Ray & Gen & The Box of Hope™
The Journey Begins
By Chris Gurnick
After dreams of hidden treasure and strange creatures eating toasted
marshmallows, Ray and Gen, awoke with their fellow campers to Led Zeppelins’
Stairway to Heaven. The camp counselors used many inventive techniques to wake
them up. Today was their last morning of their last season at Waydin. Sure, they
could always come back as adults, maybe even guidance counselors, but for now,
this was the last morning reveille each would experience as campers.
The kids ate breakfast in the camp mess hall, and then headed back to their
camps to finish the cabin clean up and pack all their supplies for the return
trip home. “Wait,” Gen said loud enough for her friend Kelly to hear.
“Gen, what are you talking about over there?” Kelly asked her as she
stuffed her dirty clothes into her old duffle.
“Oh, nothing, just thinking out loud,” she said. Actually, Gen’s mind was
spiraling away from her, full of too many thoughts and too many questions. Even
now, she questioned whether all that occurred last night had even been real, or
a dream built from exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
Gen and Kelly walked toward the docks. They waited for their group’s turn
to take a large motorboat back to Boatline Bay. The camp provided busses that
returned the campers to Toronto’s Peterson International Airport. Apparently,
Gen and Ray had other plans laid for them. Could all this really be happening?
Kelly questioned Gen, “Are you OK? You’ve been acting pretty weird since
last night. You were talking like crazy in your sleep,” Kelly told her.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just had weird dreams last night,” she nervously replied.
Gen didn’t think that Fiona, if in fact Fiona turned out to be real, would want
her or Ray to be telling others about this situation.
“What happened?” asked Kelly, as kids bumped into them, vying for spots
further ahead in the waiting line.
“Well, I guess I’m just tired, but I had some freaky dreams last night,
that’s all,” she replied.
“OK,” Kelly said.
Ray had also been acting strange. His friends all wrote it off as another
one of Ray’s silent mood things. Ray walked with two of his fellow campers
towards the dock, and also wondered if meeting Fiona had been real.
“Ray, Good luck at Culford this year,” one of his friends said.
Lost in his own thoughts, Ray mumbled, “yeah, Thanks.”
Ray walked up in line behind Gen and heard one of the guys, say, “I’ll
Gen turned around to see her brother standing directly behind her. He poked
her hard in the ribs with his canoe paddle.
“Ouch!” she said loudly, and she dug her nails into his right forearm.
“Why do you two always do that crap to each other?” Kelly asked.
“You do the same stuff to your sister, Kelly! I’ve seen you,” retorted Gen.
Irritated, Kelly walked away from Gen to another group of girls.
Ray & Gen warily eyed each other, and Ray whispered, “Do you think it was
“I hate to admit it,--but I think so. We have to find a way to get out of
this Ray,” Gen said.
“Let’s wait and see what happens when we get to the dock on the other side
of the lake, OK?” he said trying to calm his sister.
“OK,” she said quietly looking down to the ground.
The camp boat pulled into the dock at Boatline Bay and the kids waited
their turn to exit. They each slung their bags and packs over their shoulder and
walked off the boat shaking and sweating with anxiousness and apprehension.
“What do we do now?” Gen asked him, obviously frightened. Before Ray could
answer her, he looked across the parking lot and saw something that made him
stumble backwards into another camper, “Ouch, you bonehead!” screeched Patty, an
obnoxious girl from Boston. Ray ignored her and quickly grabbed Gen’s arm and
pulled her aside.
“Oh my God, I saw her!” he said looking across the parking lot.
“You did? Where?” Gen asked pleadingly looking in the same direction as
“Over there, behind that big pine at the end of the driveway! See?” he
asked pointing in the direction he wanted her to look. All Gen saw was a large
pine branch swinging to and fro.
“What should we do?” squeaked Gen.
“At this point, let’s go see what she says. I don’t think we’d be able to
escape her right now even if we wanted to,” answered Ray.
The two walked in silence toward Fiona, who stood in the darkness behind
the 30-foot pine tree. She heard the kids approaching, but also saw a camp
counselor running quickly behind them trying to get their attention, “Where are
you two going?” asked Summer.
