Sunday, 16 October 2011

44) Camp Story

    “So, dear, how was camp?” His mom said. The truck jostled on the rough road as they slowly made their way away from camp Antawabe.
    “It was okay.” He said. The last fourteen days flashed in his head, new friends, new enemies, fire and stars, laughter and tears.
    They sat in silence as the country road turned into a paved one lane highway.
    “Well… what did you do?” She said, easily keeping the frustration out of her voice, an expert at the teeth pulling conversational dance she had to put up with to get him to open up and share anything more than a few grunts these days.
    “Well you know there’s a big orchard, apples, yeah. We put on a play in there. That was cool!” He said, brightening up. The nausea from the rough road had passed and he felt a little better.
    “What was the play?”
    “It was a scary one called ‘The Gold Bug’. Well, it wasn’t that scary. I mean we kinda hammed it up, you know?” The first time he’d read through it he had been scared, even more so by the other stories in that book, ‘The Tale Tell Heart’ and especially ‘The Mask of the Red Death’. Sleep had come thin and weak that night.
    “What part did you play in it?” She remembered the story vaguely from a College creative writing class. Something about treasure and codes, but nothing about it being scary, boring if anything.
    “I played Jupiter, the slave. It was kinda funny. Being the only black, or at least darker skinned kid in the camp I was a shoe-in.”
    “How funny?” She remembered a day in class when a militant black girl had stood up and argued with the professor about rights and colonialism. It had gotten heated.
    “They had me play dumb all the time, like not knowing what was going on or knowing my left from right. But it was fun. I didn’t have a lot of lines to learn and I could leave practice early.”
    The came to a stop sign and waited for traffic to thin out before getting on the interstate.
    “Cool, what about sports? Did you ride horses or learn to make a fire?” The brochure had guaranteed sports, fitness, education, and all in a natural surrounding. Not much different than the camp she and her siblings had been carted off to when they were kids. And now she knew why. The kid-less vacation for three weeks for her and Jim and the exposure to novelty for him, the lifetime of memories, was worth several grand.
    “I got to shoot a bow and arrow. That was cool.” He remembered the strong smell of straw in the afternoon sunlight, the light tang of mold and horse manure.
    “Did you get a bull’s eye?” She giggled a little recalling her own archery experience. Tal, lanky and awkward, but with that bow in her hand something had felt right. And even with the warped arrows and plastic bow she’d done far better than anyone else, hitting the red circle in the middle more than half of the time. For a second or two her fingers itched on the steering wheel to hold that supple bow again. She thought that maybe there must be an archery club in town. Maybe they could go later.
    “Nah, I wasn’t a very good shot. What I really liked was the fire class.”
    “Oh?” She said, a little too enthusiastically, she thought, to cover her momentary disappointment. But she realized he’d never catch it.
    “Yeah, we had a little bit of fluffy wood bark then a stick and a bow, that’s why I thought of it after I told you about the archery. And, and a pointed stick that we’d spin around on this other block of wood. Ha! I was totally the first one to get mine going. It was complicated ‘cause you had to hold down the other block of wood on top of the spindle.”
    He mimed the repetitive motion of moving the bow back and forth. Out of the corner of her eye it looked a little too suggestive to her.
    “Oh, mom, mom, mom, I made you something in shop class.” His voice rose up an octave and her heart skipped a beat. With all the adolescent grim and sulk she’d missed his naive enthusiasm.
    “What’s it?” She said, smiling.
    “Here!” He pulled out something hand sized from his back pack.
    “I’m sorry, I can’t see it right now, gimme a second.” She checked her blind spots and pulled over to the slow lane. An exit quickly came up and she took the turn. They stopped at the stop sign and she turned to her son who was holding up his creation.
    “Oh, dear, it’s gorgeous!” She took the shooting star from his hands. Layered in several bright colors of transparent plastic, some with glittering pieces, it was the most beautiful thing she’d seen in a long time. “Is that for me?”
    “Of course, mom!”
    She leaned over and hugged her little man.
    A semi truck with a sleeping driver launched off the highway, landed on their car and killed them instantly.

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