True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky Part 2

True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky Part 2

Jodie Paul July 31, 2023

As I turned back toward my fellow campers and marched along the path, I lost all track of time.  Staring at the back of Jeff’s overgrown tangle of a mop not only passed the time but also blurred out the trail, because it really did resemble a brownish-blond Bip Bippadotta from Sesame Street.  If you’d seen him, you’d say the same.  After some heavy imagination work of Jeff saying “fat cat” on repeat, I snapped to and realized I had no idea how far, how long, or what direction our group had been walking.

Minutes or hours could have passed for all I knew and I would have continued to march with the rest of the campers, but the front of the line came to an abrupt halt.  The path was narrow, only a single person wide, so I had no idea what had halted our progress.  There were no sounds other than the steady summer breeze and the crackling of branches underfoot.  Jeff whipped around to make eye contact for the first time since leaving camp and gave a shrug to let me know he too was in the dark on this one.  All eight, at least that’s what I assumed because I could only see up to five, campers were at a standstill.

Eventually, the march began again and we continued on our trail without the slightest understanding of the previous pit-stop.  Suddenly the pace quickened, and as I lagged behind, I could see both Todd and Jeff winding in front until we were all nearly at a jog.  When we broke through to a small round clearing, I realized after looking from face to face of winded campers, that we were strangely alone.  Our leader, Camp Counselor Mandy was not among the faces in the clearing.  Panic set in.  Not just for me but for all of the kids in our group.  Who led us here, why were we jogging, and where was our counselor?  Everyone had the same confused look.

When we started on our journey, it was a short red headed 10-year-old, named Mikey, that had led the pack.  I straightened up and approached Mikey for answers.  Mikey looked shaken and seemed to be sweating profusely through his baseball tee.  “Where are we buddy, and what happened to Counselor Mandy?”  Mikey gulped in another chest full of air and shook his head, “I don’t know.  She up and disappeared. I was right behind her, but we rounded a turn in the trail and she was gone.  That’s why I started to run. I thought it was a joke.”

Ok…Ok…think Bobby,  I reminded myself because it was very clear there weren’t any ideas floating among the other seven.  “All right guys, we should turn back. This might be a trick, but I’m not sure I wanna be lost out here after dark.” I exclaimed to the pack.  Across the board, heads were nodding.  All in agreement to turn back, hopefully, find Mandy, and get back to our much-deserved campcation.  I grabbed Jeff and Todd, and we turned on our heels to make our way back to camp.

Just as we started toward the path behind us, I heard a scream from behind.  The kind that lets you know: things are bad, man.  I snapped my head around only to realize, four of our group were gone.  A group that was once eight deep, was now reduced to four in an instant and no longer had a Counselor.  My mind had to be playing tricks on me.  And then I was drowning—walls closed, lights out.

I woke up on the ground with Todd at my feet, both propped high on his shoulders and Jeff at my head.  Blinking, I focused on a scraggly young girl whose name I think started with S on my right.  I asked Todd, “What happened?”  He said I just went lights out and hit the ground.  He said he had also seen an after-school special about holding up feet for blood flow…yada yada yada, and here we were, awkwardly sprawled in the dirt.  As I came back around, I remembered our predicament and started to sweat.  I looked over at scraggle girl for a bit of emotional support.  “I’m sorry.  I’m Sara. You ok?” I nodded and sat up.

We all looked at each other for a moment, pondering our own feelings on what was happening and what should we do.  Turning our back on the woods had played out poorly, but sitting here had kept the four of us together.  It seemed like we all decided at that moment without speaking that we would stay put.  I crawled to the nearest tree and sat with my back to it.  The others did the same on alternate trees.  We sat two on each side of the small opening so that we could see in all directions.

Eventually, Jeff spoke up and asked us all what we thought was going on.  No one attempted to make a guess.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to talk, but I think we all knew that bawling like babies was only a minute and a half away, so we stared blankly to compose ourselves.  No one wants to look like a baby, even with no one else around.  And of course, none of us boys were ready to cry in front of Scraggly Sara.  With a half-hearted whimper, Sara was the first to ignite.  She buried her face in her elbow and really went to town for the next several minutes.  We boys just looked at our hands, not knowing how or if we should offer support.

After Sara slumped over and pushed out her final huffy tear, we all began to realize that time was really zooming by.  Even though we’d started walking in the early afternoon.  The sun was now parting the trees the way it did for the 5 o’clock news.  We had to get our guff together for a real plan.  I was not looking forward to staying all night in the ‘disappearing forest’ without an adult or a prayer.  So, we bantered about until we came up with a solid plan.  One by one, we got to our feet with the intention to hold hands and walk sideways down the trail—each facing alternating directions.  At least this way we wouldn’t get separated.  Boy, were we wrong.