“I only wanted to be their friend,” Chris thought to himself.
He joined the popular boys’ organization after his family moved away from his other school and friends. He craved friendship and companionship but often experienced ridicule and pain.
He was told on his first camping trip to beware the dreaded Black Booger Disease. When one is camping, dust and dirt often turn the inside of one’s nose a dark brown or black, but new campers may not be aware of it and can be frightened by the threat of having the imaginary Black Booger Disease when they noticed their snot getting darker.
Then there was the Snipe Hunt where everyone went out at night with burlap sacks to catch the elusive but “very tasty” birds. The older boys set Chris and the other new kids in position in the dark woods by themselves and said they’ll drive any Snipes toward them by making noise, but instead went back to camp, leaving the new boys standing in the dark holding bags for a bird that was nowhere to be found.
At events with hundreds of participants, older boys sent Chris and other new members to the far end of the campground to ask other units if they could borrow a Left-Handed Smoke Shifter. Of course, there is no such thing as a Left-Handed Smoke-Shifter, so when asked, the older boys at the far end of the camp “helpfully” suggested that they heard there was one at another far corner of the camp.
Once, when the backpacks of the younger boys were inspected to ensure they were packed properly, a couple of the oldest boys, Vincent and Martin, sent Chris off to do an errand. While he was away, they took all the heaviest items from the other backpacks and put them into Chris’s. When everyone went for a hike up a steep trail, Chris could barely climb it while the older boys breezed past, taunting him. Two of the younger boys, Ron and Jack, stayed with Chris, and even helped him carry the extra weight.
The adult leaders could be cruel as well. Once, when a stranger’s car got stuck in mud and he honked an SOS. The boys wanted to go with the leader in his car to help, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. The leader looked Chris up and down, sneered, and said, “You’re too skinny. Stay here.”
The cruelest cut came when the boys were camping on Chris’s birthday. Vincent and Martin baked a small cake for him. Thinking he had finally passed their “tests” for acceptance, Chris was thrilled with their gift and symbol of friendship.
Shortly afterward, Chris was stricken with a severe case of diarrhea. It kept him incapacitated for the whole weekend. Vincent bragged they’d put dish soap in the cake mix. Ron and Jack brought water to Chris and tried to keep his spirits up after the infamous birthday cake trick.
During the camping trip the following month, at Chris’ suggestion, Ron and Jack wore long sleeve shirts and gloves as they helped him gather wood. When they arrived at the campsite with loaded arms, Vincent, Martin, and the other older boys took it from them.
“Thanks for the firewood!” Vincent gloated.
As usual, Chris said nothing. He stared sadly at Ron and Jack, then pulled out a large clear bag of home-made gorp and offered it to his two new friends. Vincent grabbed the bag of mixed nuts, granola, dried fruit, and large bits of chocolate. He walked away, yelling to the older boys, “Look what Chris brought for us.”
Vincent and his buddies gobbled down big handfuls; then built a roaring fire and began whittling and practicing their lashings with the wood Chris and his new friends had collected.
The three youngest boys chose to play cards well away from the smoky fire and out of earshot of the others.
Smiling, Ron said, “They’re going to be sorry they stole all that wood with poison oak from us.”
Jack chuckled, looked at Chris, and added, “I can’t wait for those chocolate laxative pieces in the gorp to hit ’em.”
Chris smiled, then added with sad eyes, “I only wanted to be their friend.”