Valencia Lunasco in the Camp of Uncultured Savages

October 8, 2010
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Valencia cautiously glanced at the crumpled piece of paper lying on her bed. She’d just take one more peek, read a couple of names…No! If I do, she told herself, then those hideous names will be stuck in my memory forever, and I won’t be able to forget them once I meet the actual people.
Emboldened, she carefully folded the camp roster, and slipped it into her jewelry box.
She was just about to shut and lock it when her mother called from downstairs, “Valencia, Ricky needs your help!”
Valencia quickly shut the box and descended gracefully to the lower level. She found her brother Ricardo sitting at the kitchen table, looking defeated.
“Valencia,” he complained, “I can’t decide on one thing to pack, and Mother’s busy labeling my clothes.” He was going to the same summer camp his sister was attending, and as they were leaving tomorrow, he was as nervous as she.
“Ricardo, when will you ever learn to pack for yourself?” Valencia sighed. Nevertheless, she proceeded to list the many items he would need to pack, including Aspirin for his constant headaches, and his special-prescription contact lenses.
Finally, two hours later, after wearily agreeing to help Ricardo pack the items on the carefully written list, Valencia climbed the granite-slab stairs, and collapsed on her neatly made bed.
Val, she addressed herself, as she had a habit of doing when tired when trying to convince herself of something, you need to just relax; camp won’t be a problem. Just go ahead and pack. You’ll see, everything’ll turn out fine.

Noon the next day found her regretting her optimistic thoughts. She was bumping along a back road, driven by a dirty, uncultured trucker, trying to stay calm as the miles between her and her house widened.

“Val, Val, it’s okay,” she breathed to herself, and swallowed hard.
“You’ll see, they can’t all be like this.” She glared at the back of the trucker’s curly head, blocking the view in front of her. “You’ll see…”
The driver glanced back at her, revealing a stubbly, scowling face with a curious expression, somewhere between amusement and scorn.
“You said somethin’?” the man asked.
Valencia shook her head automatically, upsetting the delicate bun crowning her blonde head.
The rest of the long trip was just as tedious, though more frightening from Valencia’s point-of-view. She wished now she had objected when arrangements had been made to take her by herself from her hometown of Anelle to Pinto Acres hours away; her brother would follow later after an urgent dentist appointment.
Father was always needed at his lab, and if not there then at the newspaper he owned, the Anelle Times. Although Mother always managed to stay at home most of the day, she was forever busy in the kitchen or the bedrooms, trying to improve a part of the house or try something new.
Ricardo, 9, and Valencia, now 12, had taken care of each other all their lives, learning early on the need for support additional to their parent’s. They had no other siblings, no pets, and had been raised shielded, sheltered, and confined to a strict private Christian school, leaving them ignorant to the behavior of public schooled children, or even the rest of the world.
Sinking deeper into the car seat, Valencia tried to shut her eyes and sleep. Sleep never came, however, and she groggily tried to reposition herself. Suddenly she felt a sharp jab to her left leg, and cried out in alarm and pain.
The clanking truck swerved crazily to the right, and the driver uttered a coarse word unknown to Valencia. Fortunately the roads were almost totally abandoned in this part of the world, but Valencia was still confused as the truck steadied again.
They must speak different languages here, she considered, wondering if she had misheard the driver, or if she would have trouble communicating with the campers and counselors.
A bit frightened and definitely uneasy about her seat, Valencia squeezed her aching eyes shut, hoping to shut out the noise and oily smell permanently emanating from the truck.
So she spent the end of her journey.

“Campers, campers, boys and girls! Cabin assigned over here!” A shrill female voice rang out across the campgrounds, finding its way into the six mustard-yellow school buses, beckoning the newly arrived campers spilling out onto the densely forested campgrounds.
English! Valencia’s pale blue eyes lit up, and she clutched her designer duffle bag to her side. She was searching the crowd systematically for Ricardo when several laughing boys pushed past her, jolting the bag out of her grasp.
One called over his shoulder, “Watch it, clumsy.” Then, as the boys fixed on her captivating light blue eyes and permed blonde hair, a face resembling that of an angel, the boys hastened away, looking back and tripping over each other in their embarrassment.
Valencia giggled quietly, picking up her duffle, and walked uncertainly over to the check-in table.
“Hi, I’m Valencia Lunasco,” she told the director. “…Ricardo Lunasco,” she heard to her right.
Astonished, she turned to see her brother, and laughed in surprise. Only the director’s questions interrupted their relieved reunion.

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