Marion stood at the front of the convoy of buses, directing the kids into their separate lines. She had put on her "counselor face" the moment the buses peeked around the corner of the long dirt drive. Laidback could come after she went through all the rules. For now, she needed some fear and respect. All she needed was twenty minutes.
Marion certainly hoped it would be a good group this year. Every year was a gamble and last year she had fourteen kids that she had to send home for inappropriate behavior. Nearly all of it involved some kind of sexual activity. “It happens at camp,” she had said, but that made no difference to Al, who had implemented a strict policy against said activities. The biggest drama came when two of the discovered lovers were both boys. While Marion did a good job to keep news from spreading throughout the camp -- in an attempt to save the boys from any harassment -- their father's wiped all of that away in barrage of swear words as they exited office cabin. Neither boy came back and Marion shuddered to think of the things they had to go through with their homophobic fathers. Assholes.
Fortunately for the counselors, the no sex rule was in effect for campers only. If Al had the same rule for counselors, he wouldn't have any counselors by the end of the summer. Marion even had a "camp boyfriend" (definition: a standard boyfriend type who exists only during the month of summer camp attendance) several years back but that ended in heartbreak when she found him in bed with one of the older campers. It was her own fault, she supposed. It was their second summer together and she still hadn't had sex with him. Sure, they had made out and she blew him a couple times near the end of the previous summer, but it never ended in sex . . . or climax. She just didn't ever really feel like doing it with him. He was nice and all but there never seemed to be the connection that she wanted to have in order to fuck someone. One night stands weren't really her thing. Apparently they were Jake's.
The kids looked respectable enough, but with today's youth, it was certainly a different definition from generation's past. Getting them corralled was easy enough but that was more due to Carol darting all over the place, trying to put everyone in a specific spot than it actually being calm and orderly. Once everyone settled, Marion stepped to the front of them, the six other counselors taking places behind her, and everyone seemed to know it was time to shut up.
"I know that you're all anxious to get into your groups and start today's activities. But unfortunately we have a looooot of the boring stuff to go over first."
"I think you mean uber fun stuff there, Marion," Carol chimed in. Marion ignored her, shaking her head at the fact that Carol never seemed to escape her image of total camp suck up. Marion on the other hand had an easygoing demeanor that allowed for the kids to connect with her. She was laidback and didn't care, this was just a job. This was one of the many reasons that Al chose her as head counselor four years back. The kids respected her and would actually listen when she had something to say.
"Okay, we have to do roll call. If I butcher your names, I'm sorry but some of you have names that are next to impossible for me to pronounce. That's just a fact of life as I’m sure you’ve found out throughout school. Don't worry, I'll avoid anything that sounds like it could be turned into a bad nickname," Marion said, making some of the kids laugh and snicker to themselves, "So let's get this over -- oh! You'll also be assigned groups. Duh, almost forgot. And since I'm a weirdo who always does everything backwards, I'll start at the end of the alphabet . . . Santiago Valenzuela?"
Marion was expecting the worst with this one, given that he was ordered by the court to attend the camp but honestly, he didn't look that bad. Sure, Donny was seventeen-years-old with a dozen tattoos, but he certainly didn't look any worse than the other troublemakers she had seen throughout the years. His file made him out to be a gangbanger but, outside of the glares at Carol, he seemed sweet enough.
Marion was relieved to see Liz, her favorite recurring camper. There weren't many carryovers from year to year so it was hard to not grow attached to those that did. Her brown hair and often punk-rock clothing, reminded Marion a lot of herself a couple years ago. It’s probably why they bonded as much as they did.
Their official bonding moment came when she caught Liz smoking a joint down by the lake. It was nearly midnight, so given the camps early schedule, most of the campers and counselors were fast asleep. Liz usually wouldn't have had anything to worry about except that, unbeknownst to her, Marion liked to smoke by the lake too.
Liz almost hadn't noticed when Marion took a squat next to her, the joint already almost down to a roach.
"You know, smoking is bad for you," Marion said, thinking, At least that's what I think I'm supposed to say.
"I can't think of anything better for me right now," Liz shot back.
"Fucks with your memory, actually," said Marion.
"What," Liz said, not entirely believing her.