Ray answered nervously, “My parents made special arrangements, I…..” then
he stopped mid sentence, as Fiona, now dressed as a small, wrinkled human dwarf,
clothed in multiple layers of colorful polyester clothing and gaudy old beads
stepped out from behind the pine to talk to Summer.
“Oh dear, don’t worry, they’re coming home with me,” she said with the
voice of a nice old woman. “I’m sure that Mr. & Mrs. Bickerton told the camp
about these changes in the children’s itinerary, no?” she asked Summer sweetly.
“Let me see here Ma’am,” said summer, nervously shuffling through the pile
of traveling papers she held that contained the details of each child’s trip
home. “Oh,” she said. “Here it is, but it’s very difficult to read. It looks
like it was written with a piece of charcoal, maybe a crayon. It’s the official
form though, so it should be OK,” she finished, lost in the sea of paperwork.
“So, everything is OK then?” Fiona asked for the last time.
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Summer. She smiled and almost curtseyed to the older
woman. Summer watched the old woman and kids walk away from her, and then
turned to head back to the other waiting campers. As she walked back, she was
trying to figure out why the old woman smelled like mushrooms, and why a branch
of ivy was trailing out from beneath the old woman’s powder-blue polyester
jacket. “Weird” she mumbled.
Gen and Ray followed Fiona behind the pine tree, toward a picnic bench in a
grove of trees a few hundred feet into the woods. In the distance, they could
hear the sound of buses taking kids back towards their homes and their familiar
lives. All Ray and Gen felt was fear, panic, and a sudden sense of really
missing their parents; this was the most homesickness either had felt the whole
summer away from home. They walked together; close enough to bump elbows, but
right now neither cared.
They continued behind Fiona as she began stripping off the ugly old clothes
and jewelry. By the time they made it to the picnic bench, Fiona once again
resembled the creature they met last night in the dark woods, but now she had a
new ivy plant growing off her rump and three morel mushrooms on her left
shoulder. All Ray and Gen could do was stare and nod their heads back and forth.
Gen even found herself suppressing a giggle. The mushrooms reminded Ray of an
old family friend named Pete. Each April in southern Ohio, Pete went morel
mushroom hunting. Sometimes, after hours of searching he’d come back with only a
few morels, but to Pete, even that was a day well spent. Fiona’s obvious love of
nature, reminded Ray of him.
Fiona motioned for the kids to sit down at the table and began, “OK, you
both made it this far, and I’m sure that you have many questions and concerns,
but we must get moving. We have a meeting at The Box of Hope archives within a
few hours, and we can’t be late.” Gen and Ray stared at her with their mouths
open and fearful looks on their faces.
“What is The Box of Hope?” Ray asked, looking at Fiona. Gen stood
open-mouthed beside him.
“The Box of Hope is what you and Gen will be searching for. It is at the
very center of the mission I spoke to you both about last night. Remember the
very important mission?” she asked.
“Raymond, I want to call Mom and Dad,” Gen said, clearly upset.
“We will call your parents from the archive building,” Fiona commented. “We
must, absolutely, must get flying,” she said quickly. She stuck two fingers into
her wrinkly mouth and whistled loudly. With lightning-quick reflexes, Gen and
Ray stood immediately and turned towards the woods as they heard something
running through the underbrush.
“Good Lord he makes a lot of noise,” said Fiona, obviously irritated. “Here
he comes,” she said sweetly. Appearing from beneath a low branch of a Jack pine
was a very small, shy-looking donkey. This donkey had two massive
brownish-colored wings growing off either side of his body.
“Ahhhh,” Gen said and took a step toward the donkey.
“How does she expect a friggin’ donkey to save us?” Ray thought angrily to
“Ray, watch your thoughts!” Fiona said to the shocked teenager.
“How did you do that?” Ray asked perplexed.
“What did she do, Ray?” Gen asked.
“She just read my mind Gen!” Ray told her with wide eyes, disbelieving what
Fiona had just done.
