Remember your first sleep-away camp experience? Was it traumatic? Did you feel abandoned by your parents? Or perhaps you felt liberated. Remember the camp songs? The awakening of your soul? I remember how naive I was about my own sexuality. The following short story is based on my first camp experience. The names and characters have been changed to protect the guilty.
The eleven-year old boy cracked an eyelid in the diffused moonlit cabin. He took a deep breath. The sweet aroma of pine trees danced in his nose. And the chorus of a thousand crickets accompanied faint singing and the pulse of mattress springs in the bunk bed above him.
â€œGot a skeeter on my peter knock it off/Got a skeeter on my peeter knock it off/Thereâ€™s another on my brudder/One just landed on my mudder/Got a skeeter on my peter flick it offâ€¦â€
â€œHey, you okay up there?â€ he whispered ,not wanting to awaken the rhythmic breathing of other slumbering boys.
â€œYeah, couldnâ€™t be better. Whoâ€™s askinâ€™?â€ said the voice-from-above.
â€œItâ€™s me, your bunk mate,â€ he said sitting up in bed.
The kid above leaned over his bunk and switched on his flashlight hitting the boy right in the face first aim.
â€œAnd Iâ€™m Dickâ€¦Mr. Dick Puller. And youâ€™re the new kid. Youâ€™re Saji, the elephant boy from Albany, right?â€
â€œYeah,â€ whispered Saji, rubbing his eyes.
â€œYou donâ€™t like camp songs, eh, Elephant boy?â€
â€œNaw, nothinâ€™ like that,â€ whispered Saji, flattered that Mike, the coolest kid in their cabin, had finally acknowledged him.
â€œYou ever ride an elephant in your country?â€
â€œWell, I was born in America. But my parents were born in India; maybe theyâ€¦â€ he trailed off certain that Mike was just teasing him.
â€œLet me guess, this is your first time at Pine Ridge, right?â€
Saji swallowed hard and lied, â€œNope, well, not my first sleep-over camp, but yeah, first time at Pine Ridge.â€ Mustering all the frail courage in his bones he blurted out, â€œlooks like a pretty cool place, too.â€
The flashlight scanned Sajiâ€™s body.
â€œYou always sleep in cowboy pajamas? Tell me you ainâ€™t a Mamaâ€™s boyâ€¦?â€
â€œNaw, just threw a few things in my suitcase before headinâ€™ up here and they musta got mixed in by accident,â€ lied Saji again.
â€œYou wearing underwear?â€
â€œYeah,â€ answered Saji sheepishly.
â€œCool. Hey, you ever kiss a girl?â€ said Mike swinging to the other side of the bunk. â€œCuz if you havenâ€™t you will, before the end of summer. That is, if you listen to me.â€
Saji didnâ€™t know what to say to that one. Lately he had felt that girls were far more interesting than they were last year in fifth grade, but he didnâ€™t know what to make of it.
Some of the other boys started awake.
â€œGot any pubes yet?â€
Embarrassed, Saji didnâ€™t respond.
â€œYou know, pubic hair, around your ball sack?â€ said Mike loud enough so that the other boys could definitely hear him.
Saji was mortified. Why did he ever let his father talk him into this stupid camp? Even his mother said it was mistake. Now he would have to deal with a bully for a bunkmate for the rest of the summer. He was suddenly very miserable.
â€œHey, we got ourselves a virgin,â€ bellowed Mike.
Some of the other boys hooted and hollered, though one would suspect they were probably all still virgins.
Saji felt his face flush in the darkness. He wished he could melt into his bunk bed and never be heard from again.
Mike jumped down from his bunk and found each boy with his flashlight.
â€œIâ€™m going to teach you turds some new tricks for the summer,â€ he bragged. â€œFirst trick my brother Winston taught me to make sure youâ€™re safe. Make sure you donâ€™t catch any S-T-Ds from those girls over at the Lakeview camp!â€
The boys snickered.
Saji pulled the covers up around his chest.
â€œIf youâ€™re going to do the nasty, make sure you carry a rubber at all times,â€ exclaimed Mike. â€œAnd if you donâ€™t have one, Iâ€™ll sell you one tomorrow. Iâ€™ve got a box of them from him.â€
Saji didnâ€™t know what he was talking about. To say that he was sheltered would be a gross understatement. He was insanely naive about sex. His school didnâ€™t even teach sex education to the boys until ninth grade. So being the creative soul he was, he imagined what a rubber looked like and how it was used. He visualized a piece of garden hose about eighteen inches long attached to his penis and going into the vagina of the girl. What was transmitted through the hose, he wasnâ€™t sure. Couldnâ€™t be his pee, although his father once told him that Ghandi was so pure that during his fasts he actually drank his own urine.
â€œShall we initiate brother Elephant Boy into our cabin?â€ queried Mike, pulling Saji out of his bunk and into the middle of the moonlit cabin.
As if on cue, several flashlights were flicked on and their beams of battery-driven light framed the two boys.
â€œSaji! Saji! Saji!â€ chanted the boys in military unison as they hopped out of their bunks and formed a circle around the terrified boy.
â€œSuper atomic wedgie!â€ roared Mike.
With that proclamation the boys started barking and howling like coyotes as Mike reached behind Saji and grabbed a hunk of his underwear. Saji gasped, trying to wiggle free from Mikeâ€™s clutches, but Mike had a vice-like grip on the elastic band.
The boys continued their chanting as Mike pulled and tugged on Sajiâ€™s underwear with all of his might. Saji felt like he would pass out as his penis was pushed into itself. Mike worked on the underwear even harder stretching it far beyond their elasticity until it finally reached the crown of Sajiâ€™s head.
Suddenly, the cabin lights flicked on and Steve, a college freshman and their cabin counselor, stood biting his tongue at the absurdity of the scene before him.
â€œOkay, ladies, what the hellâ€™s goinâ€™ on here?â€
The boys nervously looked at their feet.
Steve glared at Mike.
â€œYou know anything about this?â€
Mike shrugged him off. â€œNope.â€
â€œHow â€™bout the rest of you?â€ said Steve as his searched their guilty faces.
â€œOkay, letâ€™s give Saji some space, let him de-wedge himselfâ€”â€
The boys snickered.
The boys slowly backed away from Saji.
Saji, still snared in his own noose, finally slipped out of his underwear, and pulled up his pajama bottoms.
â€œHow â€™bout you, Saji? Who did this to you?â€
Saji shifted uneasily from foot to foot, thinking about his predicament. He felt his face flush. He wanted to cry, but he couldnâ€™t. He wanted Mike to be punished, but he couldnâ€™t be known as a tattletale. He was so conflicted. All he could think of saying was, â€œit was dark, I couldnâ€™t tellâ€¦â€
Steve knew he was lying, but let it drop.
â€œOkay, ladies, everyone back into your bunks. And if I hear another peep from cabin seven tonight, itâ€™s no free session for anyone tomorrow. Got it?â€
The boys grumbled their â€œyesesâ€ and climbed back into their bunks.
Saji slipped into his bunk.
Steve shut off the cabin light and as he left purposely slammed the door behind him for extra effect.
Mike leaned over his bunk and whispered â€œthanksâ€ to Saji.
â€œSure,â€ whispered Saji, with just a hint more confidence.
Saji closed his eyes and smiled. He wasnâ€™t humiliated. No, he was elated. As far as he was concerned, he was now one of the boys of cabin seven.
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency! The story above is from a collection of short stories entitled tales
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