“That’s right,” said Pooh to Me.
“I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted,
“Shoo! Silly old dragons!” and off they flew.
“I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he,
“I’m never afraid with you.”
“Hey Libby.” Dad is outside the screen door of our camper. His face is broken up by little silver squares. Mom holds my baby brother Kyle in her arms on the pull out couch. Luke and Megan are under the covers, cuddled up on top of her.
“Libby, come here,” his voice is hushed, but urgent; gentle, but demanding.
Dad is never interested in watching the old, taped-off-TV movies Mom plays every night on our camping trips. I’m not either, and just try to stay awake as long as Megan and Luke. I always drift off and then Dad has to carry me to my bottom bunk of the bunk bed.
I slide off the couch, pretending that I’m a snake and no longer have any bones. I sliver out to Dad trying not to draw Megan or Luke’s attention. He is getting on his bike and motions for me to do the same.
“Come on Libby, let’s go for a ride,” he whispers through the dewy, dark air.
I get on my pink and purple Huffy bike. There are neon plastic reflectors on the spokes that make a clicking sound when the wheels spin – not a good getaway vehicle. I race off to catch Dad and hope that my absence remains unnoticed by my siblings.
“Where are we going?” I ask in between breaths as I finally get to coast along side.
“Shhh, this is going to be our secret.”
A whole world opens up with that word, secret.
“Ok,” I push out the syllables through the gaps between my teeth. I let him lead to show me to whatever secret place he’s taking me to. I hope it will have Aslan or a luck-dragon, or some kind of labyrinth in it.
We pull our bikes up to the shower house on the other end of the campground and stop. Dad digs through his pocket and pulls out two quarters. He hands one to me and I drop it in. He pushes the Dr. Pepper button and the magical world of sugar, caffeine and carbonation clanks down and drops into the slot at my scraped knees. Mom never buys Dr. Pepper, only Coke, and that is only on camping trips when we are allowed 1 soda per day. We take turns sipping from the aluminum can. I push my sun-bleached, white-blonde hair behind my ears and guzzle the sweet syrup. Dad doesn’t say much, and neither do I. He points out the Big and Little Dipper. I act like I can see what he sees, even though I only see a gazillion tiny stars.
“We should probably get back to camp. Mom might wonder where we ran off to.”
I shake my head in agreement.
“Don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret. If you tell Megan and Luke they’ll want to come and I can’t afford that many pops.”
“Ok, Daddy,” I try to smile, but my cheeks hurt from sunburn.
We fly back from our world; a parallel world full of eternal happiness and endless Dr. Peppers. As we ride, mosquitoes buzz and lightening bugs float in the sky like blinking Christmas lights.
The next night, after a day of hiking, lake swimming, bike riding, and fossil hunting, Mom sits down to nurse Kyle and watch a movie with Megan and Luke.
“Psst, Libby,” Dad whispers from outside. His face is broken into a thousand little squares. “Come out here for a second, I want to show you something,” he says smiling. I slither off the couch and jump out of the camper. This time I don’t have to sneak out because I know Dad won’t let Megan or Luke tag along. My bare feet feet tingle on cold, damp grass as I pull up my Strawberry Shortcake nightgown to mount my bike and follow Dad to the secret land of Dr. Pepper.