I sat on the log next to the pond and examined my legs, so different now that there was hair sprouting from them. I liked how they looked in my blue swim trunks, and if I thought about how much I liked my legs, I didn’t have to pay attention to my chest: my skin pulled tight across my ribs like plastic wrap.
The four kindergarteners around me were quietly drawing in the damp ground with broken sticks. One of them drew the rays of the sun; another traced his mother’s curly hair. The western Massachusetts morning air was cold, even in the middle of summer, so we wore our towels around our shoulders, shivering like a pack of abandoned Chihuahuas.
Sandy Kaufman, our swim instructor, approached us with an enthusiastic clap of her hands, even though she was glaring at me. I wondered why a woman older than my mother was teaching swimming at Camp Goldman. A streak of gray followed her cowlick from the front of her forehead to the back of her neck. Her breasts were oversized and saggy, and her legs were fat and stout and covered in varicose veins. She wore a one-piece because she wanted to hide her slightly protruding stomach.
“Who’s ready to swim?” she asked in her best baby voice. The kindergarteners raised their hands. One little girl yelled, “Me!” I just glared at Sandy. War began early for me that morning.
“OK, everyone in the water!” The kindergarteners went splashing in, giggling all the while, as if water were somehow fun. “That means you too, Nathan,” she said without looking at me.
“I don’t want to,” I said.
“Look, I’m not interested. It’s enough that I have an eleven-year-old in my beginner’s class. I don’t need any grief from you.”
“I won’t give you any, but I’m not going in the water.” I wished I could tell her that I wasn’t comfortable taking my shirt off, and that I was so skinny that the water made my body freeze.
“I’m just gonna go,” I said. “I’ll get to Flagpole early.”
“Don’t you dare leave!” she said, pointing a finger. “This is mandatory swim. You don’t participate, you don’t stay at Camp Goldman.” She positioned herself in front of me like a tank, but I stood up and got dressed. “I’m surprised at you, Nathan. If your parents knew how you were acting they’d be horrified. Your sister never pulled this kind of thing.”
“I don’t think my parents would care,” I said.
“Never in my whole career have I seen a boy who doesn’t want to swim with his friends,” she said. I walked away, sullen and angry, emboldened by the independence that arrived with the hair on my balls. I turned my back on Sandy Kaufman with the indifference of the Goth kids, whom I admired but could never join. I was too different, too unfortunate, too much of a freak to fit in with anyone, even the freaks. Those days I only seemed to make sense alone, and at Camp Goldman I was never alone.
I sat at Center Camp waiting for the rest of the campers to arrive from their morning classes. Pine trees surrounded me, dry and unapproachable like overheated porcupines. Every morning the clouds that gathered overnight in the Berkshires passed over camp, and I prayed to God that they’d stay for the day and rain out our outdoor activities, especially swimming. Please God, I thought, especially swimming. But in His divine douchebaggery, He always saw fit to make the sun shine through sometime around nine a.m. The soil turned to hard-packed dust, the air into a gaseous potion, and my insides into a shit soufflé. Only the pines didn’t seem to mind. The pines were our landscape. They survived all winter and couldn’t have cared less what we did while they slept in the summer. There were no mountains and no water besides the lame little pond where I once saw a large spider floating on top of the water. There were only trees and occasional open spaces reserved for flagpoles, parking lots, and baseball fields: the glories of overnight camp.
Soon enough the rest of camp arrived for Flagpole. The other boys from my bunk sat around me. No one asked questions anymore. At first they wanted to know why I was swimming with kindergarteners, but when I answered, “Because I hate swimming,” they left me alone. Boys were good like that.
Debbie Finkle, the camp director, did roll call, like it was a concentration camp or something. She called out 7B and the boys in my bunk got up and shouted like big dogs, throwing their hands in the air. I stayed down since that kind of display of masculinity was not my style, though I often wished it were. I preferred quiet moments of intimacy to rowdy expressions of egotism, pristine cleanliness to dirty knees, and gentle compliance to rule breaking, though I was often guilty of the latter: I just managed to do it politely and in a self-effacing manner, which was always best.
They raised the American flag and we sang the Star Spangled Banner; then they raised the Israeli flag and was sang the Hatikva.
“Two announcements,” Debbie Finkle shouted. Her voice was strong and masculine, always trying to show the campers that she wouldn’t take any shit from anyone. If anyone was going to send you home, it was going to be Debbie Finkle. “First, the cesspool is at a dangerously high level this summer. We all need to be very careful to conserve water.”
