Double Jump

double-jump

“I see nobody on the road,” said Alice.

“I only wish I had such eyes,” the King remarked in a fretful tone, “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!”

I started playing video games the minute I got my first game cube. I was eight-years-old and I loved it. It was a cube by Nintendo that had little play disks. The next summer when I got home from summer camp my dad bought me a PS2. I played the mondo out of it. It was a great system.

There are kids today who still play game cubes and PS2s.

I never stopped playing video games, but I didn’t play them much for a while, which was the summer I was eleven-years-old. I got a used xBox when I was ten-years-old, but went back to my PS2. I didn’t like the xBox, at first. Then, two years ago, I got a new xBox. Now I only play it.

It’s a Limited Edition Controller. It’s better different state-of–the-art, with lights on the side, and the triggers are a new style. They light up green. There are tactical set-ups, using different buttons, and it’s complex overall. There are many different ways to play.

You can either play the tower or you can play on-line, although it costs money to play on-line. Play Station 3 lets you play for free, but the connection to the game is not good. It’s not bad, but it’s not great, either. You have to pay to play xBox 360, but it’s reasonable, and it’s definitely worth it, since they have more dedicated servers.

I play a lot of guys and sometimes even a few girls. We talk to each other on our headsets. But, I broke mine, so I had to get my dad to buy me a new one. You can talk to your friends while you’re playing laugh have a good time. You can play seriously, too, telling everybody, hey, there’s a guy here, come and get him!

Some guys take video games too seriously. “The world outside burns through skin,” they say. But, then they take it too far. Whenever a new game comes out they have trouble in school. They don’t necessarily get F’s, but their grades start to sink fast, because they’ve gotten addicted.

That’s never a good thing and why it’s not cool to play video games all the time.

There are some guys who play every day, start playing the minute they home from school, and stay up late on school nights. They play just about any chance they get. They even skip their crappy part-time slavery jobs so they can get on their consoles.

My ex-friend-to-be Mario at St. Mel’s plays video games all the time, which is basically any chance he gets. He’s chunky and doesn’t play any sports. “It’s the only thing that’s fun to do anymore,” he said. He doesn’t get good grades. He has a C- in my science class and it’s definitely because of video games.

You get addicted to them and you don’t even know it’s happening. All you can think about is playing. You think, I just want to play this. Then you play it all night. The next morning you wake up, shake it off, and go to school. Then when you look at your planner, oh, my God! I had all this homework and I forgot to do any of it!

Even if it happens only four times for only one quarter for only every class, that’s four homework assignments, which are usually ten points. That’s forty points off your grade. It adds up fast to a butt load of bad grades.

Our teachers don’t know what’s happening, or if they’re deluded and think they know, they don’t actually know. No one ever tells their teachers they’re failing because they play video games. “I’m just having trouble,” is what everybody says. Nobody says I’ve been playing video games all the time and didn’t write out any of my notes.

It’s not just video games, though.

CJ is in my history class and sits in front of me. He’s a good artist and all day long he draws pictures of basketball and football players because he’s gay. We take notes every day and I have at least a twenty-five-page book filled back to front, but he doesn’t take any notes, at all. Taking notes is a big thing in our classes. I started taking them and it helped me super immensely. It showed on my grades.

“CJ, what are you doing?”

“Dude, shut up,” he says.

Cartooning isn’t video games, but it’s the same thing.

I study my notes at home every day, which is something you just have to do. If I didn’t my time would be gone up in smoke playing video games. I would have a test the next day and fail it.

You can’t just get on your console and think you will be in control. Everyone thinks they have board control, but it’s usually the other way around. Your parents will know. If I sat at home every day after school and played Call of Duty, when my step mom got home she would notice, and there would be trouble. When my dad prints out my grades and I have a D he would know it wasn’t because I didn’t understand things, but that I was playing video games every day after school.

I don’t have dibs on many parents playing video games. Some of the on-line commentators are probably parents, because they’re old, or at least older. But, they make money off of it. They have a boat load of subscribers on YouTube. They don’t care. They’re rich as dictators.

The very oldest adults playing are probably twenty-five. They’re mostly guys on their headsets, sitting at home, who don’t have a job. You rarely see girls playing. It’s not for them. They don’t have what it takes, not really. They’re better at dating sims than doming.

Adults always say video games are bad for you. That’s what they say about techno music, too. What do they know? My grandmother says the screen will weaken my eyesight. Now it’s all about video games will make you violent. I don’t know about that. Everybody knows murder in real life is illegal.

The one thing I know is spending all night at a console will get you girlfriendless. I love video games, but sometimes you need to get up and do something. Otherwise you start to grow a sofa butt.

Almost everybody plays video games, although some guys aren’t allowed to play some of the games. But, if you’re a smart parent, and your son likes playing video, you should let them. That’s how they connect to people. That’s definitely how I connect to many of my friends. If they didn’t play the same video games as me then we wouldn’t be friends. But we do, and when we became friends, we notice we have many other things in common, too.

Video games are all about reflexes and aiming. That’s it in a nutshell. You have to have good reflexes or you’re sunk. You MUST be able to RUSH and RUSH DOWN There are different maps everyone plays, so knowing the maps is a huge part of it, too. If you know the maps you know where people are going to be and can strike fast.

Staying focused is important. When you’re playing on a twitch you have to control your emotions. Some people get ticked off and that affects their play. When you’re angry you don’t play as well. You end up running around trying to kill that one person who’s hiding in that one spot. You’re so crazed about it that you can’t see anything. They can see you, but you can’t see them, and they’ll see you first time every time and shoot you.

It’s better to control other people’s emotions. That’s best and better. It’s a better plan to make them angry than to be a madman yourself. Every time you play video games it’s a first-person experience. Only you can torch it.

Killing other people is fun, especially doing it with friends, and other people who might be friends. They’re all around the world and talking to them about it afterwards is fun, too.

When you play on-line there are game modes, like free-for-all, which is where you’re by yourself against everybody else. There’s also death team match, which is where you’re on a team killing other teams. Whatever way you play, whoever gets to a certain number of points wins. In the end, it’s all about wiping.

There’s domination, which is like capture the flag. There’s sabotage, which is where you have to find a case, unlock it, and type a code in. There’s demolition, too, which is a search-and destroy game. There are just a boat load of different games.

The idea is to prestige it. As you do that you get different guns better guns bigger guns more guns. You get SMG’s, assault rifles, and grenade launchers. There are no cannons, but rocket launchers, yes. You get more bullets for your magazine, higher power, and more accuracy. There’s just a butt load of better everything because you’re on a higher level.

Video games are a great way to connect with other people in the world. Even if it’s just your friends at home it’s all good. In the winter you’re not going to go outside for three hours straight. You can stay inside, relax, and play some video games. It can be an icebreaker if your friends are new friends.

War games are the biggest attraction, DEFINITELY. Massively multi-player on-line role-playing games are tremendous. It’s all about first person shooting and killing. But, it’s not JUST shmup and bleeding all over the place. When you get shot, because it’s from a first person view the screen gets a little bloody, but it’s not like blood spurting out of your arteries.

Back in the day I loved fantasy role-playing games. You’d become a character, start at a low level, and grow your parts. I fought monsters and won better armor. I used to play those all the time, but I quit. The last one I played you could tell it was going all to crap, so what was the point?

Guys who are good at video games are different than other people. They don’t say they’re better than you, but when they’re playing, and they’re better, you just know they’re GODS. If you go back and watch their games in theater mode you can see that how they play is much, much different than everyone else. They don’t run around all crazy. They’re cold-blooded and calculating. When I started I sucked. But, after a month of playing I got into a rhythm. I could do what I wanted on the maps and I thought that one day I could be a GOD, too.

Guys who don’t play video games act like you’re stupid if you do. They’ll act superior by saying their parents won’t let them. They act just like their crappy parents, all serious and smug. My dad understands that I’m not going to run out on the street and really kill people because I play war games. We all know it’s just a game.

If I was on my xBox every day – not that playing every day is bad, although it can be a bad thing if you play too much – my dad would probably not like it if he found out, but I think he knows I’m responsible about it.

Some parents are probably scared of their kids being introduced to violence. They say it’s INAPPROPRIATE. They think it’s bad to play any games with guns. I don’t know of any other reason they would be scared. They don’t like violence, shooting, and a butt load of gore. I’ve heard parents believe a guy played Call of Duty and afterwards went out and murdered a girl. It doesn’t matter even if it happened. I don’t think that should be a reason for not playing.

You can’t say, oh, my God! VIDEO GAMES ARE EVIL! Playing a video game doesn’t make anyone get a real gun and shoot a girl or a random dude on the street. That doesn’t pertain to playing Call of Duty. A lot of adults try to pull that stupid argument, but they’re only being stupid. Sometimes video games are just scapegoats for crappy parents. The only bad thing video games can do for sure is get you bad grades in school. Some guys take it too far, quit their jobs, and literally play games all day. That is truly stupid. But, it’s a personal problem. It’s not a bad thing if it’s personal.

Video games are a way to feel good about yourself. If you get made fun of at school, and people don’t respect you, playing video games is a way to get away. It makes you feel good, and important, like you can do anything. It makes anyone feel like they can take on the world.

It was a big day when Modern Warfare Call of Duty 3 came out. I had my AC130, which is my gunship, and I got on a kill streak. I was literally mowing guys down, making them spawn tracks, just mowing them down with my gunship. WHOA! You feel big and bad, like those jerks at school don’t have anything on you, just for the little bit of time that you’re playing. You always have to go back to real life, of course, but you can return to the game later and feel good again.

Video games are ridiculously popular, although some guys say it’s all a waste of time. “I can do so much more, so many better things,” they say.

They might be a waste of time, but it’s fun to lay back, relax, and not take it too seriously. I don’t know what those guys do instead of playing video games. I never ask. They just say it’s a waste of time. They were probably raised that way. Some of them get angry about it.

“What’s the big deal, dude?” I ask them.

