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Parks and Recreation fic: The Best Campout Ever 1/2

December 27th, 2014 (09:36 am)
frustrated

feeling: frustrated

Title: The Best Campout Ever

Disclaimer: I do not own Parks and Recreation.

A/N: Set vaguely in the S5, I think. Fills my serious illness square for hc_bingo. Beta by sockie1000.

Summary: It’s the Annual Parks Department Campout. It goes about as well -- and as poorly -- as can be expected.



-o-

“This is going to be great,” Leslie announces when she steps out of the car. “Fresh air, hot dogs, marshmallows, and the entire parks department.”

She turns, grinning widely at the rest of her team.

“The annual Parks Department Campout!” she declares. “Isn’t this great?”

It’s a question, but in her mind, it’s entirely rhetorical. Because this is obviously great. She already considers her job to be twenty-four hour entertainment, and now she gets to share that with her absolute favorite people in the world.

Except Joe Biden.

It would be great if she could camp out with Joe Biden.

She briefly wonders if an invitation would get her flagged as a potential terrorist suspect. It might be worth the risk.

But that’s neither here nor there. Here, is the parks department; there, is a night of planning success and team bonding.

“I’m not sure the air is actually that fresh,” Tom gripes, scrolling through his phone.

Donna shoulders her pack. “We are directly down wind from the Sweetums factory.”

“Which is even better,” Leslie says. She takes a breath. “It smells like cotton candy. Who doesn’t want to camp out while smelling cotton candy?”

“Camping out should be much more rustic,” Ron complains.

Andy comes out of the car, squinting up at the sun. “Gah, it’s hot,” he says, wrinkling his nose. He’s holding the cooler. “But hey, I call dibs on the best place by the fire!”

“Then won’t you just get hotter?” Ben asks.

Andy shrugs. “Okay, then I’ll just eat the hot dogs cold,” he says indifferently.

Ann takes the cooler from him. “Not only is that unsanitary, but there’s no way we’re letting you eat all the hot dogs before we even get to the campsite.”

“Oh, don’t worry!” Jerry chimes in. “Gayle sent along some extra--”

“Oh, like we want your Jerry food,” Tom says. “You probably contaminated it.”

“It’s all made from scratch,” he says. “And she took the time to make these great kabobs--”

“So you can murder us in our sleep, no doubt,” April suggests darkly.

“I’ll be honest,” Andy says. “I’d still eat it.”

“I still don’t understand why we have to be here at all,” April grumbles.

“Because!” Leslie says, hoping to get the conversation back on track. “The annual campout has always been a lot of success for us.”

They all stare at her. It occurs to her that they were all at the last campout, so they remember. And it’s possible that it wasn’t as perfect as she wants to remember it.

And okay, it wasn’t perfect. It was somewhat terrible with the broken car, miserable planning sessions, and uncomfortable B&B services in which they were nearly suffocated by cats.

But that’s somewhat relative because it ended fine, and they worked together despite the odds, and that’s what matters.

That’s what she wants to recreate.

Not the part where everyone walked out and they ended up at a creepy B&B. But the part where they came together.

Teamwork!

“Come on,” she cajoles. “It’ll be fun!”

“Leslie,” Chris says. “This is literally the most exciting campout I’ve ever been on.”

“See,” Leslie says. “Chris is excited.”

“He wasn’t even on the last one,” Tom objects.

“I don’t see your point,” Leslie says, willfully ignorant.

Ron steps past her with a noisy sigh. “Well, then,” he says. “I suppose we ought to get started.”

“And see,” Leslie says. “Ron’s excited, too.”

“I love camping,” Andy says, starting past her right behind Ron. He wipes his face with his hand. “But it’s so hot. And I’m achy. It’s weird. Like a sauna or something.”

“It’s not that hot,” Ann grumbles, following.

“No, Andy’s just hot,” April says, eyeing Ann darkly. “Don’t be jealous now.”

“Oh, trust me,” Ann says. “I’m not.”

“Whatever, Ann,” April half hisses.

“The kabobs really are great,” Jerry tells Leslie as he walks by.

“What the hell,” Tom says, holding up his phone to the sky. “My reception is awful!”

