Chapter Thirteen--Middle-School Swim Camp
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
The entry gate at Grace House was practically never closed, but Brad had made it very clear the entry gates would be closed until 5:00 in the afternoon the day of the picnic. “We are liable for anything that happens and I don't want people running around unless we are there,” he told me. The people doing the barbeque had a pass code to get in since they were arriving at 5:00 in the morning. The Churchville Moonshiners had a code as well and they, with the four guys, arrived at 4:00 as did the people who were doing the surprise. Brad had forgotten to give the security company a code and sent me to the gate to let them in. Cars were already lined up waiting to get in when I reached the gate. Everything was ready when Brad opened the gate at 5:00. Sam, the Churchville guys and a security guy handled directing cars for parking. They were being parked near the cattle gate and the people walked from there to the picnic area.
Once the cars were parked, I was free and the four guys and I swam awhile, lay beside the pond in the sun, snacked and generally had a great time as did everyone else. The Churchville Moonshiners played forty-five minute sets with half hour breaks between. At 6:00, the barbeque people started serving. They had barbequed beef, pork and chicken with barbeque beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob and potato salad. For dessert there was ice cream. Shortly after 9:45, Brad used the Moonshiner mike and asked if everyone had a good time and was answered with a loud cheer. “Well, if you keep looking this way, we have a surprise for you.”
I received a number of surprises in short order. I was surprised when DeAngelo came walking toward me. He had gone to Harrisonville to a party and I was sure would come dragging in late Sunday afternoon. He had a good-looking woman hanging on his arm. I was surprised because she had been with DeAngelo pretty much exclusively lately. DeAngelo was a player and twice, three times was usually the max number of dates any woman could expect with him. “Hi, Judy,” I said, introduced the Churchville boys and asked, “DeAngelo, what are you doing here?”
“Brad told me last week he had a big surprise which would be worth the trip.” Just as he spoke, there was a tremendous boom and the sky was lit up by a beautiful red, white and blue fountain. For the next hour, fireworks illuminated the night, the most beautiful display I had ever seen, far better than any put on at Gypsy Hill Park. After the fireworks, DeAngelo took Judy back to Harrisonville and got back long after I had gone to bed.
Sunday, when we got back home after church, DeAngelo and I changed and went with Brad to check on clean up at the pond while Sam finished dinner. “Looks like just a plain clean up job here,” Brad said, “nothing broken and no major mess. A clean up crew will be here tomorrow and take care of it. DeAngelo, why don't you go pick up your mom?”
I tossed him my keys and said, “Drive my car.” He grinned and took off for the house.
After lunch, Mom said she'd do clean up and the four of us changed into APFC uniforms and headed to Stanton. DeAngelo drove my car again to drop off Mom and I went with Sam and Brad to the Center where we three got set up to received campers. The counselors had arrived Friday and Sergeant Major had done a refresher orientation— all had had a two day orientation at the beginning of the summer—for any who had not worked during the high school camp. As campers checked in, the counselors showed them the locker room and had them get into Speedos and head for the pool. At 5:30, they were told to shower and dress. There was a lot of horseplay in the showers and what appeared to be the start of some bullying.
When all were dressed, they were seated on the gym bleachers with their counselors. While they were getting settled, I made sure Brad was aware of the potential bullying. I needn't have bothered. As usual, nothing escaped Sergeant Major. He walked out in front of the bleachers and, in full command voice, said, “Ten'sion.” Immediate silence. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the APFC Middle-School Swim camp. We are here to make better swimmers out of you as well as help you develop into the men and women you are intended to be. There are few rules here. You have been given a handbook in which you will find them. They are all summed up in a single sentence, 'Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.' Very simple.
