The Summer Place - By Pamela Hearon


“BET YOU’RE LAUGHING YOUR ASS off, aren’t you, Dunk?” Rick Warren directed his comment skyward. He unlatched his seat belt but made no move to exit the car, rethinking the favor Gus Hargrove was calling in.

One summer, that was the commitment. Compared to his former tours of duty, two months was nothing, and anything was better than unemployment—sitting at home, putting on a beer belly. Besides, he’d already said yes. Honor. Courage. Commitment. Time to face this like a marine.

He opened the car door and strode across the street and up the walk of the gray stone house. Neither his confident manner nor the doorbell’s seraphic chime could lift the dread from the pit of his stomach.

The wisp of a woman who was Agnes Delaney opened the door and welcomed him into the house with her genial “Come in, come in.” Her husband, Herschel, showed up close on her heels, his beefy, red face broken by a toothy grin.

“Rick.” Herschel’s large hand clapped hard on his back. “Glad to have you on board.”

Rick forced a smile. “Thank you, sir.”

“I slept better last night than I have in months.” Agnes’s eyes shimmered with gratitude as she looped her arm through Rick’s and led him down a wide hallway. “Let’s go in here and sit while we talk. I need to keep an eye on Peewee.”

Agnes steered him into a great room, which opened onto a large lawn and pool area. A Yorkie was doing laps around the pool, chasing birds, squirrels, butterflies—anything that moved.

“Very nice.” Rick indicated the room with its rich leather furnishings and fabulous view.

“Well, hopefully, now you’re here we’ll be able to keep it,” Agnes said, and gave his arm a motherly pat, and he began to feel a little better about his decision.

“You see, Rick...” Herschel indicated a chair, then sank heavily into his own well-worn one. “I didn’t say anything before, but Agnes and I invested our complete retirement fund into this venture. With the downturn in the economy, we’ve had several years of barely breaking even. If things don’t go well this year, we’ll have no choice but to sell.”

Wow, no pressure here. Dread took another swat at Rick’s insides. He waited to sit until Agnes perched lightly on the end of the couch. “Well, sir, I’ll do my best. How many campers are we expecting?”

“Since we can only afford a skeleton crew of six adults, we’ve cut it off at twenty. Ten boys and ten girls for each month-long session. The first month is eight- and nine-year-olds. The second is ten-, eleven- and twelve-year-olds. There’ll be a week between.”

Rick nodded. “That sounds manageable.”

“Would you like some iced tea?” Agnes jumped up and moved toward the bar.

“Yes, ma’am, please.” What he really wanted was a cold beer.

“We have four barracks that sleep ten each, but we’ll only use two of them this summer to cut down on utility expenses,” Herschel continued. “Each one has a counselor’s room at the back. Both assistants indicated they’d like the night duty since it ups the pay a little for them, but if you want...”

Rick shook his head. “No, that’s fine.” After a long day with the kids, a few hours off would be imperative to his sanity.

Herschel seemed to read his mind. “Long days. Six in the morning to ten at night.”

“I’ve never had a job that didn’t have long hours.” Rick took a drink as he processed all the information being thrown at him. “Will I be bunking with the other boys’ counselor, then?”

“No, we don’t expect you to do that, and like I said before, I’d rather not open up the other dorms. We own a couple of cabins just across the path from the camp property that we rent out during deer season. If you’d like one of them for the summer, you can stay rent free. Gus and Nadine always moved into one of them. Saves the drive back and forth from Paducah to the lake every day.”

No pets. No girlfriend. Rick couldn’t foresee any reason to drive back home to an empty house every night. “I like that idea. Thanks.”

Agnes handed him a glass of tea and a piece of paper. A quick glance showed him it was a contract, and his throat threatened to cut off the sweet tea making its way down the passage. He breathed slowly to loosen the muscles and focused back to what Herschel was saying.

“...assistant director and head counselor for the boys. Charlie Prichard’s been camp director