“You have Mono.”
Confused and groggy, I opened one eye. My head felt as if it’d been pummeled, side-swiped, and smashed against one of those large rocks down by the lake. Yep, as if eight weeks at Camp Prison Shit hadn’t been enough, I was pretty sure I’d now officially been through the ringer.
“I’m tired,” I said feebly.
“Of course you are. You have Mononucleosis. Do you hear me? Mono.”
I stared at the woman addressing me. Mrs. Tupelo, the camp director. She was peering into my face. Her white skin was tight around the corners of her mouth as she enunciated each syllable in a raised voice, like I was hard of hearing or something. Her orange red Revlon-coated lips pressed back against her gums, exposing her glossy, Chicklet teeth that seemed ready to take a bite out of a watermelon.
I was laying in a bed, a real bed, not the standard-issued cot we had in our cabins. I had just awoken, a miserable, snotty wretch. What I’d give to be anywhere else. Back at school even. Away from all this crap. Yet here I was, still at Camp Prison-Shit. How long had I been out, I did not know.
“What am I doing here?” Why was I still at camp, I wanted to know.
“Jon found you in the woods during the storm three nights ago. When he brought you in, you were in a coma-like state. Delirious at times and with a high fever. I shudder to think what you were doing in the woods during that downpour, but can only assume you were already not feeling well and on your way here, to the infirmary. Lucky thing Lucas had run off and Jon went searching for him. Otherwise, in that storm, who knows when we would’ve found you.”
That’s not exactly how it happened, but I had to hand it to Jon. He was able to save both our necks in one fell swoop of a story.
Mrs. Tupelo sat down on my bed and placed a hand on my forehead.
“Thank God the fever’s broken,” she said with great relief. “You’ll be able to go home tomorrow.”
I stared at her, unable to react as I tried to take in what she’d just said. I’m being released? She must’ve thought my lack of reaction somehow meant disappointment.
“Well, there’s no way I can allow you to rejoin your troop. You’re contagious and you need your rest. So don’t even try to change my mind. Your parents are picking you up tomorrow and that’s that. But don’t worry. We still plan to pay you for your wages through the end of camp which is still three weeks away.”
Leaving tomorrow was music to my ears. No more Camp Prison Shit, and all because I have Mono? How lucky can one girl get?
I yawned and feigned exhaustion so Mrs. Tupelo would leave, but as it turns out, I dozed off. A little while later, I awoke to something warm and furry nuzzling my hand. Lucas! I was thrilled to see him, the most loving German Shepherd I’d ever known. I was sure going to miss him.
“Lucas,” I whispered in his ear. “Did you hear? I’m going home tomorrow. I’m gonna miss you, buddy.” And Jon, too, I thought to myself.
Jon. I wondered about Jon, whether I’d see him again. I figured being a guy he wouldn’t be allowed into this part of the camp. So, chances of running into him before I left were next to nil.
Absentmindedly, I scratched Lucas around the ears and along the back of his neck. There’d be no more hanging out with Jon and Lucas on the farm. Maybe one day, I’d get a German Shepherd of my own and call him Lucas. My very own Lucas.
I scratched Lucas some more, and I could see he liked it. I touched the red kerchief around his neck. My German Shepherd would have a red one, too. Just like Lucas.
Just then, I caught a glint of something white tucked in Lucas’ kerchief. Running my fingers along the knot I found it was a piece of paper. I pulled it out, and unfolded it. A letter from Jon!
“Shit, piss and corruption! You’re awake!” The loud voice startled me.
It was Denise and trailing behind her, Yolanda. I stashed the letter under my pillow.
Denise looked over my sickly state of being and said, “Shit girl, if you wanted out of our troop that bad, all you had to do was say so.”
I smiled sheepishly. “Who’s watching the girls?”
“Don’t you worry about those ingrates. They’re stuffing themselves at dinner while some other counselors are making sure they don’t steal anything from the mess hall like knives, extra ice cream or something.”
“Mira mi’ja,” interjected Yolanda, “we stopped by the cabin and brought you your things, so you don’t have to get ’em later. Besides we don’t want your Mono stinking up the cabin, if you knows what I mean.”
The girls made you a get-well card.” Denise handed me a red sheet of construction paper, with all of the girls names scrawled on it. I looked at the card. Some had drawn flowers and smiley faces next to their names, while others scrawled their names with the handwriting of a serial killer.
“Pretty.” I murmured distractedly, thinking of Jon’s letter.
“Not so pretty, really,” smirked Yolanda. “We told them they had to make the card or no coffee for them in the morning. You know how they get without their cafecito. Nasty.”
I nodded. Still, it was kind of nice they made me a card. Maybe there was hope after all.
“We’ll mi’ja, we better get back to the little maniacs before they set fire to the woods and shit,” said Yolanda. “I’ve had it hasta aqui with them. You lucky stiff for getting to go home with Mono.”
“Yeah, me and Mono are going to have fun together,” I responded, adding, “But I’ll be sure to stay in touch.”
“No you won’t, Mentirosa, so don’t even pretend,” scoffed Yolanda. “You’ll forget about us and all this shit soon as you’re out.”
Lucas laid his head on my bed. I gently stroked it and said to my co-counselors, “Okay, if you say so. Thank you for bringing my stuff. Maybe we’ll see each other back in the city, meet up at a disco or something.”
“Sure thing,” Denise said. “Hey, you’re gonna come back next summer, aren’t you? Mrs. Tupelo said she wants the three of us to come back and work together. Apparently we were damn good with the six and seven-year old’s. Go figure.”
“If she only knew,” remarked Yolanda.
Come back to Camp Prison-Shit? Not in a million years. I shook my head.
“I make it a policy to never go back.” It was a rule I adopted on the spot.
“Think about it. Maybe you’ll change your mind.”
Fat chance. Denise and Yolanda headed for the door.
“Oh and Denise?” I called out.
“Yeah?” She turned and looked at me expectantly, with one hand on the door knob.
“You still owe me 25 bucks.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll mail it to you,” she laughed. And then they were gone. Neither of them had my address.
Alone in my room, just me and Lucas, I grabbed the letter.
“I’m sorry our last night together ended up being such a dud,” the letter began. “Heard it’s Mono. Maybe I’ll get it too, considering I haven’t been feeling well since yesterday.
“Anyway, I just want you to know, I enjoyed our summer together. Hope you did too. Lucas is going to miss you, but he’s hoping, and I guess so am I, that you’ll come back next summer. It sure won’t be the same without you. Good luck in school and feel free to write me anytime. Always, Jon”
I folded the letter and gently placed it in my bag. I then pulled Lucas, who’d been curled up on the bed, close to me. I was going to miss Jon, for sure. But most of all I would miss Lucas. For a few weeks one miserable summer at Camp Prison-Shit, he’d become my loyal companion. Lucas with the red scarf.
I put the letter in a zippered compartment of my bag and snapped the bag shut, forever closing another chapter of my life.
Bittersweet ending. Damn Mono! But Lucas sure did make an impression, didn’t he?
Isn’t it amazing how we can literally close chapters in our lives? I’m considering Chicago – how/ when I left, and that I might literally never go back, despite the initial difficulty of leaving. I truly may never see many of the people that I had a good time with. I’m slowly beginning to accept that reality and reflect on the experiences instead as beautiful stops along the way – places I’ve visited. Kinda’ like having gone to Paris and knowing that it isn’t a place you can possibly revisit too often, if ever again.
I once thought, as I was moving away from DC, that I had made all the friends I could make in one lifetime and as I moved to California, I didn’t think it possible to start over making new friends. But you’re right. What ended up happening is that I have made friends here over the years and I no longer see the ones from the old days. Sometimes we talk and it’s nice, but the old adage is true: you can never go home again.
I am feeling more that way, Monica. Thanks for sharing that with me. Makes me feel less alone in that regard.
Oh Monica you got to leave Camp, not the way you had hoped, I guess. But a way out nevertheless. I think Lucas stole my heart throughout this series. I think you really did survive the place because of him.
Now, you know how I feel about Oliver and Henry, and of course I have a soft spot for royalty, but there is something about a dog with a red bandana – just so cute.
What a treat this story was. I hope you have many more to share. A true writer always pulls the reader in, never pushes them out… You do it marvelously.
Lucas stole my heart, too, much more than his owner, who was cute in his own right, but I doubt in the end we had much in common. Lucas on the other hand, well, I still think of that red kerchief. It really gave him character. A good dog, a good friend.
**Her orange red Revlon-coated lips pressed back against her gums, exposing her glossy, Chicklet teeth that seemed ready to take a bite out of a watermelon.**
the writer in me shaded this sentence, Monica! xxx
Here’s what I adore about you, Kim. You always notice the sentences I worked extra hard on. To be honest, and you may have trouble believing this, it’s because of that, that I sometimes find myself thinking as I’m writing, “Will Kim like this sentence?” So you, my dear, encourage me to want to write better! Thank you so much!
ahhhh, you just made my day, sweetheart. ❤ xxx
The only “out” possible would be to get that sick. One thing for sure, over my lifetime when illness strikes, the sweet well wishes of those around us, seem to come out of the woodwork like a constant. Funny how things just turn out without forcing the issue. I loved following this story with all its twists and turns. You weave great ones. What’s next? btw I read a fiction book for young kids called Free Baseball by Sue Corbett. I thought the writing made a gem of a book. My grandson checked it out from the library and I read it along side him.
Thanks for your nice comments about my story. You’re right. Getting sick was the only way out, and I got to keep the rest of my salary, too! So glad you found a book to share with your grandson. How nice!
Ah young puppy love! Did you ever get that German Shepard?
No, alas, I didn’t. Life happened, time passed, and when I found myself living in a small condo, it didn’t seem right or fair to adopt one, as they are rather large dogs. So instead I have Henry and Oliver, my two little guys.
Interesting series Monica, you certainly did not do anything by halves.
Dogs are always loyal because they never judge you.
A question…. Do you still have John’s letter?
I don’t know. I’ve saved many letters over the years. Would just have to go through them. Problem is, I never seem to have time to do so.
This is a satisfying ending for your tale, Monica. I love how Lucas turned out to be the pivotal point in their finding you in the woods — what a good dog! Almost makes me want a German Shepherd with a red bandana!
Two teensy corrections: “Whose watching the girls?” should be “Who’s.”
And “If she only new” should be “knew.”
Sorry, it’s the editor in me — funny how we can’t seem to see such typos in our own writing, but they’re fairly obvious in somebody else’s, HaHa!!
Thank you so much for letting me know about the mistakes. I so appreciate another pair of eyes. As hard as we try to get it right the first time, alas, something always seems to slip by. And yes! A German Shepherd is would be amazing. You can’t have one without a red bandana! 😉
Well Monica, despite the Mono this was a rather sweet ending to a horrible summer.
Thanks, Val. I’m glad you enjoyed the series. 🙂