Episode 3 – Initiation
At 6:00, Ben and I head to the waterfront. Surprisingly, over twenty kids are doing the same.
“Wow,” I say. “I didn’t know so many kids work here.”
“Nor did I,” Ben agrees. “Is it just me, or are there a disproportionate number of ladies?”
I look around us. “You’re right…only us and three other guys.”
“Nice. Improves the odds considerably.”
Marilyn Kramer’s scurrying back and forth in the middle of things. A fire’s burning on the beach…long table’s arrayed with food and a punch bowl. As we approach, Marilyn laughs and points to us…half a dozen girls stare and start whispering.
Ben leans toward me. “That’s a tip-off? We’re in for it.”
“Maybe. I hope they don’t make us do really stupid stuff.” I feel like running away…anywhere but here.
“They definitely have pranks in store.”
“I hate being the center of attention.”
“It has it’s advantages.” I glance at Ben…realize I don’t know him that well.
We wade into the crowd and I feel better…don’t stand out. Still, heads turn. I get the distinct impression we’re the only newbies. Fortunately, Marilyn’s on the beach roasting a pig or something…too far away to embarrass us further. There’s lots of female laughter, excited talk…sounds like everybody’s a Northeast White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Ben and I are the only outliers, but his British status gives him a get-home-free in the Northeast. I gather up a goodie plate and glass of punch…looks like lemonade, tastes like pure alcohol. Can’t believe they’re serving booze at a kids camp…another sip confirms it.
I turn and three girls block my escape. One looks familiar and I realize it’s Sue from the office with her hair in a pony tail. I really look at her, notice the perfect bone structure, heart-shaped face, blue eyes and perky chin….she’s happy…tipsy.
All three look high, and are aggressively checking me out… embarrassing…but I’m checking their tits at the same time…all luscious.
“Jesse, right?” The tallest one asks. “I’m Hadley.” She’s more stunning than Sue if that’s possible…long golden curls, green eyes and a dimpled chin…striking scarf tossed around her neck. I like her style. Behind her, Ben’s making a move on Sue.
“Hi.” I feel out of place. Everybody’s so up…
“Sue alerted us,” Hayley says. “You’re uber cute…I love your teased hair.”
I shrug. “That’s the way it grows…I hardly touch it.”
“Can I feel it?” She asks.
She reaches up and runs her fingers through my hair…feels awesome. “It’s so thick and springy! Cool!” Wins me over big time.
“How come you don’t have an accent?” The third girl asks. “Aren’t you from Brazil or something?” She’s attractive in a scrubbed, athletic way…her body’s compact and chunky. They’re all wearing skin-tight blue camp shorts and polo’s that show off their bodies. Prep girls seem to inherit great breast genes.
“No,” I tell her, “I’m a New Yorker, born and bred.”
“You do sports?”
“Competitive swimming, but I’ll try anything.”
“Volleyball? That’s my sport.”
“A few times.”
“I want you on my team.” She looks me up and down. “How tall are you?”
“Six one or two.”
I nod, relax…light-headed from punch.
Ben comes over hand in hand with Sue. “I like it here.”
“You guys are sexy as hell,” Sue says…turns to Hadley and the jock. “Right?”
“No argument from me,” Hadley says.
The jock looks shy…left out. I hate that. “What’s your name?” I ask.
“Courtney,” She says brightly. I like her.
“Great to meet you,” I say…but am fixated on the splash of pale freckles on Hadley’s nose.
The three are totally different from the girls in the city…at least the ones I hang with…funky types who are totally into art and design.
We’re all at the same school,” Sue says, “St. George’s in Newport? You’ve probably never even heard of it.”
“My friend goes there.”
“You’re kidding? Who?”
“Edgar Buchanan. We went to the same middle school.”
“Seriously? You know Edgar? He does everything, sports, art…has like a 90 average.”
“We live in the same building.”
She looks at me curiously. “Really? For some reason, I had the impression you were from Central America or something? No offense, but I thought your parents were…like…recent arrivals. ”
“That’s news to me,” I say testily.
Ben elbows me. “Chill, man, let’s have fun.”
“No sweat.” I down another punch.
Hadley’s watching me intently.
“Do you have the same interests?” I ask.
“Christ, no!” Hadley says. “I can’t wait to leave St. George’s. It’s suffocating…too liberal artsy for me. I Can’t wait to get to RISD.”
