Episode 27 – Moral Crossroads – Part I (Camp Fires Finale)

Kramer looks back and forth between us…brow furrows. It’s pretty obvious a fight’s about to start…Lowell and Kyle want a shot at me, and I’m fed up, glad to oblige.

“Lowell, what’s going on?” Kramer asks sharply.

Lowell takes a deep breath…gathers himself. “Nothing, sir….just a little disagreement.”

Kramer studies our faces. “Obviously. Listen, we can’t afford dissension among the staff. If you have gripes, talk it through like adults, or come to me. Understood?”

Sue’s oblivious…interrupts: “Hadley, Jesse,” she says excitedly. “Mr. Kramer’s enthusiastic about the Design Corner.”

“Let’s not go overboard,” Kramer says. “I’m receptive, but there are a lot of points to be worked out.”

“Okay, let’s do it,” Hadley says. “Shall we sit?”

Kramer smiles. “Not here. I’d rather do it in a more genteel atmosphere. Come to our place. Marilyn’s fixing lunch on the deck.”

“That’s sounds awesome!” Hadley exclaims. “Jesse, you’re in for a real treat.”

I’m a little stunned…never seen her sucking up to Kramer…something I never expected.

Kramer takes his keys off a hook “Come on. I’ll chauffeur you over.” Turns to the others. “Sorry I can’t invite everybody, but I’ll have to do some hard negotiating with these two.” Winks at Lowell. What the fuck’s that about?

We climb into Kramer’s station wagon. Bounce along a back road, and turn in a rustic wooden gate. The sign reads “Wave Point.” We follow a gravel drive until the woods thin, and a spectacular Adirondack-style lodge looms ahead. The place is huge with upper and lower porches and a panoramic view of Cedar Lake.

“Our little hideaway,” Kramer says which is total bullshit…the place looks like a hotel.

“Every time I see your place, I’m in total awe!” Hadley squeals. What’s gotten into her? In Kramer’s presence, she’s like a different person. I have no idea what her home’s like, but based on her school, level of sophistication, everything, it can’t be that bad. Sadly, I realize sucking up is routine for the veterans…not even sure she realizes how nauseating it is.

Kramer pulls alongside a set of steps leading to the second-floor porch. The house is built into a slope ending at the water’s edge. On the lawn, I glimpse wicker chairs…a rack of vintage canoes. We follow Kramer onto the porch, and he does the country-squire routine…strolls casually, pretends it’s nothing, but makes sure to point out every lavish detail. Leads us through glass doors into a humongous den-like room with a floor to ceiling fireplace and stick-style furnishings.

Marilyn’s by the bar in a skin-tight silk house dress, nipples protruding…casually sipping a martini. “Our guests have arrived!” She announces. “Come. Have a drink. We don’t stand on ceremony at Wave Point.”

I’m stunned. Do they expect us to return to camp half loaded? As it is, I feel out of place in sneakers, trunks, and a camp tee. “Sorry I’m in my swimming outfit,” I tell them.

Marilyn dismisses my apology with a wave of the hand. “Nonsense, Jesse. With bone structure like yours, you’d never be out of place,” but glances at my crotch which is kid of weird. “Take off your shirt. Let the breeze caress that stunning body.”

“No. I’m skin and bones,” I protest. The “stunning body” comment makes me wonder what we’re I’m in for. Reminds me of couples my parents call “swingers” who cruise clubs and bars, snaking people for group sex…a concept that totally grosses me out! Wonder what Hadley’s told the Kramers. Hope she hasn’t blabbed about our sex life, or whatever. Suddenly, I’m totally confused. Has she been toying with me or something? Doesn’t seem possible, but….

Marilyn walks to a stairway leading to the floor below. “Duncan, can you bring up the salad.”

Hadley leans toward me. “I didn’t know he was here!”

“Have you met Duncan?” Kramer asks. “He’s an interesting boy.”

I’m wondering what the fuck is going on….I’m totally in the dark. Duncan saunters up the stairs carrying a wooden salad bowl. He’s barefoot, wearing a tank top and skimpy shorts. “Hi, guys!” He says brightly. Seems like a different person? Places the bowl on a side table filled with bread, paper plates and flowers.