Donna smirks, shaking her head behind Tom. “I can live without my cell,” she says, but then she pins Leslie with a glare. “But if you try to touch my pillow top air mattress, I will cut you.”

“Leslie,” Chris says. “I’m so glad you let me come along. I can’t tell you how unbelievably happy I am to be a part of this.”

“Well,” Leslie says. “You are our city manager. We’re glad you’re here.”

Chris beams. “I do hope no one minds that I planned a few exercise breaks and at least an hour for meditation in the morning.”

Leslie forces a smile and doesn’t have the heart to tell him that there is no time in her schedule for anything of that nature unless he wants it to be part of the few hours she has allotted for personal hygiene. “I’m sure that will fit in perfectly.”

He nods brightly, following the rest.

Ben comes up next to her. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m not so sure about this.”

“Oh, please,” she says. “This year, I’ll pitch your tent for you.”

“Hey,” Ben objects. “I can pitch my own tent.”

“You only have a tent because I gave you one,” Leslie points out.

“I would have bought one,” Ben replies. “But since you had five extra, it seemed silly.”

“It’s not silly,” Leslie says. “You never know when you and four of your closest friends will want to go camping on a whim, possibly in the backyard with microwaved smores.”

Ben inclines his head curiously.

“It happens, okay?” Leslie says.

“Okay,” Ben says. “I’m still not sure the team is, I don’t know, up for this.”

“That’s exactly why it matters,” Leslie says. “I mean, there have been some crazy changes over the last year. Things are different. Things are busy! We need to take the time to reconnect, to stay together, to remember why we all started on this journey in the first place.”

“For most of them, it’s a job,” Ben reminds her.

“But it’s more than that,” Leslie says. “We’re more than that, and I want us not to forget what really matters.”

Ben smiles. “Friendship?”

“And a highly efficient parks department with a cutting edge idea to top the Harvest Festival yet again,” Leslie concludes.

Ben raises his eyebrows.

“And yes,” Leslie sighs. “Friendship, too.”

Ben chuckles. “Well, just know, I’m here for you.”

“I know,” she says fondly. “Literally, though. You don’t work for the government anymore, so your presence here is really just for me.”

“Um,” he says.

Leslie waves her hand through the air. “You know, never mind,” she says. “We have a campout to start!”

Everyone cheers.

Or, if not, that’s okay. Leslie cheers, and she knows the rest of them are all cheering on the inside.

Some of them, very deep inside. Some of them, so deep they probably don’t even know it on a subconscious level, but whatever.

As far as Leslie’s concern, it definitely still counts.

-o-

They have to hike a mile to the campsite.

To some, this may seem like an oversight, but Leslie planned this very carefully. Given previous incidents, she figures getting her team as far away from civilization is her safest bet. Ron will have more space to kill things. Jerry will have a wider berth in case of disaster. Tom will be thoroughly cut off from distractions.

In short, it’s perfect.

It was also the only campsite available. Apparently, there’s a number of Boy Scout troops from around Indiana that like to come to Pawnee for their survival wilderness training. The raccoons make it more treacherous than most other regions.

But that is not the point.

No. The point is that this is perfect.

The perfect camping trip.

And nothing will convince Leslie otherwise.

-o-

Except maybe watching her team in action.

Leslie has a very specific schedule, which she has planned judiciously down to the second. She has allotted time for all the important activities, including but not limited to, grilling hot dogs, eating beans straight from the can, singing around the campfire and telling ghost stories.

There is, of course, ample planning time, broken down into subsections for individual brainstorming, small group sharing, and large group coordination. She has several relay races designed to promote productivity and get the creative juices flowing, and she has a few team building exercises that she has borrowed directly from the biography of Madeleine Albright.

She has planned for everything.

Except sleep.

There just isn’t time for sleep. She is considering making the sunrise hike option for those who want to sneak in a quick half hour, but she’s hard pressed to give up that sunrise.

With all this, she has given a generous amount of time to set up camp. Thirty minutes, in fact, with an addition fifteen for fun and socializing.

After the said 45 minutes, however, her team is nowhere near ready.

Ben has been trying and failing to pitch his tent. Tom is down by the river, trying to find his cell phone, which he dropped in there while looking for reception. Donna, somehow, has found the only person in the vicinity and is currently trying to hook up with him. Since he’s a park ranger, Leslie’s inclined to let that one go, because Donna can do whatever she wants on her allotted half hour of free time.