Fiona smiled, shook her head, and knelt down a few inches to look the very
small Donkey in the eyes, “It is so good to see you.”
The Donkey replied, “It is always a pleasure to be in the presence of one
so honorable, Fiona the Wise.”
“Fiona the Wise?” Gen commented with obvious cynicism in her voice. Gen
had barely finished asking the question, and all three were knocked backwards by
the sheer awesome force of the donkey’s shrill bray, “EEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” He
roared fiercely at the tops of his lungs; he resembled and sounded like a proud
“Do not speak to Fiona in that manner please!”
Then Fiona screamed, “Children! This donkey is no common beast of burden.
And “yes” I am known to many as, “Fiona the Wise.”
She quickly knelt and placed her palms against the moist earth. She then
closed her eyes, took one large deep breath, and then stood up-obviously and
completely relieved of all the stress and anger that had momentarily filled her.
She now appeared at peace, even serene. “I am so sorry that I lost my patience
with all of you like that. It should never have happened,” she said with great
sincerity, as she bowed to the three of them.
Ray and Gen didn’t know how to respond. The donkey helped them, “Quickly,
bow down with her, look her in the eyes, and tell her that she is forgiven.
Now-quickly!” he instructed with quiet force.
They did as told, knelt down to Fiona, looked into both her eyes, and said,
“Fiona, we forgive you.”
Fiona stood, looked at them both, and feeling the honor in their hearts
said, “It is I who am honored to be your guide on this journey.”
The donkey spoke, “We must remember that all life, all of God’s creations
are equal. No person, plant or animal holds more significance than any other. We
are all connected in ways that you will soon see for yourselves.”
“Ray and Gen, please let me introduce you to Chadwick,” Fiona said. She
turned towards the donkey and said, “Chadwick, these are the Bickerton children
that we have learned so much about.”
“It is my pleasure to meet you both,” Chadwick said with a slight bow of
his head. Gen and Ray stood still, absorbing all that stood in front of them:
Fiona covered in all things natural, and Chadwick-a flying donkey. What mattered
even more were the feelings of love and respect they each felt from Fiona and
Chadwick. It was difficult to believe, that moments ago, they both feared
Fiona. Now they were both in safe, trusted hands.
Chadwick moved and Fiona hopped onto his back. She motioned for Gen to
follow suit. Ray was last and with one giant hop, he jumped up then over the
donkey, landing on the ground, on the other side of the animal, completely
red--faced. The other three laughed, in spite of themselves.
“OK, try that again, Ray. I must have moved as you jumped up,” said
Chadwick, trying to soothe the teenage boy’s bruised ego. Ray jumped again, and
landed with a great thud on the donkey’s back.
As all three wiggled into place, Gen spoke, “Are you sure that you can
carry all of us Chadwick? I do not mean to insult you, but the horses back home
are larger than you, and can usually only take two people,” she asked
“This is no concern for Chadwick,” Fiona answered for him, hoping to avert
another braying session. “Donkeys are much more intelligent than horses, and
pound-for-pound, can carry much more weight. Plus, Chadwick comes from one of
the bravest, strongest, and most intelligent donkey families known. Chadwick
himself is thought by many to be the strongest of them all,” Fiona shared.
After everyone was seated comfortably they took flight. With very little
effort on the part of Chadwick, they lifted off the ground and Ray asked,
“Fiona, I remember you saying that we would travel invisibly. Are we invisible
“Thanks for reminding me Ray. Chadwick, please make us invisible to the
human eye.” Fiona seemed assured they were invisible and she spoke loudly as
the wind whipped through their hair, “Now, we’re invisible Ray.”
Sure enough, Gen and Ray, their legs astride Chadwick’s strong, small
back, looked toward the ground and saw NOTHING!
“How is this happening?” Ray asked, yelling to compensate for the loud roar
of the air passing quickly by the flying quartet.
“I’ll explain later, Ray” Fiona answered, smiling.
The ground fell beneath them, and lost in their own worried thoughts, the
wind blew over the blonde-haired, freckle-faced teenagers; two regular kids who
were about to begin the adventure of a lifetime.