Authors: Elaine Wolf
Sky Pony Press New York
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are from the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Elaine Wolf
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Camp / Elaine Wolf.
Summary: In 1963 at a Maine summer camp, fourteen-year-old Amy Becker is forced to face the camp bully, Rory, family secrets revealed by her cousin Robin, and worry about having to leave her mentally challenged brother with their cold, harsh mother.
ISBN 978-1-61608-657-2 (hardcover : alk. paper)
[1. Camps--Fiction. 2. Bullies--Fiction. 3. Mothers and daughters--Fiction. 4. Brothers and sisters--Fiction. 5. Secrets--Fiction. 6. Maine--History--20th century--Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
In loving memory of my mother, whose story I can only imagine.
The past is never dead.
It’s not even past.
Requiem for a Nun
My parents’ past
is mine molecularly.
I Hate Her
hen I was fourteen, not quite four years ago, I’d lie awake at night and pray my mother would die.
If I had known her secret, I might not have hated her. But my parents didn’t tell me about the ghost that slipped into the hospital the day I was born. It crept across my umbilical cord, linking me to my mother’s past. Then it wedged right between us. My father said doctors couldn’t explain the purple blotches on my chest. But now I’m sure of this: That phantom punched me hard. And though the black-and-blues faded before I could crawl, the ghost kept pushing my mother from me, flexing its muscles, bulking up. So by the time my parents sent me to sleepaway camp, that ghost was larger than I was. I just hadn’t seen it yet.
Dad sprang the news about camp on us in the fall when I was in ninth grade. “I heard from my brother today,” he announced at dinner as my mother carried a plate of lamb chops to the kitchen table. The smell of meat thickened the air. “Ed closed the deal on that girls camp he’s been looking at.”
My mother’s hands shook on hearing Ed’s name. Back then, in 1962, I couldn’t have guessed the real reason my uncle rattled her, though I would find out in time.
“And there’s great news for you, Amy,” my father told me. He smiled so wide I saw his gold tooth. “Guess who’s going to sleepaway?” Dad used his happy-birthday voice, the tone usually followed by a brightly wrapped package.
But camp was a present I didn’t want. What if all the girls knew each other from past summers? And how could I leave my little brother, Charlie? Who would play with him when he’d come home from summer school at The Woodland Center for Handicapped Children? Who would read to him while our mother made supper or brought the laundry up from the basement or mopped the bathroom floor?
“Dad, I don’t want to go,” I said flatly.
“You’re not worried about the cost, honey, are you?” He kept talking before I could tell him that wasn’t it—not at all. “’Cause everything’s worked out already. I’ll help Uncle Ed with the bookkeeping, and you’ll go to camp for free. Isn’t that great news?” My father lifted his water glass as if to toast me. “The two oldest cabins are for girls just your age.”
My mother uncovered a pot. The lid clanged the stove. “Lou, you said we’d discuss this when the deal went through. We need to talk about it.”
“We will. It’ll be fine.” My father faced me and smiled again.
“Dad, I really don’t want to go.” What if nobody liked me? I’d be all alone. Not even Charlie to talk to, to care for. I slid closer to him and jabbed a bite of meat. But when I held out his fork, my brother refused it. Instead, he drummed the table—a kind of frenzied patting.
“Don’t be silly, Amy,” my father said. “Of course you want to go. Who wouldn’t want eight weeks by a lake in Maine?”
“Lou,” my mother said once more, turning from the stove this time. She stared hard at my father, then fixed on Charlie. “I said we need to talk about this.”
“But Ed says it’s a beautiful place.”
“What could Ed possibly know about running a camp?” “Sonia, come on, Sonia. He’ll learn. And the property’s terrific. In great shape, Ed says.” “I don’t care what Ed says.”
“Why can’t you just be happy for him? We’re family, for God’s sake. Brothers support each other. And anyhow, Ed got a good deal, and Amy gets to go to camp. What could be wrong with that?”
“I told you,” my mother answered. “Ed doesn’t know the first thing about running a camp.”
“And I told you he’ll learn. And he won’t even have to change a thing. He already talked to the head counselor. She’s been there two or three summers, and she said she’ll come back.”
“Dad, I really don’t think…” I placed a hand on Charlie’s, stilling his fingers. Everything stopped: the air in the kitchen, the swish of my mother’s spoon in the vegetable pot, the questions in my mind.