Episode 1 – Arrival
I step off the bus at the gate of Camp Cedar Lake, dead tired after eight hours of traveling…walk down a dirt road past a couple of shitty, unpaved parking lots…wonder what a city kid is doing here. At sixteen, decided it’s time to get a Summer job and jumped at the opportunity when the owner, Alden Kramer, interviewed inner city candidates. Previous Summers, I’d worked as counselor at a day camp in Manhattan, so we had a long conversation about kids and their problems. There were thirty applicants for the Cedar Lake job, so I figured my chances were marginal…but the very next day, Kramer called and said he was impressed by my observations and maturity, and the job was mine.
Beyond the parking lots, the hill crests, and ta da! Everything totally changes. An incredible lawn sweeps down to docks and a boathouse, with glistening Cedar Lake beyond. On the hillside, there are two large frame buildings, tennis courts, and in a grove to my right, ten smaller cabins…half wood and half screen. One cabin is standing apart from the others with a sign “camp office” out front…I shoulder my duffel and head there.
I stand at the bottom of the wooden steps…door’s open…sign over it reads” “Youth…the hope of all mankind.” A little strange…
I knock on the door frame. A blond is working at a desk. I clear my throat…wave hello.
She stands and studies me briefly. “You must be Jesse Pena, right?”
I chuckle. “Last time I checked.”
Her voice is Eastern establishment prep and really offensive. She’s too chirpy and seems uncomfortable, or maybe it’s me.
“What a nice surprise! You’re not what I expected at all,” she says.
“No? What did you expect?”
The question catches her off guard. She blinks…”Well…you’re so…tall, and you don’t have an accent.”
“I go to a really good school, amiga,” I say sarcastically, but she doesn’t get it.
“In the city.” I don’t feel like giving her an explanation. I don’t advertise that I go to the High School of Fashion, HSFI. Don’t get me wrong…I’m proud of it, but sometimes I catch unnecessary shit, so I don’t volunteer it.
“I love shopping in the city,” she says.
I smile amiably. No point in doing anything else, and I’m not a big talker anyway…some people assume I’m gay, because I’m soft spoken and into fashion, but I don’t feel like I am, but this girl’s weirding me out. It’s like she grew up in some WASP enclave…every assumption about me is wrong…but maybe it’s what Kramer told her. He interviewed a bunch of kids, some poor, some not…my family’s in the “not” category…Dad’s an orthopedic surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian…so I feel guilty that maybe I deprived some poor kid of an opportunity…but Alden Kramer never asked what my dad did, and I didn’t hide anything…he probably assumed my dad was a janitor or something, and I’m not even Latino. My grandparents are from Madrid.
At that moment, a guy comes in…chunky, jock type…blond crew cut.
“Lowell, this is Jesse,” the blond says. “Jesse from the city.”
“Hey,” he mumbles with hardly a glance. Turns to her. “I’m having a bitch of a time with the Kramer’s boat. It’s such an antique some of the parts are worn out. How the fuck am I gonna replace ’em?”
My eyes wander to the corner…there’s a Greek sculpture on a wood pedestal….seems totally out of place. What’s with that I wonder?
“Lowell’s a wizard with machinery,” the girl gushes.
I’m kind of bent she doesn’t bother to introduce herself. “Excuse me,” I say. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Suzanne Mittendorf from Darien, Connecticut. Just call me Sue.”
“Great,” I say.
“Where you from?” Chunky asks absent-mindedly. His tee shirt and hands are smeared with oil and grease.
“The city,” I say.
He nods. “Oh.”
“What about you?” I ask. Figure two can play that game.
“Westport,” he says, clearly wants nothing to do with me….but adds: “You should talk to Pedro. He’s from someplace in Latin America…Guatemala maybe.”
My blood boils, but I say, “gracias,” even though my Spanish isn’t anything great.
“You’re in Cabin 6,” Sue says. “Want me to show you? You’re bunk mate Ben is already settled in. He’s British.”
“Cool…I’ll find it.”
To be continued… Read episode two!