Feb 18

Extended Family

Dark grey reflected on my glasses as I scrolled past messages. I had joined the server two days beforehand, though I had already grown tired of the monotonous parade of text. It was all more or less what was expected; small talk between scouts about politics and other domestic inquiries. Seeing that #general-chat hadn’t changed over the past few hours, I checked #photos. Hopefully there was something there that was more interesting than the same couple of users conversing back and forth.
In stark contrast was a friend’s username, ‘Adam Shakely’ cast in vivid color above a picture. Though the late afternoon sun filtered into my room, it took a minute for my slitted eyes to adjust. I clicked ‘open original’ to view the image in a larger format.
I could make out the boughs of trees so tall their canopies were cropped. Below the backdrop of coniferous foliage was a stark granite amphitheater filled with beaming young men and women-
I sat up straight.
Without leaving the bed, I reached to my bookshelf, grabbing a small packet of glass wipes. There was nothing to be found on my clear lenses, but it did not stop me from blinking in disbelief.
Staring back at me from the Chromebook was a plethora of familiar faces. An overwhelming rush of feelings overcame me - chief among them was a mix of nostalgia.
A cheer of pure joy almost escaped from my childlike grin.
The Staff!

* * *

It was not quite twelve by the time the sun rose to its full extent, suspended like a glaring orb amid an open sky.
“Hey Andy-”
There was a shush and I looked over to see everyone standing still, three fingers held high in the scout sign. An unspoken word was uttered. Quiet.
Chief among the crowd, the source who beckoned the silence, was Ian.
The burly man spoke clearly and with enough conviction to be heard throughout the glade.
“Veteran staff, you know what to do. For those who haven’t done this: I want everyone in a single line, based shortest to tallest. We want this done formally, but efficiently. Ok?”
There was a collective nod as staff immediately started forming like a long, meandering snake of dark blue uniforms stretching into the nearby forest.
The group went forward as the administrators moved to place us at the orders of the photographer.
Following Josh, who was a few inches shorter, I struggled to keep balance on the line of wooden benches that had been hastily brought down from Handicraft.
Behind me, more people filed in until the row behind us - the top of the council ring wall - was filled with anxious staff who had nothing between them and a nearly 10 foot drop to the pond.
The quiet photographer raised an open hand.
The admins nodded in agreement as they took a mental count of who was present.
Ian pointed to staff who needed to move or swap with another before sitting himself down among the camp directors.
When the photographer poised with the tripod camera, a voice boomed from where the admins sat.
“Say something on three! One, two, three!”
At once, many voices echoed across the ring: “Something!”
Flashing, the camera shuttered several times before an upright thumb rose from behind it.
They relaxed and had to stop themselves from stumbling over as everyone cheered and laughed heartily.
I looked at the people around me with a content smile.
They are my family, I told myself, in all but blood.
They are why I’m here.

* * *

I wiped away a single tear as I stared back at the screen. By the time the photo was printed and framed, I had no money to pay for a copy. I remembered walking into the Trading Post, order form in hand - only to find not a single dollar in my wallet.
By posting online his copy of the staff photo, Adam had shared with me something I could not physically have. Something that was more than just a photo. The memories.
Wishing I could talk to Adam right then, off screen, I thought of only one thing.
Thank you.