Episode 19 – Staffing Change
The girls leave on their hike and I walk down to the dock where my “best buddy” Lowell’s repairing storm-damaged boats. “Hey, Jesse” he says with a sidelong glance, “we could use some help down here. I’m trying to finish the repairs and watch swimmers at the same time.”
Realize I’m late, but not about to apologize. “No sweat. I’ll handle the swimming…had to take care of something.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” He’s obviously bent because I talked to Hadley.
“There’s Jesse!” A young voice squeals, and I turn to see Ben and “my campers” splashing by the dock.
“Hey aqua-guys!” I yell and they wave happily. I love ’em…wish I was still their counselor.
“Join us, dude,” Ben says, so I dive in. They crowd around smiling…make me feel great.
See Dean’s grinning face. “How you doing, bud?”
“Awesome!” He says splashing me.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Ben says. “I’m helping the kids improve their strokes.”
“Sorry I’m late. Hadley and I had a misunderstanding.”
Ben frowns. “Is everything okay? She’s such a great girl.”
“Yeah, fine. I over-reacted on something trivial.”
Chandler thrashes frantically. “Jesse, I’m drowning! Rescue me!” Disappears underwater.
Ben pulls him up. “That’s not something to joke about. You could be ignored when you’re really in trouble.”
“No way,” Chandler says. “You think I can’t swim?”
“Anybody can get cramps,” I explain.
“Sorry,” Chandler says smugly, “but if I’m in trouble, promise you’ll save me?”
“Let’s hope that never happens.”
Ben leans toward me…whispers: “Your replacement’s arrived…a total dick. Beyond belief!”
My heart sinks…guess my counselor days are over. We keep the kids busy swimming laps while we talk.
“What’s his problem?”
“I thought the others were preppy, but Duncan Taylor-Wickham makes them look like rank amateurs. He’s cold as a fucking iceberg, and the others are in awe, as though Christ walks among us. Sue couldn’t stop talking about him, even while we were making out. Apparently, when the Chandler Davis crisis occurred, Lowell suggested Taylor-Wickham. They’re cousins…and get this, he was flown up on the family jet. Sue tells me they’re sinfully rich. The father’s chairman of some some chemical company which manufactures everything from lubricants to multi-vitamins.
“Sexual lubricants?” I inquire.
Ben chuckles. “Undoubtedly. The kid’s sixteen going on fifty…an absolute nightmare. The minute he arrived, he quizzed me on my schooling, father’s employment, number of residences, sports. He had a whole checklist!”
“How did you measure up?”
“Well, we didn’t compare penises, but he apparently determined I was of no social consequence, so he doesn’t consult me on anything except trivial matters. If he has a real question, he goes directly to Lowell which is incredibly annoying because they bullshit ad nauseum, so I hardly see him. God knows where he’s gone to now….probably to suck up to the Kramers.”
“What a fucking pain!”
“Absolutely, and Sue’s so star struck, she can’t talk about anything else. Keeps asking if I can believe he’s here, but Christ, I could give two shits. It’s a fucking nightmare!”
I pat Ben on the back. “She’ll come to her senses. What a fucking mess! After the Chandler episode, I thought things would ease up, but now with this new ass-kisser around, we’ve got another issue to deal with. He’ll undoubtedly be spying and gossiping…not that I really care.”
Suddenly, there’s a shriek and Andy and Dean are pushing Chandler under the water. “Hey, you guys!” I yell. “The water’s no place for goofing around!” They stare at me wide-eyed.
“All, right everybody,” Ben yells. “Line up, and when your name’s called, swim out to the float using your best stroke.”
One after the other, they take off. Drew McIntosh, Andy Cutler and Tommy Murphy do nice crawls. Dean does a decent backstroke. Jason thrashes ineptly, and Chandler hardly tries…ambles along doing a dog paddle.
After a brief rest, they swim back.
“What was that about, Chandler?” I ask.”You weren’t trying at all.”
He looks at me smugly. “It’s a stroke I invented.”
“It’s not much of anything. Don’t you want to learn a real stroke so you’re smooth and fast.”
“Not really,” he grumbles, “then I’ll be like everyone else.”
I roll my eyes. “No you won’t. You think I’m like everyone else?”
“No. You’re handsome.”
“Whatever. Look, it’s important to be a strong swimmer…to be comfortable in the water. It comes in handy. Look what happened to Dean during the storm. His swimming saved him.”
“I don’t give a shit. I don’t like Dean.” The other kids laugh…imitate Chandler’s nasally voice.
“Pipe down!” Ben says. “Jesse’s making an important point”
Chandler stands arrogantly with his hands on bony hips…challenging me.
“Look, Chandler,” I say. “As long as I’m teaching swimming, I want you to try your best. You’re here to learn, and I want to see a decent stroke by the end of camp.”