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I run the water skiing boat at camp. Today’s adventure turned into a saga. Here is my story, in convenient chapter form.

Chapter 1: The morning

I didn’t want to go out on the water. There were only 5 boys, and we tried to pass them off to the swim counselors. Alas, no luck. We took 3 of them on the boat and went to the middle of the lake. At the end of the second boy’s turn, I stopped to describe how to drop a ski. When I started again, I realized that the rope had spun around the boat. As soon as I started moving, I heard a grinding noise. The rope was caught in the propeller.

My co-counselor and I got in the frigid water. The boys in the boat laughed at us – this was payback for all those times we made them get in and didn’t get in ourselves. We tried to untangle the rope, but it was wound up tight. After a while, we gave up and radioed to shore. We needed goggles and a knife.

The head counselor came to our rescue in a trusty old boat named Gertrude. We made a few attempts to cut the rope before we realized that we needed more help. The knife was too dull, and the rope was too tangled. We decided to go back to the docks. The head counselor started Gertrude so that he could tow us in. Gertrude didn’t start. He tried again. Nothing. He radioed to shore to ask for advice. Still no luck. Fifteen minutes later, and we were both paddling back.

The lake is rather crowded over 4th of July weekend, and we lucked out. A pontoon boat came to our rescue. Our pontoon – ski boat – Gertrude train made an excellent 4th of July boat parade.

Back at came, my co-counselor and I attacked the tangled rope with two leathermans for about 30 minutes. Finally, it came free. We threw away the old rope and replaced it with a new one.

Chapter 2: The afternoon

The boys were excited that the boat was up and running again. We loaded four of them into the back of the boat and pushed off. I put the boat into gear, and it died. Just my luck. I turned the key again, heard the engine rev, but it didn’t catch. I pumped the gas and tried again. Still nothing. This went on for about a minute. Then I pushed out the ignition button and pushed it back in. I tried again for another minute. Nothing again. I repeated the procedure. Nothing. I repeated again, but this time the ignition button wouldn’t click into place.

There was no chance of this boat starting. I threw a rope to the nearby dock and a fellow counselor pulled us in. Upon getting to shore, over 50 boys attacked me with questions. “When am I going to get to water ski? Will this affect my turn? Are we getting a new boat?” I escaped as fast I could and returned at a quieter time to reexamine the boat. I think it’s a mechanical problem, but I don’t know much about boats. We’re waiting until Monday to get more qualified help.

At the end of the day, I was tired of being bombarded by questions, and I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. When I was walking up to dinner, an eight-year-old boy in my bunk came out of the library. “Aunt Jackie,” he said. “Can you help me?” I sighed inside. “Sure thing, what do you need?” “I’ve been searching in the library but I can’t find any books on mermaids!” I smiled. “I’m not sure I can help you with that, but I’ll try,” I responded.