We managed to weather the hurricane in a Little House on the Prairie kind of way by staying inside that wooden cabin until the storm passed, which felt somewhat quaint and novel in a not-unpleasant way. However, upon returning to our tents, we learned that because the sides of our canvas tents had shrunk during the storm, any of our belongings that had been on the outer periphery of the tents had been soaked during the storm. Luckily, by this point in the summer, I cared about absolutely nothing at all, the way a person does when she’s fully dissociated from her present existence and is merely moving through the world as a shell of the person she once was. How was it possible that there could be still more camp to go?
For example, I normally love to swim. I have all my life. I hated swimming at Muddy Stream, though, and the reason for that is because of another thing that I had not considered when I begged my parents to sign me up for Muddy Stream: the vast difference between swimming in a glacier-fed lake in Maine and swimming in a pool, in the Atlantic Ocean, or in Lake Luzerne. These were the only three bodies of water I’d been swimming in before I arrived at Muddy Stream. When I was choosing which camp to go to, I’d figured that while the the rocky beach at Lake Luzerne hadn’t been my favorite thing, the water there had always been nice and warm – so how different could the glacier-fed lake at Camp Muddy Stream really be?
You know what I’m going to say by now, which is that the glacier-fed lake at Muddy Stream was an entirely different beast from anything I’d experienced before.
First of all, the water in Muddy Stream’s lake was completely opaque, and the color of the water was very dark green, bordering on black, like something out of a horror movie (or, more aptly, literally any Stephen King novel). There was some challenge at the camp every summer where the older campers would be allowed to try swimming across the lake to the shore on the other side, and then back, in order to get their name in the camp history books. You couldn’t have paid me to try that challenge. All I could think about every time I had swim class was how deep the lake must have been if a glacier had been there, and how long eternity was, and how many unrecovered ships and bodies there probably were shifting around listlessly in the silt miles and miles down at the bottom of the lake.
Another thing about the lake at Camp Muddy Stream was that the water was always freezing cold, even in the middle of a heatwave under a beating hot sun. I’d emerge from the water after swim class with a blue mouth and my teeth chattering, because I never seemed to warm up, no matter how many pointless lap drills I did back and forth between the docks for an hour (which is what our swim class consisted of).
Thirdly, though, and most importantly of all, the main difference between the lake at Camp Muddy Stream and the other bodies of water that I’d actually enjoyed swimming in was this: there were fucking *leeches* in the lake at Camp Muddy Stream. We were regularly warned by our swim counselors about being conscious to avoid the many fat, shiny, blood-thirsty leeches that were hiding underneath the wooden dock we’d sit on before class began, with our feet dangling over the sides of the dock into the water. As a precautionary measure against the leeches, blocks of salt had been installed directly beneath the dock, but clearly this salt block method of leech prevention was a bunch of inadequate bullshit, which is a lesson I learned one afternoon toward the end of the summer.
My fellow campers and I were sitting on the dock in our matching, camp-issued one-piece bathing suits, waiting for swim class to start. A little blonde pipsqueak in my class was sitting directly to my right on the dock next to me, and she was playfully kicking her feet in the lake as we waited for our counselor to show up. All of a sudden, she let out a scream that could have woken the dead bodies at the bottom of the lake. Then, she started wildly gesticulating at her left foot, which she was now holding straight up in the air above the water. As I looked at her exposed foot and saw her left baby toe glint in the sunlight, it dawned on me with horror that affixed to her toe was now a leech so big that it took up her entire toe. Seriously, it looked like she had four human toes, and then one toe that was just made out of a big-ass leech.
The kid was panicking, and the rest of us didn’t really know what to do. Then, two counselors appeared on the dock out of nowhere and rushed up to Ol’ Leech-Foot. They grabbed her under her arms and quickly hoisted her off the dock over to the shoreline, where they proceeded to pour what looked like half a container of Morton’s table salt on her toe to kill the leech and get him to fall off her foot. I was disgusted – scarred, even – but not surprised. What else could I expect at this ghastly place?
Well, as it turned out, the answer to that question ended up being: anti-Semitism, every Jew’s favorite addition to summer camp!