The Camp Stories of Mittendorf James
By Kirk W. Sheppard
I hated the car rides to camp. It always took so long to get there and there were so many of us all packed into each vehicle. Once we were through Rothesville, though, relief was in sight and anticipation and nervousness built as we traversed over the hills, across the big train tracks, and up the driveway to the camp.
Once we had finally arrived, I bounded out of the car. My sister, Sarah, was already running towards the cafeteria because she had spotted a few friends from last year. She loved camp and came three weeks every summer. Mom had to drag me to one.
I grabbed my duffel bag and slouched behind Mom as we walked to the registration area.
I hated the car rides mostly because I hated camp. I hated the idea of camp, I hated being at camp. I hated everything about it. I mostly hated that my mom made me go every year in spite of my attempts to stay home.
“It’s not that bad, Mitt,” she would say. “You know that once you get there, you do just fine.”
“No, I don’t!” I argued.
“Well, you’re going.”
That was our annual discussion. We had it every April when the church passed out the camp registration forms.
“Hello,” Mom said to the lady at the registration table. “This is Mittendorf Joseph James.”
I cringed at the use of my full name. “Its Mitt,” I said to her and looked around to see if anyone else heard.
She smiled and said, “Well, Mitt, I have your information right here. You’re all set. Do you know where to go?”
I nodded. Of course I did. This was my fourth time. I picked up my duffel bag off the floor and headed to the dormitory. I opened the door and walked in. The wooden screen door snapped back behind me nearly knocking me over. I looked down the long hallway and saw a top bunk open near the bathroom where I slept last year.
I tried to ignore my mother as she opened my duffel bag and made the bed for me. “Well, Mitt, it looks like you’re all set.” Oh, how I wished she’d hurry before the other kids noticed her. “Now, give me a kiss before I go.”
I suddenly felt hot. I knew my face was red as a tulip as I quickly pecked her on the cheek. “You’re gonna be just fine,” she said as she patted me on the head. “I love you, Mitt.”
“Iloveyoutoo,” I muttered as I plugged in my alarm clock to the wall outlet.
As soon as Mom had left, I heard a voice behind me. “Oh no, it’s Mittendorf James.” There was laughter and my head sunk into my shoulders. If I were a turtle, I’d have hidden in my shell.
“What do you want?” I said as I turned around.
Standing before me was a hulking figure of a boy, shadowed by a crew of prepubescent thugs staring a hole through me. “I want you to move your stuff.”
Bobby Parks was the meanest kid in camp and everyone knew it. He was the biggest bully of all time and had the meanest crew of associates ever assembled. I sighed and began to unmake my bed when I heard another voice. For the last three years he had terrified me by his sheer presence. Once he found out my first name was Mittendorf, he was relentless in his abuse. I hated him but was terrified of him more.
“He ain’t goin’ nowhere.” A short, stocky redheaded boy with freckles stood with his hands on his hips. “Go away.”
Bobby looked at his friends and they snickered. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Reggie. And you are?” he said with a sneer. This was getting ugly fast.
“Gentlemen, is there a problem here?”
A tall, thin man with wire rimmed glasses and shock of blonde hair on top of his skinny face was standing with his arms folded in front of him.
“No, sir, there’s no problem. Not as long as this kid moves his stuff. This is where me and my boys sleep.” Bobby was looking him dead in the eye.
“And you are?” he said with authority.
“Well, Bobby Parks, perhaps you and your boys can find somewhere else to land. It looks like this bed is already taken.”
“It’s OK, I’ll move,” I said as I continued to pack up my things.
“No, you will not.” Reggie walked over beside me and put his arm around my shoulder.
“We’re not going to have a problem this week, are we?” said the tall man.
“Not from me, sir,” said Reggie. Bobby was fuming. How dare this rotund firecracker stand up to the great Robert Parks the Fourth.
“Good.” He looked at Bobby and his crew. “Since the rest of you seem to have some time on your hands, I need your help with something.”
Bobby looked at Reggie and made a noise, a guttural growl that would have scared most other boys. Reggie smirked and said, “Seeya around, Bobby Parks.”
“Come on boys,” the man said and waved the Parks crew over to where he was.
“You really shouldn’t have done that,” I said. “Really.”
“Are you kidding? What’s he gonna do, beat me up?” Reggie was bea
ming from ear to ear. His smile could have been used to light up the whole dorm.
“Well, actually . . .yes, that’s exactly what he’ll do. He and all of his friends”
“Well, then I guess I’ll have to get beat up then. Let’s hope it doesn’t last too long, though. I’ve got things to do.” He then let out a laugh so loud it shook my bed. “I’m Reggie,” he said as he shook out his hand, “And I’m sleeping down here underneath you.”
“I’m Mitt,” I said as I shook his hand. “And I’m sleeping above you.” I smiled and he laughed again, with a giant guffaw.
He threw himself down on his bed as he continued to chuckle. “You’re funny,” he said.
For the first time in four years, I wondered if I might actually enjoy camp.