Camp River

By Jack Samet, age 11
Camp River

“The time: 5:00 PM. And it was already pitch black outside. But I had multiple things to do. Get back to the cabin, get dressed, get to dinner on time, which was at 6:30, and then try to make an impression on Sophie, the girl I liked at the camp who was going to be dancing at 7:45. But I put all those worries aside and focused on the cool breeze. The air slapping my cheeks as I drove the motorboat.”

I could feel the motorboat all throughout me. The vibrations circulated throughout my chest and arms. It was actually kind of uncomfortable, frankly, but the feelings were scaled down from the experience of the motor boat gliding along the black, shining water of the lake. Slight sprinkles of water tread from the back of the boat sprinkled on my back, causing me to get wet. They say you’re supposed to stay two motorboats behind the driver in front of you, but sadly the ocean has the same deal as the Los Angeles freeways-some people just stop in the middle of a ride.

“Move up! Move up!” I scream every time someone stops dead in the middle of the ride. I use the wheel, which really isn’t that sturdy or accurate, to turn left and go around. When I looked around to the driver, it was a teenager with chocolate brown skin whose legs had given up on him, leaving him dead in the middle of the water.

“Goddamn,” I said, and drove right in front of him and kept on going. The time: 5:00 PM. And it was already pitch black outside. But I had multiple things to do. Get back to the cabin, get dressed, get to dinner on time, which was at 6:30, and then try to make an impression on Sophie, the girl I liked at the camp who was going to be dancing at 7:45. But I put all those worries aside and focused on the cool breeze. The air slapping my cheeks as I drove the motorboat.

Josie, a good friend of mine who also goes to this camp, was sleeping right next to me. She was all about this activity. She first drove the boat before we switched in mid-ocean, but the peaceful driving and the serenity of the black sky made her fall right asleep. She didn’t notice how much water was on her, on her brown hair and freckled face. She was also drooling, which added to the stream. But I just let her sleep and kept on driving the motor boat. Looking back behind me, I couldn’t really tell what was back and was ahead. Everything was as black as a dark pearl.

It was that minute later when two unexpected things happened.. The clouds in the sky, black but puffy and thick like cream for Belgian waffles at breakfast, started to rain. I just imagined water flowing from the cream on those waffles as the water poured onto my hair and Josie’s cheek. Thankfully, Josie and I brought hooded sweatshirts on the hike here. The hike to the boat station was intense, and painful. We were both barefoot and the ground was covered in rocks, so it was very painful to walk. And when we got to the station, the wind started to pick up, so we had these sweatshirts. So, I lifted my back off the seat and raised the hood above my head and started to feel splotches of rain clash with the fabric.

Then, I lifted Josie’s back off the seat and lifted the hood over her head. She woke up and screamed, which completely startled me.

“What the hell’s going on?” she asked, and her head turned towards me. “Alex?” Oh, that’s my name.

“I’m just lifting your hood over your head,” I said. “It just started raining. Chill out.” The boat kept gliding along until we heard the boat bump against a sunken buoy in the water.

“Aaah!” Josie exclaimed, but I tried to stay as calm as possible, but I still wondered what the hell just happened.

“Calm down.” I said. But then the boats ahead of us started to speed up, so I put more gas in the tank and the levels on the tiny speedometer started to increase and kept increasing until I was going maximum speed. I didn’t pick up that the boats ahead had turned left, so when I saw the buoy, I actually became a bit scared that we were going to crash into the object and the steel chains holding it across and have a part of the boat damaged. So, I made a sharp left and the boat tipped. None of us were prepared for it. The motor stopped and we both fell into the black, cold water. The taste of the water was disgusting in my mouth and I could feel the koi fish that swam beneath me glide gently against my stomach, but I made my way up into the water and Josie did as well.

“Are you okay?” I asked, still bewildered.

“I’m fine,” she replied. “It just scares the you-know-what out of me.” I couldn’t help but agree. With all our strength, we pushed the boat back up on the surface and made sure the motor was running. Thankfully, no water got in the sensitive parts. We tried activating the flashlight so we could make an effort of trying to find out where we were on the lake. Dammit, out of batteries. And we left our flashlights, which were pretty good, back at the boat station. There was nothing left we could do, so we figured we just drive the boat forward without any way of knowing if we were supposed to go that way, or turn back and head to the station, which seemed impossible because of the blackness. So, we progressed. When we started, the motorboat was a bit bumpy when trying to spew out the gasoline, which worried me every single time. Thankfully, the engine got all the water out and we were back on the water again. Even though I couldn’t see behind me, I kept on looking back if there were any signs of light.

