Church Camp (Pt. 3)

We packed everything before the commencement dinner and loaded the bus immediately after we ate. The bus driver looked less than thrilled to be setting off on another voyage, his eyes were stuck on the road as the bus sat parked and teenagers stepped onboard. After finding my seat, I slipped on my headphones and rested my eyes.

No more than thirty minutes after we'd left, I was wakened by a panicked passenger.

"I think there was something in that lasagna," he said. "My stomach doesn't feel right."

The "passenger" was Chad, and he looked like a kid trying to fake his way out of going to school. His armpits were soaked, and it looked like the back of his hands were sweating. I guess he wasn't acting.

"I didn't want to say anything ... but I don't feel good either," Courtney said. More kids chimed in, breaking the silence to announce their tummies didn't feel good either.

Pastor Ryan asked the bus driver to pull over at the closest gas station, which was about 15 minutes away. When we arrived, one by one the ecstatic campers I remembered seeing as we were pulling away from the campgrounds were half-running, half-squeezing their legs together, in a rush toward the bathrooms, all with red, frantic faces. I looked around the bus. Matt had fallen back asleep, or was trying at least. I could see melted chocolate residue left on his fingers from the Whoppers I'd given him when we left. The bus driver still had is eyes facing the road, his face expressionless.

I heard a faint sound coming from the back of the bus. Sniffling. Someone was sniffling. I stood up and looked behind me to see Chad hovered over his legs, shaking his head.

"Chad, I thought your stomach wasn't feeling right," I said coldly.

"It's not," he said. I could tell he was crying.

"Dude, if you don't get out now and use the bathroom and end up making the bus driver have to stop again on the way home, me and you are gonna have a problem. You know, that was real smart, Chad—stuffing your face when you hadn't eaten a meal in a week."

"Stop it, Kerry," he said with an attitude that struck me the wrong way. I walked toward the back of the bus where he was seated, but was taken aback by something in the air.

"Damn, man. Did you step in dog crap or something?" I asked, after which he looked up at me and immediately burst into unrelenting tears. Though his words were interrupted every half-second or so, I think he said, "He—didn't—stop—in—time." I went and told the bus driver and Pastor Ryan, who'd made it back to the bus by this time, that I thought Chad had a little "accident."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" the bus driver shouted. "Get his ass off the bus!" He looked back and made eye contact with Chad. "You nasty son of a bitch. Did yo' mama not potty train yo' ass, boy?"

Chad's cry had turned into more of a moan. Pastor Ryan asked Chad nicely and motioned for him to come off the bus but wouldn't touch him—wouldn't even grab his hand. Chad eventually got up and paced to the front of the bus. When he stepped outside he was greeted with, "Hey that's the kid that shit himself!" from the bus driver. I was glad the bus driver had found a way to have fun on this trip. From that point on, the first day of school was a preparatory comedic routine for anyone who had a class with Chad. I had him one year.

"Chad Carson?" asked the teacher.

"Present," he piped.

"Uh, ma'am," I said, "his real name's Chad Ishitmyself."

• • •

After Chad was clean, we headed back toward Morristown. Matt moved to the seat next to me for the rest of the way home. We sat in silence for a few minutes, sort of talking without saying anything. No one else on the bus was moving or speaking. Chad was still sobbing, but no one would hug him.

Listening to the sounds of the road, and looking around at people on the bus, half of whom looked like they didn't release all their frustrations at the last pit stop, I was overcome with this sense of lucidity that I'd never experienced. I started thinking that this life of the God-fearing American just isn't for me. I wasn't—I couldn't believe I was thinking this at the time—zealous for God. And I was happy about it.

"You see what I was talking about now, don't you?" Matt said, as if he could read my mind. I nodded.

"So, were you cleansed at church camp, Kerry?" he jested.

"Yeah, you could say that," I said, "but in a way that only you and I will ever know."

Some of the talks Matt and I shared were starting to make more sense than ever. He'd tell me that there are people, like Chad and Courtney that need church camp. And bible study. And testimonials. And alter calls on Sunday mornings.

I'm not like Chad or Courtney. I was tired of asking questions that I knew had no answer. People like Chad will never ask those questions, and they'll live happily ever after for it. That's fine. For them, at least. Matt and I, on the other hand, were happy that we felt enlightened enough to at least question what people like Pastor Ronnie were trying to teach us. Everything I've learned from them is just that: learned. That doesn't make it real. And, beside the fact, I find this religion to be, well, farcical.

As soon as we approached the Morristown city limit sign, Matt looked at me and giggled. I knew what he was thinking. I was thinking the same thing. We opened our mouthes and half-closed our eyes. Matt held an imaginary microphone to his lips, and subsequently, I followed suit.

I can only ee-ma-junn, what it will be like...



Lindsay said...


Charlie said...

I once went to a church camp. It was Little Rock's infamous Fellowship's summer camp. No, I'm not a member. But my good buddy was, and he invited me. Hey, I had nothing better to do.

I was 13 and totally got high the entire time and hooked up with a couple of rancid sluts in the backwoods ... church camp rules, yes!