Camp of Suffering

“Beep, beep, beep, beep, bee—” I groggily felt for the oversized snooze button on my alarm clock. The temptation to push it was almost overpowering. Gritting my teeth, I rose out of bed, turned my alarm off completely, and stumbled into the shower. The relaxing, warm water did little to rouse me.

But my mom did.

“Cal! Idahaven!” She called. I cringed at the loud noise.
“I know,” I muttered, much more quietly. I shambled back to my room and stared at the bags I had packed the previous night. I opened one of them, took some random clothes out, and threw them on. A warm breakfast was waiting for me in the kitchen. Just as I finished eating, the doorbell rang.
I opened it to find a bleary Robbie, one of my closest friends since third grade.
“You ready?” he grunted, also weary.
“Yeah.” I hurried up the stairs, grabbed my bags, and piled up in Robbie’s sedan. His parents and I exchanged a brief greeting.
For the first few minutes, no one talked. Then, Robbie’s dad turned on the radio. We all jumped as Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” blasted out of theancientt speakers in the car. It must’ve been a volume level of 50. Mr. Gill hastily turned down the volume. Now fully awake, everyone started talking. After about three hours, we got there—at long last. The Gill’s Aerosmith CD played its fifth and final time just as we were pulling up into a dirt parking lot in the middle of a forest. 12 cabins loomed around the minute space. I got out and began to stretch in the soft grass that surrounded the cabins but was instantly tackled by my friends Sean.
“Hey, dude!” I exclaimed.
“RAHHH!” he replied, laughing. We laid in the grass with Robbie for a while, discussing school, sports, and gossip. Everyone trickled in and we eventually went into our assigned cabin, Cabin Five. Lunch was provided by the camp: Salad, cookies, and chips. This was all eaten in a large building that we would later call “The Mess Hall.” Then, we all sat down in a large clearing about an eighth of a mile from the Mess Hall.
As the camp director shuffled onto the stage, I felt the familiar mixture of guilt and pity whenever I see someone with oxygen tubes. He introduced himself: “My name’s Pastor Mike and I’m gonna make sure you have a ball here at Idahaven. Now . . . .” He proceeded to share all the rules at camp. It seemed to take an eternity. But the part that alarmed everyone was the camp’s religion.
It turned out that Seventh Day Adventists did not eat meat. This dismayed me, but when I found that we were forced to sing hymns every night I instantly forgot about the vegetarianism. We were shown our way around camp by Pastor Mike. Each cabin was appointed a counselor—ours was named Adam. He led us back to Cabin Five. By now, it was suppertime and, after meeting Adam, we all traveled to the Mess Hall for another meatless meal. Full of food and exhausted, we walked back to the cabin. I couldn’t wait to get in my bed.
I climbed the ladder up to my bunk and leaped into my bed, expecting a soft mattress. Instead, I yelped in pain as my body collided with hard wood covered by a thin sheet. I groaned. I knew I was in for a rough night.
Although there was no obvious track of time, I realized that my cabin-mate Alex’s watch was dangling off the bed above me. Therefore, I knew that it was about 3:00 AM when I finally dropped off.
I woke up to the sound of angry voices. Sean was furious. Robbie had given us all a rude awakening, and, according to Alex’s watch, it was 6:32 AM.
We all yelled at Robbie for a few minutes, and then we decided he’d had enough and sat down. I winced as my back popped several times. The wooden bed hadn’t been good to me. We went down to the Mess Hall for breakfast and ate.
“What’s this?” I asked Sean, holding a brown strip of something. I was disgusted.
“It’s facon,” he replied, grinning. “Fake bacon—for vegetarians. I set the facon aside gingerly. After breakfast, we heard the bell that signified that it was time for our first class (mine was canoeing). I stuck with my friend Gunnar the entire time as we learned about the class. After canoeing, I went to Survival, Self-Defense, and so on. That day of camp was basically the rules and how to do each activity. There were four classes—each was around an hour and a half. After the third was lunch and after the last was a fun exercise—the second day was “Capture the Flag.” After a hard-earned win, everyone unenthusiastically migrated to the amphitheatre, where we sang hymns for two hours. So far, no one was liking Idahaven. Everythin became a routine. Another meatless meal. No sleep. I hadn’t showered in days.
Everyone got used to it, however. Camp seemed to get better in the next few days. We were so tired that we fell asleep easily. We made parodies of the hymns and silently sang them to each other. I particularly remember replacing “the nice old lady lit the lantern in the shed” to “the drunken old lady left the shotgun in the shed.” The class I learned the most in was Survival. Learning about it really made me appreciate the men on wildlife TV shows.
On the second-to-last day of camp, we did exciting things in each class. In Canoeing, we paddled to the island in the middle of the lake and explored. In Survival, we were left in pairs of two in the forest the whole period. In Self Defense, we had a tournament. In my final class, Obstacle Course, we participated in races. We also played another round of Capture the Flag. I actually sang the hymns this time—everyone was in a good mood since we got to go home the next day. This time, we walked over to the clearing and made s’mores. Each day, we had been ignoring Robbie, angry at him for waking us up what seemed like every day, but today we included him in our conversations.
The next morning Robbie didn’t wake us up. I woke up, crept out of bed, and leaned over Robbie’s face.
I uttered a bloodcurdling scream.
Robbie jumped with a strangled yelp. I watched him with satisfaction as he glared at me with red-rimmed eyes.
We had made up.





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