Nobody Knows What’s Wrong With Titus
“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.
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.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus