You are a ten year old boy and there is nothing you can do about it.
|You run out of water before anyone else and now you have no water. There is nobody you can go to and say, “Hey Willy, or yo Bobby, how about we share the rest of your water?” You don’t play that. Your name is Todd Huntley and you don’t play that. You don’t know anybody’s name in Tom Sawyer Day Camp. And there is no way you’re about to go up to some strange kid and ask something like that.
You, Todd Huntley, are a little bit on the shy side. And you’re a boy. This whole thing doesn’t work if you’re a girl. And there is no way on earth you would be in Tom Sawyer Day Camp your very first day if you were a girl. Girls go to Becky Thatcher Day Camp.
So, you are shy but determined, brave with certain minor reservations, handsome but for two missing front teeth. And right now, you’re finding it hard to move your tongue around in your mouth because your mouth is beyond dry and filled with dust. As is your nose.
There you are... you see you? Cute little fella in dusty blue jeans and dusty tennis shoes, eleventh of twelve boys trudging up a fire road in the Pasadena foothills with your country club haircut and sweat dripping down your face? It is July and you are ten years old. You can see a freeway below you--it's the Pasadena Freeway you’re pretty sure, but not positive. It is so smoggy and hot in this city in the summer you kind of have to actually be in the Pasadena foothills in order to see the Pasadena foothills. They are not much to look at anyway. They’re brown foothills, lifeless and colorless except for the occasional garter snake which, when spotted, most everyone in Tom Sawyer circles around in awe as the sun beats down and the world smells like smog mixed with sagebrush and ozone and carbon dioxide and your mouth tastes of dust and you can’t even spit! Why? Why can’t you spit? Because you’re out of water, son!
They all have to pick the snake up. Oh, wow! Look! I love snakes! Me too! Can I hold it? No, I’m next, no I’m next!
Now you’re the very last camper in line. And sticking your ground.
“Hey Todd, want to hold the snake?”
It’s the counselor-guy. You think his name’s Andy. “No,” you say, because that’s all you can say. You are thirsty and you are beyond unhappy, and “No,” is all you have as an answer at this stinking moment in your stinking life. You are seriously starting to dislike your mother.
Andy goes to PCC, which as everybody knows stands for Pasadena City College. All the boys love him. You might love him also if he would take you to a creek, or a babbling brook, or maybe just a garden hose. Even a tree would be good to sit under. No, what would be good is if old Andy was leading everybody back to the van so we could all go home. That would be beyond good!
First thing you’ll do when you get home is quietly close the front door and grab a coke out of the fridge then suck that baby down until your eyes water. Then you'll go lie on the couch. Why! Because you can’t breathe. The smog does this to you! You can only take thin little gasps of air. If you just lie there for twenty minutes you will slowly be able to breathe normal again. So, you lie on the couch and your sisters who are older than you by five, seven, nine, and eleven years don’t know you’re there. They have no idea. They have one phone to share and the phone sits on a little phone table about three feet off the ground in a hallway right behind the couch you lie on. And they don’t have a clue you are there...
The things you learn from one sided conversations is enough to make you old beyond your years. You may hear a sister tell her boss that she can’t come into work tonight because she has cramps. Then the boss stutters and stammers and says, "I hope you feel better" and hangs up as fast as possible and your sister laughs and claps her hands. Also, it seems, it’s a good little trick to cry when you’re with a boy and he won’t talk. It works every time. Crying is the greatest thing in the world. It works on teachers, it works on fathers and grandfathers and every other man in the world except for some guy named Jimmy who is a gross turdball. You don’t know Jimmy, but you know he’s a bad kisser, and thinks that he’s cool because he has big biceps, and he doesn’t wash his hair and you are privy to a thousand things more about Jimmy that would no doubt surprise Jimmy and make him not want to go to school ever again and maybe not go on living.
You got mean sisters, kid, and a lot of them.
And you wish with all your heart you were home now with them.
But, you are not. You are now on top of a hill and there is a great big tractor tire laying flat on the ground and suddenly it is decided that each and every member of Tom Sawyer Boys Camp is going to one at a time get inside that tire and roll down the hill until it gets to the bottom which is fifty yards below. Then you bring the tire back up the hill for the next lucky camper to get inside and defy death. You know you’re going to do it because otherwise they would call you chicken, and you, Todd Huntley, don’t play that game.
And you do it.
And you tell the story to your wide-eyed sisters when you get home.