I’ll Give up my Independence When You Pry it From my Hot, Sweaty Puberty

 

July 4th, 2012

Camp Cement, Teen Yurt #3

Dear Mom and Dad,

When you sat me down for that talk about how your jobs had been “downsized” into more or less lying around on the couch all day watching reruns of The Howie Mandel Show and therefore you were going to have to “re-think” the “whole deal about” sending me to Camp Grizzly Paw this year (where they have lakes and canoes and girl counselors and pretty much every friend I have in the world went instead) I wasn’t bitter. In fact, I didn’t even complain. Sure, I locked myself in the basement until Dad broke down the door with a file cabinet, but even Dr. Collins said that was “reasonably normative adjustment behavior” when certain “long-anticipated rewards are arbitrarily cratered.”

Man, does the dude get paid by the hour or the syllable?

Either way it’s all egghead talk in the end, because as it turns out, I love it here at Camp Cement.

Totally, totally love it.

On the other hand, love is sort of a relative concept, don’t you think? One that poets and playwrights have been wrestling with for centuries? So do any of us really have time to play around with verbal absolutes? I sure don’t. But that’s mostly because my yurtmates, the Sabuto Brothers, threaten every thirteen seconds to “show me their Linkin Park tattoos.” I’m like “who cares about tattoos, even my grandma has a tramp stamp” and they’re like “but ours are special” and I’m like “special how?” and then they bend over and go “they’re scratch n’ sniff” and laugh and laugh like it’s the very first time, before taking turns punching me in the thigh for not getting it.

Vince and Kyle

I’ll be honest here, Mom and Dad, I miss you. But not nearly as much as I miss how much better this summer would have been if Santa had brought me the taser I asked for for Christmas. Because at least then I would have been able to protect the things I stashed in the loose floorboard under my cot. The Sabutos found it before I even had the loose nail back in. Without the taser I repeatedly asked for and the nine thousand volts of Street King™ thug-dropping power it would have instantly put at my fingertips, I had to just stand there and watch while they pocketed all my gum, the twenty dollar bill you gave me for The Canteen (there is no canteen), my iPod, and my Sweaty Agassi vs. Kid Razor comics.

If you'll recall, I asked specifically for the X-26.

But maybe most distressingly, the Sabutos found the picture of Trishelle Konstanakis I cut out of the yearbook, signed the back of with my left hand so it would look like a girl’s signature, and hoped to show my cool new best camp friend when we stayed up late comparing the “ladies waiting for us back home.” Instead it seems the photo has forced me to make an early and perhaps irreversible life-choice, since the Sabutos keep looking at it and saying “yer a fag.” When I’m like “what do you mean?” they laugh and go “exactly, fag.” So I must be, since it seems like they would know. Please alert all the relevant aunts and uncles that I may have a bombshell to drop at Thanksgiving.

Who is Yul Brenner, anyway? Even "with a wig," I doubt Trishelle looks at all like her.

Speaking of the food here, it’s really good. For breakfast every morning they stir up a huge pot of Ol’ Gram Cement’s Hiker Gruel, which is mostly like these oats except I don’t think they’re really oats and there’s milk you can pour on them that I don’t think is really milk, but the rusty metal can says Hi in Protein! on the side so I figure that means either it was imported from Liberia, which is always a good sign for milk, or the company is really into puns, which is also almost always a good sign for milk.

Either way a lot of us are ready for a snack about five minutes after breakfast is over, but whenever anyone’s like “when’s lunch?” Counselor Vlad gets this creaky noise in the back of his throat and stands up and yells “time for the Rudiments of Foraging class!” and we’re all like, “the what of what class?” and he goes “nuts and berries, assholes, the forest’s full of them.”

