Notes:  This is in response to Mavan's challenge.  The characters used within are entirely her property and creations.

Feed(back) etcetera-cat.


Group Leader.

In retrospect, back chatting the “Camp Buddy” at the bus-stop hadn’t been the wisest thing to do.  It was just… well; “Camp Buddy”?  Anyone who couldn’t make at least two inane jokes and quips about that title in thirty seconds flat deserved to have their breeding privileges revoked, in Denise’s opinion.

Unfortunately, Alvin, the Camp Buddy (so you do all the mincing around so we don’t have to?) appeared to have had his sense of humour surgically removed at birth, around about the same time he’d had the helium canister stuck in his throat.

And, seriously?  A squeaky voiced person called Alvin just had to be asked where Simon and Theodore were…

Camp Buddy (suits you, sir!  Ooh!) Alvin didn’t think so.

That meant that Denise had unceremoniously found herself appointed Group Leader (yay like whoa the responsibility!) for a widely ranged bunch of… well… freaks and psychos.

The mending of which is, of course, the whole point of this little camping excursion… but still!  She slouched lower in her seat, back pressed against the window.  Directly opposite her were the twins; Mia and Sheila.  Denise had already mentally pencilled them in as extras from a made-for-television version of The Shining.

It wasn’t so much the fact that they looked as if they’d played swapsies with their eyes (one green, one brown each), it was more the way they just stared at you.  Oh, and the talking thing.  The talking thing was cute for about the first five minutes you were subjected to it, then it just got irritating.

Sitting just behind them, with his kitchen-foil covered bicycle helmet strapped firmly on, was Joseph.  He was, Denise had to admit, really rather cute, in a sort of Damien-from-The-Omen fashion.  Currently he was listening to Mia and Sheila (it was impossible to think of one without the other) describing their bedroom.  Joseph’s main interest seemed to be whether or not they had any monsters living under their beds.

Denise wasn’t sure she wanted to know why.

The other two occupants of the bus; Marcus and Jamie, had been mentally sorted into the category ‘ick’.

Marcus, because the thin, pale teenager seemed to think that 1) brooding was a religion, 2) emo-dark angsting was the first tenant of said religion, and 3) shiny gooood.  The first two were pretty much common to every teenager the world over (Denise still had a bunch of faux-silver Celtic jewellery from when she’d gone through her own woe-unto-me stage), but the third… well.  It was like being stuck in a small space with a kleptomanic magpie.

Jamie was… well, he was single-handedly the psycho part of ‘freaks and psychos’.  In fact, if he ever went to university, he could probably get a .Phd in it.  The less said about Jamie the bett—

Denise sniffed the air suspiciously.  “Jamie,” she hoped she sounded as annoyed as she was beginning to feel.  “Will you stop setting the damn seats on fire.”

The shaven-headed young man straightened up from his half crouched position right at the back of the bus and sneered.  “’m not doin’ nuffin.”  He said arrogantly.  In complete counterbalance to that statement, the Zippo lighter in his right hand was still lit, and there was a new addition to the smell of charred fabric that was already permeating the bus.

“Yes you—“

“—are.  We can smell—“

“—it and see your—“


Denise had already decided that it was easier to treat Mia and Sheila as Mia-and-Sheila; a single entity, and had consequently given up trying to decipher which one of them was talking at any given time.

“Jamie, I can see the smoke.”  She pointed out in a long-suffering tone.  “Pack it in, alright?”

He muttered and slouched down again, putting the lighter away and producing a box of matches from somewhere, which he proceeded to strike and then stare at avidly until the flame burnt down almost to his fingers, before blowing it out and starting again.

Denise eyed the already significant pile of burnt bits of wood littered around his feet and wondered where he managed to stash the things; he never seemed to run out of things with which to start fires.

“I could make the shiver man eat him up.”  Joseph had this sort of sweet and innocent voice— well, he was only six— it was just when you listened to the actual words that there was a problem.  Denise glanced over to the small boy; he had a determined expression on his face.

“What’s the—“

“—shiver man,”

“Joseph?”  Sheila-and-Mia asked with interest.

“I found him in the cellar an’ then he came and lived under my bed.”  Joseph explained calmly.  “He has big teeth made of ice and fur that’s blue except for the grey bits.”

“No, that’s fine Joseph.”  Denise said hastily.  The thing about Joseph was that his imagination was good, very good.  Reality paled beside it, in some cases.  She would have continued, but was distracted by her fringe flopping into her eyes.

Clawing the split-ended red hair out of her face with one hand, Denise muttered under her breath.  She was absolutely sure that she’d replaced the hair clips after showing them to Mia-and-Sheila.

“Marcus.”  Denise said levelly, before twisting in her seat to look at the sullen teenager.  Sure enough, she was holding her hair clip up to the light and moving it back and forth so the glitter… well… glittered.

Marcus ignored her, his silence underscored by the rhythmic scrape-flash-flare of Jamie and his matches (if the Devil had a metronome, Denise had decided, then it would be a little mechanical Jamie with a pile of matches).

“Marcus—“ More emphasis on the second syllable of his name.  “Give me back my hair clip.”

“We don’t think—“


“—he can—“

“—hear you.”  Sheila-and-Mia said in a matter of fact voice.

Denise seriously resisted the urge to bang her head repeatedly against the window, and instead stretched out her hand.  “Hairclip,” she demanded, not caring that she sounded about as mature as Jamie, “—now, Marcus.”

Still nothing.

Denise gritted her teeth and vaguely wondered if Marcus’s head would sound hollow if she hit it against the window instead of her own.  Collecting her thoughts in, Denise focused on what she wanted (hairclip) where she wanted it (in my hand).

Denise smiled in satisfaction and raked her hair back before reattaching the clip, as, bewildered, Marcus stared at his suddenly empty hand, then down at his lap, and finally at the floor.

Mia-and-Sheila began giggling in a little girl kind of way.  “That’s—“

“—naughty. You’re—“

“—not supposed to—“

“—do things!”  They exclaimed in a slightly scandalised tone.

Denise shrugged.  “I’m sure Camp Alvin’ll lecture me about that this evening.”  She said with a shrug, before leaning back and closing her eyes again.

From the smell drifting down the bus (just this side of fermented rodent), Jamie had managed to either set fire to his own foot, or to the rubber trim on the rear window of the bus.  Again.

This is going to be one bloody long summer…


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