“MOM! WHERE ARE YOU?” Jennifer Jackson’s voice echoed
through the house, as did the door slamming behind her as she burst through it on her Friday afternoon arrival home from school.
“Geez girl, calm down!” Rose poked her head out of the kitchen. “I’m right here! Where’s the fire?”
“Sorry Mom, I didn’t see you through the window.” Jennifer kicked off her shoes and dropped her light summer jacket on the floor, then thought better of that and picked it up and hung it in the closet. “Me and Kendra wanna go riding!” she said excitedly. “It’s so warm out! We’re gonna take sleeping bags and pillows and sleep out under the stars! It’s gonna be awesome!”
“Now you just hold yer horses fer a second there, pardner.” Andrew had appeared in the kitchen as Jennifer was speaking. “Set for a spell,” he said gesturing toward the kitchen table and taking a seat there himself.
“But Dad! Kendra will be waiting!” Jennifer’s impatience sounded in her voice.
“I doubt that sweetie,” said Andrew. “Kendra will be having the same conversation with her parents that you are about to have with yours.”
“ARGH!” Jennifer plopped herself down on the chair across the table from her father. “You sure know how to take the fun out of a day,” she grumbled.
“It’s our parental responsibility,” said Andrew. “We have to prevent our children from having fun so that when they grow up they’ll be used to drudgery and misery, and will live lives of useful unhappiness like the rest of us.”
“Now Andrew,” said Rose. “You’re not being particularly helpful.”
“No kidding,” said Jennifer. She heaved a resigned sigh. “Can we hurry it up please? I want to get going. What’s so important?”
Andrew gazed at her for a second before he spoke. “Couple of things that are not going to happen,” he said, and then paused.
“Like what?” Jennifer blurted out the question before Andrew could continue.
“Well,” said Andrew, glancing at Rose before he spoke. “Like you and Kendra sleeping out under the stars all by yourselves.”
“What?! Why not?” Jennifer sounded equally shocked and disappointed.
Andrew sat silent for a moment. “Because you’re 16,’ he said eventually, “and you’re girls. And it’s going to freeze overnight. It’s too cold to sleep out.”
“What does being a girl have to do with it?” Jennifer was indignant.
“That’s a good question,” said Rose. “What does being a girl have to do with it?”
Andrew looked pained. “Um, well…it’s dangerous out there. There’s coyotes. And last year there was a cougar. So it’s not safe.”
“Ah of course,” said Rose. “Cougars only eat girls,” she said to Jennifer. “I’m sure you learned that in your Nature Studies class.”
“Now who’s not being helpful,” said Andrew.
“Can I go Mom?” asked Jennifer, seeing a possible opening. “Please?”
“Of course not,” said Rose. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“But why not?” Jennifer pleaded. “I can look after myself!”
“I’m sure you can,” said Rose. “But there are all kinds of reasons why it might not be a good idea for you to sleep out under the stars and there only needs to be one for us to say no, and Andrew already hit on that one. It’s too cold. Sure, it’s warm now but at three o’clock in the morning it’s going to be really cold. So not tonight honey. I know it’s disappointing but there’ll be other nights, once summer gets here.”
Jennifer heaved another sigh.
“And your father is right about the dangers. There are dangers out there,” said Rose. “Although there’s only one danger that has anything to do with the fact that you’re a girl.”
Jennifer looked up. “What’s that?” she asked.
“Boys,” said Rose.
“Boys?” Jennifer was aghast. “I can’t sleep out in the woods with Kendra because there’s boys? Since when are there boys out in the woods?”
“Where there are girls, there will be boys,” said Rose. “But that’s something we don’t need to talk about today. We can talk about boys and cougars and coyotes another day and then we can see if there’s a way for you to be safe sleeping out there by yourselves. But for today, if you want to go riding you need to grab a bite and get going because you have to be home before sunset and that’s at 8:30.”
“Can Kendra sleep here?” Jennifer sounded resigned.
“Of course she can,” said Rose.
Jennifer got up and headed down the hallway. “I have to phone her then,” she said.
Rose and Andrew sat in silence for a moment.
“That went well,” said Andrew. “Yeah,” said Rose. “The worst is yet to
catch Rollin Penner performing at an event in your area this summer!