“So wait, are we not supposed to take shits anymore or something?” Eli Spiegel said under his breath. Eli was my bunkmate. He had the top bed. He and I were among the five boys in 7B who hit puberty at an early age. Most of the other boys were feeling its effects that summer, but we considered ourselves part of an elite crowd because we started jacking off at the age of nine. Eli’s body had changed in ways I only imagined. He had taken to sleeping in only his tighty-whities. When he took his shirt off the first night I noticed that his body had become muscled. He already looked like a man, with a smooth, chiseled chest, ripped arms, and an actual six-pack. The fact that his skin was perma-tanned only made me more envious. I would pretend to read Calvin and Hobbes, but I would really be watching him undress, comparing his body to mine, looking at how his dick filled out his tight underwear, and wondering why I felt so bad about it when my dick was bigger anyway. When he got into bed he would masturbate so hard that the entire frame would shake, and I’d place one hand on the bottom of his mattress to see if I could feel his movements, reading the bumps like brail, and wondering if at the end his cum would spill over the side and slowly repel down to where I slept, like the spiders often did.
He liked me enough, the way all the boys seemed to: enough that I didn’t annoy them, didn’t cramp their style. I was quiet and agreeable, and for some reason I seemed to follow boys like Eli around, and they didn’t seem to mind.
“The second thing is that we’ve been given word that a white supremacist organization has set up shop not far from here,” Debbie continued. “The police are aware of this and so are we, but you must be on alert at all times. Keep a keen eye on the woods. If you see anyone walking around or coming out of the trees, let a staff member know immediately. But all campers are to stay out of the woods. I’m absolutely serious about this. If we find you messing around out there you will be sent home immediately, no questions asked.”
“What?” I said. Why would they let a white supremacist group set up shop next to a Jewish camp? Shouldn’t people be worried about that? I produced the image of a man walking out of the woods. It was so frightening that I imagined if I really saw it, I would be too paralyzed to act. I supposed that if he made it that far there would be little left that we could do to stop whatever diabolical mission he might be on. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, though, so I put that terror aside. My mind was used to fear. It was the emotion that made me feel most alive, probably because I could not manage it.
“Look at Lilia,” Avi Menkowski whispered to Eli and me. “Her tits are huge now!” Avi was part of the Early Puberty Club. He had a low voice and grew a full bush to match his Jew-fro by the third grade. His Adam’s apple was the size of my ball sack. Naturally, he felt that Eli and I understood him better.
“Dude, I’m all over that,” Eli said. I was mad at him instantly, but I wasn’t sure why.
“No shit, man. Do you know how good it would feel to stick your dick between those things?” Avi said.
“I’d cum all over her face, too,” Eli said. “Pearl necklace.”
“Not my type,” I said, and they both looked at me.
“Are you kidding me?” Avi said.
I wanted to say that I thought it was inappropriate to talk about girls like that, because I really liked girls; and I wanted to say that I truly didn’t think about girls that way, probably because I was raised right and taught to respect women.
“I guess I’d do it,” I said instead.
“You’re damn right you would!” Eli said, punching me in the thigh. It hurt, but I knew better than to cry about it. “You’d stick your dick in her mouth, and you’d fuck those titties, and you’d cum all over her. Right?”
I knew all three of us were hard at that moment, but I was hard for different reasons. I didn’t like thinking about Lilia, but I liked when Eli talked about her. Somehow, I thought, I’d be happy to watch him fuck her.
Uri Stein turned to us, his sickly little head made even more humorous by the thick-rimmed glasses he desperately needed, and blurted out, “Rachel Holzberg is going to give Joe Kellner a blowjob behind the sports shed during Free Time tonight!” He was proud of his announcement, because as the only boy in our bunk who had not even begun puberty, he needed some way to join in. I was jealous of his enthusiasm, and I wished that I could go back in time to the days when kinky hair, orgasms, filthy thoughts, and rivers of cum were nothing but a glorious landscape on the horizon. Uri recounted his pubes every morning: “Is that one? I think that’s one. That makes four on my dick and two under my left arm!”
“Oh, no shit,” Avi said.
“That’s fucking awesome,” Eli joined. “Rachel’s hot. I bet she’d want to suck my dick too.”
