Emily’s family wasn’t poor. Their apartment didn’t smell like Jackie’s did. Emily knew poverty stank because every year they cut through King Street Station, where bums lived, on the way to watch the Mariners lose to the Yankees. Emily’s mom didn’t dig up roots in the lawn to boil for dinner like Chue’s mom did. Chue and Jackie were her only friends in the complex, and Jackie had stopped inviting her over. When the gifted program was at another school, it was OK, but now everyone saw Emily walk into a classroom full of kids who always had the latest toys. How much worse it would be if they knew how big their houses were? If Emily were athletic like her sister, it wouldn’t matter.
Her family wasn’t poor, but when her class had gotten fliers for space camp, she didn’t even ask her mom. She only got to come to Camp Sealth because she sold so much candy. Was it worth standing outside Safeway until her fingers froze? She leaned back against the cedar; its scent said yes.
When her classmates had asked if she was going to space camp, Emily said she liked reading better than science. —Besides, they don’t have vegetarian food. My mom asked.
Her mom wouldn’t do that. She always wanted Emily to have “just a little” meat.
Emily’s counselor ran over and asked if she wanted to play capture-the-flag. Emily looked up. —No. I’m writing a poem about the stars.
4 responses to “Summer Camp by Elizabeth Kate Switaj”
Oh, my heart broke a little at the last line.
nice evocation of the complexity of being a child
Such a strong, brave little girl, doing the right thing even as her heart yearns for something else. Just beautiful. Peace…
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