"Yeah, smoking before eighteen can be bad news. Maybe even twenty-five -- I can't remember -- but short term memory can just completely go to shit. Then you can't remember where you put your keys for the rest of your life," Marion said, before quickly correcting herself, "Oh wait -- cellphones. That’s what I meant. Keys are practically obsolete now right?"
"So are you just out here trying to catch campers smoking?" Liz asked and caused Marion to immediately erupt in laughter.
"Probably under my job description somewhere but no ma’am," Marion said.
"Midnight stroll?" Liz asked, still curious and hoping to somehow get out of trouble.
"I guess you could say that," Marion said, pulling out a joint of her own and resting it between her lips.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Liz exclaimed.
In a moment that could have gotten her fired, she lit the joint and took a massive drag, handing it over to Liz afterward. This resulted in Marion playing several songs off her cracked iPod from Pink Floyd, The Residents and Velvet Underground. It was a bonding moment they hoped to share every year after, but Marion received her head counselor promotion that next year so it was only brought out on special occasions.
Being that this was Liz's last year, there was a certain bitterness to her presence. As much as Al wanted Marion to recruit Liz as a counselor, it was the last thing Marion wanted for her. Who in their right mind would stay here that long? Marion would think but then a mental image of Carol would always pop into her head. Old reliable Carol would, that’s who.
It took nearly 20 minutes to get through the hundred campers, mostly due to Carol and her excited squeal every time she'd get a new kid for her group. Seemed by the end that every child that wasn't called yet was just hoping to be placed in any group besides that one. This was typical but Marion still found it infinitely amusing.
Marion's group seemed decently behaved, although it was next to impossible to feel out a group in that environment, so it was really still up in the air. Having Liz certainly guaranteed that she would still at least enjoy some aspect of the activities this summer. Plus, Diane and Barry were taking the kids under 15, so it wasn't going to be too difficult for the rest of them.
Marion was relieved because this was usually the part where Carol stepped in, taking the leadership role and talking up the camp. Which meant that Marion could tune out for a good half hour. Which is precisely what she did. While Carol droned on, going over her complete daily routine as if it would be their own, Marion stared off thinking about the fireside beers the counselors would be sharing later. She really needed that right about now.
"Okay, I'm sure all of you are antsy to start all of the crazy fun but first we have the most important part of the day! Let’s give a big round of applause to all those wonderful counselors of yours!!! And now the man you all came here to see," Carol stopped for a moment to laugh at her own joke, "The magnificent Al!"
Makes him sound like a magician, Marion thought.
A large man stepped out, Al Bundy-like in his characteristics; an irony not lost among the counselors and a couple campers. The most obvious of these traits was the gut that protruded from his shirt in an almost cartoon-like way and the hairline that reached around to the back of his head.
"Hello Campers!" Al said enthusiastically but rehearsed, "Are you ready to have some fun?"
The response from the campers was mostly groans, with Carol's excited squeals piercing through it to make it at least seem like more people were all about the fun. The other counselors just stood behind Al, their interest may have been even less than the campers, having listened to this routine several times before.
"You know, this camp is a part of my being as much as the blood in my veins. My great grandfather opened up this place in 1912 with just the money he had saved up while building houses all along the great town of Hodder -- that's the town you passed on the way in, ladies and gents. Anyway, it started off small, just maybe half a dozen campers at first. Then every year there'd be more and more and he'd build more cabins and more boats. Finally, he had built all the great things you see here today -- with a little help from my father and me, obviously. So we have been providing nonstop excitement and thrills all the way since 1912, a fact I'm quite proud--"
"What about '91?" a boy shouted unexpectedly from the back. Al ignored it and plastered a big fake smile on his face, though the outburst clearly got to him. Marion couldn't believe someone actually said something. It had been years since the event was mentioned in this manner. Seemed like it gone to legend and escaped public fact.
"We've had thousands of campers enjoy the facilities and make life long bonds, be it with your peers, your counselors, or even your ole camp owner -- hey, don't laugh. It has happened," Al said with a belly laugh. Marion could hear the nervousness in his voice. He put on a good show, but it was painfully obvious to her just how much the question affected him.
1991 was not a year that Al wanted to discuss.
END CHAPTER FOUR