This story is by Erik Porter and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The camp director set his phone on the desk. “Your mother will be here before dinner,”
The canvas walls fluttered in the breeze while the incessant humming of cicadas seeped through the screened windows.
“Mr. Dave, it was Carl’s…”
Mr. Dave cleared his throat.
Adrian restarted. “Mr. Carl offered to take Tony and Mike to town. They were desperate for the latest Spiderman comic.”
“Yet, when Miss Liz and I saw you, Tony and Mike were in the backseat and you were behind the wheel.”
Adrian shifted forward in his chair. “He asked me to park it. He was late.”
“So, without permission, Mr. Carl took three kids to town then framed you? Just like with the midnight swim, huh?”
“That was his idea, too.”
“It seems everything is Mr. Carl’s fault.”
“Carl’s been screwing me over all summer. He’s not one of us. He was never a camper.”
Mr. Dave squared off a pile of papers.
“You’ve been coming here for what, five years? Not everyone who wasn’t a camper is out to get you.”
“That’s not what I mean. He acts different. He’s not into camp stuff.”
“I’m sorry, but taking campers to town in a counselor’s car is serious. I have to send you home.”
Adrian slumped back in the folding chair.
“Come with me.” Mr. Dave rose, opened the flimsy wooden door for Adrian, then led him to the cabin with the red cross on the door.
A frail looking woman, probably younger than the frizzled gray hair and extra thick glasses made her appear, turned from tidying up her medical supplies.
“Mind if Adrian stays here?”
“Have a seat. I’ll have a look,” she said louder than necessary.
“He’s not sick. I just need someone to watch him for a while.” She nodded. “I don’t want to see you out of this cabin while I’m gone.”
Mr. Dave left, heading toward the sports fields by the river, and Nurse Lillian returned to her task. Adrian knew he’d never clear himself stuck here.
Charlie, one of Adrian’s cabin-mates, limped through the door. He and Adrian stood the same height with similar brown hair, a bit long over the ears and hanging in the eyes. Some new campers often confused the two of them.
Charlie coughed to get the nurse’s attention. Adrian sprang to his feet next to Charlie. Nurse Lillian turned, surprised to see two boys.
“I twisted my ankle playing capture the flag.” Charlie rubbed his left ankle while Adrian mimed the same action.
“Capture the flag? You just got here.”
Charlie looked between Nurse Lillian and Adrian, unsure what she meant.
“It’s swelling up.” Charlie flopped on the cot and slid his sock down revealing a red, swollen ankle. Adrian copied every move.
Nurse Lillian removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.
Adrian leapt from the cot, whispered “thanks” and disappeared before Nurse Lillian put her glasses back on.
“Oh, it is swollen.” Seeing only one boy, her confidence returned. “How did you do that?”
Adrian arrived at the canoe dock. Tony and Mike hurried to pull their life jackets over their heads.
“Wait!” Adrian shouted. “What did you tell Mr. Dave?”
The two boys scrambled into their canoe.
Adrian skidded onto the dock. “You know I wasn’t driving. What the hell guys?”
Both boys shot looks toward the canoe shack then pushed off toward two other canoes waiting in the river.
Mr. Carl emerged hauling a canoe on his shoulders and flipped it into the river.
“I thought you’d be on your way home by now.” Carl laughed, “You didn’t scratch my car, did you?”
“You hung me out to dry, man.”
Miss Kathy appeared with life jackets and paddles. “Ready, Carl?” She tossed him a jacket and climbed into the canoe.
“Dave might even let you come back next year, unless he catches you here.”
Adrian charged. In one swift motion, Carl hopped in the canoe and pushed away from the dock. Adrian nearly landed in the river.
“Have a great summer.” Carl waved. Miss Kathy maneuvered her way toward the stern. She couldn’t get closer to Carl without sitting on his lap. Adrian watched the four canoes paddle upstream.
This year, he’d made it to the Upper Village, the oldest group of campers. He expected to have his best year ever. Now, everything crumbled around him.
Head down, Adrian sidled back toward the medical cabin. If he couldn’t save himself, at least he could rescue Charlie from his frustration explaining how he sprained his ankle.
Adrian only caught a glimpse of the size fourteen running shoes before hitting the blockage in his path.
