You really shouldn’t be reading this absurd story, cause I think I should be locked away, but the more I ask people to lock me away, the more medication they give me and tell me to stay at home. Anyway, in case you are reading this at all, I’ll tell you all about this crazy summer and all the weird things that happened. I really don’t want to, but my dad thought it would be a great way for me to “exercise the healing process” or whatever… I’m sure my dad means well but he’s never been much of a helpful guy anyway, since he’s always so busy with his business, but the therapist he’s making me go to agrees with him (Mrs. Kelso, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you know everything in this that I’m going to say anyway, but whatever). I’m going to tell you all about it anyway, just in case some notes or transcripts or whatever get lost due to nuclear disaster or whatever. Hey, I don’t ever expect nuclear disaster but I know that sometimes they talk about it on the news so it never hurts to be prepared, right?
So I used to work at a camp for crippled children. If you can imagine a place in the woods where the rich well to-do adult types send their children to go have fun swimming in a lake, shooting with bow and arrows, and climbing walls; you can imagine the kind of place I mean. It was a crazy happy place, and things were pretty swell – it was the middle of the season and this was one of the only jobs I ever liked. Most camps like this were week-to-week things, where at the end of every week you shed some hot tears for the little lives you’ve attached your horrible heart to, and then they leave, back to their little summer selves… You feel bad for about a day, and do a lot of yard work or whatever to clean the camp back up and then a new batch of ruffians unload off the bus and you do it all over again. But the summer camp I worked at wasn’t a week-to-week camp; this was an all-summer camp. This was a place where the little tikes could form a friendship that lasted the rest of their silly lives. I mean, really, the name of the place, the size of the place, even what we had for dessert on Tuesdays doesn’t matter now; the whole thing was destroyed in a horrific lake accident. Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Ok. I’ll begin for real. Just for posterity and giggles: Camp Summerville was the name of the place. It was in the woods, near a lake, in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan where you could pay $35,500 to send your child for two months so you could go on your way gallivanting around the world in your private jet or whatever it is rich people do… But yeah. There we were. Oh. By “we” I mean, the camp staff and the children and the groundskeepers and the kitchen people and all of them… You know, regular people at a camp. So, I worked there as a counselor, if you have to know – Which I think you do have to know for this story to make sense – but anyway. It was around the fourth of July… No, yeah, it was the fourth, at the night time campfire. All the guys who ran the camp had called it “Jamboree” even though that name is trademarked by the Boys Scouts of America, and they could get into some serious trouble, but whatever, it was just a big sweaty fire at night where we all sang songs about friendship and coming to Jesus and laughed at all the stupid skits we did.
July 4th Jamboree – there we were, stealing Boy Scout trademarks and everything… The counselors had practiced their “Stand up America” skit the weekend before and it was set to a really powerful soundtrack by Ennio Morricone or Hans Zimmer or John Williams or one of those ubermasters. The song was: “Sing your song, true believer” and it didn’t fit with the “America” thing so much as it centered on faith, but whatever, I suppose patriotism and nationalism are sort of a by-product of Americana worship anyway, but what did I know? I was seventeen and full of gonadotrophic hormones dancing around my stupid seventeen year-old brain. Hell, I saw more boobies in bathing suits than should be legal in any state. But anyways, I was singing to Jesus, or the children, or the owls and bats that circled above us, eating wandering June-bugs… When I kinda felt it. “Sing your song, true believer, sing your song, don’t be scared!” Went the song, but in my heart It felt like black talons screeching on a chalk-board. Not the song… It was a really awesome song, but the feeling was weird. The feeling was off. Way off. I mean, who the hell feels something like that when you’re singing such a glad and happy tune? Not me. Well, I mean, it was really exactly me, but you know what I mean.
So in the skit, we’re all dressed up with the old red white and blue makeup and wearing cowboy hats and hardhats and all the other hats the Village People wore and are dressed as soldiers and businessmen and (obviously) cowboys and construction workers, and we sing and march around and then pivot at the very end and salute the flag. I wouldn’t really call it a skit, as it was more of mime-lock-step-marching, if your brain can imagine such a thing. And so Janice, the pretty Janice obviously, is supposed to walk in front of me and do a fake trust fall in the middle of the song, just to keep the action going. Well, you know Janice had on that top that I couldn’t keep my eyes off; her whole body was somehow patriotic enough to just be painted with a partial flag underneath a really spiffy bikini top. Super spiffy, and I almost dropped her when she did the trust fall, cause all I was watching were her two girls… Hey, they were nice girls. Just the right height from neck to belly button and anyways, I’m seventeen and had a mind of mud and was still a virgin so there was this feeling that I got right then and there, that the whole thing was really awful, and it had nothing to do with Janice.