April, for some reason Leslie can’t figure out, is raving about the end of the world and is stealing supplies from everyone. Jerry has fallen down two hills, once while trying to pick up some firewood and another time because, well, he’s Jerry. With everyone else preoccupied, Ron has already gone fishing, which is, certainly, the only reason he agreed to come at all.

Andy is being especially helpful for once since it seems that camping is one of his peculiar skill sets, but as he’s setting up a tent for Leslie, he complains that it’s hot and throws up. Inside her tent.

He then proceeds to eat a bag of marshmallows to recover.


Which he promptly throws up again.

In Jerry’s backpack.

Leslie stands at a distance. “Are you okay, Andy?”

He lifts a hand, waving at her. “Oh yeah,” he says, standing up again. “It’s probably just something I ate.”

“What did you eat?” Leslie asks.

“Well, before the marshmallows, I had a few slices of pizza before I came,” he says.

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Leslie says.

“And I had some chips,” Andy adds.

“Okay--”

“And two Snickers bars and three packs of Skittles,” he says. “Oh, and a carton of orange juice.”

Leslie stares at him.

Andy looks apologetic. “The orange juice was a little much, huh?”

“Just...sit down for a little bit,” she says. “And you know, don’t eat anything.”

Andy gives her a thumbs up, even though his complexion is still pasty. “Right on, boss.”

Leslie shakes her head, moving back to setting up camp. Tom is flailing at the riverbed now, and Donna seems to be making out behind a tree. Ben stands back to look at his tent, which promptly falls over.

Leslie fights back a growing sense of doubt.

Chris comes up next to her, nodding with a smile as he watches Andy throw up one last time on the freshly gathered wood. “I still believe that this campout has the potential to be the best one yet,” he proclaims with the undying optimism that only Chris Traeger can call up at such a time as this.

Ann watches the unfolding mess next to Leslie and makes a face. “You may be right.”

Leslie glares at her.

Ann shrugs. “What? I’ve been on these things before.”

Leslie could deny that.

But that’d be a lie.

Because yes, they may be behind schedule. Yes, Ben may be incapable of camping. Tom may be crying like a little girl. Donna may be the luckiest woman in the world, and April may be right and the apocalypse is near. Jerry may fall down every hill, three or four times, knowing Jerry, and Ron will undoubtedly catch a lot of fish. Andy may eat all their food and then throw up all their food, and Chris may actually be so positive that he’s delusional (the supplements, Leslie has to think. All those supplements).

But Ann’s right.

Because this campout is going to be magnificent. They are going to work together. They are going to remember what matters. They are going to be a team and plan brilliant and wonderful things for the fine city of Pawnee, Indiana.

And besides, with a start like this, Leslie has to think things can only get better.

-o-

Leslie is patient.

This is her team. This is her family. This is her life. She loves them more than anything else in this entire world.

Except for Ben, of course. And probably Michelle Obama. And really, she has to put Joe Biden up there. And waffles. Of course, waffles.

But the point is, she loves her team. She can be patient with them.

For about two more minutes.

Then she corrals the team together for their first brainstorming session. They’ve already missed several portions of her evening plan, but she figures she can streamline the process in a mega powered group session and then get them back on track after the singalong and smores.

“Okay,” she says, standing next to the transportable easel she has erected not far from the campfire. “So, I thought we could start by listing our dreams for the year to come.”

“I dream about earth worms burrowing under City Hall under the structural integrity is ruined and the entire thing implodes,” April offers.

“I should have been more specific,” Leslie says without missing a beat. On top of the paper, she adds the word PARKS to the header DREAMS FOR THE YEAR. “I was hoping for dream that relate to the parks department specifically.”

“I dream that we can cut the budget in half,” Ron says.

“Yeah, no,” Leslie says. “That’s a terrible dream.”

“Well, how about something about increasing the cleanup crews?” Ann asks. “If we could get them there in Ramsett Park at least once more a month, it might help.”

Leslie frowns, shaking her head. “That’s too simple, Ann,” she says. “I know with how beautiful you are, you probably never had to dream big because it was all yours already, but I want actual dreams people. I want to shoot for the moon! And if we come up short, we’ll still land among the stars.”

