Crimson Summer - Chapter Twelve
"I am such an asshole," said Louie, burying his face into a crumpled up sweatshirt. He had been like this since Keith up and vanished; a self-blaming mess. Marion would have been lying if she said it weren’t starting to get on her nerves. And the rest of the counselors agreed, almost wanting to avoid this lunch entirely because of it.
"Not this again," said Barry who shook his head disapprovingly. He was seated next to Diane, who twiddled her thumbs, sipping on a cup of coffee. Her emotions had ranged from sad to angry and it wasn’t the prettiest sight to behold. She seemed subdued now. Carol just sat there, reading her newspaper and trying not to scoff every time that Louie said “asshole.”
"You guys just don't get it,” Louie reasoned, “Keith would still be around here and we wouldn't be having to bust our asses picking up the slack. It’s all my fault.”
At least that much is true, said Marion who certainly was feeling the brunt of having one of her counselors up and leave on her. It wasn't the first time this had happened but she was surprised at who the perpetrator was. If anything, she figured it’d be Louie who left without warning.
"He had an opportunity and he took it. It's really not a big deal. If you were offered a. . . professional . . . Halo contract," said Barry, trying to come up with anything that Louie could be professional at, "I'm sure you'd be out of this place in a heartbeat. Especially if you'd been working so hard for it. Easy choice."
"One, you've now proven that you have absolutely no idea how the video game industry works and sound like a complete idiot. Two, it is not up to you to decide whether this is a big deal or not. I was the last person to talk to him and I know what was going on," Louie said, seemingly trying to sound as authoritative as possible but coming across more childish.
"Uh technically it was –" Barry started but was quickly stopped.
"Okay fine, the last person that saw him before he left. The conversation did not go well and if I hadn’t been such a dick he wouldn’t have left. It’s all I’m saying," said Louie for the umpteenth time.
“Everything you’re saying is ridiculous. You just need to drop it and let it go. You sound like a scorned lover,” Marion said, not wanting to deal with him at all.
“She’s right, there’s no reason to act like that,” Barry added.
“You guys can think whatever you want but I know the truth,” said Louie, trying to put a nail in it.
“You are such an asshole,” exclaimed Diane.
“Thank you! At least someone can see what I’m talking about,” Louie said. Marion choked a little on her sandwich, laughing at the fact that Louie was thankful for the insult.
“No, you are a self-centered piece of shit,” Diane started, her face growing more and more red, “Why the fuck would you ever think that this was about you? People have lives that are bigger than some asshole talking shit to them while they’re hammered.”
“And on that note, I really must be going,” said Marion and stood up, ready to make her exit.
Not that she had much of an issue with leaving such an awkward lunch, but Marion also wasn’t wanting to return to the office either. Lesser of two evils I suppose. She quickly left the dining hall, glad that she had at least a little time to progress with office work while the kids were busy at lunch. It had grown so hectic that, especially with recent events, they were quickly getting behind on bills and payments.
When she arrived at the office, Al was halfway through a coke – not a week after swearing off all caffeine – and seemed a little more jittery than usual. Marion figured he’d be on edge about Keith, but it appeared he’d succumbed to at least one of his vices. She took off her sweatshirt and plopped down in the seat across from him.
“I fucking hate that kid,” said Al, completely drained.
“Oh you do not. He was a great kid,” Marion reasoned, “In fact, he was looking to be one of the best counselors that we had. Just had an opportunity and took it. So don't be like that.”
"The headache that motherfucker has caused me is enough for me to want to contact him and tell him that he needs to refund any money that I paid him during his first three weeks. Because he did not fulfill his contract and I refuse to be taken advantage of. No, ma’am. I refuse. God, and to even think about the work I put into getting that archery range back up and running,” Al fumed.
"Al, do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound right now? Hell, Keith did most of the work clearly out all the weeds and stuff anyway. And he provided the bow and arrows. He helped us out a ton so what are you even talking about? Have you been drinking?" she asked, beginning to wonder if this was more than just an emotional outburst.
"Ridiculous? I don't think so. You should be right on board with me right now. You know our finances. This fucks us. This totally fucks us. I can't even believe he'd do something like this. He knew what hot water we were in and he specifically told me he wouldn’t let me down. He promised me. Job interviews mean nothing nowadays, they’ll just say anything to get themselves hired. Society is just a fucking mess these days. And this is all just the beginning. Now people are gonna be dropping like flies."
“What do you mean?” Marion asked, a little concerned.
“We were barely able to keep control of everything going on with six counselors, now we have five. They’re gonna start complaining about not having enough to do. Then they’ll just go spend the rest of their summer playing video games and texting each other. I know what we need to do, we need to make sure that they can’t call home. That’s it. No one leaving and asking their parents to come pick them up. Phone privileges revoked.”