It was 5:30 at this point and my body was just ready to give up and leave me and Josie stranded in the middle of a lake for the night. We had been driving the boat for an hour and it only took us half the time to get lost on a wrong turn. I mean, we could manage to drink some of the lake’s water, even though it was probably infested with marine feces, cuddle up with each other, and use our hooded sweatshirts for warmth. We could wait until the morning when there was light and have a better chance of navigating where we were and how to get back. The thing is, we didn’t have a compass, or even a phone’s compass for God’s sake, and if we slept overnight, the motorboat might float and we would end up in an entirely different location.

But at that very moment, the boat bumped over another sunken buoy, startling me, which seriously had the slimmest chances of happening again. I was afraid we were going to tip over and Josie, who had been trying to stay as calm as possible, let out a small shriek. I was even worried that we were going to tip over again. I pulled to an abrupt stop, just trying to process what had just happened. Then I heard a sound.

A loud scream seeped into my ear, and I thought the voice was screaming hey.

I shuffle Josie. “Did you hear that?” I ask. “Is it them?”

“Let’s find out.” Josie said. So, I put all the gas on the motorboat until it was speeding across the water. And it was them. When we got there, there was a small group of motorboats in a circle. We stopped just near them.

“Camp River?” I asked.

“Camp River,” someone said, but it was too dark to recognize them by face. “One of the kids here went a bit too fast, fast enough that you two were blown off track. And, on top of that, it was pitch black. Give me your names so I know who you are.”

“Alex and Josie.” I confirmed.

“Aaah, it’s Raymond,” he said. The instructor. “You wanna start heading back.”

“Yeah, but I got somewhere to be, so can we go as fast and as spread out as we need?”

“Sure thing,” Raymond said.

“By the way, do you have four nine-volt batteries on you?”

“Why?”

“Our boat’s flashlight rain out of power, and that was the one thing we needed to try and find our way back to you guys.”

“Sure.” Raymond took out a little bag he had kept stored near the gas pedal and pulled out four backup batteries. We pulled our boat a bit closer to him and he opened up the flashlight compartment, which was located in the front of the boat, and replaced the batteries with the new ones. The flashlight worked, and Raymond closed the compartment tight. So, I left the flashlight on and we were off once again into the black of night.

 

 * * *

 

To get to the start of the hike which leads to the motorboat station, you have to get through a forest. This forest takes one hour to walk through and 25 minutes to a half-hour by running. So after I leave Josie, I take off at maximum speed through the forest, trying to avoid as many rocks and bumps as I can, even though it is still pitch black. So, I use my flashlight. I just can’t sacrifice being late to this dinner party and not making an impression while dancing with Sophie.

I don’t care about bumps. Getting up after getting hurt and continuing along is a piece of my psyche. So, after the first two trips, I still keep running, even with the cuts, and start to see faint light coming from a distance, but I still am perplexed that I am not anywhere near this light. That doesn’t mean my feet have stopped, though. Pacing from left to right at an incredible but almost impossible tempo for an ectomorph. Trying to avoid any obstacles nature gives. Rocks and whatnot. This forest, unfortunately, has tons of narrow turns up every way, and with only a teensy bit of clear vision, it is a mind game getting through the trail.

The running becomes painful on my feet after twenty minutes. Josie is screaming now, at me, even though she is probably a mile behind me, and I can’t understand what’s she saying. But I assume she’s lost.

Girls’ camp was a ways away from boys’ camp. The directors didn’t want any hanky-panky. But soon, about after five minutes, I see that my watch says the horrific time of 6:15. Trees leaves sway from left to right in synchrony but frantically. My flashlight is dimming, and my vision is scaled down at night by the need of prescription glasses, which don’t really work at night, but I don’t give a damn. I don’t seem to trip over as many rocks because the rocks that are falling are little pebbles and are tumbling towards me. I don’t care. The wind blows in my face and blows my hair backwards, and my breathing increases.

I’m stressed but brisk, though my arms are going to give out. I feel the tension all throughout. I’m racing and pacing and my mind is going out of the place. Like an Ozzy Osbourne song. I instantly feel like I’m going to lose consciousness, like my mind is going to collapse all over the place and I’m going to fall out dead. Dead. With no sign of rescue for months. That can’t happen, but I’m going completely insane!

 

* * *

 

But I soon exclaim,“Thank God!” because my feet land on the familiar surface of the rocky path the boy cabins are located on. And when I find my cabin, I use the fifteen minutes to quickly take a hot shower and get dressed into nicer clothes. My clothes are wet, dirty, and scrappy. It’s still raining, and my shoes got covered in mud on the run in the forest. And this time around, since there are tons of boys in the cabin, I don’t feel weird being naked around them like I usually do, because I’m that guy.

Their questions protrude my brain and I’m probably not conscious enough to answer them. They’re asking where I’ve been, and what happened? But I don’t have time to answer their questions. In a snap, my dirty clothes are thrown in my over-stuffed dirty laundry bag. And I’m in a black T-shirt with a padded leather jacket and black jeans, and running the same running shoes I was wearing before, no matter the dirtiness. And then it’s all me.