“Who cares? You?” they say.

“Dude, you’re a tard,” CJ told one of the haters, even though CJ doesn’t even play video games. “If you like the games, that’s cool, if you don’t, you don’t have to say they’re stupid and a waste of time.”

Some adults think video games are fine. They don’t care too much. The real geezers don’t care at all because they’re beyond caring. Many adults are sulky about them, bitter, and kind of angry. But, I hope they’re not against them, in general. Everybody should know something about video games. You shouldn’t say they suck. That’s useless talk, that’s all, just comments in the comments section that nobody cares about.

Bull in the Ring

 bull

When his eye happened to fall upon Alice, he turned round rather instantly, and stood for some time looking at her with an air of the deepest disgust.

“What – is – this?” he said at last.

“This is a child!” Haigha replied eagerly.

“I always thought they were fabulous monsters!” said the Unicorn. “Is it alive?”

“It can talk,” said Haigha, solemnly.

My big bother so-called brother Jack thinks he’s an expert marksman. He tells everybody that he is, and he’s going to join the Army next year to be a weapons maintenance man, but expert marksman? He’s definitely not that.

He’s definitely not my brother, either. Halfway is as far as it goes, in all ways.

We have guns, which are mostly his, and he’s a good shot, but he’s never been in a real competition. I’ve gone shooting with him and he’s shown me videos of himself shooting, but he doesn’t shoot very far. He’s a marksman, I guess, if he’s close enough to his man.

He knows how to handle guns, take them apart, and clean them. He can clean them better than anybody I know, although he won’t spend a second glance cleaning our house, which means I have to do his part. My step mom thinks it’s a privilege he’s her natural-born son.

If you’re his girlfriend and want to know how he’ll treat you if you ever get married, just listen to him talking to me sometime.

I don’t know how he got started with guns. Jack has always liked the military, and uniforms, and the superior straight back. When he was a kid he got a BB gun, but then, so did everybody else. He knows a butt load about guns and thinks they’re awesome. They’re awesome because of how they work, how they can kill people, that’s all.

There are a couple of guys I wouldn’t mind shooting.

There’s Patrick, for one, whose dad works for the Cleveland Browns. He’s a total d-bag, tall, wears his hair puffed and blonde. He’s the quarterback on the freshman team. He’s always depressed, though. Every day at his locker he’s just kind of unhappy, like he’s stuck in midair.

He’s a mean person, though, and a jerk. Most guys are jerks once in a while, but Patrick burns that flag. When I see him walking to school he seems mad. He’s not awkward in any way, and dresses fine, but he slumps when he walks. It’s noticeable even across the street from the front door of the Red Door Deli.

Another one in that boat is Martinelli. We call him Matty. He’s in my math class and he’s a creeper. He’s a crap load of annoying, too. I’m fine with annoying people because everyone rubs you the wrong way sometimes, but he’s a weirdo. I heard he’s been one since he was a kid. He’s sour and strange.

Maybe God was having a bad day when he made Matty, because he’s a stalker and a creeper, too.

He’s been creeping on one of my friends from Lakewood Catholic Academy. He sneaks around her house and neighborhood looking for her. He creeps her on Facebook, which isn’t unusual. Lots of guys do that. It would be super if he were stalking me. I could pick him off bit by bit with air pellets. But, stalking a girl isn’t right just because you can’t get a real date.

I don’t know what he wants, although whatever it is he isn’t going to get it. My friend just hates it. At one of our dances it turned into the funny thing in the middle of the gym. I was dancing with her when he came up to us and she started yelling at him.

“Matty, you’re such a CREEPER, get out of here!”

“Are you kidding me?” he asked, his mouth all twisted, and just walked away.

He’s a freshman, like all of us are, and it doesn’t seem like he should be so weird. He’s a tad taller than me, but pretty pale, with a narrow face and slanky brown hair. If I threw bullets at Patrick and Matty it might get me a little happiness.

I would also definitely shoot Spoons.

He’s on my cross-country team and he’s a JERK all the time. Everybody’s annoyed with him so no one would miss him, at all. It’s because of how he acts most of the time that no one likes him anymore. He always tries to talk downtown on you. He comes right up to you for no reason and calls you an idiot.

“Just shut up, dude,” I say.

“No, you shut up. What are you going to do about it, anyway?” he says.

It’s always dumb and hard to take crap like that. Other people want to shoot him besides me. There’s a line and he crosses that line. There’s no going back once you’ve crossed the out-of-the-gate line.

I’ve shot plenty of people with air soft guns and BB guns, so I know what it’s like to shoot somebody, although so far they’ve all been my friends.

Air soft guns shoot plastic fliers. They go fast so they can hurt, but they’re only pellets. They leave a smallish bruise. Bullets are better, but I’ve never shot a person with a bullet. In fact, the only thing I’ve ever killed is a frog, although it was really a toad. It was at summer camp. My friend was trying to stab it behind our cabin, where there were always a lot of them. He hit it a few times, but mostly kept missing.

“Give it to me,” I said. I grabbed it and stabbed it and then slammed it on a tree so it would die quickly. It was a mercy killing.

There would be no mercy for Spoons, though.

Spoons is Spoons because we say so. When you’re a freshman at St. Mel’s on any of the teams you get a nickname. No one’s allowed to give himself a nickname, like Super Nova, or anything like that. The upperclassmen give us our tags on the cross-country team. I’m Blue, and there are Squints, Puma, Barney, Elmo, Coin, Rondo, and Spoons.

Squints doesn’t squint, and he’s not even Asian, so none of us know how he got the tag. Puma is Puma because he’s fast, fast like a cat. Spoon’s nose and mouth are bad, like his features were spooned like soup onto his head. He’s mostly ugly and has long brown furry hair that’s matted. At the beginning of the year he started off being a nice guy, but got worse and worse all winter long.

Every once in a while he would try to be nicer.

“Ah, OK,” I would say, but that was always a mistake, because before the end of practice he would be the same mean old wrong way Spoons. He’s a better runner than me, so as the year went on I couldn’t and didn’t have to be near him during practice.

We train on trails in the Metropark, on the Towpath, and at Edgewater Park. They’re hard to run because they’re rutted and bumpy, winding up and down, and you have to watch where you’re putting your feet. We get wet and muddy. We trained five days a weeks, running six miles here and there, and there were sprints on top of that. There were some distances that went seven or eight, but we’ve never gone past eight miles, thank goodness.

At first you’re dying, but after awhile you start feeling less bad. Then you have to go harder, and faster, so you start feeling bad again. It’s a rat race. But, we’re a good team. We took second in the Districts and we’re going to the Regionals. If we make it out of there we’ll go to States.

I’ve played baseball, basketball, and soccer. I wish I would have stuck with soccer, but I didn’t. Not enough action, honestly. I played football for five years, until I went into eighth grade. It was FUN until the coaches RUINED it. I always wanted to play football, though, so I did. My dad wanted me to play soccer. He said it was safer, but he signed me up for football when I said soccer sucked. He bought all the stuff I needed.

He took me to a store to get my own pants with built-in pads. Otherwise, the team gave you baggy pants from a long time ago. They were the kind where you have to stick the skanky pads in and they never stay. The new ones have things on a little belt that you tie on. It was a big deal to have all my own brand new stuff.

I got my own chinstrap, too, because the team chinstraps were nasty sweaty stained things that hardly worked at all. I got my own strong one with padding.

My dad bought me special Hex pads. They’re hexagons over a skintight muscle shirt. You had pads all over so when you got hit it wouldn’t hurt as much. There’s something in them that cushions the blow. Oh, my God, thank God they work! You get hit HARD playing football. Sometimes, even when you have ROCKED the other guy, you’d totally get CRACKED, too.

CRASH TEST DUMMIES.

No matter what, though, pads or no pads, I got hurt. Everybody did, got dinged got a stinger got busted up. I hit someone bursting up the middle one game one day and an awful buzz shot down my arm. It felt like when you fall asleep and your hand goes numb, but it was my arm, all at once. It hurt for two weeks, mostly in my shoulder, and I had to go see a doctor. I don’t know what he said, or did, but it got better after awhile.

“Real boys love the pain of competition,” our head coach Brad Reagan and his brother Gold were always saying. Whenever they said that we knew we would be doing a butt load of Bull in the Ring drills next.

I was a cornerback and I was good. Hitting people was fun, especially people who were better than you, except if they were really good, which wasn’t the greatest. Then it was like, OH, NO! But, if they were as good as you, or just a little better, you’d make each other better. You would have to make sure to try very, very hard. If you ran them down you’d be terrifically happy.

“Good job!” everybody would be yelling.

We were like that on our team. Everybody supported each other. That’s what I liked. But, then the coaches became more total jerks than they already were.

My friend Chad’s dad was the defensive coach. He was the best, such a nice man. We had a great head coach, too, at least for awhile.. He was Coach Hamm. He had played football in college and been a coach all his life. But, his son played for Garfield High, and he went there to coach him.

We got our new coach in seventh grade, Coach Reagan, who brought his brother Gold along. They were just total downpressers.

“You boys are a bunch of pansies,” is all we ever heard from them.

“Take a hit for the team,” they would say. “Just make sure the other bastard takes a bigger hit for his team.”

They were always swearing, like Mr. Rote, our religion teacher at St. Mel’s, except you couldn’t laugh at them.

They called us pansies and other select names. Whenever we lost they called us pussies. We were in the seventh grade, 12-years-old, barely teenagers. My dad got mad when I told him how the coaches were treating us. He talked to them about it, but they said he didn’t understand football, and nothing ever changed.

Many of the other guys didn’t like the new coaches, either. The brothers Rotten Reagan were a tag team. They were always on us, always yelling at us, squeezing us every chance they got. Coach Falco, who was our offensive coach, told them they shouldn’t talk to us that way, but they were complete idiots, and did whatever they wanted.

