No thanks to you.”

Jim, Brian, and Dan exchanged amused grins. “Gee, Mart, it was really nice of you to offer to strike camp and load the car by yourself,” Dan said, dark eyes dancing with mischief.

“I didn't exactly offer,” Mart grumbled.

“Oh, but you did,” his older brother assured him. “We'd almost forgotten about the Judds. Sleeping under the stars turned out to be fun. But sitting on the carton of eggs that was supposed to be our breakfast?” He shook his head. “If that wasn't a plea to be given something to keep you busy, I don't know what is.”

“Hey, I'm hungry, too!” Mart protested.

“Think of it this way.” Dan threw an arm around Mart's shoulders. “We're heading home early. With any luck, you can get together with Di. And, if you're smart, you'll return that CD.”

Mart brightened visibly, and the four young men piled into the vehicle, eager to return home.


The graveyard was green, much greener than Jim remembered. Of course, the last time I was here was the day we buried you, Dad, and that was in January. I was so cold...

Jim swallowed and read the inscription on the tombstone.

Winthrop Frayne
Devoted Husband and Father

With an uneasy sigh, Jim continued to stare at the words long after he finished reading them. What am I supposed to do now? he wondered, then berated himself for his indecision. Do what you came here to do, he told himself sternly, then laughed.

Sorry, Dad, he apologized. It's not like it's a punishment to come here. I just don't know where to start...

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. The words of one of his mother's favourite songs tumbled through his mind, causing him to chuckle. Well, that would take a little too long. How about I tell you about my family?

Alone in the small, neglected cemetery, Jim grew more comfortable.

You'd like my new family, Dad. You know Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler already, and Honey is, well, she's perfectly perfect. I wish you could meet her, Jim thought, then grimaced. Of course, if you were able to meet her, I wouldn't be living with the Wheelers, would I? Jim could almost hear his father laughing at the roundabout logic.

But that's not my whole family. There are five other people that are my real family now. My best friend is Brian. He lives in a little farmhouse next to the Manor House. He's smart, Dad. He wants to be a doctor, and he'll be a good one. He always keeps a level head, but, more importantly, he cares about people. He keeps us all safe.

His brother Mart is the clown of the group. He's always using big words and hamming it up. Jim smiled as he remembered Mart's antics at the Bob White lake parties. He keeps us all laughing, Dad.

Dan's quieter than the others, but he has a sharp sense of humour. He's gone through some rough times, Jim reflected. He's living proof that it's worth it to give a person a second chance.

Diana is one of the sweetest, prettiest girls I've ever met. She lives in a big house nearby, and had her own set of problems, but once Trixie and Honey got a hold of her ... well, now she's actually happy, instead of just pretending.

Trixie and Honey. Jim's eyes softened. Honey is just like her Mother in many ways, but much more practical. It's almost scary how she always knows when people are unhappy. But she always finds the right words to make them feel better.

And then there's Trixie. Although he was unaware, a happy grin lit his face at the mere thought of her. Trixie is ... Oh, Dad, I don't even know where to start! Trixie is the one who got me my new family. She looked right past my surly attitude and treated me like a friend. She's feisty, and impatient, and short-tempered, and sparkly, and tenacious, and beautiful, and ... she's amazing, Dad. The most amazing person I've met since you and Mom died.

Jim sighed and sat down with his back to a tree a few feet from his father's grave. Anyway, Dad, I just wanted you to know the people who are important to me now. I'll be going away to college in a few days, and I think I'm missing them already. It doesn't seem fair. I've already lost you and Mom, and now I have to leave my new family behind. Virginia isn't that far away, I know, but right now, it feels like the end of the earth.

That brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. He stared absentmindedly at the faded flowers of an especially tacky graveside marker, then plucked a blade of grass and put it in his mouth, whistling the way his father had taught him.

I'm thinking about picking up a few extra courses at UVA. Business courses. Suddenly angry, Jim threw down the grass. Darn it, Dad, I wish you were here! He ran a hand through his hair. I've been reading this book, and it really made me think. He picked another blade of grass and twirled it between his fingers. I want to be able to make a difference, Dad. A big difference. I thought a school for boys was the way to go, but now I'm not so sure. I've been looking at what Dad--Mr. Wheeler does, and it's pretty impressive. I could do a lot of good if I could generate profits the way he does. I could provide backing for all sorts of projects. I want to help people, Dad, and make a difference, just like you. I just don't know what the best way is to do that.

He closed his eyes as he relaxed against the tree and let his mind wander. In his mind's eye he could picture the paths that lay before him. The comfortable, familiar path he had planned for years and associated with Winthrop Frayne led to a boys' school. The other path was completely unfamiliar, and Jim couldn't see very far down it, but he knew it began with a degree in business and a lot of help from Matthew Wheeler.

And then, to Jim's surprise, a new thought entered his mind. He could almost hear the calm, quiet voice of Winthrop Frayne. “We're on whatever path you choose,” the voice whispered. “Both of your dads are.”

The rock of anxiety and doubt that had been firmly lodged on his chest rolled away. Jim's eyes flew open, and for the first time, he noticed that the leaves of the few trees in the cemetery were already changing from summer green to harvest gold. He stood and stretched, surprised at how comfortable and at peace he was in a graveyard. Brushing the loose grass and dirt from his pants, he stopped at his father's tombstone, nodding once in a farewell gesture. He turned and followed the narrow dirt path out of the cemetery, yellow leaves fluttering around him.

author's notes

1. Thank you, Mary N. (Dianafan), my wonderful editor and graphics guru.

2. Thank you, Terry (chromasnake), not only for very helpful advice about life in the great outdoors, but for editing as well. You rock!

3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki is a very interesting book, and one of the few non-fiction books I've enjoyed.

4. Love Will Build a Bridge and Love Is Alive are songs recorded by the Judds. They are used without permission.

5. Love Will Keep Us Alive is by the Eagles, and is also used without permission.

6. Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Randy “The Macho Man” Savage, Rick Flair, and the Rock are all wrestling superstars. I have used their names and catchphrases without permission.

7. The clambake the boys refer to takes place in The Mystery at Cobbett's Island. Unfortunately, Dan didn't get to go. This is also the book where they cook steaks in the fireplace, something I always thought would be a lot of fun. And, Brian was wrong. I'm pretty sure Honey said eight minutes per side. Maybe he had other things on his mind.

8. The idea of Mart and Brian “fighting” is taken from an illustration in The Marshland Mystery, where there is a semi-disturbing picturing of the boys in a similar position.

9. For those of you not familiar with the term “purple nurple”, well, be thankful. ;-)

10. The title Way Leads on to Way is taken from Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken, and was suggested by the all-wise Dianafan when I wanted a title taken from the poem, but couldn't decide exactly what to use. This title said exactly what I wanted.

11. This is a submission for CWP 2.5. The carry-over item is the mention of Daylight Saving Time.

12. This is my initiation story for becoming a Jix Author! I love the Jix community, and I'm thrilled (and terrified!) to be joining such a wonderful group of authors. Thank you to everyone who makes this a possibility.

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