They stare at her blankly for a moment.

Chris smiles benignly. “My main dream is that we, as a government continue to push ourselves to new heights.”

“That’s...good,” Leslie says, turning to the paper. She hesitates. “Good but sort of vague.” She turns back around. “Maybe something more specific?”

“Well, I’m not technically a member of the parks department,” Chris says apologetically.

Leslie sees no point in dwelling.

She sees a of purpose in pushing them even harder, though. “Come on, people,” she orders. “Dreams!”

“Well, I have one I’ve been thinking about,” Jerry begins. “I know it’ll sound kind of crazy, but I’ve always thought it would be nice if we could create a trail to connect all our parks. We could set it off, make it for bike traffic and foot traffic--”

“Ugh, Jerry,” Tom says. “That sounds so boring.”

“And expensive,” Ron agrees. “Not to mention a zoning nightmare.”

“It’d just get overrun by raccoons,” April hisses. “Do you want innocent children to be eaten by raccoons?”

Jerry’s eyes go wide as the chorus of Jerry, no, resounds.

Leslie plasters on her best not-even-close-Jerry smile. “That is basically a horrible dream,” she says. “We’re not writing that down because it is the type of dream that will make all other dreams die.”

Jerry sulks, dropping his head.

Leslie taps her marker to the paper. “Dreams, people! Our loftiest goals and hopes! Come on! Tom, you have dreams all the time! What are they?”

Tom shrugs. “Well, most of them involved beautiful women and well dressed men--”

“Well, they can use parks, too,” Leslie pushes.

Tom sighs. “I could help if I had my phone,” he says miserably. He looks up at Leslie with brown, forlorn eyes. “I need my phone.”

“No,” she says. “You don’t. You just need your mind.”

“I put my mind in my phone,” he says. “Stream of consciousness-like. I have a relevant thought, tap it in, and bam! My mind phone, the smartest kind there is.”

Leslie shakes her head, unimpressed. “No, you really don’t.”

Tom groans. “Fine!” he says. “How about a hot dog then? I’m starving.”

“Yeah,” Donna chimes in. “Where are the dogs?”

“I did agree to this under the pretense that there would be food,” Ron agrees.

Leslie collects a breath and works to retain her calm. Although she is capable of going without food during intense periods of work, she knows that her team is not quite as skilled at the art of self deprivation in the name of public service. Honestly, she’s been working on that for years, but every time she tries to get them to think about that, they get hungry and she ends up taking them out for lunch instead of anything else.

After several years of this, Leslie has learned that food is a powerful motivator.

“Okay,” Leslie relents. “We can grill some of the food while we brainstorm. And then when we’re done, we’ll celebrate our dream filled success with highly process, perfectly American meat products.”

“Thank goodness,” Tom says, clapping his hands together.

“Oh, count me in,” Donna says.

Ann pokes through the cooler. “Where are they again?”

“They should be right there,” Leslie says. “Next to the chocolate bars.”

Ann shuffles through the cooler again. “Um,” she says. “I can’t see anything…”

Frowning now, Leslie moves toward her. “But they’re right there,” she says. “I bought premium beef this years, and they should be right….”

She looks.

She stops.

The cooler is empty, except for an ice pack and two candy bar wrappers. “Guys,” she protests. “Who ate these?”

“We have no food?” Tom asks.

“We have food,” Leslie says before the outcry can get any more pronounced. “I just…” She looks around, wondering if it’s possible for hot dogs to grow legs and walk. She’d always wanted that to be the case as a little girl, which was why she had been unable to eat hot dogs for the better part of her childhood. She had hated the thought of depriving them of their chance of spontaneous selfhood.

Plus, the idea of them growing feet in her digestive track had always bothered here.

She looks at the cooler. She looks at Ann, who shrugs. She looks at Ron, who glares, and Tom, who looks ready to cry again.

Then she looks at Andy. “Andy,” she says. “Did you eat the hot dogs?”

Andy, who has been unusually quiet, shakes his head. “What?”

“The hot dogs,” Leslie says. “You were carrying the cooler.”

He blinks, frowning a little. “I don’t think so,” he says. “I mean, I thought about it, but then the idea of opening the lid was just too hard so I decided to throw up instead.”