Al was growing ravenous in his tone and Marion did not like it.
“Do you hear yourself right now? Is everyone going fucking crazy? This doesn't change anything. We already have the kids from Keith's group divided up into mine, Louie's and Carol's. It's been two days everything has been totally fine. You're freaking out over nothing," she said, trying to be the more calm of the two, an easy feat given Al’s volatility, “You still didn’t answer my question. Have you been drinking?”
The door was thrust open, banging up against the outer wall of the cabin, with someone clearly wanting their entrance noted. It startled Marion at first but then she saw it was just Carol – not Louie as she originally feared. She had had enough of Louie trying to get Keith’s contact information so that he could make sure he wasn’t the reason he left. They already had enough difficulty getting ahold of him, it wasn’t going to do any good for him to try. Besides, when was Carol ever a problem?
Carol sat down in the chair next to Marion and noisily started tapping her foot on the floor. She was obviously mad but Al refused to make eye contact with her, clearly sick of having to deal with the many issues going on in the camp. Carol seemed to take the tension in the room as her own doing and as such tried to command the room with loud sighs and incessant tapping. Finally Marion took the reins and decides to ask her what was up.
“We lose one counselor and suddenly I’m expected to change my entire schedule around? This is – and I’m sorry for saying it – bullcrap,” Carol snorted, annoyed she even had to have this conversation.
“Look, I know that you have a very meticulous schedule planned out and I know you’ve worked very hard on it,” Marion started but not before Carol had to start in.
“A schedule that has already been rough enough to keep with all these willy nilly meetings and happenings that are going on,”
“Carol, we were forced to have that safety meeting. I’m sorry that it interrupted whatever activity you had planned –“
“It wasn’t just any activity it was my pottery,” Carol interrupted.
“However, it’s kind of a moot point now anyway so I’d appreciate you not arguing with me about it. I already have enough of a headache right now,”
“Well you wouldn’t have that much of a headache if I could just take over a duty here or there,” said Carol, just trying to weasel her way into Marion’s job.
“How about you just do what we ask of you?” Al finally chimed in, “It’d be lovely if you just did that.”
“You’re asking me to give up my pottery class and go do archery. I should not be punished just because you had some irresponsible boy that Marion hired decide to up and leave. If anything she should be punished for having such terrible judgment in character,” Carol said looking down her nose at Marion.
“That’s not the point, Carol. The point is that you’re the only person here with any real kind of experience with archery and you have the opening in your schedule,”
“I told you, I don’t have an opening that’s when I teach pottery!” Carol said, putting her foot down figuratively and literally.
“You have two signups!” Al said bluntly, “And that’s just because the Belar’s know that they can just sit there and gossip in privacy since no one else is around. I’m not going to have any more of this camp’s resources be wasted. And in this day and age, pottery is a waste. So you’re going to do what I’m asking you to because I’m asking it. That’s all there is to it.”
Carol took it hard, not even wanting to look him in the eyes. Tears formed around her eyes but before she would let them fall she dismissed herself and was gone from the cabin.
“That may have been a little harsh,” Marion finally said after several minutes of silence.
“I don’t have time to babysit these counselors. I have enough trouble babysitting all these campers. Did you get things settled with that Lieber kid?” Al asked.
“Yes, he said he was with Sally, it’s all been sorted out. Carol just needs to calm down – in more ways than one.”
“You can say that again,” he said, taking another swig of the coke. If it even was coke.
The rest of the day consisted of Arts and Crafts, a thrilling game of capture the flag which Marion’s team won, and a pizza dinner – something the campers were ecstatic about after the first two nights of some kind weird pasta. The stresses kept coming though, with two showers in the boy’s bath house going out completely and the toilets in the girl’s, things just seemed to be getting worse and worse with each passing minute.
When the day was finally over and the campers were back in their beds, Marion couldn’t help but crave a real cigarette. Something to just allow the tension in her shoulders to release and let her go to sleep. She hadn’t had one in months and while she still puffed on her e-cig daily, avoiding real cigarettes made her feel some form of health awareness.
Not that it mattered anyway, with Carol throwing a tantrum about having to take over the archery class the moment she walked in the door. While it didn’t affect Carol’s job performance, it certainly didn’t make her any more pleasant to be around. She received three complaints from campers in her group that she was being particularly mean and snappy. Marion understood that pottery was important to her but it was still just another aspect to the job like any other. She’d complain less if I had her scrub the toilets with her own toothbrush.
This probably attributed to her bad judgment when Diane said she wanted to have a party and agreed it was a great idea when it clearly wasn’t. Even though she wouldn’t admit to it out loud, Keith’s sudden departure definitely got to Diane so mixing in alcohol and a bunch of horny guys couldn’t have sounded like a worse idea in hindsight. Unfortunately Marion’s usual judgment was stressed out beyond belief, and didn’t care to tell her no. So she agreed to go over to Diane’s cabin, even though every part of her body was telling her just to stay in. Then she remembered Carol would be there.
