This weekend, we have three parables from Gabe Durham’s forthcoming book, Fun Camp. Told in monologues, speeches, soliloquies, sermons, letters, cards, and lists, FUN CAMP is a freewheelin summer camp novel smashed to bits. Spend a week with the young inhabitants of a camp bent on molding campers into fun and interesting people via pranks, food fights, greased watermelon relays. Prank hard, joke loud, break a bone or two: Half a forest got burned down for you to live it up.
The Two Comedians
A bunch of us were dangling our legs off the Girls Cabin 1 porch in Gap teen tableaux. On one end, Tad chatted with Becca and Sheree, demonstrating an advanced backrub technique or cataloguing his world travels on the map of Sheree’s back, or both. On the other end, Devon and Brian made up a funny guitar song about girls’ butts and loving them big while the rest of us spectated, glancing occasionally at Tad, wishing he’d laugh with us. The song culminated in a full-voice Hey Jude-style sing-along that ended just shy of the eleven- minute mark, and in the wake of cheers, Phillip Burger— who knew Phillip was even there?—made some easy little Family Guy reference and Tad impossibly began to laugh. At first we assumed the laugh was at Phillip, but then Tad said, “I love that line.”
Devon, the brains behind the butt song, couldn’t believe it. “Tad,” he said. “You don’t so much as crack a smile at our song, yet home-schooled Phillip’s little reference warrants both a laugh and a comment?” I kind of agreed, but would never have said so.
Tad continued rubbing Sheree’s shoulders for a moment, then faced Devon, keeping a hand on the small of Sheree’s back as he spoke. “Two comedians audition to open for Bill Cosby,” Tad said. “The first is attractive and charming, but his jokes are overdone and he messes up a lot. The second is squat and nervous, but his jokes are sharp and original, his act tightly rehearsed. Which comedian should open for Cosby?”
“The second, I guess,” Devon said quietly.
“You’ve got talent, Devon,” Tad said, “but songs about big butts are done to death. Phillip’s Stewie voice is the best I’ve ever heard. You can tell he practiced. And at least Phillip knows when his material’s borrowed.” Tad told Phillip to say the line again, and he recited it perfectly. Tad nodded at Devon and said, “Go in peace.” A few of us had to laugh a little at Tad’s stilted bossiness, but we did depart, one by one, and I did—I must admit—feel a sort of peace.
The Woman at the Tree
Yesterday, Tad found me napping in my bunk and asked to borrow my water gun. I unlatched my prank trunk and showed him a good pump-action. He wanted something smaller. I said, “Covert mission, eh?” and gave him my little dollar store pistol. It holds next to nothing, it leaks, and sometimes it fails to squirt. Tad didn’t care.
He let me tag along past the cabins, past the snack shack and it’s winding, waving line, and we traded @ShitMyDadSays tweets. I figured we were headed to the pool, but Tad stopped instead at the Tree of Safety where eight pale kids worked Sudokus and Mad Libs. Tad pointed the water pistol at shy Elaine Schroeder and said, “Okay, Leni,” coining her now-ubiquitous nickname, “where do you want it?”
The dorks erupted. “You can’t, Tad! It’s the Tree of Safety!”
Tad held his hand out for quiet. “I come not to bring safety but danger,” Tad said. “I come not to bring exemption but inclusion.”
Leni leapt up and puffed out her chest. Tad shot once—nothing. Again—a dribble. A third time—and a gorgeous arc of water caught the light from where the leaves part and got Leni right across her—had we ever noticed before?—enormous rack. She’d never looked so good. “Check it out, Leni: You survived.” Tad said. “Now leave this place. Go have some fun. Go to the pool or something.”
When he left, the dorks plotted to tell on Tad, but Leni would take no part in their schemes. “I’ll deny everything,” she said, and left with me. And of course now she and I are going out.
The Missing Lines
I was checking the clothesline for warm fuzzies when I noticed Tad Gunnick climbing up on the bench Dave stands on to make announcements, and there a small crowd of us gathered around him.
“What do you call a cheese that isn’t yours?” Tad asked us. We began to respond, but he continued. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Where do bats get their energy? Knock, knock, who’s there, the interrupting cow. How do you know when a blonde has been making chocolate chip cookies? How many hucksters does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two guys are getting drunk at the top of a very tall building and one says to the other, ‘I bet you I can jump out the window, fly around, and come back safe.’ Yo mama’s so fat. You might be a redneck if. What’s Lorena Bobbitt’s favorite kind of soda? What do you call a dog that can tell time?”
After awhile, some campers among us began to grumble. Who is this Tad Gunnick, we wondered, who offers jokes and withholds the punch lines? Tad guessed at our concern and said, “The time will soon come when I am no longer here and you will have to provide your own punchlines.”
“But why, Tad?” one said.
“Where will you go?” said another.
Tad answered, “Arizona State,” and slipped away from us in the confusion.