Leslie considers that, and then decides not to consider that. She turns to April, who is seated far too nonchalantly next to Andy. “April?” she says, giving the young woman a knowing look.

“What?” April asks.

Leslie hones her look.

April shrugs. “It’s no big deal,” she says. “I didn’t eat them.”

“Then where are they!” Tom demands.

“I’ve hidden them,” April says. “In case of disaster.”

“We are only here overnight,” Leslie says, trying to sound reasonable. “What disaster could we need them for.”

“The zombie apocalypse,” April says. “If it happens while we’re out here, we may never get back. And then we’ll need those hot dogs.”

“They wouldn’t last long without refrigeration,” Ann says.

“I know,” April replies. “We’ll feed them to the zombies to save ourselves and then build a spaceship to fly us out of here.”

“I call shotgun!” Tom says.

“This really isn’t helpful,” Leslie intervenes. “If we could just have the hot dogs--”

“Well,” Jerry offers. “I do have my kabobs--”

“Ew, Jerry!” April says.

“That’s awful!” Tom moans.

“Okay, okay,” Leslie says over them all, because this is getting away from her, but she’s Leslie Knope. This is her parks department. She can do this. “I mean, even if we can’t do hot dogs until the zombies arrive, I also packed plenty of beans in cans.” She picks up the backpack and unzips it, pulling out the first can. “Beans in a can are pretty great, right?”

Chris grins enthusiastically. “I have never had beans in a can!” he says. “Beans are one of the best sources of protein in nature. It will fuel our minds, our bodies and probably our digestive tracks as well!”

Donna makes a face. “I hope you all don’t mind if I move my tent upwind.”

Ann comes over, picking up a can. She glances through the bag. “Do we have a can opener?”

“Do we have a can opener?” Leslie asks. She bends down, opening up the front pocket. “I have exactly five can openers, each that opens a different way to give everyone the chance to select the best can experience--”

She stops.

Of course, the pocket is empty.

“Oh, come on,” she says. She looks up. “April.”

April feigns innocence. Sort of. Honestly, she’s not trying very hard, and she appears mostly to try not to laugh. “What?”

Leslie wants to yell at her. Leslie wants to lecture her about responsibility. Mostly, though, she wants to wax poetic about the virtues of teamwork, and how they need to come together and not work against each other.

She does have several anecdotes that she’s selected for just such an occasion, and she has planned a rendition of RESPECT to perform should the need arise, but she’s just not in the mood right now.

Because damn it, a hot dog sounds pretty good.

“You know what,” Leslie says instead. “We can eat after we’ve worked. And then, once we’ve assembled a short list of our best and brightest ideas, we will go on a scavenger hunt to find the missing food supplies that have been stolen.”

“Hidden for the zombie apocalypse,” April corrects.

“Either way,” Leslie says. “So, now. Let’s get back to work!”

Tom huffs. “That’s stupid,” he says. “Why doesn’t Ben have to work?”

Leslie doesn’t miss a beat. “Ben is not technically a parks employee.”

From a short distance away at the campsite, Ben straightens up to a standing position. “And technically I am working,” he says. “I’m working to pitch this tent!”

He’s working, maybe, but he’s not even close to pitching the tent, and Leslie doesn’t have the heart to tell him that he’s basically pathetic at it and should just stop trying. He’s smart and he’s funny and he’s attractive, so it’s acceptable that he lacks all outdoor survival skills. With an ass like his, Leslie will forgive a lot.

Ron lets out a heavy breath. “This is ridiculous,” he says. “If there is no dinner, I will go catch us some.”

“Uh, uh, uh,” Leslie says, because she has anticipated this. And, frankly, everything else. She has three binders of contingencies for this campout, including an entire section just for Ron. “After we brainstorm. I know you, Ron. I know you believe that a man has to work to earn his food.”

“Fishing is work,” Ron replies.

“For you, fishing is fun,” she says. “This is work. Right here. You are going to put in your time, Ron, just like the rest of us.”

Growling, Ron sits back down.

“There you go,” Leslie cajoles. She points to the board again. “So. Brainstorming! Who’s first?”

Andy raises his hand.

Leslie is somewhat surprised and vaguely concerned that it will be another dud. Even so, she could use the momentum. “Okay,” she says. “A volunteer to get us started. What’s your idea, Andy?”

