Seventeen-year-old Camden splits her time between her father, a minor rock star, and her mom, a scruffy “hardware geek” who designs and implements temporary and sustainable power systems and satellite linkups for off-grid music and art festivals, tree-sits, and attends gatherings of alternative healers. Lark, Camden’s father, provides her with brand-name jeans, running shoes, and makeup, while her mother’s world is populated by anarchists, freaks, geeks, and hippies. Naturally, Camden prefers staying with her dad and going to the mall with his credit card and her best friend, but one summer, when Lark is recording a new album, Camden accompanies her mother, Laureen, to a healing camp on a mountain in Northern California. After their arrival, Laureen heads to San Francisco, ostensibly to go find her lover, but she never comes back. Alone, penniless, and without much in the way of camping skills, Camden withdraws. Things begin to look up when she is befriended by Skinny, a young man in charge of the security detail at the camp who knew her mother as a child. The summer ends and Camden heads back to Toronto to find her dad, and it’s only there that she learns Laureen’s disappearance is tied, unexpectedly, to the secrets Skinny tried to keep from her for months, until, finally, he couldn’t.
Ursula Pflug is the award-winning author of the novels Green Music; The Alphabet Stones; the flash-fiction novel, Motion Sickness (illustrated by SK Dyment); and the story collections After the Fires and Harvesting the Moon. She edited the anthologies They Have To Take You In and Playground of Lost Toys (with Colleen Anderson). She has been shortlisted or nominated for the Sunburst Award, the Aurora Award, the Pushcart Prize, the 3-Day Novel Contest, the Descant Novella Award, the KM Hunter Award, and the ReLit Award among others. She lives in Norwood, Ontario.
“You think this is party time,” my mother said,
turning to face me. “Like all the other places we’ve
been. But it’s not. This gathering is different.”
Since I didn’t much enjoy the other so-called
gatherings we had been to, I wasn’t impressed.
“Different from getting high?” I asked. My mother
was lighting her blue clay pipe, a present from Lark.
“There’s gatherings every year on this mountain
in the spring. They say it’s a holy place, brings
necessary changes,” Laureen persisted.
“They?” I asked.
“The people who come,” Laureen said. “The
We waited while the boy ran back for another
plank. It was bright outside, but dark in the cab,
so I couldn’t make out Laureen’s face as she offered
me the pipe. “It will heal your bones,” she said.
“My bones are the least of my problems,” I
said. “And you know I can’t take your healing talk
seriously after what happened.”
“What happened?” Laureen asked.
“With Peter,” I said.
Laureen stared at me for a long time. Then
she abruptly changed the subject, a thing she’d
done often, to my eternal consternation. “That’s
Skinny,” she said, catching me watching the boy.
“He’s Tribe, too.”
“Too?” I asked.
“As is your mother. Meaning me,” Laureen said.
“My,” I said. “Another accomplishment. You
have so many. Whatever Tribe is.”