Episode 24 – Chandler, the Pest
Hadley leaves and I roll out of my bunk…gotta get moving. Drag my trunks up over my boner and head to the dock. Ben and his guys are waiting. I apologize for being late.
“No worries,” Ben says. “We just got here. Things okay with Hadley?”
Ben warms my heart, He knows I’ve got it bad. I roll my eyes. “Yeah, awesome! How about you and Sue?”
“Good, Jesse. No complaints.” He lines the kids up on the dock.
“Where’s Duncan, ” I ask.
“Who the fuck knows? He says. The Kramers have him working on some bullshit project called the Foundations of Camp Life….Kramer’s observations about the psychological basis for camps…convergence of ancient and modern cultures. From what I’ve heard, it’s a rather peculiar document.”
“Sounds like it. What’s the point?”
Ben chuckles. “From what I gather, it’s coming-of-age mumbo jumbo for campers…rituals to gain comfort with nudity and maturing genitalia.”
Ben chuckles. “No big surprise, right?”
I walk down the line of campers like a drill sergeant. Beyond, it’s a magnificent morning…the lake’s already buzzing with activity….sailboats, water skiers, the
works. All the kids are skinny and getting tan, except Jason, who’s soft and pudgy…Andy Cutler’s the tallest, and Dean’s the shortest. Andy looks two or three years older than his fellows.
“Good morning, Jesse!” Chandler yells, sucking up.
I stop in front of him. “Are you going to show us your best today?”
He salutes. “Yes, sir, Mister Jesse!”
“Okay, everybody,” I call out. “Swim around the raft and back.”
Within seconds, they’re in the water thrashing away. Andy’s way out front as usual, with Tommy Murphy and Chandler close behind. Jason’s last, quickly running out of gas…grabs the raft and stays there.
“Come on, Jason,” I cry. “You can do it. Keep going!”
“I can’t,” he whines. “I have a cramp in my leg.”
I pull off my hoodie and dive in. Pull up next to him. “You, okay, dude?”
There are tears in his eyes. “My leg really hurts!”
“No sweat. Put your arms around my neck.”
He holds tight. Whispers, “Thank you, Jesse.”
The kid warms my heart. He’s totally trusting and sincere. I bring him back to the dock, and the kids gather round.
“Three cheers for Jesse!” Chandler cries. “Hip hip hooray!” Sneaks up to Jason and whispers in his ear: “You’re so fucking lucky. I can’t believe you got to hug Jesse.”
“Yeah,” Jason replies. “He’s s-o-o-o strong!”
“I told ya.”
I feel like I’ve got to confront Chandler. His ass-kissing is over the top, and he’s such a gossip…constantly chattering with Jason and Drew. It’s weird because he seemed like an introvert at first, but I guess it’s not so surprising. He’s probably never been away before. The three of them are constantly staring at me, giggling, whispering…it’s getting annoying.
“Okay, guys, pay attention!” I say.
Ben chimes in. “Pipe down. Listen to Jesse. Learn as much as you can.”
Chandler quiets down and we pair the kids for races. Match Chandler and Andy, the two best. “Let’s see what you’re made of,” I say.
“Great!” Chandler says, basking in the spotlight.
“Out to the raft and back, two lengths.”
Chandler readies himself like an Olympian, hooks his toes on the edge of the dock.
“Go!” They take off fast. Chandler’s stroke looks great…makes the turn ahead, but Andy’s long arms and consistent stroke give him the lead. Chandler climbs out dejected. They shake hands, then Chandler shuffles to the end of the dock…sits staring over the lake. It’s the perfect chance to talk. I tell Ben and he takes over the races.
I settle next to Chandler. “You okay?”
“No,” he mumbles. “I wanted you to see how good I am.”
“I did. You were great, but Andy’s a lot taller.”
“But I lost. I’m a failure.”
“No you’re not. Just keep working on your stroke…and, you’ll grow.”
“Thanks, Jesse,” he says, resting his hand on my leg.
“I need to ask you something,” I say. “did you pay me a visit last night?”