“So what’s on the menu tonight?” Marion asked before she was even fully through the cabin’s door. She kind of regretted saying it the moment she saw the state Diane was in.
“Well, I still have plenty of vodka left and whatever’s in that fridge is fair game,” Diane said, slurring her words a little. Diane had decided to start early based on the red cup in her hand which she proceeded to take a big chug from.
“You’re really going hard tonight, eh Di?” asked a concerned Marion.
“Why not? Not like there’s anything else to do in this place?” Diane said, taking another swig from her cup. Diane was one to get sloppy drunk but there was a violent temper to everything she said now. It worried Marion.
Breaking the tension without even realizing it, Louie and Barry walked in, arguing over something involving video games.
“So glad you guys could come,” Diane said playfully, raising her red Dixie cup high.
“Yeah, it was a really long walk,” Barry joked, drawing a sideways look of annoyance from Louie. Those two just can never get along.
“So why exactly do we have to be inside this cramped cabin drinking when we could be outside at the fire like we do pretty much every night?” Louie asked. And he wasn’t wrong. The same thought had definitely occurred to Marion but she just assumed Diane wanted to switch things up. She was wrong. Sort of.
“The fire is fun and all but how are we going to get any privacy out at the fires?” Diane uncomfortably teased.
“Why would we need privacy?” Louie bit like a rabid dog.
“Al wouldn’t appreciate us playing strip poker out there, now would he?”
Diane took everyone off guard with this comment. It wasn’t like Marion was opposed to the idea since she was really good at poker and found the thought of Louie having to finish the night in his boxers hilarious. Still, it was becoming more and more evident that Diane wasn’t fit to be drinking.
“I think you’ve had enough,” Marion said, trying to take her drink away from her. She refused though, pulling away and spilling some of her drink all over of the floor.
“Excuse me! I believe I’m a grown woman,” exclaimed Diane.
“Yeah, well I believe you’re acting like a child. So I guess we’ll split the difference and call you a teenager,” Marion said matter-of-factly.
Diane didn’t like this. Not one bit. She charged at Marion, knocking her own cup onto the floor and causing Marion to hit up against Barry, who quickly stepped between to the two. The cabin was far too small for so much drama, they were all practically on top of each other as it was. Diane’s sloppy and broad movements weren’t helping matters.
“Enough! Diane, you’ve clearly had enough to drink. Marion, stop provoking her,” Barry said, trying to be the voice of reason but only angering both girls.
“Stop provoking? Are you fucking kidding me?”
The fight lasted all of 60 seconds but it felt like much longer. Between the insults that Diane was throwing and the nonsense Louie was spouting, Marion had, had enough. She was sick of dealing with everyone else’s issues. No matter what they just kept coming with their problems and she went from head counselor to head babysitter. No one could deal with anything themselves and the camp couldn’t hold itself together. She was done.
Forgoing the usual nightly tradition of the fire felt weird, especially after walking by the pits in order to go back to the main office. She quickly grabbed her sweatshirt from the office cabin and started her way back towards her own. As she turned she saw something move in the woods, not ten feet away from where she stood. The black hood. The white face.
“Oh my god,” she exclaimed under her breath.
A person. Wait, was that a person? She closed her eyes, trying to adjust them more to the dark but when she opened them, she saw nothing. No one was around. She was completely alone. She peered into the forest but it remained void of any movement whatsoever. Was anyone ever there? Was she just seeing things?
“Hello? Is someone there? Look, I’m not having the best of days so I swear I’m not going to write you up if you just come out now so that I can send you back to your cabin,” she shouted into the woods, but received no response.
She waited for something to emerge from the woods. Something had to; she knew she wasn’t just seeing things. She didn’t imagine that dark black hood and that white mask. It couldn’t have been a trick on her eyes. Even while she waited, part of her knew that she had to just have seen things in the dark. It was just her eyes playing tricks on her. That didn’t stop her from running back to her cabin. Just in case.
Marion returned to her cabin as quietly as possible, not that it mattered given Carol’s deep sleep patterns, but still Marion was raised to be courteous. Even if it was to someone like Carol.
Carol slept perfectly still in her bed, under the covers, just like usual. She wouldn’t be moving an inch until the morning when her internal alarm clock went off and she made her presence known. Marion really hated mornings.
I’m done with this place, Marion thought. This is the last summer I’ll ever have to spend in this shit hole. With that she took a drag on her electronic cigarette and dozed off to sleep repeating two words to herself – Last summer.
END CHAPTER TWELVE