“Nothing like a healthy meal,” Marilyn says stepping into the center of the room. “Now that we’re all assembled, it’s time for our rite of passage.” She turns to her husband. “Alden, can you explain our ritual to Jesse.”

He steps forward. “Jesse, when Marilyn and I were in our twenties, we envisioned a camp that revered the transition from youth to maturity. We’d both been to camp…realized it’s a time capsule of youth…the brief portion of time when kids evolve from caterpillars to butterflies. To symbolize this transition, we ask our counselors to perform an act of courage…to dive nude from the porch. You may be wondering ‘why nude?’ The answer has been the same for centuries…for the Greeks, Romans and primitive tribes. Nudity glorifies the maturity of the candidate. Demonstrates the marriage of body and mind.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Stare at Hadley thinking: what the fuck? Did she know about this? Unfortunately, her face gives her away. She’s delighted. “Do it, Jesse!”

I’m flabbergasted. Stand open-mouthed…studying the excited faces. Duncan’s in seventh heaven…pulls off his tank.

Kramer chimes in. “I think Jesse needs some liquid refreshment before the big event…a Tequila shot?”

“I’ll have the usual,” Hadley says.

“Cosmo’s chilled and ready!” Marilyn announces, opening a fridge at the bar.

The scene’s like an out-of-body experience. To my amazement, Duncan drops his shorts and strolls to the bar sporting a half-boner. “I’m definitely up for a shot,” he says. “Come on, Jesse, you’re the guest of honor. Show them what you’re hiding.”

It’s suddenly hits me…he was my midnight visitor. Did he tell the Kramers? They seem unfazed by his weirdness.

Marilyn turns to me. “Duncan’s right, Jesse. Get out of that terrible suit. It looks so confining…I’m uncomfortable just looking at it.”

Hadley and I glance at each other. Is she with me, them, or what??? I nod toward the porch. “Can I speak to you a second?”

The Kramers and Duncan watch us curiously as we head outside. As the door closes, I turn to Hadley. “What the fuck is going on? Did you know about this?”

“Not really, but we’ve all been through it…sort of.”

“What do you mean ‘sort of’?’ ”

“Well, you, Ben and Duncan, are the first new counselors in a while, so I assumed you’d have to go through it. I figured it’d just be you…Kramer hand-picked you for a bunch of reasons.”

“Hadley, do you realize how totally twisted this is? it’s not a tradition, ritual, or whatever. It’s two totally warped adults who want to get off on kids. It’s sick. The camp’s an unending source of new material. That’s probably why they formed it in the first place…it’s a fucking smokescreen. Why didn’t they invite Ben too?”

Hadley shrugs. “I guess because there was nobody to take care of the campers…and you’re the center of attention.”

“I am?”

“Of course. Everybody gossips about you. I’ve been in a bunch of bullshit sessions where your name’s come up. All the girls have Jesse crushes…and the guys hate you, except Duncan. He’s dying to get in your pants.”

I’m totally amazed. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

“I try to ignore it. You’re mine…that’s all I care about.”

“But, why do you put up with this shit? You could get a job anywhere.”

“I know, but I’ve been here a long time…my friends are here, and once the silly rituals are over, it’s a beautiful place to work…plus I feel responsible for the campers that come back.”

I look out at the lake bathed in sunshine. How can anything so beautiful be so fucked up?

“Come on, Jesse,” Hadley says. “Show off your hot body…then we’ll leave. It won’t take long.”

“I dunno…” I’m so fucking torn. On the one hand, I want to please Hadley, but the weirdness of the whole place skeeves me out, and the kinky glances from the Kramers and Duncan are too fucking much.

Hadley takes my hand and leads me back inside. Guess it won’t kill me, but it’s so twisted, I feel like running away…leaving Camp Cedar Lake behind me. Inside, the Kramers are settled on a sofa…like an audience waiting for the show, and Duncan’s posing naked…sipping a Cosmo.

Marilyn Kramer pats the cushion beside her. “Hadley, join us.” Turns to me. “This sweetheart’s become like our daughter.”

Alden turns to me. “Jesse…Duncan, it’s time to show off your diving and swimming skills.”

To be continued… Read final episode!