Coach Falco’s son was an amazing wide receiver for us. He got an award from the league for being one of the best players. Coach Reagan’s son was not so good, so he got the academic award, instead, somehow. A lot of guys did the same, or better, on the ACT’s, and were better players, but the coach had to give his son something, so he got the academic football player award. We had to go to the ceremony.

It was just a lot of nothing.

They gave us pep talks before games, but it was always a boat load of whatever empty talk hot air. I don’t remember anything they ever said and it never made a difference. It didn’t make us play better. It made things worse. They were so negative it made you not want to play. It made all of us sad and angry.

Coach Reagan’s brother was the assistant coach.

“Don’t play defensively, ever!” he yelled. “Attack and attack and attack some more!” Nobody understood what he was saying, especially when he was playing charades on the sidelines, but we ran around like nuts, anyway.

“We finally got one,” they would say whenever we won. They yelled all the time. That’s what ruined it for me. At the end of the season in seventh grade I hung up my cleats.

“I’m DONE with it,” I said.

I’m thankful I played football when I did, but after I started running cross-country at St. Mel’s I found out how much more I liked it, even though our coach is Grumpy Gillis. That’s what we all call him, who is Coach Krister. We make fun of him because he tries so hard to be grumpy 24/7.

At least he doesn’t give us PHONY pep talks.

Take No Prisoners

manhunt

“I like the Walrus best,” said Alice: “because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters.”

“He ate more than the Carpenter, though,” said Tweedledee. “You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn’t count how many he took: contrariwise.”

“That was mean!” Alice said indignantly. “Then I like the Carpenter best – if he didn’t eat so many as the Walrus.”

“But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.

Our main summer camp game starts as soon as it gets dark and everyone’s finally assembled at the bonfire pit. We get the lowdown from the counselors, since they tweak the game a little every year.

One summer whoever was a child had to run around and find passports for their family. That was the main prize. When they got caught, and they all got caught because there were traps everywhere, the rest of us, their family, had to jailbreak them out somehow.

It’s like manhunt capture the flag hide and seek all rolled up into one, but much, much trickier.

Last summer the counselors took us to the mess hall, closed all the doors, and darkened the windows. They turned off all the lights and made us sit on the damp concrete floor. There were two people broadcasting the nightly news, but then a counselor warned us they were going to shut it down.

It got super quiet. You couldn’t hear anything.

When the counselors came back they were dressed in black, charcoal from the bonfire smeared on their faces. They acted like they were mad Nazis. They split us up into groups and gave us directions. We had to find books and save them from being burned. They weren’t real books, just pieces of paper. The more we found of the papers the more Liberty Dollars we got for the auction. The more of us in our group who got caught the more our Liberty Dollars would be taken away.

The papers were scattered around the camp in the hands of three special counselors, who were hidden in the woods, and kept moving around. We had to find them and when we did they were supposed to hand over the paper. But, sometimes you had to beg them for it.

If they caught you they would take the paper away, rip it up right in front of you, and you would have to start all over. A lot of people hid them in their shoes, or their underwear, or different places no one would look.

It can get very dirty, like when dirt ruled the Earth. The dirtiest I got was when I was by myself, not far from the art house, but on the edge of the woods. One of the counselors came walking past and I dropped flat fast. I lay in a bunch of crap, leaves, twigs, mud, bugs, and rotting stuff. He just walked right past me.

I was, like, “Oh, man.”

You can try to get away when the counselors catch you, but it’s hard because the ones who catch you are the strong, fast ones, while the other ones can’t and don’t catch you. The strong ones don’t like it when anyone makes them look bad by breaking out of jail. It doesn’t matter what the other ones think. You can try to break free when no one’s looking, but if they snatch you back then you have to stay longer. The longer you sit the less chance you have to win Liberty Dollars, which isn’t a good thing.

IT’S INTENSE. I’M DEAD SERIOUS.

One summer Matilda, who plays for a college basketball team and is fast, decked me, blind-siding me out of the blue. At first, I wasn’t sure what happened. When I got up I tripped her, although I didn’t exactly mean to, and started running away. When she caught me I fell on the ground like I was out cold. She was forced to drag me by my arms and legs. While she was dragging me I noticed a large lump on her chest. When I asked her what it was she gave me a sly look.

“It’s a tumor. I have cancer,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. She seemed so healthy. I jumped to my feet so she wouldn’t have to drag me. While we were walking the tumor started to jerk back and forth. I didn’t know what to do. Was she going to collapse and die? Then, just as we walked up to the jail, her baby gerbil poked its head out of her bra.

The jail was inside the art house, where supplies and costumes are stored. It’s at the farthest end from the sand dunes. Makayla was the guard that night, and although she isn’t very big, she’s totally strong.

There are two rooms in the art house. She had to patrol both of them alone. She carried a broom, pacing back and forth, her head swiveling. We had to sit in straight chairs and be quiet. If you talked too much you had to sit there longer. If you got up from your chair for any reason you had to stay in the jail longer, too.

You could try to escape, but it wasn’t easy. Makayla would hit you, not really hard, but hard enough. She hit us with her twine broom, but usually with the soft end. When things got nervy she jabbed the broom down on you and yelled the whole time.

You don’t want to try escaping too many times, either, because if you try a couple of times and they catch you both times, they will kick you out of the game. It isn’t fair, but that’s what they do if they get annoyed about it. If you sit there quietly and tell Makayla you’ll be good she would smile and let you out before the others. That’s what I did.

I was good.

When the counselors broke us up into groups in the mess hall they marched us to the flag ground. They were dressed in black and most of us were dressed in black, too, or camouflage. The counselors were spitting out commands, when out of nowhere they started screaming and sprinting at us. We ran in every direction. That’s how the game actually started.

IT WAS CRAZY!

I broke off from my group right away. I had planned to run with my friends, anyway. We made it to one of the boy’s cabins and hid there, catching our breath, and then started running around. We searched for the counselors with the scraps of paper and dodged all the others.

The counselors are fast. Make NO MISTAKE about it. They aren’t sludges, even the sludges, who have sort of fast up their sleeves if they need it. Even the girl counselors can catch you if you don’t see them right away and they are already sprinting straight at you.

You can push counselors away, but not punch them, although you can punch them, just not all of them, only the ones who don’t care. Your friends can help you, and if the counselor is alone, you have a good chance of getting away. He can’t catch both of you at the same time, no matter how big he is.

The counselors tackle hard when they want to. They can be bottle rockets and they don’t mess around. If they’re your cabin’s counselor sometimes they’ll cut you slack. They’ll use you as a distraction. The trick is to act like you’re getting caught when someone else is walking by, yelling, “Help me!” Your counselor will throw you to the side and get them, instead.

A couple of summers ago the jail was the boy’s bathroom. They took out the light bulbs. It was dark and clammy, damp and sort of soggy. There was only one door so it was hard to escape. We had to sit in there with the rotten smells and daddy long-legs crawling all over us.

This summer it was on the edge of the sports field beneath a pole lamp. It was a pressboard box used to store basketball backboards. The jail was small, the size of a dining room table, but tall and deep to the back.

The counselors squeezed us in there, around the edges, and then made more of us stand in the middle like cattle. They nailed two-by-fours to the sides so we wouldn’t spill out. Everybody was packed tight inside like rats. You could try to crawl out, but they would have already gotten you by then, dragging you back.

We escaped when some counselors grabbed new runners and were bringing them in, but there wasn’t any room because it was so crowded. Someone pushed us out. We had a couple of seconds of leeway. They can’t just grab you again that same instant, so we ran into the woods to the Hill of Crosses.

The Hill of Crosses is on a small, sandy hill. There are nothing but crosses, hundreds of them, some bigger than me. Everybody’s parents know all about it. It has something to do with their past. It’s been there forever, but no new crosses have been added so long as I can remember. There’s a white fence around the hill and a gate, but it’s never locked. We go there for fun sometimes, to talk and chill, because almost no one ever goes there anymore.

IT’S PRIVATE AND SECLUDED.

We were cutting through the Hill of Crosses, talking about what we were going to do next, when Lovett, who is really fit and really fast, jumped out of a sand dune. He was waving a flashlight like a crazy man. Somebody smashed into him, who singled Mark out for it, running after him. We just flipped out, and everybody scattered, none of us going the same way.

Norville sprinted to the border of the camp where there is a crappy old fence. It was his first year at camp and he didn’t know it was there. When he tried to jump it he got all tangled up. He ended up stuck, his t-shirt ripped, and his hands got scratched. He couldn’t get off the sharp wire.

Later, when we all found each other, we saw Lovett again with his big flashlight. He was searching for Mark. Everyone lay down in the sand. We were nervous, like moles, but he ran right past us. We stayed behind the little hill where we hang our clothes after coming back from the beach, and later snuck into our cabin. All of us were sitting on our beds, laughing in the dark, when Mark started freaking out.

He was so afraid he got down on his knees, put his hands together on his bunk bed, and started praying. He was praying out loud, crying, and saying “I don’t feel good.” That’s when Lovett walked in with the flashlight stuck in his back pocket.

“What’s wrong with Mark?” he asked.

“I don’t feel good,” Mark said, and walked outside the cabin and threw up.

He tried to throw up in the trashcan, at least it looked that way, but his aim was way off. The next morning we dogged him about it, because Mark’s an idiot, but all he wanted to say was he just didn’t feel good during the manhunt and didn’t want to talk about it.

I almost broke my neck playing Nazis and Jews that night.

It happened when BIG AL started chasing me. He’s ripped out of his mind and jacked. He climbs trees and survives out on the tundra. I was jogging lazily away from Ned, who is fat and slow, when BIG AL jumped me. I screamed and went into adrenaline mode. When I saw his girlfriend waiting at the fork in the path I sprinted the other way into the woods.

I got away clean, but it was when I lost BIG AL that Ginty came out of nowhere. He was wearing a bandana and waving a basketball in his hands. I knew he was going to throw it straight at my ankles, because that’s what he was doing to a lot of guys. It was a hard basketball and he’s a guy who can sling it fast and hard. It smashes you on the legs. Guys were face planting.