Just a feeling, but like I said, it was like dark talons screeching on some dark chalkboard in the bellows of hell, or gates of hell. Classrooms of hell? Where would you keep a chalkboard in hell anyways? I can imagine the whole kosmokrator in their classrooms learning how to be little good demons and all saying the pledge of allegiance to Satan with a “Sieg Heil Satan” salute every morning. Maybe like Germans? Sorry German children everywhere, I don’t really want to compare you to demons, but I still remember the old films from when I was a little minion myself. Anyway, I almost dropped Janice right then and there and she wasn’t too happy with it all, but then again, I never told her about the German demons salute either, so I figured it would all be ok. Heck, if I did tell her about them, what kind of a guy would she think I was anyway? Some kind of crazy lunatic? Probably.
The feeling came and went as quickly as that, so there I was finishing up the whole patriotism thing on a sweaty stage with bats and owls eating mosquitos over my head and I had to salute some crazy flag dressed up like a modern day businessman. Oh yeah, but it was just a hat and a tie and my swim trunks. I was painted like a flag too. A flag saluting a flag on the fourth of July. You can’t get more demented than that, right? But I did, and we finished, and then we just stood there like fools while Chuck, the camps big shot owner who ran everything, came out and gave an altar call to be “righteous in the land” or somesuch. We were supposed to sit down, or go to our benches, but since I was the first towards the flag, I just stood there like a statue in full salute, even though I wasn’t even wearing any uniform. There was probably something illegal in the whole ordeal, I didn’t even have my Boy Scout totin’ chit in my wallet. Heck, I didn’t even have my wallet on me; I was in my swimming trunks.
Chuck was fervently talking about a guy named Nehemiah and the builders of some wall somewhere when Jake tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around. All of the other counselors had sat down. He was my bunk mate counselor and he waved his hand to say: “Get off the stage you moron.” I looked around and it was just me, saluting. How long had I been the only one on the stage saluting? Maybe ten years. Felt like it. I ducked down to the grins and looks of the other counselors and evil German demon children. Like some dumb balloon head, I went back to my seat with the couple of miniature humans who hadn’t gone forward in the America Jesus altar call to be a good upstanding citizen for their motherland. Fatherland? Whicheverland it was, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to have any part of their vaccinated calcified pineal gland mind programming… So I sat there and thought about it all.
It wasn’t anything crazy or anything like a brain aneurism or that kinda thing, believe me, I’d know if I had a brain aneurism or something, but it was the weirdest thing, like, imagine a window opens up into another dimension and you peer in on a woman and her family eating salad and they had a salmon on in the middle of the table and you can tell that the children don’t want to eat a crummy salad when they could be tucking into that big old fish. And the woman has on a yellow flower print dress and the guy has on some sort of corn-flower blue V-neck sweater vest and the children are all swell and the whole scene is 1953 Leave-it-to-Beaver and you can almost hear the laugh track and smell the salmon and then suddenly the window is slammed shut but then you got just the faintest whiff of Salmon and it drives you nuts. It was like that, this feeling. But it wasn’t Ward Cleaver and company, it was demons.
So that’s what I thought about on the way back, making the children brush their teeth and go to bed and quit talking and then I went out on the back porch to sit and stare at the moon. It was a super moon and Jake came outside and shot the breeze for a minute and then left me alone staring at the moon thinking about demons and chalkboards. I went to bed a little later, forgetting to brush my teeth, obviously because they tasted like Spanish Moss when I woke up but then again, we were going to eat breakfast in a little bit anyway so I popped my brush in my pocket as Jake and I and our nine 12 year old heathens marched down to the mess hall for waffles and gravy, cheesy grits, turkey bacon and a wide variety of sugary American cold breakfast cereals.
The way that summer counselors who have bunk children works is that they teach the classes during the day and then sometimes there’s other duties during the day. My first job was bunk inspector, so Tina (one of the girl counselors) and I walked around to all the cabins looking at how messy or dirty they were. There was a prize each week for the cleanest cabins and it always went to the girls. They would leave little candies and mints and sometimes cookies to bribe us, so I was always munching away. Jake and I never cared about our cabin and we usually won the last place which always meant a pie to the face, which was kind of fun so we just kept being last. Our little minions got into the swing of things too and we would make it messier on purpose. We came to our cabin and I said to skip it and Tina and I moved on, almost grateful that we didn’t have to go in. Well, I didn’t care. All the gratefulness was on her end. You could even smell the funk of our mess just by walking by. Chuck had talked to Jake and me about how messy we were and kinda got onto our cases, but he didn’t fire us, so it didn’t really matter, we still worked there, right?
