Four Fictions from FUN CAMP: Gabe Durham

One Camper per Deck Chair

One deck chair per camper. No running around the pool except during barefoot poolside relays. Don’t rub your eyes when you get chlorine burn. All swimmers must first pass the Deep-End Test, which is ten questions, true or false, regarding the history of the deep end. During Sharks n’ Minnows, no actual biting. During Marco Polo, no not saying “Polo.” Don’t call staff over to watch your synchronized swimming routine unless you’re really gonna nail it. Splashing encouraged. Mild dunking encouraged. No more than three people on the water slide ladder at a given time. Be super-careful when stand-sliding down the water slide. One handy tip: pool water doesn’t quench like you’d hope. No swimming for thirty minutes after the midwives of the nearby townie birthing center commandeer the pool. No ogling the lifeguards too obviously. Swim trunks should rest one half-inch below the bellybutton at all times. No two-piece, flesh tone, neon, or writing-on-the-butt swimsuits. No boys showing girls which way the gym is. It’s confusing and hurtful—there is no gym. Same-sex pantsing only, please. That rule always gets some groans, but thank your stars you’re even allowed in the same pool with each other. It wasn’t so long ago the elders on our abstinence committee called coed swim “mixed bathing,” a term so imbued with erotic stigma, boys used to mess themselves at the sight of a deep end.

 

Take It from a Vet

I’m glad at least you’re having fun. Two years ago camp was mild weather always, singing nonstop and everybody so into it, funner games, better food, better theme, cuter boys, more impactful lessons, older kids you could tell were considered cool at school, extremer pranks. This girl Maggie Reed bled so hard when the pail of milk they rigged up to fall on her head didn’t tip like it was supposed to. Twenty stitches. So far this year, we’ve seen only the kind of injuries healed with a wash, kiss, and a band-aid, or if there’ve been good spills I’ve missed them. I swear even the outside smelled fresher two years ago. In a way, it’s got to be easier for you, not having been here for Fun Camp’s good years. How does one explain the savory tang of a ripe strawberry to the girl with no taste buds? But even you must vaguely discern the “late to the party” flavor of last night’s freezer-burned fish sticks. Best for us to just pass free time here on the porch, tan, snack, call out slurs to the phonies strolling by, and let this dismal excuse for an off-year blow over.

 

Laura Winslow and the Baffling Sincerity

Weird thing happened yesterday after the Family Matters skit. What? What do you mean, “What Family Matters skit?” The skit my cabin did. You missed it? Where were—no, never mind, never mind, don’t even speak her name. So the Cliff’s Notes: the Winslows are planning a Mormonesque family fun night and Laura—played by me—asks Carl if she can instead go to this party a cute boy invited her to, and Carl—played by Brian with a pillow in his shirt—gets pissed at the mere suggestion and puts his foot down: Laura’s not going to that party. I yell back, “I’m a grown woman, daddy! I’m a grown woman!” Just then Maxine honks the horn to pick me up and I run out of the house and go to the party. But when we get there—new scene—everybody’s just sloppy drunk, including the “cute guy” played by hairy Derek. He hits on me, calls me “hot legs”—funny ‘cause we’re dudes—and I slap him and run all the way home and apologize to Carl and we hug and I say my wrap-it-all-up line, “I guess what I learned is that family really does matter,” and boom—end of skit. But you know that kid Randall? Chip on his shoulder? Wears a wife-beater everywhere? He comes up to me after the skit misty-eyed and says that his family’s been through a lot lately—brother’s in jail for gang stuff—and he wants me to know that the message of our skit really spoke to him. And I almost said, “Look, dude, the cabin was looking for an excuse to stuff pillows in our shirts and act drunk,” but I thanked him and gave a thumbs-up, terrified he was about to hug me.

 

One Week

One week? So many sticky memories in such a disposable duration seems impossible. In seventy-five years, you’ll be grizzled on some hospital bed, leaning too hard on memories to divert you from slow death, struggling to recall your husband’s name, hard-pressed to find a memory about which you can confidently say, “That was in my thirties,” but speaking in complete paragraphs about the boy you met when he came plowing into you at kickball, about when you yelled “gin!” during Spades and made him laugh, about the conspiratorial lunch table whispers you and his friends shared over whether he’d be your boyfriend, about the stiff goodbye when he left a night early to get to an aunt’s wedding, about the cheek peck he gave you, and about the note to him you’d folded into your sock. A note that scratched your ankle with each step as you went to meet him and again on the way back. His mom was watching from the car, smiling weird. You were from the city and camp was your first time seeing real night sky. “I never told you all this, Dad,” old you will say to your old husband. “I kept it a secret.” But you’ve told him for years. He eggs you on ‘cause he sees how you love to tell it, how each time you think of it, it’s a revelation, a gift you got you.

***

Gabe Durham is the author of Fun Camp and the editor of Boss Fight Books. A new book, Bible Adventures, is his own contribution to the Boss Fight series. It’s about Christian video games from the early 90s. He lives in Los Angeles.

Photo credit: csunberry, morguefile.com

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