I started working on a short story that I wanted to share here, but it’s turning into something else. As a writer, I feel this often happens; I start out with an idea and it branches off into something beyond the original scope of my vision. Well, that happened this time, too! What started out as a simple story about a strange camp turned into more of a social commentary.
On what you ask? Well, it’s a social commentary on our school system and how they keep pushing people through, almost as though peopleare worried about hurting kid’s feelings should they get held back for bad grades. This, and I am oversimplifying this, ‘touchy feely’ approach is what led me to create this short story (with many additions to come, I’m sure). I hope you enjoy it!
“Alright, Campers!! If this is your first time to Positivity Camp, then please raise your hand! That’s right, raise ‘em up!”
Despite being new to the camp, I did not raise my hand. Mr. Chipper, as I decided to call him, already had me dreading the camp more than when my parents had tried explaining it all. Honestly, it sounded more like a reform school than an actual camp.
“One, two, three, four…and five!” There were only seven of us, I noted with some dismay. I tried to find the other person who had not raised their hand, but everyone started dropping them as the guy continued, “We have five newcomers! Welcome!” I gritted my teeth as he clapped enthusiastically for a moment. “Now, before we get started, are there any questions?” Mr. Chipper looked around excitedly, but started talking before anyone bothered to raise their hands.
“Wonderful! Now, let me go over the camp rules! As you may have seen upon entering camp, there is only one rule here. Just stay positive by saying only positive words!”
“Wait, we can’t say any of the words on the board outside?”
“Ah, and you’ve just said one!”
I stared straight ahead as I tried to figure out which word had been negative. It took me a moment, but I finally figured it out. The kid had said, “can’t.” At that moment, I decided that keeping my mouth shut would be better than talking and risking saying a ‘negative’ word.
“We will let it go for now,” the Councilor continued without giving any explanation, “but your second offense means watching the positivity video. But really, we can talk about consequences later! For now, just keep from saying those words. And stay positive!” His face looked inhuman with the wide grin he somehow managed to maintain. “Now that we are done with that, let’s start getting you into groups so you can start having fun and learn how to be more positive!”
“Just three days of this,” I whispered the litany over and over to myself as I tried to focus on getting to my group.
“Oh! Why, I almost forgot! Come on back, Campers!” Mr. Chipper called out before any of us could escape the numerous empty benches.
“What now?” I whined under my breath.
“We need to do the name game! That way we can get to know each other’s names. I’ll go first.” He paused to pull out a little hacky sack ball. “See this? If the ball is tossed to you, you have to tell your name, and a way to remember it. Like this.” He proceeded to toss the hacky sack ball up in the air and catch it.
“Hi, Campers!” he called annoyingly. “My name is Dave. I am a troop leader here at Positivity Camp. The D in my name stands for daring. The A is for adventure. V is for victorious, and E is for exiting! With my adventurous spirit, I feel like exploring the deep blue sea and looking for Davy Jones and his locker! Get it? Dave, Davy? Ah, you’ll get the hang of it here in a minute! Alright, now who to pick next?”
Of course, he picked me first. I did at least manage to catch the dumb ball.
“Do I have to do this?” I stalled as a devious plan formed in my mind.
“Yes, Camper, you have to do this. Now tell us your name! We’ll help you from there!”
I sighed. Thought about it for a moment longer, and decided a video would be better than the name game. “Hi, my name is Daniel. D is for disturbed. A is for annoyed,” I smiled as I spoke the next line, but only because that creepily perpetual smile had disappeared from Dave’s face. “N is for naughty,” I saw his face turn pale, but kept right on going. “I is for indifferent. E is for embattled,” I heard someone let out an appreciative "Ooh" for that one, “and L is for loathe.” I paused as I forgot who to make my name relate to, but sadly I could not.
Red faced, Councilor Dave finally snapped. “To the Nurses office, young man! And be silent on your way there!” his shrill voice grated on my nerves as he shouted the commands. I stood from the bench and casually tossed the girl next to me the ball. She stood as I passed, startling me into stopping.
“Can I go with him?”
“It’s may I,” the man snapped waspishly at her.
“Oh? Well then, Mr. Dave. If that’s going to be your attitude toward me. Fine. D is for defective, A is for abhorrent, V is for vile, and E is for egregious! And my name is Wendy. W for wicked, E for execrable, N for negativity, D for deplorable, and Y for ya-hoo!”
I’m pretty sure everyone’s jaw dropped as Wendy spoke. I had been lucky enough to watch Dave as she spoke. His lips never stopped moving as Wendy rattled off the terrible words. Yet no words formed long enough for him to sputter them out. I could tell some of the words she had used had to have been up on the boards posted outside the camp walls, but the way Wendy wielded them was like watching a master at work! Still, the last one gave everyone a pause, including Dave who had been on the verge of recovery. Then again, maybe not.
“What?” Wendy asked, surprised by the confused looks. “Ya-hoo is more than a search engine! Honestly, people! They’re a race of brutish, degraded creatures in some guy’s book. Look the word up!”
Yup, she broke Dave.
“Both of you! To the Psychiatrist!”
“The what?” Wendy and I said at the same time. I smiled, but quickly bit my lip to hide my amusement.
“THE NURSE!” he shouted at us. “Now,” he said more calmly, but still with a hint of anger.
I didn’t wait for him to call us back; I ran for the path to the nurse’s office, or was she a psychiatrist? Luckily, I had seen the nurse’s station on the way in. Though, that was likely because it happened to be pressed against the entrance where all the forbidden words were posted. I didn’t have to look back to know that Wendy had followed after me. When we were out of earshot, I could not help but congratulate her on her awesome use of negative words.
“Oh, you shouldn’t give me all that much credit. Ha! Shouldn’t. Anyway, I had my phone on and was looking for something for my name. That’s how I knew about the ya-hoo people.”
“That’s still awesome!” I countered, but Wendy shushed me as we got a look from a nearbycouncilor and her group of campers.
“Do you know where we’re going?” Wendy asked after we passed the group. She looked around at the unfamiliar buildings.
“Yeah, it’s near the entrance and the signs.”
“Do you think they’ll add any of those things to the boards out there?” She grinned impishly at the idea of getting more words added to the list.
“I hope so!”
“You know,” she said slowly, “I bet this camp could be pretty fun.”
“You can’t be serious,” I shot her a concerned look for suggesting such an absurdity.
“I am! I mean, can you imagine if we did that every time they talked to us?”
“What? Said a forbidden word? I have a feeling we are going to regret it with that video, and the psychiatrist.” I regretted not thinking ahead to that no doubt painful experience.
“No, not that,” she bumped my shoulder playfully. “We follow the rules from here on out,” she suggested with a wink.
“Not sure I’m following.” I looked at her suspiciously.
“Trust me,” she said with a wink.
There was no time for further conversation. We had reached the door to the nurse’s office.