I was running all out and jumped when he threw the ball. I jumped right into the low branch of a pine tree. It smashed me. The whole branch raked across my neck. It felt like my neck artery had popped.

“That really hurt!”

I kept running, but I was suddenly scared, so I stopped. It was all scraped up and bleeding, but not gushing blood. When Ginty found me he took off his bandana and wrapped it around my neck.

“You’ll be fine,” he said.

Then he grabbed me and tried to drag me to the jail. You can always trust a rotten counselor to be rotten.

But, I got away. I made sure my roll of burned book paper scraps was still in my pocket. I slept with them curled up in my fist and my fist tucked under my pillow.

The next day I ran to the front row of the auction. The camp commander stands at a podium with a wooden mallet. There is a chalkboard behind him full of a boat load of the things you can get and everyone starts bidding. There are t-shirts and baseball hats, breakfast in bed, and rotten counselors cleaning your cabin.

There’s stargazing with another cabin of your choice, which is obviously always a girl’s cabin, and that’s a good thing. But, I put everything I had, every one of my Liberty Dollars on the first shower of the night. It was the big night of the formal dance and I wanted to look my best for it. I made ABSOLUTELY SURE nobody outbid me because it was do-or-die for the hot water.

You get to shower first, all by yourself, for as long as you want. The camp commander posts a counselor to stand guard at the door and they don’t let anyone in except you. It’s ONLY you and you can use AS MUCH of the hot water as you want. There is only so much of it at camp, but you can take it all, and everybody else is left with the cold scraps.

Oh, yeah, that’s what you always do, because everybody else would do it to you.

Deserving My Friends

facebook   

“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

I love Facebook. It’s totally fun gagged up takeoff. I don’t know what I used to do before I signed on the dotted line. I think I used to call people on the phone to see how they were doing.

Life and everything must have been horrible before Facebook. It might have been fine, but it’s more of a merry-go-round to know people, hang out with them on-line, and maybe meet them in real life. Whenever I’m away from Facebook for a few hours I feel out of touch.

You can literally put your thoughts about anything on it, especially funny things, and then your friends can comment on it. They can like it, too, which they always do. I do that whenever I see what they post. I’m always on Facebook. I may not be on it excessively, like some guys, but I check it all the time.

I’m a fast typist since I play video games. I’m much faster than most people. Almost everybody I know pecks. It only took me two weeks in a computer class to learn how to type without even looking. It just came to me. Almost nobody is as fast as I am.

I posted Mexican Coca-Cola Chex Party Mix Breakfast of Maniacs, and thirteen people liked it. They didn’t say anything about it. They just liked it. I post weird stuff, like best night of my life, and eleven people liked it. That’s all I said on my post.

BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE!

I post a butt load of funny stuff. I posted “poking ‘dem ladies at the mixer” hash tag #13 and fourteen people liked it.

There was a dance at St. Mel’s, the kind of dance they call a mixer. It was only for freshmen and sophomores, at which you didn’t need a date. During the mixer, since I’m the dance master, three girls gave me their cell phone numbers. I posted that select information.

I post a crap load of pictures of myself, too.

There’s one of me with my foot behind my head. My friends think it’s funny. “Old people do yoga all the time and they can’t do that,” said one of my buds.

Another one is of me sitting on a couch making an odor face. Our English teacher told us he would give us extra credit if we posted something and got at least ten people to like it. More than ten people liked my odor face and Mr. Orwell had to give me extra credit.

HE WASN’T HAPPY ABOUT IT!

It’s totally great in that aspect. You can go to the home button and see all your friends, what they’ve posted, and their pictures. You can see all their weird stuff. Somebody posted “God is not mad at you.” I wish I had thought of that.

You can post all kinds of random things. Somebody put a noose around a dog’s neck, which was a puppy, and they put it on Facebook. It’s a real dead dog, although you don’t know if it’s really dead. It could be trumped up. They’re ugly freaks monsters, of course. They might go to jail, which you have to assume, which is where they belong.

I have a boat load of friends on Facebook, more than six hundred, but I’m starting to delete some of them. It seems like that many might be too many, but I know people from everywhere. I know them in Lakewood, from St. Mel’s, St. Ignatius, and Mag’s, summer camp, running around, and everywhere else. I have a broad opportunity for knowing people.

People send me friend requests all the time. I haven’t accepted eighty-one people lately, because even though I know them, I basically don’t want to be their friend. It’s because they’re hounds, or whatever. Not that it matters, at least not to me.

People I don’t even know poke me.

“Why are you poking me?” There are never any reasons that make any sense.

There’s Tommy, who goes to St. Mel’s, but I don’t really like him. I don’t like Eric, either. He’s kind of YECH! And there’s Carson, too, who used to go to St. Mel’s. He’s weird and gay. He’s not just gay. He’s actually gay.

Some gays are all right. I have some of the guys who are my friends on Facebook and in real life. Skip was like that in middle school, although I don’t know what’s happened to him lately. He’s actually gay. I know because he told me back in the day.

“I’m gay,” he said. “I like guys.” He lives in Lakewood somewhere anywhere I don’t know where. I didn’t accept his friend request.

Mr. Rote talked about social media in our religion class one day. He was angry about it. He’s always mad about something.

“When I was a kid my social network was called outside,” he said. “None of you are famous and your fifteen minutes of fame has been going on forever. I hope the next Facebook trend is shutting the hell up.”

Nobody cared what he was talking about.

You can never talk about teachers on Facebook. If you do it’s the kiss of death. At St. Mel’s they will expel you on the spot for doing that.

One kid landed in a can of worms for posting news he was going to have a party at his house that weekend. He got called down to the Dean of Students even though he didn’t say anything bad, like promising that everyone could get wasted. He got in trouble and didn’t throw the party, at least not that party.

Nobody knows who it is exactly at St. Mel’s that checks Facebook, but they do. Only the retards don’t know they do. I’m greatly careful about it. I never swear, or anything close to that. I only do that in my messaging conversations. Those are between two people and they’re private. I NEVER show them to anybody.

I was talking to Chris, one of my camp friends, about a girl I liked.

“She’s my cousin. You better watch out.”

“You know I’m a pimp, Chris.”

“I feel it, player.”

“OK, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“OK”

“Saudi, bye.”

“I miss you and love you” is what I say to a lot of people on Facebook. I don’t actually love them, but they’re my friends. I don’t say it to everyone, just most people. Two of my friends liked it when I posted “I love you” with a smiley face.

“I love you like a fat kid loves cake,” one of them said.

“Thanks, Johnny, you make me blush.”

People are my friends when they’re nice to me. That’s the baseline. It’s all about not being a jerk to other people. If you’re a girl and you’re pretty, that’s good, but nice is better. But, if you’re ugly, I probably don’t want to talk to you. It doesn’t matter how nice you are. Ugly is ugly and not good. If you become a jerk, like Sarah, who used to be my friend, then I won’t accept your friend request.

They always know, of course, that I haven’t accepted them. So, in real life I try to stay away from them. There’s a guy named Ryan in my Spanish class who’s weird. I didn’t friend him and I have to see him every day. He sits right behind me. It’s awkward, but that’s LIFE!

He’s a JV football player, but not very good. He runs track, too and he’s good at sprinting. He never says anything to me about Facebook, thank God. There are some girls from summer camp who pester me, but they are either too young or too old. I don’t want to be friends with them, either.

I truly know a lot of my six hundred friends. I see some of them every day at school. Some of them I never see, but I talk to them on Facebook all the time. My friend Tony has a band. I like some of his songs. We post back-and-forth all the time. I posted a picture of an orange dresser filled with creampuffs next to a dog peeking and peeing Cherry Pepsi.

“You’re such a freak and I like it,” he posted.

“Thanks, bro.”

I added a winkie face.

“Being sick isn’t fun,” I posted when I had the flu. “It pretty much sucks.”

Eleven people liked it

“I was wondering where you were.”

“Yeah, I’m laying at home, unable to move.”

“Same here,” Logan posted from his neighborhood of chinksters in Toronto. “Whenever I drink something I vomit it out five minutes later.”

My friend, Laurel, who might be my girlfriend soon if I play my cards right, posted a sad face.

“Aw, thanks, Laurel. What are you doing?”

“Sleeping.”

“Ha, ha, I just woke up.”

“Lucky you.”

“Are you watching the Super Bowl?”

“Yeah, 49ers all the way!”

“I hate you. The Ravens have class. If they don’t win I’ll be peeved off. But, I’m glad one of us will be happy.”

“Cool, so what are you doing?”

“Watching the game. I’m glad you like football. It’s essential to understand it.”

After halftime I posted Madison, my girlfriend at summer camp.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing. How’s life?”

“Not bad, but not great. I miss you.”

“I know the feeling. What’s the matter?” she wrote, and added a smiley face.

“I miss you, too. I hate school, but I don’t want to tell my dad because he pays thousands for me to go there. I just wish camp was forever.”

“I know,” she posted. “Come live with me.”

She lives in Collingwood, not far from our summer camp in Wasaga Beach.

“That would be awesome. I could move there and we could actually see each other.”

“Yes, but no. Just move into my house and you could live with me. That would be fun.”

“Yes, a little drama, but I think we could make it work.”

That’s about it, what we talked about, which wasn’t much. Most of my conversations on Facebook are just messing around. Others are funny and some are nobody’s business.

Everybody’s looking for a friend. That’s why everybody’s on Facebook. Maybe in the slums of India they’re not, but I’m positive about here and I know they are where I live.

I don’t post a boat load of pictures, but, still, I post a boat load of them. People like them because they’re very cool.

One of the coolest pictures is of me with no shirt on, although I do have a shirt, except it’s wrapped around my head. I’m touching my nipples and my pants are sagging. When Call of Duty came out I posted a picture of me in a pink and black camouflage cowboy hat. I’m sticking my fingers and tongue out all weird.

One of my classics is from when I was eight-years-old. I made a music video at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing blue chest hair, checked pants, and a sequined fishnet shirt that is cut low. My hair is all jelled up. What I was was CC Hammer. In the picture I’m pouting.