“Maybe you should spy on them tonight. See if her skills are any good,” I said. I was rock hard, but to me Rachel Holzberg was a shadow of a thought, a featureless figure made of clay; and I was picturing Joe Kellner, the fourteen-year-old alpha jock, with his back against the rotting wood of the sports shed, his jeans opened, revealing a triangle of well-muscled stomach and thigh and whatever large treasure he held in the center. The foggy figure was on its knees and was responsible for giving Joe a huge amount of pleasure, pleasure he obviously deserved for being such a real and beautiful man. The reward for giving that pleasure was when he came: liquid gold for the recipient. I was aroused and saddened. I didn’t feel worthy of receiving the pleasure or of giving it. I decided that Rachel Holzberg was a stupid whore bitch.
“Totally,” Eli said. “We gotta watch this. I’m gonna be hard all day.” I looked down at his shorts, too loose for me to really see anything, and my eyes lingered a little too long. He saw me look, but that summer we were all horny as fuck, so Eli interpreted it as an act of submission. He smiled and grew a little larger.
At morning teffilot the boys put on their tefillin and tallitot. At Camp Goldman we had the choice of Orthodox or Conservative services. I chose the Orthodox because it was the only place where they left you alone. We prayed at a makeshift amphitheater where logs jammed into the muddy and mossy hill functioned as both stairs and benches. A white tablecloth separated the boys from the girls, though most of the girls had grown tired of this and gone the way of the Conservatives.
While the religious boys bowed and bended and recited the ancient prayers, I bowed and bended and asked God to let the cesspool overflow so I could go the fuck home. I prayed that the boys I liked, the athletic boys, the older boys, the boys the girls followed around, would confide in me, would become close to me, so close that no one else mattered. But God only heard prayers in Hebrew, and for the life of me I couldn’t translate fast enough. The collective sound of the other boys drowned out my prayers. It was a sound entirely unlike my own, and my prayers got caught in the pricks of the pine trees where a bird or two might use them to build a nest, and nothing more.
There was a new chef in the cafeteria that summer. His name was Rich, and he was one of those guys who hated every second of his day. He was old, around fifty, with a butterball face and no hair on his head. The kids were scared of him. He had some kind of harsh accent, and he hated every single one of us. The older boys liked to push his buttons, and every time they did he started screaming in a high-pitched voice, threatening to serve their organs for the next meal. Then the boys would threaten to have him fired, and I ended up feeling bad for Rich. I saw him as a misunderstood, lonely creature. I left him alone.
At lunch bunkmates sat together, one bunk to a table. I had Gabe Rich on one side of me, and Saul Black on the other. I couldn’t stand either one. They sat on their beds all day listening to their tapes of bootlegged Phish concerts. They were quiet, smart, and angry, and they didn’t have a damn thing to say to me. But across from me was Jeff Fisher. His mother was the camp nurse, and this was his first time at Camp Goldman. He was nice and caring. He talked to me because he actually wanted to hear what I had to say. Jeff was in the bed just next to mine, and when he slept he didn’t move, he just lied there with his eyes shut and a hint of a smile on his lips. I couldn’t help but think he was beautiful.
Jeff looked at me from across the table and smiled. I smiled back and my thighs tingled. I knew he wanted to talk to me, but with all these jackasses around us, why would he even bother to start a real conversation? I gave him a look that was meant to say, “I understand, and it’s OK.” I assumed an unspoken bond with him.
“Did you hear?” Avi shouted from the end of the table. “Rich is a German!”
“What?” someone said. “No way.”
“Shut up, he is! I found out. His name is actually Heinrich! What if he’s poisoning our food or something?”
“What if he’s part of that white supremacist group?” I said. “Like some kind of spy.”
“Holy shit, that’s brilliant!” Avi said. And that ended the conversation. They all went back to eating their sandwiches. I couldn’t stop staring at Rich. With his bald head and unforgiving eyes, I imagined that he once cooked Jews in the belly of Auschwitz. As if he could hear me, he looked out at the crowd of campers, and for the first time crossed over from behind the counter.
“Eggscuse me,” he shouted, his thick German accent more obvious now than ever. “Becoze of a problem vit da meat supplier, ve vill not be having any more meat.”
“What?” children screamed. “For how long? For the rest of camp?” Rich’s face turned red.
“I said, becoze of a problem vit da meat supplier, ve vill not be having any more meat!” The cafeteria fell silent. Rich’s face was bright red and his eyes were as big as golf balls. Debbie Finkle jaunted up to Rich and tapped him on the shoulder. She whispered something in his ear and he walked back into the kitchen, but only after shooting one last glance of hate around the room.