Counselor Vlad during Shut It and Chianti Time

So we all traipse out into the woods and look around under rocks and behind trees but as far as I can tell no one has ever found a berry, let alone a nut. This kid Chris Lupus found a candy wrapper that we all took turns licking and Counselor Vlad called it “the very definition of group cooperation and successful forage.” For a minute it seemed like a real breakthrough for Camp Cement, but then Danny Bates, who’s got dark circles under his eyes and looks like he has two drops of blood in his entire body and one of those drops is shaped like a sickle cell, goes “Counselor Vlad, if I don’t eat some bacon right now I think I might die.” Man, the woods were quiet for like five whole minutes, except the sound of Chris Lupus hyperventilating, and then Counselor Vlad just turned and took off running into the woods. We all stood there waiting for him to come back, but he never did. This kid Scooter Po started to cry and then his older brother Derf Po found a bug and ate it. Eventually the Sabutos go “fuck this noise” (sorry for the cursing, but that’s really what they said), except they say everything in unison, so it was more like “fuck fuck this this noise noise” and then we crashed around in the underbrush for about nine straight hours. Finally I was so tired I walked face-first into the side of the Punishment Hut, which is right next to the yurts, so we knew we were home.

Then yesterday we had Arts and Crafts, but for some reason they just call it “crafts” and I asked Counselor RZA why and he goes “we couldn’t afford the arts” and then dumps this huge pile of Popsicle sticks on the table. Except they’re not really Popsicle sticks, they’re more like those tongue depressors you get from the doctor, and each of them has Property of Cementville Free Clinic stamped on it. The Sabuto brothers immediately start sharpening theirs into little wooden knives. I was like “where’s the glue?” and Counselor RZA goes “what glue?” and I’m like “you know, to stick them together and make a log cabin or whatever” and he goes “just use your imagination” and I was like “what do you mean?” and he goes “imagine them glued together” and I was like “I’m not very good at abstract thinking” and he goes “Okay, then try to imagine I give a fuck.”

Counselor RZA during Stop and Frisk This Shit Time

Afterwards I was walking back to my yurt and there was a ton of smoke and it sorta seemed like a pretty big wildfire was raging off in the woods, but no one seemed too concerned except these two campers I’d never seen before who were standing there all guilty kicking the dirt with their eyebrows singed off, so I go and find Counselor Huck, who runs the place, which mostly seems to consist of him sitting in his F-150 drinking out of a paper bag, and I was like

“Can I ask you a question?”

And he goes, “no refunds.”

“I’m not asking for a refund.”

“Then what are you asking for?”

“A ride to the Trailways station?”

“Negatory.”

“Then how about a cheeseburger?”

“Cheese is for campers who excel in all phases of the program.”

“What phase am I not excelling at?”

Counselor Huck sighed and stared into the glove compartment for a long time.

“Well, for starters, there’s not much chance you’re going to earn your Never Asks Dumb Questions badge, now is there?”

I looked down at my foot for a while, stupid toes inside stupid flip flops, until he finally goes “listen, Numbnut, just run on back to your tent and get ready for Fireworks Night, okay?”

So I did, and then we all sat there in a circle talking about which fireworks we liked best, like Cherry Bombs and Whizzers and Shanghai Dragons and then Counselor Vlad goes “Hooray for America” and pulls out this flashlight and shines it into the trees for a while, turning it on and off and making “pow pow pow” sounds under his breath until the battery died and we all went to bed.

Anyway Mom and Dad, I know you paid in advance for two months of Camp Cement and are (according to Counselor Huck) well-versed on the no-refund policy but I seriously think the last three days have aged me like three years, so if nothing else I figure I’m now technically sixteen and pretty much ready to get my license and drive. So if you don’t come rescue me (for instance) the exact same second you receive this letter, I am going to steal the first car I come to and aim it very, very fast toward my bedroom.

Your loving son,

(and also the Sabuto Brothers, who are reading this over my shoulder and are fairly convinced when you see how loveable they are, not to mention the sheer excellence of their new wooden knife collection, you’ll be willing to adopt them and bring them home too)

Sean

 

 

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About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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