My best one is even better because it’s two pictures in one. I have a zombie shirt on that says “Have you seen my zombie?” In the second picture I’m lifting it up and there’s a zombie on the underside that makes it seem like my face. I’m making a sideways peace sign. I was trying to be like a gangster. In my other hand was my cell phone.

The reason I had my phone was I was taking the pictures of myself in the mirror.

Adults think Facebook is either cool or it’s stupid. Many of them think it’s a waste of time, even when they don’t know anything about it. My step mom is special ops about it. I found out she spies on me by checking my pages.

“I’m all over you whether you like it or not,” she said.

I don‘t care what she says. She’s not as smart as she thinks she is. I might spread some breadcrumbs and make a fake Facebook with my name on it

Even my Uncle Gray hates it, no matter that he has a million boomerangs he needs to sell. He should wise up, but he probably won’t. Adults get stuck in the mud of time. That’s all there is to it.

“You have a profile picture, you sit around writing on walls, and guys you don’t know try to poke you. It’s like being a criminal,” said Uncle Gray at Christmas, when everybody comes over for brunch, stuff themselves, and sit around mumbling. When they finally don’t have anything else to say they all rush off and I have to clean up after them.

They say, “It’s a waste of time.”

I say, “You don’t know, you never use Facebook.”

But, they’re weird, old people. They’re not necessarily all weird, but they’re ignorant when they say it’s stupid. It’s fun to connect with people. You hang out with your friends and make friends. What’s wrong with making friends?

Sarah Palin even quit her job as governor to be on Facebook more. She’s on it every day and she has a million friends. It broadens my perspective on people. I don’t want to know a ton of people, but at the same time I do. I’m not going to leave it unless something new catches the drift.

The Zuckerberg billionaires are freaking geniuses.

You have to be smart about it, though. You can click to friend me, but all you’ll see is my picture and all my friends. Everything else is blacked out until I accept you. The booksters can see everything, but I don’t mind. I’m not planning on killing Obama, although I want to. I’m not going to post anything like that. You can’t be an idiot about it. You can’t just be an ignorant fool.

The Facebook people are cool. I don’t think I would like them if I met them, but they created a great website.

I get so many likes. I can’t let my friends down. The ladies are all over me.

What can I say? I love that.

Shucking the Tamale

 tamale

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).

I don’t have a girlfriend. I have a Beagle, so I should have a girlfriend, the same as my dog. I’m a good-looking cool-enough fleek guy. I’m sure I could have one and still hang with the guys. I would like a girlfriend, but I’m not creeping over it.

There’s a girl who lives three or four blocks away who I like. She’s nice cute sweet, and pretty, all there. Her name is Laurel. I met her when we ran cross-country together. I didn’t know her before that, but after we met we just became good friends fast, although I haven’t asked her anything about being my girlfriend.

Sometimes we run races in the Rocky River Metropark, just her and me and nobody else. No tricycles are allowed in the park, making you feel awkward, all third-wheel.

I always win the races, always.

She’s not like a model, but that would be annoying, anyway. She’s a sportsman. She’s active and she’s smart, too. Laurel’s a little shorter than me, not as skinny, and has long, brown hair. She’s super nice. I like girls who are super nice.

And, super cute, of course.

Some girls are cute and some aren’t. It’s great to be a hot girl, but you shouldn’t like a girl just because she’s hot. You should like them because they’re nice people, or they’re smart, or they try in school. They shouldn’t just be able pretty face it.

But, the first thing I think of whenever I see a new girl is, she’s hot, or not so hot. That really is the first thing I think of. The second thing I think about is whether I want to say hi to them and third is maybe talk to them. I try to be careful at first. If it looks like they might be mean girls, then I don’t want to be around them.

If they’re just your normal all-around girls and they are really nice and sweet, then I love that. It shouldn’t be all about looks. Some guys will see a girl and say, “She’s ugly”, even though nobody thinks with their face. Or they’ll say, “She’s just regular,” and go the other way. I like them better when they’re cute and nice and not butt heads.

The hot girls always know they’re hot if they’re actually that way. They know they’re hot, believe me. If you happen to be friends with them it’s not like talking to anybody different, like a regular girl. But, if you’re not friends with them and meet them somewhere on the spot they can be rude.

MORE THAN RUDE!

When I’m with my friends we talk about girls, but we don’t talk about girlfriends too much. Many of us don’t have them. Some of us want girlfriends, but don’t know what to do about it. We talk about GIRLS, but not GIRLFRIENDS. We talk about pretty ones, ugly ones, and weird ones, all kinds, really.

Weird girls are weird, but not quirky, although they can be quirky, especially how they act, and how they are towards people. They’re never the babes, but sometimes they’re the quirky sidekick. They can be anti-social and not side-kicky. They don’t want to be around people talk to them meet new people. There are many girls like that. They’re insecure, or sometimes they’re not allowed to talk to guys.

Parents do that to them. They make girls and guys do things in life like they themselves didn’t have anything to do with making it like it is. Old people crap out and forget what it’s like. They FORGET they were the ones who made it all happen.

My friend Hunter, who’s in the locker next to me, isn’t allowed to have a girlfriend. His parents told him he couldn’t until he turned sixteen.

“Are you serious?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t want to spend money on them, anyway. That’s all they ever ask for, money money money.”

I was, like, “Hunter!”

Girls don’t do that ALL the time. They aren’t Midas, unless they’re the hot Catholic girls from St. Joe’s. The nice girls will ask you to get them ice cream and munchies. But, you’re going to do that for them, anyway, if you like them, or are their friend.

I started noticing girls the July after seventh grade when I was at summer camp. I called them the tamale’s, among other things. Some were hot some were nice some were mean. You have nice people and you have mean people. I didn’t like the mean girls.

Sometimes you talk to a girl and they act like you don’t matter, or worse.

“Oh, my God, I’m so COOL, you’re so DUMB, leave me alone.”

They’re all dolled up. It’s all about horsepower to them.

They’re a boat load of snotty and snobby. They prance the streets like serious little dudettes, all spotless and snooty, looking down their noses. I can eat anywhere myself, so I’m not like that, sniffing the air for odor.

Their perception of people, how they think about everyone, and talk about someone, is mean to the core. They never smile when no one else is around. They never frown unless they mean it. They’re so annoying I call them sociopaths, which was my favorite word at camp last summer, until I wore the crap out of it.

The meanest girl at camp the past two summers has been Natalie. She’s the meanest Canadian person I’ve ever known.

She’s short, and snooty, but not fat. But, she’s not like a twig, either. She’s more like a normal person with knockers. She wears a butt load of make-up, which is sort of weird for a fourteen-year-old. She dances around, acting and acting, and is always saying, “Oh, my God.”

She dyes her hair, too. She colors it all kinds of different pigments, black, bleach blonde, and it’s all completely weird.

She brought a tiny table to camp so she would have a place to put her make-up on. If you wear make-up it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re snooty. But, it’s the thing with her, and it does make her DEFINITELY. She whines about stupid stuff that’s truly stupid. We’re in the same morning classes after cabin clean up and inspection, so I know. Whenever we had to do anything together in class she would just whine and whine and whine about it.

“Oh, my God, I’m not doing that.”

The only reason was she didn’t want to do anything, at all. Instead, she wanted to sit around and be annoying, basically. Sometimes when she talks she sounds like someone’s sister playing the violin. She has a lot of friends even though most of them aren’t like her.

That’s something I don’t understand.

She has a party tray of enemies. Some of my friends who are the sweet girls and who are nice just hate her. They won’t be in the same cabin with her. They turn their backs and walk out. They’re all the same age, but they don’t like each other.

Natalie’s best friends are Chloe, Amelia, and Hannah, They’re all the same kind of people, they’re all in the same cabin, and they’re all in my morning group, which sucks. Chloe is just like Natalie, but more annoying, so I don’t like her at all.

Amelia wears a crap load of make-up, like Natalie, but it’s probably because of her birthmark. She doesn’t whine all the time, although she does want to sit around most of the time.

I don’t even know about Hannah, she’s so weird. She’s a stick.

“Turn sideways,” I said. She did.

“Stick out your tongue,” I said. She did.

“Ha, ha, ha, you look like a zipper.”

“Ha, ha, yourself,” she said. “I’m a sniper’s nightmare.”

I liked her much more after that.

I’m not sure if the Natalie gang is pretentious or dead, dead serious.

The biggest difference between the Natalie gang and the nice girls is that nice girls are fun to be around. They don’t whine about stupid stuff, like having to wake up, or play sports all day on sports day. The nice girls even play the dizzy bat with us between games on the soccer field. At the end of the spin the sidelines are strewn with everybody flattened out on the ground, grabbing for grass to keep from falling off the edge of the world.

They don’t send off the superior vibe, either. They don’t try to act like all that, little prissy girls running around, trying to make a ruckus of things. They don’t press you down with their little laughs.

The mean girls want to sit in their cabin and talk a train load of stupid stuff, or doll up and talk to their boys whenever they can. The mean girls like the boys who like them, the ones who are Belieber boys, and especially the ones who are ripped.

The mean girls truly like ripped boys, but nice girls like everybody, except boys who are mean, no matter how ripped they are.

There is a wide wide dividing line between the nice girls and the mean girls. They don’t get along and it’s serious business. Last summer Katrina, one of the very, very mean girls, charged another girl and got kicked out of camp because of it. That’s the worst thing that can happen to anybody at summer camp.

We hung with the girls at camp all last summer. We talked chilled had rages in their cabins, but never in ours. A rage is like having a rage with people who are your friends and keep it to themselves. Rages are the bomb. They’re awesome – trust me on that.

TRUST ME!

Music pumps and you’re having fun going wild going crazy. You party at your hardest, out of control, although not exactly all out of control.

