Last week I gave you my stab at Hint Fiction in the post, “Just a Hint & Nothing More.” Many of you were curious as to what my 25-word story was all about. So today, I thought I’d elaborate:
Don’t know how I survived Camp Prison-Shit. If not for Jon and his dog, Lucas, I’d have been dead. Of course, slipping into a coma helped.
Now, Camp Prison-Shit wasn’t its real name, not by any means. But it might as well have been, for the sleepaway camp was a magnet for misfits, losers, miscreants, wise guys and clowns. I’m still trying to figure out which category I fit in.
Had the camp been named Prison-Shit, perhaps I would’ve seen the writing on the wall that much sooner and maybe even hightailed it out of the interview before I was offered a job as camp counselor.
But I’d never been a camp counselor and I had to admit, the job sounded like it could be a lot of fun. I imagined myself frolicking in the great outdoors, swimming, canoeing, and doing arts and crafts, too. I’d be in charge of bright-eyed, content children, eager to enjoy all that the camp had to offer. They’d look up to me as their leader and we’d singalong as we hiked along the trails, kind of like Maria and the Von Trapp kids.
It sounded good on paper. So I went in with my eyes wide open. As wide as the biggest sinkhole in Florida, that is, with crocodiles waiting to prey on their victims.
On the day I arrived for the job interview, I was determined to nail it. I was hoping they’d see past my shy veneer to my inner giddy enthusiasm. Yes, I was chomping at the bit to get this job!
Having recently returned from my first year in college, I saw it as my ticket out of having to spend the entire summer at home. A lot of friends from school were backpacking across Europe that summer, courtesy of their parents’ deep pockets. But Europe was something my parents couldn’t afford, nor would they ever approve of, not in a million years. As far as they were concerned, good Latin girls didn’t traipse on their own across Europe. Nope. They stayed close to home and helped their mothers in the kitchen and with the laundry.
But somehow, getting a job as a camp counselor for a sleepaway camp was a different matter. Even though I’d be spending the whole summer in upstate New York and away from home, that was fine with them. It was a job, after all. One in which I’d be working with children and experiencing the joys of hard work. Besides, a camp director would be supervising us at all times and there’d be no boys to distract, which meant no hanky-panky. Assuming I was hired, I had my parents’ blessing.
So, wearing my best job-seeking outfit: a green velour turtleneck with a black, pleated skirt and platform shoes, I boarded the train to Penn Station, and headed into the city. Little did I realize, wearing that outfit in May would be a huge mistake. The velour made me feel vacuum-sealed, like I was suffocating and I swear I felt as if a giant furry suction cup had latched on to my face.
It wasn’t even that hot out, but by the time I arrived at Penn Station I was a sweating machine, with perspiration engulfing my face, hair, arms and legs. I was a clammy mess.
Thankfully, when I got to the interview 15 minutes ahead of my one o’clock appointment, the reception area was air conditioned. It was also empty, devoid of other job applicants. I thought it odd, since I imagined there would be many counselor positions available.
The receptionist looked like Aunt Bea from the “Andy Griffith Show.” She was busy writing some notes in a file and didn’t even look up when I approached the counter, yet somehow she sensed I was there.
“What can I do for you, Missy?”
I told her my name and hesitantly said, “I think I have an appointment?”
With the office appearing deserted, I couldn’t be sure if anyone was around to interview me. For all I knew, I had arrived on the wrong day.
“Have a seat, Missy. It’s not yet one.”
“Do I have time to visit the restroom?”
“No, Missy,” Aunt Bea stiffly replied. “Mrs. Tupello is finishing her lunch and is just about ready to see you.”
I was trying to decide whether to go anyway and attempt to give myself a quick pat down with some wet paper towels, when she snappily repeated, “Didn’t you hear me, Missy? Take a seat, already! Sheesh!”
And so I sat in the seat closest to where I’d been standing, all the while thinking, this wasn’t the Aunt Bea I knew, filled with folksy charm and sage wisdom.
Five minutes later, Aunt Bea, who still hadn’t glanced my way, told me to walk down the hallway to the first office on the left and to snap to it.
“Time is money, you know,” I heard her say with a laugh, as I scurried down the hall.
I entered a small office. There was the Camp Director, Mrs. Tupello, a tall woman in her 40s, wearing a hint of pink lipstick with her platinum hair pulled high into a loose bun. She looked a bit like an aging beauty queen and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her wearing a sash and crown. Sitting at her desk, she was picking at the remnants of what smelled like a tuna sandwich and gingerly popping bits of it into her mouth. I sat down across from her and nervously waited for her to begin the interview.
She asked the usual questions that are asked, I suppose, of any teenager applying for a summer job–what was my major (I hadn’t yet settled on one); what I wanted to do with my life and what were my goals (frankly, I didn’t realize I was supposed to have any); and what was my past experience working with kids (In high school I had a regular job babysitting three semi-rambunctious boys who were obsessed with the TV show, “Adam-12,” about the travails of two police officers working for the LA Police. I never let on to those boys how much I disliked that show.).
I tried my best to respond, anxious as I was to do well, but then Mrs. Tupello threw me a curve ball and asked why I wanted to work at a non-profit camp for children who would be experiencing camp life for the very first time.
My mind blanked. I had no idea why, except that I didn’t want to be home for the summer. Besides, I’d never been to sleepaway camp myself. My family had never gone camping or hiking, or swam in a lake or did anything that hinted of outdoor living. Maybe I should admit that I could be a candidate for the program.
Finally, I just said, “Because sleepaway camp is fun and I want to help the children have the best fun ever.”
Mrs. Tupello nodded in agreement. “It really is so much fun,” she said. “Well, I think you can expect to hear from us very soon!”
I made it back home by 5:30 and learned that Mrs. Tupello had already called and left a message. The job was mine. Ten weeks of camp life with a few days off here and there, and I’d be paid $400 for the entire summer.
I readily accepted the offer.
Which is how I became a counselor at Camp Prison-Shit and spiraled into the bowels of hell.
To Be Continued…