And there was that crawling on the back of my neck right as we were coming to cabin #14, one of the girl’s cabins. I can’t remember who the counselors were for this one, but it wasn’t the girl I was with… It was the unique one… Oh yeah, Eunique was her name. Yeah. The one with the unique spelling of “unique” – Eunique, which really bugged me a lot, because obviously the joke was on her, someone else on the world would have thought to spell their daughter’s name the wrong way, making it more unique than “unique” which was just the opposite of unique, because any object, or spelling that was not in itself on its own accord, specifically one of a kind, was no longer unique. And that make me think of that crazy guy who wrote some intergalactic hitchhiking guide comedy series or something… I couldn’t remember his name but his characters… The guy who designed the fiords or Norway or something, his name was Slartibartfast. Now that was a unique name, because I had never met one of those guys before, I would remember it. Wait a minute. Dang. Now that there was a guy who wrote about that name, would someone else write it too? Yeah, probably some dumb nerd would name his dog that name and it would no longer be unique. What a shame for that dumb dog named Slartibartfast.
They left us Watermelon Jolly Ranchers in #14 and a sense of overwhelming dread. There was this really big black banner hung from the ceiling that read: “42 is the name of his reign” written all in this crazy red ink. And all around the cabin, the little girls had made construction paper signs in black that looked like little shields and crowns and all in black with a big red “42” on all of them. It was kinda weird but when I saw the word 42 I think that’s what clued me into the whole hitchhiker’s book thing, cause I think that was in the book too. I shuddered cause I was suddenly super cold and tripped out by all of this creepy nonsense, but Tina told me to quit being stupid, but with three Jolly Ranchers in my mouth, I just shrugged. Cabin #14 was the winner that day, but we couldn’t tell anyone about it, and it was time for second period anyway. I had to teach beginner’s swimming. I think I got stuck with the crap jobs because I was the least helpful or least experienced person there. I was seventeen but all I had done in the past was scoop ice-cream as a job… Oh sure, I had gone to a camp as a child in the middle of the Kansas desert and shoveled horse poop from the stalls and done some babysitting, but I don’t think that qualified me to teach the rock climbing wall, or the high altitude ropes course. I got to teach beginner’s swimming.
That was fine. We had eight or nine children in the class, and since this was week five, all of them were doing alright, except for Melissa. There was the other instructor, Emily, and she spent a lot of time with Melissa, but I think it was sort of a codependent thing, because Melissa wouldn’t come in the water unless Emily was with her. Melissa had some sort of Muscular Sclerosis and had almost drowned as a baby when her rat-hole dad forced her to swim. So now it was me and the other eight little chimpanzees, splashing around on paddleboards and learning how to float and it was really crazy boring. And even though it was ten in the morning, I still got the feeling that some sort of inky monster would crawl out of the drain and grab my leg and drag me under. Nothing to bother the children about but, you know… Inky monsters who grab your legs should always be guarded against.
Since there was only beginner’s class, and the next class was regular swimming, we hustled the beginner children out while the second period started. All goons, they did their thing, while I blew my whistle at runners and chicken fighters. Man was I jealous, sitting in my chair watching these little monsters having all the fun. But before I knew it, it was first break, and we all hustled out of there and ran to the snack shack for our sugar rush of the morning. I didn’t have to work it today so that gave me some time to sit around and sponsor the push-up contest for the macho boys. Since I was pretty good at them myself, I would go first and set the standard for the rest of the little body-builder wannabes. All the boys were either having a go at it or looking on. And these were children with muscle diseases and all sorts of stuff wrong with them. One of the boys, as healthy as an ox, but blind as a bat, usually won. I forget his name, but he had that sort of strength that sloths have. He wasn’t mentally challenged or anything, but his strength was nuts. He would always do three more than me, and jump up and down after with his hands in the air, like he had just won a prize fight. Little monster.
I didn’t have any problems the rest of the morning until lunch, all of the counselors were allowed “down time” in their day to “prepare and rest” and weird words like that. Heck, I’m some random teenager taking care of your crippled children, so it looks great on a brochure to tell the rich folk their counselors are cognizant and aware of their own perceived reality and gravity of the situation and how serious it all is to everyone that Melissa can do the backstroke. Sure, whatever sells the place I suppose. I went to the bunkhouse and took a nap until lunch. But I didn’t nap at all. I just lay on some random bunk looking up at the one above me. See, they were all these bunkbeds, so you could cram all 8 little monsters in one bunkhouse and give them the feeling that the ones who couldn’t climb didn’t need to. Since there were 8 sets, most of the top ones weren’t used. We had one little dude, Gilroy, who was weirdly afraid of sleeping too close to the floor and he was the only top bunker, except me. I was on the top on the other side of the room, and the way I faced, all I could see was the forest and the lake. But I lay on one of the other beds right now, just thinking about that feeling and also about the ink monster in the pool.