Boys are not allowed to be in the girl’s cabins at night, but my friends and I go to their side of the camp at least once a day. We sneak around the woods and climb in through the back window. The guys could run to the front door, but the back window is better. We mostly rage during the day because getting caught at night is more likely, and more likely to bring more trouble when it happens.

The camp counselors only chew you out if they catch you during the day. It’s a different slant on things if they catch you at night.

The one time I almost got caught was bad. It was at night. We were cutting down a path, zigzagging to the girl’s side of the camp, keeping low and slow. When we got to the jungle gym next to the sport’s field we ran into Jonas and Alana. They were making out.

Jonas is a counselor. Alana is almost a counselor.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jonas asked, jumping up.

We just stood there.

“Go back to your cabin,” he said, shrugging. “I don’t care.”

When Jonas was a camper he used to bring fireworks and spray paint to camp. One summer no one’s ever forgotten he tagged the inside of one of the counselor cabins.

We were jogging back past the tall birch trees behind our cabin when we saw flashlights crisscrossing in the windows. The counselors were inside looking for us. We had packed our sleeping bags with leaves covered over with clothes. The flashlights were stabbing all around and the counselors were laughing. We lay on the ground when they came out. They didn’t notice we were there. Once they were gone we ran into the cabin.

“Are you kidding me?” Logan sputtered, coughing up a gummy bear.

We were all laughing and yelling and punching each other.

In the morning they dragged us out of bed early and made us sweep the mess hall. While we were working Father Elliott and the camp commander came in. They saw us cleaning up and didn’t know why, but they were so impressed they gave us a ton of Liberty Dollars for the auction.

It was sort of a slap in the face to the counselors, although I don’t think they ever found out about it.

Every morning Raymond the night guard would staple the screens we ripped off the girl’s cabins back onto the window frames. He was a Lithuanian who had been in the Russian Army, like my Uncle Valdas. He was an ex-Spetsnaz. Uncle Valdas had to ride around in and fix tanks in Afghanistan. Spetsnaz did different kinds of dirty work.

One day Titus, one of our cabin guys who peeps in the corner by the door, was stung in the ear by a hornet. He started crying. Raymond, the night guard, told him to “tough it out.”

He would stand behind our cabin at night, in the bushes, or next to a birch tree. He said he liked birch trees because they bent, but never cracked. Once, at two in the morning, Logan started screaming at him.

“Get out of here, man!”

But, he didn’t. He came around to our front door.

“Boys, get to bed,” he said, more softly even than it was dark and quiet. But, everybody could tell he meant it.

Sometimes when we were in the girl’s cabins someone would knock on the door. We always jumped underneath a bed or in between any crack we could find.

“Hold on, we’re changing,” the girls would singsong.

We just waited where they couldn’t see us, quiet and hiding out. The counselors came in for random reasons, but they didn’t care about the noise, as long as it wasn’t nighttime. There’s music playing all the time, anyway. Nobody cared as long as there weren’t massive amounts of f-bombs in the songs. If they caught you raging during the day they would just laugh and call you pathetic.

“Idiots,” they’d say.

We dance to the beats, although Logan slowed it down one day and sang I Did It My Way and everybody loved it. For the rest of camp whenever we chanted his name he had to jump on a picnic table and lead everyone in I Did It My Way.

There isn’t much room to dance in the cabins because girls bring so much crap to camp. They have a pavilion with drawers in the middle of their cabins where they put everything. We dance on the beds jumping around running around. We open the drawers and throw stuff on the ground.

It’s a rage, so throw it in the air, it’s flying all around.

YOLO!

After the electro pump music and Skrillex samba, chilling and eating their candy out the wazoo, we would all go back to our cabins and do what had to be done before dinner. You’re only at camp for two weeks and there are no trading days the rest of the year.

Madison was my favorite girl at camp last summer. She’s my age, just a papoose shorter than me, and dirty blond. But, she wasn’t too dirty blond. I didn’t know we had known each other at camp for five years until she told me.

She’s pretty and nice and doesn’t try to be an “Oh, my God” girl. She’s smart and kind, and likes me especially because I’m funny. She appreciates the whole nine yards of me. We talk in the woods every day. Most of the time I can’t remember what we’ve talked about. I just stare at her and listen as best I can.

She talks about her girl stuff her clothes her friends, and all of what she likes.

“That’s cool,” I say.

I danced with her at the last camp dance as much as I could, but it wasn’t easy because I’m the BOSS at dances. I love dancing. It’s the best day and night. I’m completely happy when I dance. I just forget everything, especially when I’m dancing close and cheesy. What makes me dance even more is when there’s a boat load of summer camp girls reaching.

Everybody wants to dance with me. The girls and guys get in a circle and I go in the middle of it, breaking moves. They can’t resist me.

Our cabin got a bonus for being the cleanest, although I don’t know how. It was actually disgustingly dirty. We got to pick a cabin of girls and rage with them for a half-hour at the Saturday night dance. They let us pick the play list, too. We made it a mix of party songs and slow songs. It was pretty smooth and it was very awesome.

What makes me the BOSS is I do the party boy, popping beats, and shuffling at dances. I’m learning how to liquid, too, which is something you do with your hands. One of the counselors goes to things called raves and he is teaching me how to do it.

At the end of our bonus time, after going crazy, we did some sweet dancing. I love party music, but that night it was a close second. The slow dancing was just a nip better. Madison and I danced the last two dances together.

It was nice satisfying epic sweet. It’s all about tamales being tamales.

Run, Dude, Run!

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“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

I started running for the St. Mel’s cross-country team the summer before last, a year-and-a-half before I even started my freshman year in September. I didn’t know I was going to be a Mel’s man then. But, I was dead certain I was going to be on someone’s team.

My dad ran cross-country at St. Joe’s, on the east side, on the other side of Cleveland, more than forty years ago when he was a freshman. That isn’t why I’m on our team. It’s just a coincidence. There’s always room for coincidence, although if it happens too often somebody’s up to something, even if he’s anonymous.

I ran a tad in middle school, running against other grade schools, but they were all fair weather meets.

Now that I’m a runner, every day after school I run with the team down into the Rocky River valley, to the long trail that goes from the golf course to the Nature Center, no matter whether it’s sun bright raining snowing. It DON’T matter. I bring my own sunshine. When I run I completely zone out. It’s the only time I’m able to think about nothing. Before I know it I’m done.

When I began training it was with the Lakewood City Track Team. We had practice every day at Lakewood Park in the spring when I was twelve-years-old. On the first day our team met it was made of Bailey, his little brother, and some girls. There were a couple of random guys who snuck in from the ghetto, too, which is east of Lakewood, and me.

Most of the guys who live in the ghetto don’t call it the ghetto. They call it the projects or the ‘hood, two inches from homeless. Mr. Orwell laughed out loud about it one day in English class.

“Ghetto is me being refined,” he said. “The ‘hood is just showin’ and provin’.” Mr. Orwell was rapping that morning. “Look up what a slum used to be. Nobody had cell phones and flat screens in the slums back in the day. Down and out is just sideways now.”

Nobody in class knew what he was talking about. I thought he might have been talking to himself.

When we trained we always ran our warm-up run from Lakewood Park down Lake Road to the Marathon gas station, turned around, and ran back to the pavilion in the park. We’d meet there every day, run, run back, and stretch. Our coach talked to us, trying to train us, and we tried to pay attention.

I knew who our coach was, but I never found out our coach’s name. I was on the team for six months and didn’t know his name from beginning to end. I didn’t understand what he said his name was the first time he told us the first day and I never asked afterwards.

He was a freaking weird unsettling man. I don’t know if he didn’t have a job, or if it was something else, anything else. He kept his head shaved and always wore a hat. It was always a baseball cap, but every day it was a different one. He wore old-school Oakley sunglasses, too, the big ones that cover the side of your face.

HE NEVER TOOK THEM OFF!

One day when he did take them off when he thought we weren’t looking we saw RIGHT AWAY why, since his eyes were set more than four inches back into his head. They were creepy deep, funky, and nasty.

Even though he was a fit man, and wore running shorts and running shoes all the time, he never ran with us. He would loosen up with us and then wait until we came back from our run. When we did pick-ups he stood nearby and watched. I don’t think he was an American man. He sounded foreign, like an immigrant, from somewhere else. He wasn’t a bad coach, but he was old, more than fifty years old.

We competed against other schools and we were actually good. We ran in 5K races all summer and fall. An actual cross-country race is two miles, but we competed at road races. There were a butt load of adults running, too, most of the time. At one meet at some law college one of the guys on our team won the whole race. Lawyers will usually do anything to win whatever, but not that day!

I was an OK runner. I wasn’t anything special, at all, but I had fun. I ran every day that summer, sometimes seven days a week. My times kept improving and I got better. Some people think place is more important than time, but I think time is more important. Unless you’re in the top ten, it’s better to have a good time than trying to place.

What I do is I DON’T stop. I have endurance and I know how to pass people at the end. Once I hit the last 100 meters and see there’s a whole crowd of people, all cheering for the runners, I try my hardest to get there fast. That’s when I gear up sprinting and passing other runners.

That’s the one thing I’m good at.

At the end of most races many guys don’t or won’t sprint. They slog through the end to the grim end. They slow down and stop dead as soon as they cross the finish line. I always go go go. The first cross-country race I ran on the St. Mel’s team was the race I pushed myself the most. I kept passing people as it went on. I was going crazy, going really hard, the closer I got to the end. I sprinted to the finish line. When I passed it I started walking immediately and then threw up all over.

It was the first race of the season and it was awesome. I know for a fact it was the hardest race I ran until then, even though it was my first St. Mel’s race. After that the hardest race was the one we ran in freezing rain at the end of the season.

We were running at Gilmore, at a big meet with guys and girls, all mixed in. It rained through the morning and when we got there huge puddles were everywhere. It was cold very cold almost like freezing. You couldn’t feel your feet after a while, except when you’d take a step on your spikes. Then there would be a terrible pain.

At the end of the race I couldn’t even take my spikes off.