“Um,” Andy says, and then he looks surprisingly thoughtful.

Or pained.

He actually looks pained.

“I actually don’t remember what I was going to say,” he says, blinking a few times as he seems to list to the side. “Because it’s so hot. And I really don’t feel very good.”

Tom harrumphs. “You probably ate all the hot dogs and forgot about it.”

Andy shakes his head, face scrunched. “No, I mean, I ate the marshmallows,” he says, and Leslie notice he looks a little pale. He swallows, going even paler. “Oh, sh--”

Then he bends over and hurls again.

The group scatters as Andy wretches even more loudly than before, another voluminous burp before he finally stops.

For a moment, Leslie thinks that’s that. It’s not good or anything, but Andy is, well, Andy. She had assumed that his previous bout of vomiting had been a short lived fluke, considering that he’d eaten a bag of marshmallows and performed several random physical tricks for April while setting up camp.

Not those kind of tricks.

But jumping off rocks and running into trees.

The normal stuff.

It is, however, possible that Andy is actually sick, even beyond his questionable dietary choices.

He sits up, smiling sheepishly a little, and Leslie is about to suggest he go lie down for a little bit when his face goes blank (or, blanker) and his eyes roll up in his head.

And he promptly passes out.

Leslie stares.

Leslie blinks.

She has binders full of contingencies, and not one of them accounts for this.

Damn it.

-o-

Because this is Andy, he takes the easy way out.

Which is to say that he makes it hard for everyone else.

Boneless on the ground, Andy has fallen awkwardly across everything, his broad figure sprawled over as much as possible. By some miracle, he’s missed the campfire, but it still takes both Ron and Chris to roll him on his back while Ann clears away a flat spot on the ground.

Donna is keeping her distance. Tom seems to want to live Tweet the event. Jerry is tripping over his own feet, and Ben abandons his tent.

April is on her knees. “Andy? Andy, babe, this isn’t funny--”

And Leslie is not panicking.

Yes, her campout is hovering near disaster. True, her brainstorming session has been upended by vomit and unconsciousness. And okay, fine, one of her friends has passed out a mile from their car and that’s the real concern.

The state of her brainstorming is secondary.

She needs to think about Andy.

And then she can get back to brainstorming.

But Andy first.

“Okay,” she says. “Is he okay? Ann, tell me if he’s okay? Ann, you need to be Ann now.”

Leslie is somewhat aware that she’s not being particularly helpful, but part of Ann being Ann is accepting the fact that sometimes Leslie isn’t too helpful with her advice.

That’s why Ann is awesome.

Also because she’s a beautiful, kind, passionate nurse.

But mostly because she understands Leslie completely.

Ann is already reaching up to Andy’s neck, pressing her fingers to his pulse point. She starting to count when Andy stirs.

April half pushes Ann out of the way. “Andy!” she says.

His eyelids flutter, and he squints up. “Oooh, man,” he says. “Am I drunk?”

“No,” April says.

“Oh,” he says, eyes fluttering shut again. “Because everything is spinning…”

Ann reasserts herself, moving herself into Andy’s line of vision. “Andy,” she says in her nurse voice -- and she has such a good nurse voice, and Leslie is a little jealous of the effortless authority associated with being a capable medical professional. “You passed out. Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”

He squints up again. “Like I drank all the beer,” he says. “Ever. And then I drank it again.” His face scrunches up. “It’s too much beer.”

Ann glances at April.

April pushes Andy lightly on the shoulder. “There’s no beer,” she says. “We didn’t bring any, and we ran out at home two days ago.”

He looks perplexed. “I was supposed to go to the store.”

“Yeah, and you forgot,” April snipes.

“I’m a terrible husband,” Andy says, apologetically.

“The worst,” April agrees. “I’m going to divorce you.”

Andy nods sagely. “I can’t blame you.”

Ann rolls her eyes. “So it’s not beer,” she says. “How else do you feel?”

“Bad,” he says. “I feel really, really bad.”

Ann reaches up, brushing her fingers across his forehead. It’s her turn to frown. “You’ve got a fever,” she notes. She glances back at Leslie. “A bad one.”

“That’s because he’s so hot,” April says.