“Rhode Island School of Design? I’d love to go there.”
“I’ve already interviewed…applying for early acceptance.”
“That’s cool. What do you plan to study?”
“Fashion! I love it.”
“Seriously?” I ask. “I made this shirt.”
“No way…I noticed. The fabric and plunging neckline are so fucking cool! Your build is perfect for clothes.”
“Thanks. I’m obsessed with finding the perfect look.”
“It shows. Your color sense is great. It’s a really unusual hue.”
“It’s a rough weave and the dye took that way.”
Suddenly, Marilyn bangs on a pot to get everyone’s attention. “Hey, you party animals! It’s time for fun. I want to introduce our newest counselors, Ben and Jesse…step forward guys!”
I blush from head to toe. Shuffle forward in a daze. Mom’s words echo in my head: “Stand up straight. Let everyone see how tall you are,” but I can’t. I’m freaked.
Marilyn positions us on each side of her. Rests her hand on Ben’s head. “Ben Evans is from overseas…all the way from London. He’s not the tallest, but long on talent…an expert tennis player who swims and plays soccer. He’ll be running our tennis program, replacing Chip who’s gone on to Wall Street.”
Uh oh. She turns to me. “That brings us to the next of our duo, Jesse Pena. Jesse’s direct from the Big Apple where Mr. Kramer discovered him. He’s an experienced counselor, competitive swimmer and interested in the arts. Let’s give them a big hand!”
Enthusiastic applause, cheers, and some sarcastic hoots from Lowell and another jock.
“Now, boys,” Marilyn announces. “It’s time for your induction into the Secret Society of Cedar Lake. Strip to your skivvies and race to the float and back.” I’m freaked, but do as I’m told. There’s no hiding the junk in my briefs. Ben runs and dives off the dock. I quickly follow. The water’s like ice. I overtake him easily, tap the float, and sprint back way ahead. Everybody’s stunned. There’s no swim team at my school, but I belong to a club where the coaches are Olympic trainers.
“i can’t believe I saw that,” Lowell says.
Ben climbs out. “Christ, Jesse, that was astounding!”
“I love swimming.”
Marilyn waves us over. “Lets give them a big hand!” Cheers and hoots. “Very impressive guys!” Everybody’s staring at me. I’m creeped out. Hate showing my body…it’s so fucking thin and bony. Can’t stand seeing it in the mirror…or having anyone else see it. Quickly slip on my clothes to a groan of disappointment.
“Shall I call it a tie for a job well done?” Marilyn asks.
Everybody shouts “yes!” She hands us each a plaque. “I hereby induct Jesse Pena and Ben Evans into the Secret Society of Cedar Lake…more cheers.
“Nice job, guys,” Marilyn says and we rejoin the crowd. We’re welcomed with back slapping and congratulations. When you do really well, I’m not sure if people love or hate you. I do my best…ignore the rest. Our swim team was undefeated and it felt really good, but the year before, we were shit, though I tried just as hard. Who the fuck knows how things’ll turn out?
Hadley hugs me. “Jesse, where did that come from? You swim like a fish.”
“I have the right build.”
“Bullshit! It’s more than that. Your stroke’s amazing.”
“We were in total awe. You’re s-o-o-o sleek and graceful.”
I’m surrounded by Sue, Courtney and a bunch of other counselors. They’re whispering and staring…I feel totally self-conscious, and trapped.
Fortunately, Marilyn starts passing meat around, so we gather in circles and dig in. Ben joins us…it’s essentially me and him plus the three blonds. He and Sue are getting tighter by the minute. I’m zeroed in on Hadley and Courtney’s on her own….I feel for her, but not enough to give up Hadley. She and I want to corner Marilyn and convince her to start clothing design in Arts and Crafts. We’re pumped. “How cool would it be to let campers design their own clothes!”
Nearby, Lowell’s ears are burning. “What a fucking faggot!” He whispers. It stings. I thought swimming would settle the usual gay rumors, but obviously not.
Hadley overhears. “Ignore him, Jesse. He’s a neanderthal.”
I feel bad. Hate to think Lowell’s jealous, or whatever…could start a smear campaign. Seen it before…feel helpless. Shit, I’m totally new to the fucking place. Don’t know anybody and I’m no jock…not wired that way. When jocks smell geek blood, it does something to them. They want to isolate the oddball…force him to conform. It’s not the first time I’ve faced similar bullshit.
To be continued… Read next episode!