“I told you to stay put!” Mr. Dave’s chest expanded to Superman size.
“Someone’s gotta prove what really happened.”
“And the midnight swims and mean practical jokes?”
“Those were Mr. Carl’s ideas”
Mr. Dave rolled his eyes so far back in his head he should have been able to see behind him.
“He’s the instigator and I end up in trouble.”
“My decision’s been made…”
“Based on shitty evidence.”
“Adrian! We’re done!”
Adrian started toward the medical tent, but Mr. Dave grabbed Adrian’s bicep and spun him around.
“Nope! You’re with me.”
Mr. Dave kept Adrian at arms length while they visited the archery range and the capture the flag field before arriving at the canoe dock.
Mr. Dave broke the silence. “I expected more from you.”
Adrian stared upstream.
“Other campers look up to you. You’d make a great counselor.”
The first canoe glided to the dock. Sounds of laughter and splashing followed from upstream.
“Maybe I’m wrong, or,” Mr. Dave paused, “you don’t want it.”
“I do!” Adrian shouted. “I knew I wanted to be a counselor after my first summer.”
Adrian spotted Mike and Tony coming around the bend next. Tony sat backwards in the bow splashing the girls’ canoe with his paddle. No one wore lifejackets. The girls’ canoe floated sideways, both girls splashing back.
As the canoes passed the dock, the girls’ canoe hit the boys’ knocking Mike off balance, his paddle slipped from his hands.
The counselors were nowhere in sight.
Both canoes floated toward the safety buoys that warned canoers of faster currents and dangerous rapids downsteam.
Tony couldn’t control his canoe seated backwards. He attempted to pass Mike his paddle but the canoe bounced over the buoys. Both boys lost their grip on the paddle. It hit the water and the current pulled it out of reach.
Adrian rushed to the first canoe that had docked, helped the camper out of the stern, grabbed her paddle and jumped in.
“Put on your life jackets. Now!” Adrian yelled to the out-of-control canoes downstream. “Mr. Dave, let’s go!”
Mr. Dave snapped out of his stunned stare and hopped into the bow.
Traveling perpendicular to the current, the girls canoe slowed. Adrian steered toward them first.
“You get the girls, I’ll get Mike and Tony.”
It only took a minute to reach the girls. Without slowing, Mr. Dave rolled over the side, took two strokes and had his hand on their canoe. Adrian saw Mr. Dave pull himself aboard the canoe as he paddled away.
Adrian gained on the boys’ canoe with his long strokes. The boys weren’t skilled enough to slow down or guide the canoe toward the shore without paddles .
“Swing your legs over the side, add some drag!” Adrian yelled. He could see the panic on the boys faces as the current quickened and they spotted rougher water ahead. “I’m coming.”
Adrian strained his muscles paddling faster. He had about fifty yards before the river became too rough.
“Hurry!” the boys yelled. The drag from their legs seemed to be working. Both boys dangled their legs over the same side of the canoe, changing their downstream angle and fighting the current.
Adrian pumped his paddle three more times. His bow neared the boys’ stern. He clambered forward and leaned over the bow as far as he could. His fingertips barely brushed the other canoe. He couldn’t grab hold. Mike leaned out, locking fingers with Adrian who could now grab Mike’s wrist and pull the canoes together side by side.
“Hold my canoe as tight as you can. I’ll get us out of here.”
Still moving downstream, Adrian had to change their direction fast. From the bow, Adrian paddled with long powerful strokes moving both canoes against the current. It would be tough work, but they’d be safe.
Mr. Dave met the two canoes at the safety rope giving Adrian a break the rest of the way.
“Nice work, Adrian. That’s the thinking we need in a counselor.”
As soon as they reached the dock, the boys scampered onto dry land.
Mr. Carl and Miss Kathy, still snuggling at the stern, paddled around the bend.
“So how was your trip, campers?” Mr. Carl called out.
Mr. Dave put his hand on Adrian’s shoulder. “I’m reconsidering your story.” Turning toward the river he yelled. “Carl, meet me in my tent!”
[…] can link directly to my short story by clicking the book cover above or through this link – Against the Current. I would love to hear what you think about my entry whether good or bad as any criticism can only […]