“Thank you, Rich,” Debbie said. “Campers, what’s happening is this: Yiddishe Bubbe Food Corp, the largest kosher meat producer in the country, has been shut down.”
“Why?” I asked, always the inquisitive shit stirrer.
“Well,” she continued, “it turns out that they were run unethically. They were underpaying their workers, using child labor, and the meat they were producing wasn’t even kosher.
“The point being, campers, that whether we like it or not, there is no kosher meat to be had. If something changes, I’ll let you know. Until then, we’re going to be eating more fish and vegetarian dishes.”
Hands flew into the air.
“Mrs. Finkle?” It was one of the girls from 5G. “I’m allergic to fish. I’m also allergic to peppers.”
“Yes, I know, Becky. We’re very aware of all your many dietary restrictions. If you’re worried, please come talk to me in your own free time. But remember that we’re fully aware of your allergies, and we’re not going to let you eat something that will harm you.”
“Mrs. Finkle?” Another girl from 5G. “I’m anemic and need a high protein diet.”
“Yes, I know. Like I said, we’re not going to let anyone get sick. Any more questions, come find me during Free Time.” She walked out of the cafeteria, leaving a vacuum of murmurs. I watched Rich mix something in a bowl with his hands, shaking his head and talking to himself.
Jeff Fisher was looking at me again and shaking his head. I smiled.
“Ridiculous,” I said.
“Seriously.” He reached a hand across the table and grabbed my arm. I froze and burst into flames simultaneously. His touch was disarming. He looked deep into my eyes and said, “Naomi Klein likes you.”
“Naomi Klein, from 7G. You know, the big girl. She’s sitting right behind you.” I turned and saw her back. Ah yes, Naomi Klein: black belt in Karate at the age of ten, top athlete in the camp with a special passion for the more physical sports: basketball, football, volleyball, and in her spare time, wrestling. She was known to pin boys twice her age. Her torso was as wide as I was tall, and she was short like a gorilla. Two blond pigtails swung as she ate, like pirate corpses warning intruders against a no-tolerance policy.
It was easy to see that the other girls in the bunk didn’t like her, but it was also easy to see that Naomi didn’t care. She spoke freely and carelessly around them, and I respected that. She was one of them, whether they liked it or not.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“She told me!” The mere fact that Jeff was cool enough to talk to Naomi Klein without worrying what others thought about him made me like him even more. I wanted him to be my special friend, the one to never let me out of his sight, to only want to spend his time with me. But it seemed as though guys didn’t do that with their friends.
“Ha! No way!” Eli broke in. “Dude, you should totally hit that!”
“No way,” I said. “I’m not going to hit that. I’m not interested. She could swallow me for breakfast.”
“Imagine what else she could swallow,” Eli said. The table laughed. Jeff laughed too, and I got angry with him. I wanted him to be saddened by the image of me hooking up with someone. He obviously was not.
He smiled and said, “She wants to meet you tonight after Campfire. Somewhere private.” I wanted to kill him. I turned again and looked at Naomi, and she was already looking at me. She smiled, exposing braces that covered her huge chompers like silver train tracks lost in a prairie winter. She and the girls turned to each other and giggled. I wanted to curl up and die. At least we were keeping each other distracted from the meat shortage.
Campfire was as boring as it was pointless. I never understood the idea of forced spirit rallies, especially those that used song. To the tune of “Dust in the Wind” we sang, “Dear Camp Goldman, we all love it here at Goldman.” Everyone seemed to love it, but it made me want to burn the whole place down. I got depressed every night at Campfire wondering why I couldn’t just be like everyone else, and I got anxious thinking about the free time between then and bedtime, when the true natures of the campers at Camp Goldman were conveniently hidden by the shade of night. It was when we went unseen, unmonitored. And it was when I realized that I didn’t fit on the side of the boys or the girls once the sun set.
When the spirit rally was over, 7B and 7G stood on opposite sides of the fire, huddling and stealing looks at each other. I tried to stand in the middle of the boys so no one was really able to see me well. Finally, the girls sent over an emissary. Eli intercepted her and they discussed logistics.
“OK,” Eli said to me. “She wants to meet you near the baseball field. Go there in exactly ten minutes.”
“Why? What does she want?”
