Warm Memory for a Cold Night.

We’re under the Community Tarp, which is in a clearing of the pines facing the beach on Kootenay Lake. Snuggled in, five kids in sleeping bags, sharing two pillows. When everyone has their own pillow, our heads are too far away to talk. The late July sunset has been and gone, and we watched the colours fade from the sky at the head of the lake.

Mumbled conversations are slowing, drifting, and trailing off as we slide into sleep one by one. We get a lot of exercise at Wilderness Camp, we explore, build things out of driftwood and rope, dream and hang out on and off the island, so we sleep well.
A few hours before dawn, the rising wind flapping the tarp half-wakes us, but we’re still warm. We snuggle down like caterpillars, breath mingling and bodies passing heat to one another.
“I can’t see any stars,” Sarah mumbles.
Then the rain begins. It hits in big, splattering drops, blown in under the tarp. We stir.
“Gonna have to move,” I say.
I can’t see in the fathomless darkness of no lights, no stars, no cities nearby, but can feel Colin nodding beside me. “It’s hitting me.”
Just then a bobbing light shows itself, winding throught the pines toward the beach. All of us have seen our share of horror movies, but here, we are safe. Despite the dark, despite the storm, we watch, curiously. Blue flip-flops flash in and out of the beam as it approaches.
“Don,” my little brother whispers. He sits up. “Hi Don!”
The flashlight plays briefly over his weathered face, his blue GoreTex jacket. “I’m gonna take the front pegs down for you. It’ll blow past in a bit, but you’ll be dry for now.” Don’s not related to any of us. He’s just a fellow Wilderness Camper who heard the rain and remembered there were kids sleeping under the tarp.
“You stay warm.” Deftly, he unhooks the bungee cords holding up the front corners of the tarp. Secures them with a few of the hunks of granite that litter the beach. The rain can’t get us now.
“Thanks, Don,” we call, and snuggle back down. Before I drift off, I can feel Sarah’s head shifting, nestling into my shoulder, and the little whuffle she makes as her breathing deepens toward sleep.

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