I soaked my feet, still wearing my spikes, in a tub of warm water and took them off after that.

They ran everybody out at the same time because they didn’t want to make the girls wait in the cold. I couldn’t move my fingers for awhile while we were waiting and everybody was shivering. When they shot the gun or blew the horn or whatever they did, we all just went. Everybody was screaming, running and screaming, just going crazy when the race started.

It was fun, but it was a horrible race, because it was nasty. Everybody started cutting huge corners. Nobody cared because it was too cold. We ran the whole race, for sure, but at the point where a straight edge was a part of two big curves, somebody cut the straight line, and then, literally, we all did the same thing.

We weren’t cheating ourselves because everybody was doing it. We were all trying. Besides, if you go by ALL the rules, you miss ALL the fun. Running in the freezing rain was only the half of it. Having fun running in the freezing rain was the other half.

My dad wanted me to run track, but I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. Besides, track is in the spring and I wanted to train for cross-country. I took the winter off and started running again in the spring. But, I didn’t run every day for practice, only when I wanted to.

THAT’S THE WAY I AM.

I was going to start conditioning again when school ended, but I had to take a stone stupid Spanish class for six weeks. Every day for five days a week I had to get up early and be at St. Mel’s by 8 o’clock. I wasn’t good at Spanish, but the classes didn’t help me, either, at all. Now I’m good at it, but I’m still bitter.

I didn’t condition as much as I wanted to, but enough. Enough for the team, and enough for the Wasaga Beach manhunt, that’s for sure! When summer camp was over in mid-July I got it up to go seriously. When the season started I was ready and Coach Krister was ready for us.

Everyone would meet at the Little Met golf course in the Rocky River Metropark. I always rode my bike down Hog’s Back Lane. We’d either practice in the park, on the all-purpose path, or go to the Hinkley Reservation in the team van.

When the season started there were thirty-eight kids on the St. Mel’s cross-country team. The way you get on the team is you sign up and pay the fee. It wasn’t a ridiculous amount of money because all they gave you was your uniform, which wasn’t much. It’s not like football, where you have to buy helmets and pads, and all kinds of stuff.

Everyone had to buy their own running shoes and spikes, though. The St. Mel’s poobah’s call it pay-to-play. I call it pay-through-the-nose.

We conditioned in the Metropark three and four times a week. Not that many of the kids would go, though, less than ten or twelve. Everybody else, they didn’t go, because they didn’t care. We did push-ups sit-ups planks and side planks. They’re hard, but after awhile they’re not so bad. We would stretch, do a warm-up, and go for a run. When we came back we touched our toes some more and did pick-ups.

Pick-ups are sprints. Our coach would say, “Go out twenty minutes and come back in seventeen, or make it fifteen minutes.” It’s a negative run, or so they say.

“It’s a natural instinct to come back faster,” Coach Krister said.

I was, like, “No it’s not! We’re frigging tired.” Coach, you’re retarded, I thought, although I didn’t actually say that to him.

Hinckley was where the big hills were. That wasn’t fun, either, at all. Every time we went there it was hot. It’s a mile up them hills. So, we’d run the mile up the hill, stretch at the top of it, run down, and then run up another hill.

It was crazy, but that’s what we did, because our coaches wanted us to do it.

We had two coaches, not-so-bad Mr. Mirkenstall and bad Mr. Krister. I hated both of them.

Mr. Krister was maybe sixty-or-something, but definitely in his mid-50s. He kept his hair high and tight. He had a shaggy scruff most of the time and his jaw stuck out a ton. I don’t know what happened to his jaw. I think he got punched in the face, or something. His teeth were yellow crinkled nasty.

Mr. Krister talks with a New York accent. He doesn’t smoke, but I know he was an alcoholic. One of the guys on the team told me. This guy’s father is a lawyer, and Mr. Krister used to be a lawyer, and they used to be lawyers together. But, then he became an alcoholic and couldn’t be a lawyer anymore, probably because all his clients were going to prison. He had to go to rehab.

I don’t know how he came to St. Mel’s. He has a doctorate in something else, not the law, but he teaches history. He probably has an undergraduate degree in it, so he can teach us about the past, although nobody cares very much about it.

He’s sort of fit, but not super fit. He’s not very tall, either, and didn’t run all season. He would just ride an old bike around because he said he hurt himself. He tried to run a road race once, but almost passed out.

Most of the guys on the team who have him for class hate him. He thinks he can make fun of you because you run cross-country on his team and thinks he knows you better than not. He picks on you and makes fun of you in class. It’s really annoying. He grabbed my tie once when I was walking past and pulled it down hard. I was angry about it.

He does a butt load of crap to other guys, too.

One day between classes my friend Colt booked another one of my friends, Perry, and Perry pushed him into a locker. When you knock someone’s books out of their arms it’s not a big deal. You even help them pick the books up, sometimes. We were all standing there laughing when Mr. Krister rushed up, grabbed Perry by the jacket, and yanked him towards him nose to nose.

“What’s that for?”

“Why did you push him?”

“Because he booked me.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Mr. Krister said, and bum-pushed Perry back into the hallway.

Teachers are allowed to hit you at St. Mel’s. They don’t do it, though, because if they did they’d probably get sued. I don’t know if it says they can hit you in the booklet they give everybody, but they’re definitely allowed to hit students.

I heard of a brother, back when there was a boat load of them at St. Mel’s, who decked a kid. The kid was mouthing off to the brother in class, and walked up to the front of the class, still mouthing off to him, not stopping the flapping. The brother PUNCHED him SQUARE in the FACE. He broke the kid’s nose, there was blood all over the place, and the guy cried.

The brother didn’t even get into any trouble. Back then they were all in it together.

Gavin and Cooper are always messing around in Mr. Krister’s class. He kicks them out all the time. Gavin is a freshman, but he’s so jacked out of his mind he’s going to be on the varsity football team next year. He’s crazy strong, like a monster man.

Mr. Krister makes it a ritual making fun of Gavin. Every day before prayer he will start staring at Gavin and Gavin will start laughing. Gavin’s got a deep voice, but when he laughs it turns into a high-pitched giggle.

We say prayers, the Our Father, or the Hail Mary, before all our classes. We pray eight times a day. That’s a lot of praying. “Prayer is where the action is,” Mr. Rote always says. When Gavin laughs Mr. Krister tries to stare him down, because Mr. Krister’s a jerk. He will keep staring and staring and then Gavin starts laughing like a girl.

Gavin’s best friend Cooper is just retarded. He plays baseball, but he’s crazy bad at running the bases. He always falls down, or at least almost always. But, he made the team because he’s got a snake arm. Before class he asks guys for pencils and then throws them across the room into the trashcan. I’ve never seen him miss. He ALWAYS makes it.

He sits in the back corner where Mr. Krister put him so he can’t bother anybody, especially Caoch. One day Gavin asked Cooper for a pencil.

“I got a pencil right here,” he said, and smacked his nuts.

Then he fell on the ground, laughing. Mr. Krister tried to pull him up.

“Mr. Krister, I’m sorry, I won’t say anything more during class.”

“Get up, I AIN’T got all day,” Mr, Krister said.

He got up and had to go see Brother Ed, who’s the freshman baseball coach.

We had a quiz about World War Two and Cooper answered Il Douche instead of Mussolini. Mr. Krister sent him to see Mr. Streck instead of Brother Ed and he got a detention. He gets them all the time.

There’s a poster on the wall where Cooper sits and one day he signed his signature in big letters all over it.

“Coop, is that your signature?” I asked him.

“Uh, no,” he said, and started laughing.

Mr. Krister walked back to Cooper’s desk.

“I’m pretty sure that’s Cooper’s signature,” the guy sitting next to Cooper said.

Mr Krister started yelling at both of them. Cooper laughed and laughed.

Duffy sits next to me and is absolutely retarded, just like Cooper. He plays hockey, even though he’s hardly any good. He has trouble lacing up his skates. He pretended to smoke weed during class, making the motions, like he was blazing.

“Duffy, get your books, you’re going downstairs.”

“I wasn’t doing anything, Mr. Krister. It was all Cooper. It’s his fault.” He almost started crying, or laughing.

“WHAT?” Cooper said. “You blame me for everything.”

Everybody in class cracked up.

“Cooper, get your books, you’re going down with Duffy.”

But, since Duffy was actually crying, he didn’t make them go to Mr. Streck’s office. I call Mr. Krister a softie because he won’t always crunch time anybody.

Our class is full of idiots. My friend CJ, who’s gay and is on the swim team, sits in front of me. He absolutely hates Duffy. He always swears at him.

“Duffy, I HATE you SO much.”

“CJ, shut up.”

“No, you shut the hell up.”

I don’t know why CJ hates Duffy. He will just whirl around, stare hard at Duffy, and mouth off random obscenities. He yells them out in the middle of class. Everybody can hear him. He doesn’t scream, but he says them loud enough. It goes on every day, even when Mr. Krister is lecturing about some peace treaty, or other.

Mr. Krister doesn’t do anything about it because he loves CJ, since CJ tells on everybody. He’s the town crier. He never tells on me, because he knows me, and we’re friends.

I hate the class, but it’s an easy A, and I get to be with all my bud retards messing around. It’s a day at the races. It’s awesome.

Cabin 6

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“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

I would trade any day in the real world for five minutes at summer camp. After the next two summers, when I’m older, after my last year at camp, when I’m not allowed to be a camper anymore, I’m going back as a counselor.

That’s a sure thing.

Summer camp is different than being at home. There are fewer adults and nobody’s parents are there. The counselors are almost like you. Some of them let you run amok and hope no one dies. All your friends are together again and there are more of them than at home. Nobody yells at you for two weeks. The counselors scream if you do something dumb, but you don’t get yelled at for doing anything wrong by mistake.

Even when you do it’s all over in a few minutes, not like at home, where it never never ends.

NO SIR!

The summer sky at summer camp is clean and windy. Some kids don’t shower when they’re there and that’s disgusting, but nobody cares too much about it. But, one time somebody’s parents wouldn’t let him in the car when camp was over.