“I don’t know, dude. That’s why you’re going to meet her! She likes you!” I knew the other guys would never have let their dicks within ten feet of Naomi, and I was hurt that they wanted me to.
“I heard she got her period a couple days ago,” Avi said. “I heard she bled right through her pants. Looked like she’d been sitting in a pool of tomato soup.”
“Gross,” I said.
“Yeah, but at least you know she’s got something going on down there. Just don’t eat her out.”
Those ten minutes were the longest of my life. I had to sit there and field questions from the boys as to what I would do to Naomi’s pussy, her mouth, and her tits. Until then I had successfully avoided talking sex with my bunkmates, and I had done it with such stealth that they assumed I always did talk about sex. Now they looked to me for details: dirty, sticky, uninhibited, cum-drenched details. I managed to avoid giving them by insisting that I had no desire even to share the same air as Naomi. They laughed, waiting to see what I’d say and do, and I realized that all this was just fun to them. They would probably have respected me more had I said, “Fuck that ugly bitch,” and demanded we all go jack off in the girls’ beds while they were busy doing something else. But for some reason I felt the need to prove something to these guys. There was something even scarier about what they might have said about me if I didn’t go.
As I walked to the baseball field my dick felt like it was getting smaller with each step. When I reached home plate Naomi stepped out from her hiding place behind the bleachers. She was wearing a pink frilly dress and had pink ribbons tied to the ends of her pigtails. She looked like a damn fool, like the Hulk in a dress. But I managed to smile at her. I knew that she was a nice person, and I wondered if the girls in her bunk had forced her into this.
“Hi,” she said. Her braces glowed in the moonlight. She was giving me a genuine smile, which was endearing.
“Um, I did. I’m here.”
“You’re a cool guy, Nathan.”
“Thanks. So are you.” She took a green glow stick from behind her back and started twirling it around. It cast an eerie glow over us. “Where’d you get that?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a trickster smile. She giggled and started putting the glow stick in her mouth, letting the tip of it touch her tongue now and then. Oh, Jesus, I thought.
“Vat are you keeds doing?” A horrible voice boomed from behind us. I turned fast to find Rich right behind me with a flashlight in my face. Naomi was so startled that she bit down on the glow stick and its toxic ingredients shot into her mouth. She whined quietly at first, and then grew more hysterical until at last she ran away screaming. Her mouth remained as a glowing green orb long after her body had been covered in darkness.
“You keeds aren’t supposed to go into ze voods,” Rich said.
“We aren’t in the woods, Rich! We’re in the baseball diamond. See? Does this look like the woods to you?”
“I should follow her,” he said.
“It’s OK. She’s probably going to the nurse or something.”
“I should follow her,” he said. His voice trailed off, and he walked slowly as his flashlight illuminated her tracks. I was left alone in the empty field. The pine trees were menacingly silent behind me. They stood there watching me, as if to say that they had no particular problem with me per se, but they didn’t like me enough to tell me if anything dangerous was lurking at their feet. I looked into the darkness of the forest. It was still as death. Suddenly, two eyes glowed at me from deep in the darkness. I turned and ran.
I found the boys only a few hundred feet away. All of them were ducking behind corners or hiding behind rocks. They heard my frantic footsteps and turned violently. Each pressed a finger to his lips.
“Come over here and shut up!” Eli said.
“I saw something in the woods,” I said.
“Dude, shut the fuck up and look over there.” My eyes followed the stares of the other boys and fell on movement just a few yards away at the sports shed. “She’s sucking his fucking dick!”
The moonlight pieced the trees and cast thick ropes of light across Joe Kellner. We were facing him, so we could only see the back of Rachel Holzberg’s head moving rhythmically against Joe’s crotch. Joe’s mouth was hanging open, and I imagined that I could hear his breath flowing with the rising beat of his heart. His eyes were fixed on his dick, watching it get wet, watching it slide in and out of Rachel’s lips. He placed his hands on Rachel’s head and directed her while his hips pumped forward and back. I was so turned on that I stuck my hand down my pants and started stroking. Eli was doing the same thing. In fact, all the boys were doing it. But they were all imagining that they were in Joe’s position. I was not.