“No, no way. What happened?”
“Somebody was sneaking around my cabin.”
“It wasn’t me.”
He rubs his finger on his bony chest. “Cross my heart!”
“Any idea who it was?”
A hint of a smile crosses his face. “How would I know?”
“I’m not sure,” I say, shifting my leg so his hand slips off. “You just seem so interested in everything I do.”
He grins. “It’s because you’re the nicest, strongest, handsomest counselor…all the kids think so.”
“Thanks. I appreciate the compliment, but I’ve got a job to do, and …well…you need to chill. You’re making things difficult.”
He thinks a minute. “Maybe, but it’s all based on real stuff.” He glances at my crotch.
“Is anything going on I should know about?” I ask. He’s such a little schemer, I have no idea what he’s got up his sleeve.
“Well,” he says, leaning closer. “I’m president of a secret society.”
“You are?” I ask. “What society?”
“The Jesse Pena Admiration Society!” He announces proudly.
Oh shit! I say to myself. Things are getting totally out of hand. “Who are the members?”
“I’m sworn to secrecy…but a lot of people.”
“Okay, Chandler, but please tone things down. Anyone can form a club. It’s a free country, but all the gossiping and whispering need to stop.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“What?” Uh oh. What’s coming?
“How long is your penis? It makes Ben and Andy’s look tiny.”
“Chandler,” I say sharply. “Cut that shit out! I realize kids have role models, or whatever, but asking about shit like that is totally inappropriate…private. Don’t you understand that?”
“Yes, but it’s amazing. You should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.”
I’m suddenly suspicious. “How do you know? When did you see it?”
Chandler’s flustered for once. “Uh…it’s obvious in your swim suit…and shorts…when it swings around.”
“Did someone else tell you? Like Duncan?”
Chandler’s suddenly turns bright red. “Maybe.”
“Listen, take my advice and stay away from him. He’s no good for you.”
Chandler’s brow furrows. “But he’s been nice to me. Don’t you like him?”
“Not if he encourages this stuff! This is my final warning. More inappropriate stuff, and I’ll recommend you be sent home. It’s too distracting…makes it impossible to keep everybody focused on stuff they need to learn.”
“You can’t send me home.”
“What?” I can’t believe the kid’s arrogance.
“You’d never do it. Duncan says they’re suspicious of you already. If you accuse me of anything, you’ll get fired”
I’m hugely pissed. “Duncan told you that?”
He nods. “Uh huh.”
“What’s with you two? Is he protecting you?”
“Sort of, but…but he thinks you’re amazing too. Everybody does.”
“Lowell and Kyle?”
“No, not them, but everybody else.”
A worrisome thought pops into my head. “Chandler, I have a very personal question and you don’t have to answer. Does Duncan touch you inappropriately?”
His eyes bug out. “No, no, no, Jesse!” He stammers. I don’t believe him for a second….gotta confront Duncan and find out what’s going on.
I turn to him. “Chandler, do you think I care if I get fired?”
He looks at me wide-eyed. “Don’t you?”
“Not really. There are a couple of people I’d miss, but if things get weirder, I’ll quit in a second.”
“Would you miss me?”
I shrug. “Jeez, Chandler, I don’t know. You drive me crazy with all the stuff you do. Why don’t you try acting normal, then maybe I’ll enjoy working with you.”
He starts sniffling. “Jesse, I promise I’ll be better. Please don’t leave. You’re the only reason I stay here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“No cool guys ever talk to me, but here, I talk to you every day.”
I ruffle his hair. “Look, Chandler, don’t forget the important stuff. You’re a coordinated guy, a fine swimmer, and there are good kids in your bunk. Focus on Jason and Drew and the other kids, not me. It seems like you always want to please adults, but take your bunk mates more seriously. They could end up your friends for years, and look, I know sex is a big mystery, but steer clear of Duncan and all that weird stuff. Hang with your bunk mates. They’re impressive kids. Promise me you’ll try?”
“Okay,” he says uncertainly as we walk back and join the others.
To be continued….Read next episode!