I didn’t want to think about either one, but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, so that’s what I did, my crazy brain drifting away to some weird place when someone opened the door and scared the poop right out of me. I wiped my lip from a long string of drool and realized that I must have been asleep. One of the other guy counselors told me that I was late to lunch and that I was doing the cleanup call so I’d better hurry.
The cleanup caller was the unfortunate soul who had the duty to weigh the pig bucket and challenge the little cretins that food wasted was their fault and that we were feeding pigs their food and that they should feel some overwhelming sense of shame and disgust at themselves for allowing the food to go to waste. Now that really got my blood boiling because I knew full well that we fed the pigs anyway, no matter what the children did or did not eat. See, it was served “family style” from the kitchen. One poor soul from each cabin’s dinner table was set as a “runner” and went to the kitchen to grab the food on a big tray and serve the table. The food from the tray wasn’t counted, but when it hit the child’s plate, then they had to eat it or it would go to waste. But that didn’t matter because the kitchen cooked the same amount of food, no matter what happened at the table or not… So it was a huge hypocrisy game. A shell game of guilt and confusion set onto the children by the evil overlord Chuck, and his horde (board) of directors.
So I hustled over to the dining hall, grabbed a quick bite of some soup and jumped up to the microphone and proceeded to go thru what they all knew already, that the runner chosen for the day would be the one scooping up the slop and putting it in the bucket, and that at the end of the meal all the plates went in one of the large gray bus tubs and bowls in another. I have no idea why they called them bus tubs or what even bussing a table meant, but that’s the jargon that they all used, so I went with it, because “cleaning” sounds pretty awful. So then I pick one random slob from a table to grab the bucket and bring it to the front and weigh it. Well Agnus is the poor fool I chose, because of that awful shirt he wore about how then Scottish Highlands are more important than anything else and here it was, July the 5th and he couldn’t find a better shirt to wear than to beat up on the old U. S. of A.
We were at a pound and a half of slop that lunch, and it was all fine and good for them because we beat our old record of a pound and three quarters and I made a big deal of it all and that was lunch and I had to go shovel horse poop… The same job I had as a little rancher, so many years ago now… Man, was it ten years ago? I guess that’s all I was good for, ten years ago was shoveling. “Ranch Hand” they called it, but I never touched the horses, except to help people on and off anyway. It was grooming day so no one was riding, and I helped hold the bridle so they could all take turns brushing the horse. One of the demons brushing a tame old mare named “Rosey” was really giving it a go and trying to make Rosey bald on her left gaskin. That’s the left back forearm… Don’t ask me why they get “arm” from anything, it’s not like a horse builds their own fences, with four legs and all… But Rosey was getting a little annoyed so I had to show the little terrorist how to be gentle. Marcia, the main horse lady was there and stepped in as well. Being gentle was Marcia’s specialty. The horses loved her and knew her and she was pretty cute, for an old lady.
So two periods of that and it was second snack shack time where cold water was the drink of choice for me. None of that sugar stuff now, not in the heat. It would make me wooze out and feel all crumbly. Then off to rest period, which was a joke, because after snack shack #2, the monkeys were bouncing off the walls, throwing flashlights across the room, batteries flying everywhere, but pretty soon, they crashed out and were sleeping and I went to the back deck to get away from it all. I didn’t get very far because Jake wanted to talk about Tina so I just left and told him I would meet him at all-camp games, which was directly after rest period, in around an hour. All-Camp Games was a pretty cool invention of somebody a long time ago where we would have sort of a miniature Olympics and we did it every other week or so, whenever we ran out of other stuff to do. That’s the thing about camp… You never have can have too much planned, because you never know about emergencies and stuff like that.
But it seemed like an eternity as I walked along the lake, thinking about the evil forces at work in my imagination, or maybe, in reality. What in the holy heckfire had I seen or glimpsed or felt during the sketch? What in the world was it? Maybe it was just in my imagination. Anyway, the lake was calm as usual. The geese who had infested the back corner had been driven off by old Crusty, the lake-keeper. He was a mean old sod and didn’t allow himself to get any guff from any of us counselors or even from Chuck. His family was the original owners of the place, some crazy old Catholic thing – Knights of Malta or something like that, and I guess had a crazy long lease to the camp for a hundred years or something. I guess the old place used to be some sort of retreat for the old Knights, which I didn’t really think they were, by the way… I mean, were they really walking around here in shining armor and all that King Arthur stuff anyways? So old Crusty would be out there, with his little boat, dumping weird stuff from barrels into it, and people left him alone. Right before camp started, he had a bunch of dudes out there, dredging up a lot of the moss and slime and goo that hung out on the bottom. It was really zany to watch, he would yell and scream and bicker about the drainage lines and the sacred cairn cap at the bottom. That’s all I know… Those were words he used, not that I knew anything about sacred cairn caps at the bottom of lakes or anything. But he was dang sure to yell at everyone working for him to let them know about that dang old whatever it was.
