20. Ideal Form

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"Come here, Wyn. I'll show you how to engineer a campfire."

"It's not dark yet."

"Won't be dark until eight. It's already getting cold."

Wynter dutifully sat beside Jesse and his pile of wood and kindling, while Indio finished putting up the second tent.

They'd already gone for a long walk to fill the afternoon, returning to the truck when they got hungry. Indio had chosen a site nearer the river than Caleb would've picked—Caleb wasn't here, so why not do things a little differently? A handful of trees separated them from the riverbank twenty yards away, and the site was small, intended for only a single tent, but they'd managed to pitch one on each side of the fire by wedging the truck between two trees.

Wynter was telling Jesse he was doing it wrong. Indio smiled to himself and stayed quiet as he fetched the icebox and cooking utensils from the truck. Camping was a favorite summer activity for him, even those years with Harry. Harry favored remote sites and this limited his access to alcohol—once he got through whatever he brought with him, he was stuck sober. And he was more relaxed in the first place, easier to be around.

Once Caleb could drive, Harry stopped coming with them. Despite the underlying tension whenever Indio had to share space with Caleb, he had nothing but good memories of those times. Sure, Caleb had his own way of putting up the tents and making the fire, but when they were out in the wilderness with no adult supervision it was a collaborative effort, and Caleb recognized Indio knew almost as much as he did. He wasn't nearly so overbearing.

"You're supposed to make a teepee," Wynter said. "Caleb showed me how to do this last time."

"Caleb does a teepee. I do Lincoln Logs. Looks like a burning building when it's lit. Very cool."

"I have an idea. Let's build it like a Lego house! With little windows, and a roof made from the twigs."

Jesse nudged her hand away from his engineering project. "Kindling goes in the middle, not on top. And you have to have airflow. Please pay attention."

Somehow the fire got built to Jesse's satisfaction. They cooked their meal—kebabs on metal skewers—which as always tasted better than anything from home. Wynter went into her tent to search for her sweater, and Jesse fiddled with the playlist on his phone and started up some new music.

"You think it'd be okay if we walked off for a joint?" Jesse said.

"Okay with who—Caleb or Wynter?"

"Whom, Indio. Okay with whom."

"I'm taking a break from grammar, dipshit. You need my permission to smoke?"

"Yeah, kinda."

Indio gave a shrug to say he didn't care, and Jesse went to the truck.

Wynter stuck her head out of the tent. "Is my sweater in there?" she called after him.

Jesse rummaged around for a minute. "Can't find it."

"Oh, wait, I think I left it on the couch at home so I wouldn't forget it." Wynter twisted her mouth in that cute way she had. She came out and gathered up the dirty dishes.

Jesse brought her a blanket instead, and Indio tossed wood on the fire, which caused Jesse some consternation.

"We're gonna walk down to the river to smoke, okay?" Jesse said, using a stick to push a log one inch to the right.

"That's not legal in a national park."

He chuckled. "Just call out if you need us—we'll hear you."

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