It was Friday, the last full day for Session Three campers at Camp Moss Hollow in Fauquier County, but there was plenty to do before darkness fell and the closing campfire blazed to life.
They're Only Acting
"Who didn't do the dying before?" Cynthia Dorsey asked the 7- to 10-year-old boys from the group of cabins known as Alpine Cove. Cynthia, Moss Hollow's drama instructor, was wearing a T-shirt that said: "Just a waitress until I'm discovered."
Hands shot up. "Me! Me!" Cynthia picked two yet-to-die campers, one of whom reclined on a bench while the other kneeled over him.
"Here's the scene: You are dying," she said to the prone boy. "He's your dad, and you're going to say goodbye." Each was to say the same line: "My bounty is as deep as the sea. So is my love, the more I give to thee."
"My bounty . . . mumble, mumble . . . sea. So . . . mumble, mumble . . . give to thee."
Cynthia appraised the duo with the steely gaze of a Broadway director, then turned to the class and asked: "What's the definition of acting?"
"Suspending disbelief!" the youngsters shouted back.
"Is he suspending disbelief?"
"We don't believe you're dying," she said. "You have to be louder. I know you're dying, but you have to be louder."
Two by two, the campers ran the scene, a paraphrased bit of Shakespeare. Finally two boys -- hands clenched, voices loud -- gave a powerhouse reading.
"Okay," Cynthia joked to the class, "you guys were kind of good. I'm going to give you something." She handed each child a lollipop.
Oh, death, where is thy sting?
The Unvarnished Truth
The boys of Deerhorn had just finished their instructional swim -- their T-shirts and sleeveless undershirts were wet at the waist, soaked by their still-damp trunks. Now the 11- to 14-year-old boys were varnishing the footstools they had made over the course of the week.
I asked one camper what his favorite part of camp was. "Swimming," he said.
Why? "I just love swimming," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I just like the feel of the water. It's relaxing. And it's good exercise, too." Then: "So, am I going to get my name in the paper?"
Sure: It's Warren. Hearing that Warren was getting his name in the paper, DeMarco said he wanted his name in the paper too. So did Kevin, Anthony, Andrew, Leadell and Jodeci. And Christopher, who said his nickname is Ruben Studdard because he looks a little like the "American Idol" singer. And Marcus, who said his nickname is Watermelon Head.
For the record, Marcus's head was not notably watermelo-cephalic.
I Hear Boxwood Singing
Over at the open-sided Pavilion, the 7- to 10-year- old Boxwood girls were preparing for the Friday night talent show. Music instructor Timothy Morton was at an electric keyboard, counselor Andrew Dorsey behind a set of drums.
There were three songs -- all Timothy Morton originals -- and the girls sang them with gusto.
"Now we're a butterfly," the girls sang, their bodies swaying. "Boxwood on the rise. Hey! Hey! Hey!"
The girls clapped their hands and stamped their feet. When they were done, Timothy led them in a chant of another kind: "The more you practice . . .," he started.
"THE MORE YOU PRACTICE!" the girls responded.
"The better you will be."
"THE BETTER YOU WILL BE!"
And then they did the butterfly song again.
Afterward, Breana, a slim 8-year-old crowned by a mop of thin dreadlocks, explained the attractions of the camp. The bugs don't bother her. ("I make friends with bugs," she said, "but not spiders.") And she doesn't miss the bustle of a city street. ("It's better because you don't have to worry about being run over," she pointed out.) Does she ever find the country too quiet? "It should be quiet!" she said. "You don't want a noisy neighborhood."
Other Boxwood girls crowded around, extracting a promise that I'd put their names in the paper. Here they are: Nariah, Tyler, Taylor, Termia, Kassandra, Terry, Kymia, Danielle, Lisa, Tequita, Kiara and Jayde.
Before I left Moss Hollow, I sat for a bit in a clearing. The trees around me bobbed in the breeze, the leaves making a sound like thousands of hands being rubbed gently together. A soprano aria of bird song trilled overtop that, underpinned by the stuttering beat of grasshoppers and cicadas.
Cutting through it all were the sounds of children. I couldn't see any of them -- they were at the pool or in their cabins or doing arts and crafts -- but I could hear them, and their shouts and laughter echoed across the mountain. It was the sound of pure happiness. Camp wasn't over just yet.
Washington Post readers such as you donate so that at-risk kids like these can go to Moss Hollow. Our goal is $750,000 by Friday. As of yesterday we'd raised $339,046.77.
Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation." To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.