I looked at Joe and saw that he was an animal that was totally unfamiliar to me. I saw that he was a man and I was not. His focus was fixed, his conscience was unquestioned, and he received pleasure like he deserved it. He didn’t question his body or his attractiveness, he simply existed in himself and the weaker ones flocked to him on their knees hoping to be anointed in his juices. For the first time I got it. I wanted his juices. I wanted him to baptize me in his cum, because when he did I would belong to him, I would be something he possessed, like a woman. I thought of how unfortunate Rachel was, so unaware of what she was doing, as I assumed all women were. They gave out blowjobs because they were supposed to, because that was expected of them. I thought I could do it better. I thought I had something the boys around me wanted, even if they didn’t know it or admit it.
Joe’s mouth opened wider and his breathing became audible, gasping loudly until he actually called out, “Oh shit!” Rachel’s head stopped moving and I knew that he was cumming in her mouth. I didn’t know it but my tongue was hanging out, picking up tiny bits of salt from my lips. A salt that I imagined was someone else’s.
Joe and Rachel got up and walked away, not arm in arm, not in love, but in different directions, without so much as a smile or a thank you. We all pulled our hands out of our pants.
“Wow,” I said. Someone laughed. We all walked back to our bunk, mostly in silence. Every now and then someone commented, “Joe is so lucky,” or “Did you see when she—,” but we were mostly lost in our own thoughts. I gazed into the woods, the piercing eyes from before replaced by the image of a dick and balls. I realized that I’d never be satisfied until I got to put them in my mouth, too.
The lights were out and we were in bed, that strange moment when the counselors had just left and we all lay quietly pondering what we were going to do, besides not go to sleep.
“I’m so fucking horny!” Avi called out, shattering our memories of the blowjob. “I need to do something about it now!”
“So jack off, dude,” Gabe said, putting one of his Phish concerts into his stereo and putting on his headphones.
“I know,” Eli said. I could feel the bed shake as he sat up, proud of his idea. “Ookie Cookie.”
“No way, no way,” Gabe said.
“Yes, definitely,” Eli said. “Ookie Cookie. All the way.”
“Yeah, Eli, that’s right!” Avi said, jumping up and down and laughing. Some of the other boys laughed nervously, while others didn’t say a word, hoping to stay out of it. “Who’s in?”
“Not me,” Gabe said, followed by a chorus of at least five other kids who pretended to actually go to sleep. Eli jumped out of bed. His tighty-whities perfectly framed his thighs. He and Avi collected flashlights from around the room and placed them, lit, on the floor. At the center of the floor they put a cookie.
“If you’re in, come on,” Eli said. “Gather ‘round the cookie!”
I got up, not because I wanted to join the game, but because I couldn’t turn down a better look at their dicks, their balls, at their faces as they stroked themselves to orgasm. My better judgment told me to play the lame-o, to sit out as usual, but a new force in my belly drowned those thoughts in white fog. My heart was racing so fast I thought I might actually pass out. A good six or seven of us, including the five Early Puberty kids, sat around the cookie.
This wasn’t the first time it had happened, but usually people chickened out before they came and ran back to their beds to do it under the covers. At the very least, the cookie never got eaten. The guys usually ended up fighting over who actually came last, and in the end the loser just had to pick up the cookie and throw it away.
When I sat down, though, I realized I was out of my league. I wasn’t safe. I could end up drooling over their dicks, and that might take things too far. I had already planned to lose the game, to cum last. I just wanted to declare outright, “I will eat the ookie from that cookie!”
“Nathan, no! Where’re you going?” I ran back to my bed without excusing myself, leaving the dedicated ones to prove that they were comfortable enough to stick with it. “You pussy!” I just laughed with relief, and I was greeted by the sweet smile of Jeff in the next bed. He was already stroking under the covers, his legs spread wide and his knees bent. From my bed I simultaneously watched Eli on the floor, making sure I could see every inch of him, and Jeff next to me, the covers rising and falling with his hand movements. Eli came and I watched him shoot onto the cookie, every muscle in his body contracting, his skin becoming flush and sensitive. I came too, so hard that I hit the wall behind me. I fell asleep ashamed of myself, without a thought of Naomi or the eyes in the darkness.
I woke up to the blessed sound of rain. Hell yeah, no instructional swim! I sang a song of praise to the Lord and vowed to pray correctly at teffilot that day. We were all in a great mood, and we strolled down to the cafeteria for breakfast with the slightest skips in our steps.
As we queued at the food line the news passed quickly: the meat has returned. It was odd that we would have meat for breakfast on any day, but the campers had been so disappointed by the announcement the previous night that the news came as an early Chanukah present. A chant began throughout the cafeteria: “Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat!” Feet stomped on the ground; forks and knives banged on the tables.
