Camp: Episode 2

 

Beth danced. She snuck off in the light of the moon without shoes. She meticulously cleared nine by nine squares of desert rocks and brush. She created safe spaces of sand for calloused feet. She stretched and warmed her body with plies and tendus, working all the way through the foot, pressing deep into the earth before leaping and spinning about. Beth was choreographing a desert ballet to bring back to the real world. She would make art from this shit; she would transform this journey into meaning.

This was her third camp.

Camp one led to explosions of spit and assault. They tried to make her eat pork. They force fed her bacon one morning. A devout Jew, she tried to explain her religious conviction with fierce integrity. They refused to listen and restrained her. She didn’t mean to break his nose, but the issued boots were rubber and steel. Face pressed to rocks and grass, she bucked wildly for freedom. She had strong legs; Beth danced.

Camp two rendered a charge for attempted murder. They were working sand bags in the Sacramento Delta post-flood. Filling and moving huge burlap bags of crushed silt, Beth was on pick-axe detail, breaking clumps of rock down to useable chunks. He shouldn’t have grabbed her ass mid-swing.

This was all a mistake. Despite her extensive record, Beth was a sensitive artist, not a criminal. The State disagreed. Her file was plastered with red flags and sticky notes and warning labels. Psychiatrists pondered her past and prescribed harsher labor programs. They would scare this one strait.

Her blonde hair reflected the full moon as she moved to the music of the silent night. She was barely visible from the ubiquitous camp fire, always roaring in its washing machine cage, peaking red from metal holes, licking flames of light above, illuminating frowning faces. Beth danced.

“Does anyone have a marshmallow?” Breaking the post- dinner meditation was sacrilege but Butch (not his real name) needed someone to look at him. He was tired of staring at the fire and watching Beth made him reach for his junk to often. He couldn’t get away with another adjustment crotchward without accusation of public masturbation. Butch was on his fourth offense, and one more would send him out on the next desert hike before his allotted departure. Tomorrow’s group left at 5am. He had only been back in camp 12 hours. He couldn’t do another three days on one canteen. He had to drink his own urine twice. He would not scratch his balls with everyone watching.

“SHUT IT, MAGGOTTY FAGGOT! IT’S QUIET CONTEMPLATION TIME! DO YOU NEED ME TO SIT ON YOUR FUCKING HANDS? DO YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH MY BALLS, FAG-BOY! DO YOU?”

“Sir, no, Sir. I am not a Faggot.”

“WE’LL SEE WHO THE FAGGOT IS WHEN MY DICK IS IN YOUR MOUTH!”

No acknowledgement touched the faces around the fire. They continued staring bleakly at the flames.

“Sir, yes, Sir.”

Beth gracefully fell to the ground in splits and worked the earth with her thighs. Arms stretched to the twinkling stars, she screamed silently into darkness. Thin tendrils of smoke carried her pleas to the gods as she danced for freedom.

Butch sat on his hands and secured his focus to the flames.

Camp

a 21 episode journey

By Pam Benjamin

 
Pam BenjaminCAMP, Pam Benjamin