And now there he was hollering at something in the water and pulled out a big old bronze rifle and shot at it. What in the world was he thinking shooting the water like that? But he was cursing, standing up in that little blue rowboat with all the herons flying like crazed maniacs getting the heck out of there because Old Crusty was shooting stuff again. Bang, another shot into the water and he was standing up like a professional surfer going at it with the big waves of Hawaii or something. Bang, shooting it again and cussing up such a storm, reloading his gun after two more bangs. That mean old rifle just waited, barrel smoking until he popped in another five shots into the little magazine and he went after it cussing with each shot.
The even more bizarre thing was that cabin #14 was glowing like some sort of a Halloween carnival furnace. And the fact that Eunique was standing out on the porch with her arms raised and there were little flashes of lightning dancing from her fingertips, didn’t help lower the bar any. I didn’t even have time to think about it as Old Crusty was still doing the jig on the little boat right in front of me. Dodging left and right he sat down quick and rowed a little over passed the middle and stood up again and took another shot. This was in the space of, oh, who knows, maybe three minutes, but it might as well have been a hundred years, cause by this time, all the children and counselors were out on the back decks looking down at the water and at Old Crusty, loading the rifle again. Boom! The loudspeaker crackled on and Chuck told everyone to go back inside. A couple of the girls’ bunks did, but all the boys’ bunks were getting a show. From where they were looking, they saw the lake, Old Crusty, and me, on the other side, just eyeballing the scene like madmen.
Chuck came gunning down the little road towards me in his blue golf-cart. That little thing was faster than the other golf carts at camp; it had some real pick-up-and-go to it. Dang. The golf cart I used could only go half that speed, man was he flying, and now he’s all yelling at me and stuff to go back inside. No wait, now he’s yelling at me to get on the cart with him while Old Crusty fires off another volley into the abyss. There’s a huge splash and dang Crusty wasn’t there anymore. There was a huge kersplosh and Chuck slams on the brakes causing the cart to skid out on the asphalt and almost hit me. We both look out at the lake and see a huge purple vine growing over Old Crusty’s little boat and there’s another vine and then the boat snaps in half and then there’s no more boat.
Crazy Chuck is also packing, as weird as it sounds, and it’s a “Come-to-Jesus” moment for purple vine thing, as it inches under the water like a Sturgeon on a mission. Maybe a Walleye. Those suckers can get pretty big. Oh a catfish can get bigger, but they always just hang out on the bottom looking for free stuff. A nasty Sturgeon can take you down if you’re not ready. And that’s what it looked like, until this gigantic head pushed out from the middle of the lake, and I swear on my Aunt Tiffany’s China set, it was some crazy huge cat. But by then it was too late for Chuck, cause he fired at the thing six times but nothing happened, except poor Chuck’s eyes were as big as saucers when last I saw them, being sucked underwater by those vine things. And then that’s when I hopped into the golf cart and boogied away like a madman.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my toothbrush when she began honking. I don’t remember walking, but I guess I must have been doing so for a while because the lady in the red pickup was yelling at me to get out of the road. I don’t know where the golf-cart was, or even where I was, but that was ok because I wasn’t near camp any more. Man, when one of those purple vines looked at me sideways, I didn’t want to stick around to say hello. I guess Old Crusty didn’t say hello too nicely or even Chuck but the lady in the red truck was nice to me and took me to town. I called my parents and told them to come pick me up because I didn’t want to be a camp counselor anymore.
Pauly Hart is a public speaker, actor, painter, singer, poet, and story-teller. His main focus today is writing. His latest works have involved novellas in the vein of “Classical Horror” from the Christ-centered world-view. The Horror story is the story where the character has to survive until the end. What better chance for survival than in Christ? Pauly writes not for the churchy types, but for those who would pick up a Stephen King book, giving them an alternative to the spirits. Pauly writes so that the Holy Spirit will have room made for him in modern day literature. He runs several websites all bent on leaving the mind of the atheist awash with the glory of heaven. You can find him at PaulyHart.com