The three Jacobs children sat around the dinner table as they did nearly every night, but this night was different. And why on this night do my parents give each other nervous looks, when on every other night they're busy berating me for being a social failure? David asked himself in some sort of twisted parody of a Passover sedar, having finished the spring holiday a few weeks ago, and still feeling grateful he could eat bread again. Because on this night, they have some sort of really bad news.
He knew that was the answer. That was always the answer when they were so quiet, glancing at each other and waiting for the right moment to make some sort of family announcement.
Les was more than happy to pick up the slack from their parents' quietness, though. " So then, Mrs. Applebeam said that if Robbie and I didn't be quiet we wouldn't get to go out at recess, but we was quiet, so"
"Were, darling," Esther corrected absently.
"We were quiet, it was just because Robbie had to tell me about this great game he learned to play at recess, where you take a ball like a tennis ball or something, but I guess it could be a bouncy ball but it's gotta be small 'cause a big ball like a basketball or a soccer ball won't work, but soccer balls don't bounce too good anyway"
"Well, not good."
"too well anyway, 'cause they're made to kick around on the ground, not bounce off the floor. Now, a basketball might have worked, but it was too big, 'cause"
"Les," Sarah interrupted. "Shut up."
"Hey!" he pouted.
"No one else cares about basket balls or whatever you're babbling about!"
"No one cares about you, either."
Les kicked Sarah under the table, and she kicked back, and he began to cry, and Mrs. Jacobs made them move so that David was sitting between them. Great, David sighed. Just perfect. So what's going on, Mom? Because normally, Mrs. Jacobs would have been much more likely to scold her children for violence.
David pushed the peas on his plate around. "David, what's the matter?" his mother demanded. "You haven't eaten a thing, you look half-starved. Eat up!"
He sighed and rolled his eyes.
"Don't roll your eyes at your mother."
David bit back a comment and choked down a forkful of peas. His father glanced over at his mother againThis is it, David thoughtand began to speak. "Now, your mother and I have been thinking. What were your plans for this summer, David?"
Oh, no. Not this. "I'm not sure, I was thinking I could spend the summer writing, or"
"Writing? What, you'll never go outside and see the sun? Or spend time with your friends?" Esther interrupted.
"Like he has any friends," Sarah muttered, and David stomped on her foot under the table. It may have been a decent point, but still. He was happy enough, lost in his own world most of the time, even if his own family thought he was a loser.
"David, your mother and I have a better idea for you. We think you ought to spend the summer at a camp somewhere, doing things, with people, like a normal teenager."
"Dad!" he yelped. He'd expected something, but not that. "Normal sixteen year olds do not go to camp!"
"Of course they do," he said. "You'll get some real outdoors time, learning to ride horses and sail and swim. Like a normal teenager."
"I am normal!"
"Yeah, right," Sarah muttered, and pulled away when he tried to stomp on her foot again, causing him to miss and thud hard against the floor, jamming his ankle. He suppressed the urge to swear. Then, knowing his parents, he'd be off to a military camp instead of just any old camp.
"You can't do this to me," he continued.
"We aren't doing something terrible to you, David," Esther sighed, "we're trying to help you."
"Butbut you can't!"
"Oh, don't worry. You won't be all alone, after all, your brother and sister will be there. You'll have friends already," Mayer explained.
"What?" Sarah shrieked. "Why are you making me go? I'm normal!"
"We think it might be good for you, too, darling," Esther said gently. "To get you away from the malls and shops for a few months, remind you what life is all about."
"But Mo-om, I can't go"
"What do you think, Les?" Mayer interrupted, ignoring the pleas of his only daughter.
"It sounds great!" Les squeaked excitedly. His parents beamed, and for the first time in quite awhile, Sarah and David agreed on something: the urge to strangle their youngest brother.
"And Sarah, there's quite a bit of riding, and we know you love horses."
"No buts," Mayer said, deciding to end the conversation. "We have the camp information packet already, you're all already signed up. You leave the week after school ends."
David's heart sank. "I'm not hungry," he muttered. "Can I be excused?"
"Oh, don't be silly, David. You haven't touched your potatoes, a skinny boy like you needs to bulk up before the summer!"