After an hour-long bus ride, the campers finally arrived at Camp Buckley. As the other kids piled off the bus, Joni hung back nervously. Everyone else had already made friends, but not Joni. She’d always had trouble meeting new people. She sighed, wondering if she could just ask the bus driver to take her home.

A Warm Welcome

The camp director, a smiling woman named Miss G, welcomed them all. Soon the campers were assigned to their cabins. Joni shuffled along with her bunkmates into Cabin 3. She put her bag down on a bottom bunk and hoped that the girl above her wouldn’t snore.

Meeting Maria

“Hi!” someone cried. Joni looked up to see a girl’s face hanging over the edge of the top bunk, a cloud of curls bouncing around her head. “I’m Maria! Is this your first time at Camp Buckley? I’ve never been to camp before. I hope it’s fun! What’s your name?” Joni was taken aback. How could anyone be so talkative with someone they’d just met?

Eating Alone

The rest of that afternoon was spent doing icebreaker activities. Joni felt even more out of place among all the other campers laughing and having fun. Later, everyone gathered in the dining hall. Joni searched for her bunkmate. Her heart sank when she saw Maria already sitting with a boy wearing glasses. Joni took a seat at another table and ate quietly. It already felt like this summer was going to be lonely.

A Mysterious Thump

Joni woke to a thump in the middle of the night. Listening closely, she heard the thump again. It was coming from outside. Maria whispered from the top bunk that she heard it, too. The two girls tiptoed to the window. Joni’s heart was racing, but she could see nothing outside. Could it be an animal? A prank? After a while, the girls went back to bed, puzzled by the mystery.

New Friends

At breakfast the next morning, Maria called Joni over to sit with her and the boy from yesterday. “This is Samir,” she said. “He heard the weird sounds last night, too!” She suggested that they investigate the mystery together. Joni was a little nervous, but it was nice having people to talk to. They decided to come up with a plan that evening.

Arts and Crafts

Joni’s day was so busy she almost forgot about the mystery. First, she learned to paddle a canoe. She wasn’t sure how to use the oar, but with some advice from Samir she got the hang of it. Next, they went to the arts and crafts cabin to sculpt animals out of clay. Joni tried to sculpt a cat, but she wound up with something closer to a slug. She was embarrassed until Maria held out her own misshapen blob of clay. They couldn’t help laughing.

Campfire Stories

After dinner, everyone gathered around the campfire. The director, Miss G, captured everyone’s attention with a spooky story. She told the tale of a strange creature known as the Buckley Beast that wandered the woods around Camp Buckley at night. Joni, Samir, and Maria shared a wide-eyed look. Could this Beast be the source of the mysterious sounds?

Hatching a Plan

After the story, the campers toasted marshmallows. The trio was lost in thought. Then Samir suggested they make a phone line between the cabins. That way they could call each other if they heard the noises again. “How?” asked Joni. “With two paper cups and a string!” he said. He drew their cabins in the dirt and a line from one window to the other. Sound would travel along the string between the cups.

The Thump Returns

With two paper cups from the dining hall, a long string, and some tape, the trio secretly made their phone line. Joni was so excited she thought she would be awake all night. But soon enough, she fell asleep. Thump. She jolted awake. She and Maria crept to the window. Pressing her ear to the cup, Joni heard Samir whisper, “Can you hear me?” “Yes!” said Joni. All three peered outside, but they didn’t see anything.

Joni to the Rescue

Another thump made the girls jump. This time, it was followed by a yell from outside. Their cabinmates stirred but didn’t wake up. Heart racing, Joni asked Samir if he’d heard it, but Samir didn’t answer. Oh no, she thought. What if the Beast got him? Afraid for her friend, she told Maria to wake their counselor. Then she grabbed her flashlight and ran outside.

A Shadowy Figure

Joni swung her flashlight around. She almost screamed when she saw someone appear. It was Samir! He told her he’d been worried when they stopped answering him, so he ran outside to see if they were okay. Suddenly, a low groan came from behind them. Samir and Joni screamed, turning to shine their flashlights on the shadowy figure.

The Beast Appears

It was Miss G! She sat in the dirt, and beneath her lay the broken phone line. As the other campers started to peer outside, Miss G asked, “Why is there a string running between the cabins? I just tripped!” At her side lay her hiking poles, the source of the thump. Embarrassed, Joni, Maria, and Samir followed her to the main office.

The Trio in Trouble

One long story later, Miss G shook her head at the troublemaking trio. Joni was humiliated. She was sure she would be sent home, just when she’d finally made some friends. Then Miss G admitted that the Buckley Beast was a scary story meant to keep the campers from sneaking out of the cabins at night. She should’ve known it would cause more trouble than it prevented! She made the trio promise to put safety before secrets. Then she sent them back to bed.

The Next Morning

The next morning, the three friends met in the cafeteria. They shared a look before dissolving in laughter. What a crazy night! Some of the kids teased them. Others admired their bravery for jumping into action when they thought their friends were in trouble. Joni was stunned. She’d never considered herself brave before.

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