When I reached the front of the line Rich was serving the meal. He held a ladle in his hand and gave me a smile, the only smile I had ever seen on his face. He spilled a deep red liquid into a bowl and passed it to me.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Beef stew,” he said. “Very good for keeds.”
“Vat, you don’t like meat?” He smiled again and let out a hearty laugh. “Eet’s kosher. Only ze finest kosher meat for my lucky keeds!” He laughed a great, robust laugh, coughing it into the air like a predatory dinosaur claiming its territory.
“Fucking Nazi,” Eli said behind me. “I don’t want beef stew.”
“Vell it’s all you get!” Rich screamed. “Eat it or you eat nussing!”
At the table I sifted through the contents of the stew with my spoon. The broth was red and thick with some potatoes and carrots here and there, and one large chunk of meat.
“This shit is nasty,” Gabe said. “I think we should go back to the vegetarian menu.”
“That’s retarded,” Avi said. “I love meat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wonder if we can get seconds.”
I looked behind me to see if Naomi was there. I was curious to see if her mouth was stained green. But when I looked there was an empty space where she usually sat.
“Wonder where Naomi is,” I said.
“Aw, you miss her?” Eli teased. “Let’s find out. Hey! Where’s Naomi? Is she in the bathroom thinking about my boy here and fingering herself?”
“Ew, gross,” one of the girls called back. “And no. Naomi’s gone.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean she’s gone. She came to the bunk last night with all this gross glowing stuff in her mouth, and then Rich came and brought her to the nurse. This morning all her stuff was gone.”
“Dude, you broke her heart!” Eli laughed. “She can’t even handle being near you!”
“Shut up, I said. “It’s weird that she went home.” Eli and Avi were both sitting across from me that morning. My thoughts were interrupted by parts of their bodies that called out to me in ways I had never noticed. Avi’s nose, wide and large, was now as seductive to me as his well-defined chest. In his nose I saw his incredibly large dick reflected. His nose was now a symbol of his masculinity. Eli, on the other hand, was pretty. Clothes fit him perfectly: t-shirts showed off every perfect line of his torso, and his shorts rested just below his hipbones, constantly showing off the line of muscle leading down to his treasure. Avi was larger, broader, and less put together; Eli was a sight to behold. I wanted them both in me at once.
“Gross!” A scream came from two tables away, one of the older boys’ tables. “Fucking gross! Fucking, fucking gross!” All eyes turned to the kid, one of Joe Kellner’s many followers, a lanky and crass dumbass who thought that if he talked like an idiot he would be cool.
“There’s a fucking tampon in my soup!” With that smiles faded and the rumble of speech swelled to a pregnant silence. The sound of spoons falling resounded like the chime of a great clock.
“What the fuck are you talking about, man?” Joe Kellner said, standing up.
“Look! Look!” the kid yelled back. “There’s a fucking tampon in my soup!” He picked it up by its tail and held it for everyone to see. The tampon slipped from his fingers and landed on the table with a dull thud.
We all got up from the tables and ran out of the cafeteria to breathe in the fresh air, afraid we had somehow inhaled menstrual fluid. I could hear Rich screaming at someone inside.
“I don’t know, but ze meat vas kosher! I know it vas kosher!”
“That meat wasn’t fucking kosher, dude,” Avi said, a slight smile on his face. “Blood is not kosher, dude! Especially vagina blood!”
We laughed and laughed. It was the only thing keeping us from throwing up, but a dark gloom fell over my mind.
“Oh my God,” I said.
“What?” Avid said.
“Naomi had her period.”
“No shit, dude! Every girl in this camp has her damn period.”
“No, that’s not what I mean! Naomi had her period. And Rich supposedly brought her to the nurse last night. And then today Naomi’s gone. And the suddenly we have meat?”
“OK, that’s fucking ridiculous,” Gabe barks. “So immature.” He walked away and the boys followed, leaving me alone. Jeff stopped to give me a pat on the shoulder.
“Am I an idiot?” I asked.
“Nah,” he smiled. “You’re not an idiot. The idea’s just idiotic, that’s all.”
Well fuck it, I thought. I headed to the back of the dining hall, where the food was delivered. The sky was dark and drooping with rain, and the campers had all dispersed through the grounds, aimlessly wondering what to do with an entire day of unstructured free time. I examined the ground around the service entrance: no tire tracks in the dirt.
