The Thing About Christian Summer Camp
...is that it’s generally full of other middle schoolers who are as sheltered as you are. The thing about sheltered middle schoolers is that they’re highly impressionable and, without the intervening hand of their helicopter parents, prone to rash decision-making. So when all the counselors are at a night-time staff meeting, your rash and impressionable friends will agree with Socially Deviant Becky from the cabin next door that it’s about time to do something mischievous. The thing about Socially Deviant Becky is that her luggage, like everyone else’s, and has already been screened for restricted food, drink, flip phones, and other taboos. All Becky has, somehow, is a jar of peanut butter that she smuggled in under some rolled socks. And despite being socially deviant, even Becky is pretty sheltered, so the most mischievous thing she can think to do is entice the two cabins under her sway to go snipe hunting. The thing about Becky’s understanding of snipe hunting—which entails applying peanut butter to one’s face to attract the birds while carrying a pillow case in which to catch them—is that it’s unfounded in scientific reality. Also, you inform everyone, birds don’t come out at night. You know this because you are very good at school, which is a Christian school, which also makes you very good at socially ostracizing yourself on the basis of a moral dilemma. Your friends, who also go to Christian school but aren’t as good at it as you are, dismiss your concerns and agree to Becky’s proposal. Becky and her cabin of degenerates smirk at you as your comrades paint their faces in the colors of their new allegiance. This feels odd, being the only girl in the unsupervised cabin who is not smearing peanut butter on her skin or flicking it off her finger at an unsuspecting neighbor. The thing about your peanut butter-free face is that it makes Socially Deviant Becky and the two cabins doubt your commitment to the secrecy of their mission. The thing about your pointed response—“I’m not going to lie [to the counselor] [at Christian summer camp]”—is that it does not convince your traitorous Christian school friends of their error. You sit on the top bunk with your Bible cracked open to the Book of Romans. The girls do their best to mimic SWAT team hand signals as they poke their heads out the door and file out, giggling. Some of the peanut butter has melted off their faces. It leaves a goopy trail to the woods, where they poorly imitate bird calls and shush each other’s laughter. The college-girl counselor, upon returning to a nearly empty cabin with defrocked pillows, thanks you for your honest report before dragging the snipe-less snipe hunters back inside. The thing you remember about Christian summer camp is having to avoid everyone’s peanut butter-encircled glares until lights out, at which time you begin to understand the fine line that divides what is right from what is worthwhile.
Sarah Basil is an MFA candidate at the University of South Florida, where she teaches writing. Her work appears in Water~Stone Review, Saw Palm: Florida Literature & Art, and others. She edits nonfiction for the online magazine Every Pigeon and is hard at work on her first book, a fragmented memoir.