By the end of our first day at Camp Crescendo, the girls in my Brownie troop had decided to kick the asses of some girls in Brownie troop 909. Especially Stephanie, the leader of their lily white group. She was a condescending punk, and even treated her own brownie buddies like they were second- class.

I am a leader of Brownie troop 808, but I wasn’t sure about attending Camp Crescendo this year. In fact, I almost didn’t. Just too much crap going on at home.

My fifteen year old, Danielle is three months pregnant. Yeah, nice going, huh? And Avery, my “sweet” sixteen son, was sent to a correctional facility after his umpteenth breaking and entering offense. He assures us that he never stole anything, nothing was ever reported missing. He just enjoyed the lame-brain idea of sitting around some rich person’s living room, drinking their booze and watching cable shows on their flat screen TV.  When I asked him what in hell’s name he watched, he said mostly cooking shows. So, go to cooking school, I told him.

I blame my husband. Cam wanted to raise them more liberally, without any consequences when they’d mess up. I tell him this is his fault.

“Gee, thanks,” he says. “What’d I do?”

“You wanted a family,” I remind him. “I would have been fine without them.”

So maybe I choose Camp Crescendo as an escape, or my penance for feeling guilty about a lack of mothering instincts. It sure is lovely here: the ancient woods and freshwater Fox Lake. We bunk in log cabins, the cool air seeps in through the cracks at night, which I love. The hoot owls sound eerie, magnificent. And the girls are really nice. Polite. I usually catch up on the latest Steven King novel. Mostly I can get away from the shenanigans at home. An entire week with mostly strangers.

But the second morning, by the end of our first group exercise, even I wanted to poke Stephanie’s eyes out. I wondered how long before one of our girls took the first step.


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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9 Responses to Brownies

  1. Andrea says:

    Yeah, go get Stephanie! I wanna get her too! A testament to the writer.

  2. g says:

    Gotta love the rebellion in this family. Mom and dad clearly on two different life paths, but making a marriage work. Pregnant at what is she, 15 or 16, not uncommon in some of the cultures in this USA today. No shame any more, don’t know if shame was really the correct feeling to have anyway?
    Kori loves cooking shows, I’m just glad she does not have the gumption to become a thief, just to watch the shows. Think I will keep my cable!

  3. Angela says:

    Camp Crescendo…looks like one’s coming up!

    Loved this – after only the first few lines I was magically and immediately transported back to my own Brownie, Girl Scout and church camp experiences. So much laughter and silliness – songs and skits – and all the campfire cooking! Strong memory of some delicious sugary dough wad – so good we didn’t care when they fell out of the fire and onto the ground – we ate them anyway, giggling as the sand crunched in our teeth. 🙂

  4. Shari says:

    OH yes, many memories here engrained in my head about young days: Brownies and Girl Scouts, and then becoming a Mom who has daughters going through the same experiences. You take me back there and the conflict with the narrator and Stephanie is great for us to wonder what will happen next. Great writing as usual.

  5. Don says:

    Okay, although I was never a Brownie, per say, I most certainly was a cub scout- was that considered the equivalent? Not sure about that. Anyhow, I do have some memories of wanting to pound some punk kids butt for picking on others, always a pet peeve of mine. Maybe Stephanie does the same. The details about her two kids are pretty intense. Wow, you depict such great family stuff in your stories.

  6. david says:

    I got your Brownies right here…. like they sang in the Parent trap ( the original) Let’s get together..yeah yeah yeah… wasn’t that the dad from family affair? Buffy OD’d

  7. Beverly says:

    Lovely story, and I hope Stephanie gets what’s coming to her if she is such a punk!

  8. carolyn says:

    Were you a brownie once? Troop 96 was great and reading this stirs up those memories. Troop leaders were always someone’s else’s mom and Stephanie was always at camp. Brownie envy. Wonder why Brownies were called Brownie’s and Girl Scouts weren’t called Greenies.

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