We knew the jig was up the moment we pulled in the driveway. The craning necks and herd movement toward the gate we had to enter were dead giveaways. I looked at Joan and caught her eye. With a raised eyebrow and a nervous laugh we got out to face the music we had created for ourselves.
“We don’t want to talk about it right now. Let’s talk about something else, was our response to all the probing questions. “It’s been a long day.” All we wanted at that moment was one of the steaks sizzling on the grill and a glass of Al and Joe’s signature slushy mix.
Unfortunately, our camp director, Bill, had other immediate plans for us. “Into the kitchen, you two, “ he invited in a no-refusal-accepted way. “You have some explaining to do.”
What exactly had he been told?
His raised eyebrows and somber expression spoke volumes when as last we were alone. Earlier we had called the house to let them know we would be late. Steve, another counselor, had answered the phone. We had only answered his questions so weren’t quite sure what he had passed on to the others.
“You know we have a code of conduct for our counselours here.” Bill began. “Spending the night in the police station after being arrested is pretty serious.”
Joan and I looked at each other. There was definitely something shining in the corner of both of our eyes. We had promised each other we would tell the truth. How were we going to handle this?
“Ah, that isn’t qui—ite what happened, Bill.” Our mouths were quivering by this time. How long would we be able to hold our emotions in?
“So you didn’t get caught trespassing?” queried Bill.
“No, we did get caught.”
“And you didn’t have to watch some educational films today?”
Well, we did watch films that made us think. Two of them.”
“Then you weren’t calling from the police station where you needed to sign some papers before you could leave there?”
We were choking on our feelings by now. “No, we were calling from the police station.”
Bill sat back in his chair. “I think you are going to need to tell me what happened.”
We couldn’t hold it anymore. Almost as one Joan and I burst out laughing.
We had guessed what would happen the moment Steve responded to our first answer. When told we would be late, Steve was curious about what was holding us up. Joan told him that we had to finish up at the police station and he started asking more excited questions. With a twinkle I mouthed the words to her, “Just the truth.” She nodded and the game was on.
A few carefully picked truths worded in ways that invited innuendo and the trap was set. We could almost hear the whirr of the reel as we pulled him toward the net. Now it looks like we might have tangled ourselves in the line. So catching our breath we told Bill the unadorned truth with a few discreet omissions.
Not knowing any of the other counselors I found it hard to break into the comraderie in the camp. Living several states away, that meant I stayed alone in my group’s cabin while the others went home from Friday night to Sunday. Usually Joan, another counseour, took the 2 hour trip to stay with her sister. This week, with the BBQ planned for Saturday at 5, it wasn’t worth her driving time so she invited me to go into town with her for a Friday coffee house.
Since Joan had some business to do in town the next day we decided to sleep there. Though they weren’t technically allowed to be in the dorms during the summer, she had lived in one of the local university dorms the past year and knew how we could get in. We snuck into the the chapel and crashed there with our sleeping bags. We were wakened, “caught” the next morning by a couple of students coming to study.
We spent the morning walking around the stores and talking. There was a show we wanted to see at the theatre so decided to take in a movie. When we noticed that no one was at the turnstile booth we decided to see what would happen if we just snuck under it and returned to the theatre for the next film.
We hadn’t counted on the second movie being so easy to get into so we were late getting to the police station where she had to show them her license. The week before Joan had been stopped at a check stop and found she didn’t have her license with her. She had forgotten they had used it to jimmy the lock of the camp kitchen for a late night snack raid so hadn’t put it back in her wallet before she headed off to her sister’s. She was given one week to bring it in or she would have gotten a ticket. Of course, there were long lines at the station and more waiting time than anticipated.
When Steve started jumping to conclusions our impish brains could pass up the opportunity for some fun. Our decision to tell the him the truth came more from not wanting to mix up our stories than anything else. We could tell that our answers were giving him the wrong idea but how can you resist an opening like that?
Bill sat silent after we finished. He hadn’t cracked a smile through our whole recitation. Would he believe us?
“Okay,” he nodded. “Keep it going. Let’s see where everyone’s minds will take this.”
He did clear it up the next day in our staff meeting though. Everyone was too curious about how we got away with breaking the rules. In the end it did break something. It broke the ice for me with the other counselors.
It’s interesting what stories can be built by telling just the truth in just the right way.
Two years ago, I tried to find the camp this story took place at. Flood waters kept me away from the site of what was no longer a group camp. Only the signs told me I was pointing the right way. Happening in the summer of 1979, this story is just the truth as I remember it.