Just when you thought the camp couldn't get any weirder, it did! With night slowly falling, the camp, if not the mood, steadily grows darker. Of course, it doesn't help that the campfire remains unlit...
Previously on Positivity Camp: Just before Daniel can discover Wendy’s fate, a counselor jumps up on the stage. He then begins a shout off with the camp across the lake; it fails miserably.
“Alright, it’s time to begin, campers! I’m Counselor Lenel from House Cheer! And joining me on the stage for tonight’s performance is Counselor Dave from House Jubilant and Counselor Kimberly from House Glee!”
My jaw dropped as I heard Counselor Kimberly’s name. I had thought for sure we would never see her again!
“But she's different,” someone shouted, drawing my attention to the center group. Soon after, a few others shouted their confirmation as well. With all of us crowded together, it was difficult for me or the counselors to pinpoint who had spoken. It was great!
It wasn't until an unfamiliar woman joined Counselor Lenel on stage that the words sank in. I quickly found myself agreeing with the others. The counselor on the stage was not the same woman who had led our Nature Walk.
“Hold on campers!” Imposter Kimberly shouted, her hands raised defensively. “By now you've likely met Counselor Kimberly who leads the Nature Walk.”
There were several groans of admission on that fact, and I saw rows of stupidly bobbing heads as others eagerly accepted the newcomer’s words. I, for one, was not going to fall for whatever excuse the imposter gave!
“Well, my name is also Kimberly. I assist Counselor Pam at the Nurse’s Station.”
Well, she certainly sounded like all the other counselors as she too jumbled up the confusing nurse’s title and name. But I still wasn't buying it!
“But I've been to the nurse’s office!” a brave fool called out. “And you! You…” he stumbled to a stop, however, as he failed to work around a 'negative’ word.
“I work in one of the back rooms, sweetie,” the imposter continued, unperturbed by our concern.
“Brian,” I whispered as I saw a flaw in her identity.
“What?” he whispered back.
“Ask her about her House!”
“Why would I ask her about her home?”
“Oh, for goodness sake! I'll do it!” the girl next to me - Chloe was it? - hissed at us. “What about your House? Which Kimberly was in charge of House Glee?” she asked boldly.
The imposter sighed before attempting to answer the question. “Kimberly H. was in charge of House Glee. However!” she had to shout now to be heard over the ruckus that statement caused. “Since Kimberly H. went home early due to a family emergency, I am filling in for her,” the Imposter Kimberly lied.
There were many cries of awe as campers fell for the 'family emergency’ bit. I, however, wasn't fooled. It was too convenient and too strange a camp for any of it to be true. No, they had definitely punished the real Kimberly for her use of a forbidden word. Then they had tried to replace her, thinking none of us would notice.
“But I saw her at the nurse's office before coming here!”
“And I saw a cop car parked outside the camp gates!”
“There was a police car?!”
Mayhem erupted as everyone began talking at once. Then Teacher appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and walked toward the stage. He stood there in front of the unlit pile of wood, quiet, ominous, and with his hands clasped behind his back. It didn't take long for him to be noticed. Bit by bit we settled down until the camp became eerily quiet. Still, Teacher waited.
Behind him, the three counselors on stage bustled about with silent smiles as they made themselves ready for their performance. Counselor Dave had a green mop-like piece on his head and was grinning ear to ear as he waited.
Meanwhile, Imposter Kimberly had papers in her hand and had moved center stage. Counselor Lenel held a red ball and knelt on the stage opposite of mop-headed Dave.
“Are we quite calm now?” Teacher asked us solemnly.
I tried to respond, but my voice squeaked betrayingly, so I nodded instead. I wasn't even aware of how anyone else responded. I was too busy being angry at myself for not being able to speak properly. He was just another adult in this lame camp, so shy did he intimidate me so?!
“While Counselor Kimberly respectfully answered your questions, many of you continued to ask more. Do you think that is respectful? She has been most patient with you, but I assure you, my own patience is wearing thin.”
I gulped at the lack of tone in Teacher's voice. Luckily, it hadn't been audible, considering the dead silence of the camp. Even the bugs were being quiet!
“As safety is one of our top concerns,” Teacher continued after a moment of silence, “I shall explain the cop car. Kevin Cardel, as many of you are already aware, was sent home. His father is a police officer and was on active duty when he was called.”
It was all just too convenient for me to believe! I mean, two Kimberly's? And a cop car that just happened to belong to Kevin's dad? I wasn't sure what else they could mean, but I didn't believe them! I wished Wendy were here to talk to and to see what she thought. Wendy!
“What about Wendy?!” I shouted, my concern overriding my trepidation over confronting Teacher. Beside me Brian flinched. “Where is she?” I demanded, my voice somehow not faltering.
No one else moved. I wasn't even sure anyone breathed. How had Wendy done it? How had she stood up to Teacher before, and all alone?
Teacher turned his head in my direction. As our eyes met, his lips turned up in his usual smirk. “She is speaking with Mr. Petrel. Any more questions?” Teacher asked, his voice sickly sweet. He looked around, smirking at us, daring us to challenge him. “Good, then I believe it is time for the story.”
Without missing a beat, Imposter Kimberly began speaking while Teacher made his exit. “Tonight's tale is that of Shel Silverstein’s: The Giving Tree. The story begins with a young boy and his tree!”
I zoned out as best I could. My stomach churned as Imposter Kimberly told the story - a butchered version given the lack of negative words - while green-mop-headed Dave and over-the-top Lenel acted it out.
I'd heard the story before from my mother. Unlike her, I had found it sad as the boy took more and more from the tree until there was nothing left - like a parasite. The camp had found a winner of a story here!
My mind wandered in and out of the telling of the story. I was still tense from my confrontation with Teacher. No matter what I did, I couldn't focus on what I was going to do. At some point, I found myself actually watching the play, or whatever it was.
Counselor Dave, it turned out, was the perfect giving tree. Apple by apple, green mop strand by green mop strand, Dave ecstatically gave it all away. Leave it to him to look happy while losing his stick limbs.
Thankfully he lost his green mop hair early on or I might've been focused on that the whole time. It wasn't until Imposter Kimberly said, “The end!” that I even realized the story was over.
“Up next,” she announced, “Counselor Melinda, the only one,” she joked, “will serenade us with song!”
I groaned as the word sang triggered the refrain from The Wheels on The Bus song.
“Before she joins us though, we're going to light the campfire!”
There were some half-enthused grumbles and a few downright gleeful shouts, probably some pyros, at the imposter’s announcement. The contrasting tones confused the counselors. They seemed to debate whether it was wise to try and work up more cheer from the groaners with potential pyros in the group. In the end, they went with making the bulk of us miserable rather than worrying about exciting the pyros. While the call for more joy at the lighting of the fire resulted in the same lackluster response from most, the pyros more than made up for it.
So much for safety, I thought.