Ann ignores him. “What about other symptoms?”

Andy looks at her seriously. “There’s this one thing,” he says. “There’s this weird clicking sound, in my jaw--”

With a measured breath, Ann tries to smile. “That’s from chewing too much gum, Andy,” she says. “I’ve told you that for years.”

“Well, you should be more specific,” April snaps. “Geez, Ann.”

Ann purposefully ignores her. “Maybe some new symptoms? From today, maybe?”

“Oh, well, it’s not been too bad,” Andy says conversationally. “Little sick to my stomach. Intense vomiting. Killer stomachaches. And, like, sometimes the room starts spinning and doesn’t stop until I sit down.”

“That would probably be why you face planted on our campsite, son,” Ron tells him.

“Vomiting can lead to dehydration,” Chris agrees. “The body needs to be properly maintained.”

“Oh, I’ve been eating and drinking,” Andy says. “But then my stomach hurts so bad and I keep throwing up and throwing up and--”

“Okay,” Ann interrupts. “I’m just going to look you over--”

She reaches down to lift up his shirt.

April slaps her hand away.

Ann looks at her disarmingly. “I’m a nurse, remember?”

“Oh,” April says. “It’s reflex from when I thought you were a crazy bitch trying to steal my husband.”

“Yeah,” Ann says. “That never happened.”

April narrows her eyes. “I’m watching you.”

“I promise, this is my job,” Ann says.

“You’re saying you’re a whore?” April asks.

Because Ann is a professional -- nurse, that is, not a whore, not the beautiful Ann Perkins -- she barely gives April a sideways look. Instead, she pulls up Andy’s shirt and starts to feel along his stomach. “Just let me know--”

Andy chortles. “I’ve got abs of steel,” he says. “You remember, right? Underneath it all--”

Ann makes a face.

April glowers.

Then Ann’s fingers press lower, to the left side.

And Andy all but convulses. “Holy mother of--” he curses with a sharp inhalation. “That hurts like a son of a bitch!”

“Yeah,” Ann says, lowering his shirt again. She gets to her feet, turning back toward Leslie.

“So?” Leslie asks, and she’s feeling nervous now. Because this turn of events seems bad, which is an understatement. Of course it’s bad.

“So,” Ann says. “He’s got a high fever, disorientation, nausea, and guarding on the lower left side.”

Ann says it in such a reasonable fashion that Leslie feels like she should know the implications. This is why she is already nodding, like she knows.

Except Leslie is a parks department employee. Not a nurse.

She has no idea what Ann is implying.

“Those are bad things,” Leslie ventures, because it’s the only conclusion she knows how to make. “That’s bad, right?”

“Well, it’s not good,” Ann says.

Leslie looks down toward Andy. April is pampering him now while Ron helps the younger man sit up a bit and Chris offers him water.

“What do you think it is?” Leslie asks.

Ann shakes her head. “I’m not a doctor, so I can’t diagnose--”

“Then what good are you to me, Ann? What good?” Leslie asks sharply.

Ann’s forehead wrinkles.

“You’re so good to me,” Leslie amends apologetically. “So good. But seriously, best guess, here.”

Ann sighs. “I can’t be sure, but he’s got all the telltale signs.”

Leslie blinks. “Is it West Nile? Is it the mosquitos? Damn those pests--”

“No,” Ann says. “Appendicitis. The pain is so localized and so intense -- I can’t say for sure without a scan, but we see this a lot.”

“An appy,” Leslie says, because she’s at least literate enough to know a little about that. “Those are common, right? Happen all the time.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ann says. “But they require surgery.”

“Well, that’s no big deal,” Leslie says. “You can do the surgery, right?”

“What?” Ann asks. “No! He needs to go to the hospital.”

Leslie balks, looking back at her still blank brainstorming sheet. “But--” she starts, the internal conflict mounting. “Can’t it wait?”

Ann looks downright incredulous. “Given the amount of pain he’s in and the level of his fever, I don’t think so,” she says. Her voice drops, and she leans closer in. “I’m a little worried it’s already perforated. If that thing has burst, he could get septic.”

“So,” Leslie says. “You’re saying no?”

Ann doesn’t blink.

“Yeah, okay,” Leslie says, waving her hand through the air. “We’ll take him back.”

NEXT