Summer Camp

By: Michelle Nedboy

They would take us to a beach. I say “a beach” because it most certainly wasn’t the beach; it was sheltered off, in a kinda thorny area, with dirty bushes and hiccups of sand, lots of shells. We took a muppety school bus there, our bathing suits on and our towels crumpled in our laps. We must’ve been a range of ages; my baby friends and I, the older kids, the older kids, and the usual counselors. I don’t remember most of the kids, just my gang and a few of the older girls who seemed to look after me, in a way. They were sixteen, I was six. They taught me how to chew and blow gum. They gave me one of their pieces of Trident which, if you’re familiar, does not make for good bubbles. A six-year-old, with cheek muscles as soft and unused as new tennis balls, was not going to get anywhere with Trident mint gum. I begged and begged for a second piece, to make something worthwhile happen, though I don’t think I ever got it. I was chewing and sputtering with my single piece, my teeth and lips struggling with the hard wad, until it flew from my mouth and into the sand. The specks of sand clung to it, it was bedazzled, ruined. I popped it back into my mouth. Well, I didn’t, but I almost did. One of the girls, the younger, shorter sister, fifteen, caught me picking it up. I was preparing myself for the crunchy sensation when she told me to toss it. My plans, foiled. I was bored of gum, I bounded off towards my kiddie group. They were building a muddy sand castle, with a moat tailing around it, and in our unspoken kid language I joined them and went to work. Our nails were crusted with sand bits, the places we bit and chewed at stung from the stuff. We squatted, our toes pointed outwards and our knees close to our chins. We looked and sounded like birds, fixing and expanding, wary of any of the older kids who might come over and threaten our creation’s life. We were OK. Our blob was shaping into a bigger, more refined blob, the moat was sloppy and burying itself back up but we were quick as we scooped its mucky guts out. Our main concern were the waves. They were relentless, running in and eating up our work. We positioned ourselves to stand (squat) in-between the castle and the waves, our backs stuck out towards the water, and blocked most of the oncoming damage. Some water, plenty of it, still crept between our feet, which acted like gates. Our castle was still in danger. Someone squeaked and had us all look out into the sea—a giant, rust-colored boat made its ways across the water. It looked like a moving building, a cloud, a tank. We scrambled, the voice verged on panic as it exclaimed how the building-boat would create BIGGER waves, and we certainly couldn’t afford that, not now. The voices grew in number, as each of us hurried and told each other to “go faster!” and “dig dig dig!!” It was the only thing that mattered. The boat moved painfully slow, and at times it looked completely still as the waves blurred it out. We didn’t know how much time we had.

It didn’t create any bigger waves.


A version of this post originally appeared in “Tenacity” The Teller October 2019 Issue #7

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