“No, go hose yourself off, and brush your teeth! What is wrong with you?“ his mother complained.

Last year we had bedbugs. We caught them with scotch tape and kept them in a glass jar. We tried to kill them with poison spray, because when they sucked your blood they left itchy clusters on your skin, but the bugs didn’t seem to care. When the camp commander found out about it he hired a bed-bug sniffing dog. It was a Beagle, just a little bigger than Scar. He was a scent dog, though. Scar my dog is a detection dog. He searches out BS wherever it is, like up in Jack’s room.

The camp Beagle was so good he sniffed out one bedbug hiding behind the plastic cover of our electric outlet. The next day everyone whose cabins had the plague piled their stuff in plastic garbage bags and threw the bags inside all the cars at camp, in the hot sun, with the windows closed.

All the bedbugs died.

My friends and I are in the smallest of the nine boy’s cabins, cabin 6. The only space we have on the floorboards is to walk back and forth to our beds. Matt is my best friend and number one. He’s just shorter than me shiny blue eyes like buttons and stick slender. We like to run around, not get too uptight, and soft chill at the end of the day. We’ve been rooming together in the same cabin for seven years and know each other better than anything.

Logan is my second best friend. He’s a little taller than me, funny, and chunky. He chews green frog gummies and spits them out on the cabin floor, where we squash them flat like gooey pancakes. He likes to play paintball. He’s strong, too, but not loud or belligerent. He has in-grown toenails. One night he punched someone who stomped on his bad toe.

Logan was, like, “Dude!” and he pushed the guy and then got punched in the stomach for it. Logan punched him back in the face, but without being mean about it. It was the NIGHT OF THE SUPER STARZ in the mess hall. We were just sitting there watching the show when the stomper started crying. He had a bruise on his cheek and a black eye.

There was a midnight mass after the show. Logan had to go back to our cabin early, although all that happened the next day was the counselors made him sweep the mess hall. He just helped, but not too much, since that’s somebody’s job, anyway.

Logan is a tad ghetto. He’s not poor, but he likes being ghettoish. He’s from Toronto and lives uptown, although I don’t know where that is. He said he lives in a neighborhood of chinksters. He smokes weed sometimes, although he’s not good at it. He and one of his friends went to a creek and smoked weed and he got really afraid.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Story time with Logan is always fun and funny.

At night in our cabin we talk about movies, TV shows, and our favorite videos on YouTube. We talk about girls, some of them more than others, and we talk about video games a lot, even though we don’t have any at camp. They’re not allowed. The one of us in our cabin who doesn’t talk much is Titus, who we call Tits. He just sits in his corner all secluded, but he does play some video games, so I talk to him about that, sometimes.

Call of Duty is my game, except I don’t play it on my Xbox anymore, only on my computer. I love it when they say, “In war there is no prize for the runner-up.” I’m not sure what games Titus plays, although he’s mentioned some of them.

Nobody knows what’s wrong with Titus. We love Tits, but he’s quiet. He doesn’t do anything, which is the problem. At night when we’re all laying around in our cabin he’ll start crying. He’ll just cry sitting on his bed. When we ask him what’s wrong, he says, “I don’t know.”

We don’t ignore him and we never do anything to him. We punch him every once in awhile, but not hard. Mostly when he’s looking, but sometimes when he’s not looking.

He gets pinkeye every summer. We don’t make fun of him, though. But then he got double pink eye. That was too much.

We were all, like, “God damn it, Titus!”

Everybody made fun of him as a joke, and then he cried, but not because of that, just because he’s Titus.

Amelia, who is part of Natalie’s posse, but who is actually nicer and even pretty, has a reddish birthmark on her face, like a spotted dog. I think she’s self-conscious about it because she always turns to her left whenever anyone takes her picture, away from the birthmark.

We never say anything about the birthmark to her. We talk about it in our cabin, but nothing bad, really, although sometimes we’ll say, “What’s that thing crawling on her face?”

One night Titus was laid out on his bunk in the corner while we were talking home stories when out of nowhere he said, “Did somebody have their period and rub it on Amelia’s face?”

We all sat there quiet for a minute. Like, who says that? Then we just burst out laughing.

It was a brutal thing to say, especially coming from Titus. We call him Tits because he has them. He’s always been flabby and lately he’s been getting heavier. He doesn’t play any sports, at all.

Kajus sleeps in the corner opposite Titus. He’s a douche bag. He thinks he can play guitar, but all he does is play the same part of Stairway to Heaven over and over. Who needs that? We are always yelling, “Shut up!”

We broke his guitar, but it was a piece of junk, anyway.

We broke the brand new fan his parents got him, too. Logan was angry that day, his toes hurt, and he started hitting the fan with a comb. Then we took it behind the cabin and beat it with a hockey stick. It was hanging on rags when we were done. The spiny part was smashed, giant chunks were missing, but we just kept beating it. We threw bottles of water at it, finally.

We did everything to it. Kajus wasn’t too happy when he found out.

When his parents came mid-week from Toronto they asked him what happened. He told them we did it, but not surprising to us, they didn’t believe him. After that he tipped a Diet Coke over on my bed. I poured the rest of it on his bed, and he pushed me, so I punched him, and he punched me back, and I finally punched him in the jaw, but not crazy hard, and he stopped.

We have a food-eating contest every summer after the Counselor Staff Show. The little kids have to go to bed, but we stay up late to play the game. Whoever volunteers is blindfolded and has to eat whatever the counselors make. Everyone has to keep their hands behind their backs and lap it up like a dog. Sometimes the other guys puke, but I never throw up.

Last year the counselors made bowls of Rice Krispies with ketchup mustard strawberry jelly lots of salt, and all mashed together like potatoes. It was horrible. Everybody cheers you on and you have to eat it all as fast as you can if you want to win.

Some nights if we have stayed up late the night before we try to go to sleep a little earlier than usual, no more than two or three in the morning. We don’t keep track, but we have to get some sleep because the counselors get us up at seven-thirty for calisthenics. They march us to the sports field and make us do a butt load of jumping jacks, push-ups and crunches, and run the track.

If they see you are tired and slacking they will make you do more.

We wake up every morning to dance music. It’s always Katy Perry or Duck Sauce, or whatever the counselors want, played from loudspeakers hidden in the trees. Even though I try, sometimes I don’t hear it because I’m dead asleep. The counselors carry water shooters. If they say you have twenty seconds to wake up, and you don’t jump right out of bed, they start squirting you. They shake your bed and jump on you, and scream, but mostly they’re going on to the next bed, so it doesn’t last long.

After we’re done exercising on the sport’s field we go back to our cabins, clean up, and raise the flags before breakfast. There are three flags: American, Canadian, and Lithuanian. But, sometimes we’re too tired to clean up and instead fall back asleep in our cabins and are late for the flag raising.

When that happens it’s time for some humiliation. Whoever is late has to step out into the middle of everybody on the parade ground and do the chicken dance.

All the boys on their side of the parade ground do the chop, swiveling their arms like tomahawks and chanting. Nobody knows what it means, but they all do it, and the girls stand there watching. Then they do their own dance, like cheerleaders, except they aren’t cheering for you.

Everybody gets their fair share.

All the cabins have to keep a diary for the two weeks of camp. We get graded on it every day. If you write something stupid, like “ugi ugi ugi” or anything that doesn’t make sense, you get a bad grade. The counselors tell us to be sincere.

“What does that mean?” Logan asked, but they just laughed.

Matt always writes our diary because everyone else in our cabin is retarded. Once Tits wrote something dumb in our diary, and at the flag lowering that night we all had to do the Rambo, running down the slope to the flagpoles with no shirts on and singing “cha cha cha” while everyone did the chop.

We wrestle in the older boy’s cabin. It’s the biggest cabin, so it’s got space for the fighting. We move the beds and duct tape a sleeping bag onto the wood floor. There is no punching allowed, no hammer blows, or anything like that, but you can kick and throw each other on the ground.

We aren’t supposed to fight, because the camp commander doesn’t like it, but everybody wrestles and gets bruised up.

One night at our wrestlemania Chase and Mason were locked together when Chase grabbed Mason’s head and flipped him over. Mason slammed hard into a bedpost and got knocked out. We let him lay there, but when he didn’t wake up for twenty seconds we threw dirt on him.

He jumped up and was fine after that.

The next day we were walking to New Wasaga Beach, which is where the whole camp goes every afternoon for a swim, and Mason jumped on Chase’s back for no reason and almost cracked it. But, they didn’t punch each other. They’re not haters.

Besides, the counselors were watching, and that would have been trouble.

Every year a year goes by and when I’m back at summer camp it’s like I never left. As soon as I get there I unload everything I’ve brought, my clothes sleeping bag snacks. All my stuff has my initials written on it with a Sharpie. We find our cabins and claim our beds, and then your parents are gone before you know it. Sometimes I don’t even realize they’ve left.

You see your friends again, everybody in your cabin, and everyone you’ve ever camped with. There are high-fives knuckle-touches bro-hugs all around. We all punch each other and laugh it up.

“What’s up, dude.”

We reunite with the girls and get some overdue hugs from them. When all the parents are finally gone we have sandwiches in the mess hall. Father Elliott says a prayer and the camp commander makes a speech. He writes the camp rules in big BLOCK letters on a chalkboard.

The best night of summer camp is the Saturday night we play our manhunt game. It’s called Nazis and Jews. The little kids have to go to bed. The older campers are the Jews and the counselors are the Nazis. We start running as soon as it gets completely dark, so we have a chance, and then the counselors come after us.

Last summer we almost didn’t play the game. “It was probably somebody’s parents complaining,” the counselors said, complaining about us calling our game Nazis and Jews. Everybody was worried. In the end, though, the game went on, although there’s talk we’ll call it something else next year.

It doesn’t matter. It’s a crazy legend at camp, not like a legend like an old man with a cane who’s always telling you what he used to do. You can’t just stop it dead on a dime.