“Dude, let’s go inside. There’s no one in the kitchen. I checked.” I turned around and found Avi crouching next to me. “I want to see what this Nazi’s up to.”
It was the first time that he and I had been alone together. We put our ears against the cold metal door, and we listened for movement as I observed how well his legs filled out his jeans. The previous night I had decided that his legs were the most beautiful part about him: athletic, big, and powerful. They were only more seductive covered in denim, like presents begging to be unwrapped.
He pried the door open with a boldness that impressed me. The kitchen was dark and abandoned. Knives and bo wls cluttered the counters, and patches of flour soiled the walls like mold. A dim grey light peeked through the two windows above the sinks, leaving the rest of the space blanketed in shadow.
“Dude, c’mere. Check this out.” I walked over to where Avi was standing, just next to the walk-in freezer. He was bent over a small puddle on the floor. “Is this blood?”
In the dark the liquid was opaque but colorless.
“I don’t know. Looks like it.”
“Dude, I’m so fucking horny right now.”
“Me too,” I said.
“Do you think Naomi’s all chopped up in the freezer?”
“That’s what I’m wondering.”
“I think I’m too horny to open the door.”
“Me too,” I said. I saw that he was shaking slightly. I decide to lead the way, for once. “I think I need to jack off right now.”
“Yeah, me too.” Avi started rubbing the bulge in his jeans. I did the same. I put one hand down my pants and started stroking. He watched my hands, my movements, looking for cues. He put his hand in his pants.
“He totally killed Naomi and fed her to us,” I said.
“I know. Fucking Nazi.”
“I can’t jack off in my pants like this. I have no room.”
“Yeah,” he said. I started undoing my belt and unzipping my fly. He pretended not to watch by not looking directly at me, trying to focus his gaze on the freezer door just ahead. I pulled my dick out from my underwear, and I breathed heavily for added drama. He seemed hesitant.
“Let’s jack off into the blood,” I said. He laughed.
“OK,” he said. He started to undo the buckle on his belt and I felt like I could cum right there. He unzipped his fly and pulled his dick out, showing me as little of the rest of his body as possible. His dick was so big, so long and thick, I couldn’t help but stare at it. He saw me looking and started to watch himself. He saw that he was being worshipped, and he started to see himself as being worthy of worship.
“I think I have to pull my pants down more,” I said. I pulled my underwear down below my butt. Avi didn’t say anything. He followed my lead. I was so happy to see more of him: his thighs, his butt, the lower part of his stomach. I couldn’t control myself any more.
I held my hand out toward him. He didn’t say anything, didn’t flinch. I moved closer and closer until I was brushing the skin on his shaft with the tips of my fingers. I was amazed at how hard and soft he was at the same time, as if the feeling of a penis were somehow foreign to me. I started stroking him, slowly at first, then faster. He was just watching his dick, watching me jack him off. He started moaning, almost crying. I felt his dick swell in my hand, and then it pulsed like a heart. Huge streams of cum spurted from him, splashing silently into the dark puddle below.
Avi got up and put his pants back on. He didn’t look at me and he didn’t talk to me. He turned around and walked out the door, back into the open arms of Camp Goldman. Alone in the kitchen I stroked myself. I closed my eyes and imagined the feeling of Avi’s dick in my hand, and of the incredible amount of cum he shot. I brought my hand to my nose and breathed in the traces of Avi’s smell. I licked my fingers, hoping to taste what I only touched. When I came I moaned out loud, spilling my load into the puddle. I loved that my cum was mixing with Avi’s.
I put my pants back on and I felt satisfied, a feeling that was totally new. I felt bold and brazen, like I’d taken only one step of many. I was already fantasizing about what Avi might taste like. I licked my lips. As I buckled my belt I took one more look at the puddle, wondering if it was Naomi’s blood. I looked at the freezer door, but I walked the other way. I opened the kitchen door to the rain and the dirt, to the silent pine trees that watched everything but said nothing. The blood didn’t matter anymore. I wasn’t concerned with the problem of the meat. I walked toward the amphitheater for tefillot. That was where the boys were.
Michael Sidman is in the beginning stages of becoming a much-beloved writer, whose books will be made into some of the most important films in modern American cinema. He will also own a farm-cum-culinary institute-cum-world-class restaurant, where he will practice the fine arts of Italian shoe making, calligraphy, and kosher butchery.