 

  * * *

 

I’m famished from all the previous events, and it’s nice to be in the environment of the crowded tables, water jugs, and overhead music, and the lighting is just the icing on the cake. I’m still flabbergasted that I made it here on time. My watch is 6:32 PM, so I got swiftly on time. It was just a matter of time before the future events of my evening were determined just by probability. I know Sophie’s the girl of my dreams, and I just can’t stand not to be with her, and this is basically the only opportunity. She’s smart, she’s intelligent, she looks hella good, and she loves writing. I need to love somebody that has the same interests and career I mean, if there was any alternative option to spending time with her, it would have to be doing girly activities with the rest of her friends. But she wouldn’t pay any attention to me –– I would just be a third wheel. She’s going to be dancing… I’m going to be dancing. She’s going to be dancing. It would make sense that we dance together. I’ve met her before, and we’re friends. I’ve seen her signals before.

For dinner there are calzones, an option of either beef and cheese or just cheese. I get two, one of both option, and I’m so filled I can’t have dessert, which is the camp’s signature apple pie. I’m digging into my food like a barbarian, so hungry, until I feel a forceful pull on the back of my shirt. I turn around to see Josie, scraped up and arms crossed.

“What’s up?” I ask. “What happened?”

“You’re just really an asshole, Alex,” she said. “I was screaming your name a mile back in that forest. A tick bit me and left a sting that left me in agony. Oh, the human ––”

“You don’t need to be overdramatic,” I reply. “And your scream sounded distorted from where I was. How could I tell? I was running non-stop with nothing else in my mind deserving attention!”

“You hear my voice, you run to help me. Isn’t every guy supposed to do that with every chick?”

“If every guy was supposed to do that with every chick, you’d have a flock of guys around you. Maybe like two billion.” I said.

“You’re such a class act jerk,” Josie said. “Screw you.” And she stomped off into the depths of the dining hall. But I didn’t feel ashamed of myself. She wasn’t really my friend, anyway. Maybe she was my “friend.” Should I feel ashamed? I go back to eating dinner until one of the other boys, Lukas, taps my shoulder.

“What happened back there?” he asked, puzzled.

“Nothing you need to be involved with,” I said. “Just a situation with a friend of mine.”

“A girl?” he asks.

“Yeah. So?” I sassily reply.

“Treating girls like crap won’t get you anywhere here.” he said. Why should I listen to Lukas though? Sure, this isn’t his first year here, but what would he know about my particular situation?

“You’re right, but what does it matter here?” I ask. “This is summer camp, not behavioral school.”

“Well, why won’t you treat people with respect?” he asked. “You’re kind of being a jerk… you don’t want to respect people.”

“Who are you to call me a jerk?” I ask, angrily. “Shut up!” And he turns away and continues to eat, and when I turn to my right to see him, I can see some small tears swelling inside his eyes. He is probably known for being the most sensitive in the bunch, anyway. He has a tendency to get really emotional. What a wimp.

 

  * * *

At 7:30, the dining hall was dramatically different than what it was earlier. A silver, glittery disco ball was hanging from the middle of the ceiling, and there were tons of tables spread all across the room. There was another table with food and soda and a big dance floor in the smack center. In fact, there were already even people on it! And to the corner was a DJ spinning some music on an old-school turn-table, which was pretty cool, I have to admit. The music got louder and more people started to crowd onto the dance floor. There were so many people, in fact, mostly nobody could find their way around.

Luckily, I could see Sophie, in a pink dress, alone in the corner of the dance floor, dancing by herself. Now was the perfect opportunity. I dropped everything and walk to her, weaving in and out of the crowd. I finally made my way over to her. My heart started rapidly thumping, and sweat starts to pump. When I reached her, I held out my hand.

“Would you like to dance?” I said, not sure if I would regret it.

“No” she said, her face turning angry and disappointed, which definitely caused my heart to drop and made me regret the effort I put into running through the forest.

“But why?” I asked, with expectation for a good reason.

“My best friend told me that you weren’t being that nice,” she said, her face angry. “That’s not acceptable. Not in a million years I would dance with you.”

“Who is your friend?”

“Josie.” Shit.

“Oh…” I said, then when she turned her head, I turned off and ran, weaving in and out of the crowd, but then made my way out of the dining hall. When I was far in a corner behind the hall, where nobody could see me, and started to cry. Crying in disbelief, regret, and overall sadness. Why did this happen? Was it me? Why am I asking, of course it was. Girls don’t want to hang out with jerks. It’s all logic. It turns out that my actions really do affect the outcomes of situations. What have I done?

 

 * * *

Later that cold night, I hear a few footsteps and turn to see a kid of no recognition to me but older than me, walking towards me. The cold air brushes against my face. He told me that he had been informed of the situation, but what he said to me that night changed the rest of my life and the rest of the decisions I would make for the rest of my session. “Disrespect does not find you well at Camp River.”

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