"But Mr. Phillips?" Stevie held up his own compass, a birthday present from his parents. "I think -- "
"Bob," the scoutmaster replied, still wearing the little smile he'd had on for almost this entire trip. "Call me Bob, sport, remember?"
"Um. Bob." Stevie looked again at his compass. "I think actually camp is south of here."
"What, sport?" the scoutmaster smiled. "Let me see that." He snatched the compass away and glanced at it briefly. "Nope, you're mistaken." The compass disappeared into his pocket.
"Hey -- " Stevie cried.
"Your compass must be broken, sport," Phillips replied cheerily. "Come on, boys! We've got maybe an hour before we get back to camp, so let's keep at it!"
"He said that an hour ago," Jed muttered, and several of the other boys nodded. None of them had any idea where they were, though -- especially now that Stevie's compass was gone -- so they pushed on.
Their usual scoutmaster was Kevin Lee's dad, a wisecracking used-car salesman who they all deeply admired for his ready willingness to use the word "fuck". Mr. Lee had gotten sick right before the camping trip, but rather than calling the whole thing off (thereby crushing the months-long dreams of a dozen ten-year-old boys), somehow a substitute scoutmaster had been procured. Nobody was sure how that had worked -- Kevin said he thought maybe his dad had asked around some of the other troops in the area -- but they did know that when they'd arrived at the state park Saturday morning, a cheerfully smiling stranger had been waiting for them. The smiling stranger had greeted them all, introduced himself as "Bob Phillips -- just call me Bob", chatted with their parents; then he had gathered up the boys and led them all into the woods. They'd quickly set up their tents at the campsite, and then "Bob" had announced that it was time for a hike.
Now it was Saturday night coming on, and they had been walking in what felt like circles for a couple of hours.
"'Just a little farther, boys,'" Matt said from his place near the back of the troop, mocking the scoutmaster's voice and constant smile. "'I got no idea where I am, but I figure you're too stupid to know that, so I'll just keep saying that it's -- '"
"Just a bit more now, boys," the scoutmaster's voice floated back to them. "The place we're going is just... over... this hill."
Kevin and Matt looked at each other. "The place we're going?" Kevin asked. "Weren't we heading back to the campsite?" Matt shrugged uneasily, looking up at the sky. It was nearly dark in the forest by now.
By the time "Bob" led them into a clearing and announced that they had reached their destination, most of the boys were too exhausted to argue. They all set to work putting down their sleeping bags, except for Wally, who had left his in his tent back at the campsite; Wally limped over to the scoutmaster, explaining the problem and trying his tired ten-year-old best not to cry.
The scoutmaster's calm little smile never faltered as he put a heavy arm around the boy's shoulders. "That's all right, sport," he replied cheerfully. "You can bunk with me."