“Not bad,” said Karl. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
I’d won a grudging respect by handing over Mr. Granley’s arm. The limb was currently jammed haphazardly into Karl’s backpack, but I was fine with that. It meant that Karl wasn’t looking at it too closely.
“Alright guys, let’s go introduce Philip to Bony Finger Canyon,” Karl said. He waved his own arm and our small band of campers began to move down the narrow trail toward the canyon floor. I wish I could tell you that there weren’t thorn bushes, but there were. There were lots of thorn bushes.
We made it to the bottom fairly quickly. The canyon was deeper, but also narrower, than I’d always imagined. The rocky walls were maybe thirty feet high but, at the top, it seemed like there was a small enough gap that somebody could leap across.
Karl led us to the widest point, a small sandy beach at the side of the stream that flowed through the bottom.
“Put your tent up over there,” he told me, pointing at the farthest-possible spot from where he was clearly going to pitch his.
I obeyed his directions and hustled to unload my backpack.
There was something going on amongst the other boys. I could feel a nervous energy as they made camp and began to pace around the site.
“Are you ready yet?” Karl yelled from the middle of the group.
“Almost,” I called back to him. Which was a minor lie. I was almost finished, if I cut some corners.
“Better hurry,” he said. “It’s almost time.”
“Time for what?” I asked.
“Just hurry up,” he said.
I noticed that Mr. Granley’s arm was out of Karl’s backpack, and it was now clutched between Karl’s very white knuckles.