“You will find a schedule in your handbook so you will know where you are supposed to be and when. When you are not there, you hold up the camp while someone looks for you. Listen up! I noticed some bullying in the showers a short while ago. One of the functions of APFC is to teach tolerance and one of our policies is that any, any, bullying, name calling, discrimination or bigotry will be dealt with quickly and severely. For a second offense, you will be waiting at the front door for someone to take you home.” He talked for a few more minutes, the said, again in a command voice, “Counselors, assume charge of your campers.” The Center was about eight blocks from the dining hall and the campers groaned when told they would be walking to supper. After supper, counselors met with their campers and played games with them and generally got acquainted with everyone while the campers got acquainted with each other.
When we got back Grace House, there was an urgent message for DeAngelo to call his baseball coach. When he did, he learned the man was in a real bind. He was operating a baseball camp at James Monroe and three of his student assistants had gotten drunk over the Fourth and ended up being picked up on several charges including one or more of underage drinking, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, indecent exposure and driving under the influence. They, of course, had to leave the program. DeAngelo had applied for a student assistant's position, but was told only rising juniors and seniors were accepted. Now, he was urgently needed. DeAngelo told the coach he was working at APFC and couldn't be expected to leave just as the middle-school swim camp was starting. The coach kept pleading with him and he finally said he would talk to his dads and get back to him in the morning. “I'll get you swimming coaches if that's the problem,” the coach said. DeAngelo reminded him he was a personal trainer intern, not a swim coach. “I'll get you a couple of those if that's what you need.” DeAngelo again told him he would call in the morning.
When we sat down at the table with drinks and cookies, DeAngelo told us the situation. Brad immediately told him to call the coach and tell him he would take the position. “Dad, I'm not willing to leave you short-handed. Coach knew the four guys were hell-raisers. This is not the first time they have been in trouble. The only difference is this time they got caught by someone other than the campus police and the coach can't smooth things over. For a change, Coach needs me more than I need him.”
“Babe,” Sam broke in, “our son is being responsible. Sure, you could take up the slack, but it would mean twelve hour days. Neither the boys or the other dad would have any time to spend with you and you'd have none to relax. You are taking time from your family so a man who operated on the 'boys will be boys' model found out the hard way the world does not operate that way. If anyone has to suffer for that decision, it should be him, not you. DeAngelo, did you say the coach said he could get physical trainer interns?” DeAngelo nodded. “Brad, how about having him send over a couple. If we find they can do the job, then DeAngelo could go to Harrisonville.”
“Sounds good,” DeAngelo said, grinning, “and I'll see what else I can get in the bargain.”
After talking to the coach, DeAngelo told Brad the coach would send over two guys to be interviewed as potential personal trainer interns. If they were acceptable, coach would pay one of them and the Center would pay the other. DeAngelo also got a promise of an increase in his baseball scholarship for the following year.
The two guys arrived at the Center at nine and after Brad and the Sergeant Major interviewed them, they were very impressed and the interns were signed on. DeAngelo called the coach with the news, took my car back to the house and packed for the rest of the summer. He was back at the Center just before lunch. We had lunch with our dads and then DeAngelo was picked up by a car the coach sent over and headed for Harrisonville.
Senior high aquatics camp had gone smoothly. There were the expected high jinks, but all in all, the campers were good guys, a lot of fun, but also serious about their sport, mostly well-mannered and well-behaved. In contrast, it was evident by the end of the second day middle-school camp was a mixed bag. At least half of the campers were there because their parents wanted them out of their hair. They moaned and groaned about everything—the pool was too cold, the pool was too warm, swimming laps was not fun, they had already done that. The whining was endless. Since they had just finished sixth, seventh or eighth grade, their ages ranged from eleven to fourteen—pre hormones to raging hormones, no pubic hairs, a pretty decent bush, little boy‘s cock, man's cock. See why bullying and put downs were the order of the day? And, of course, all were very unsure of themselves and many hid behind a macho image.
The oldest guy in the camp was fourteen and had hit puberty when he was just past eleven. He could easily pass for sixteen or older. He quickly gathered a bunch of stooges around him and lorded it over the younger and smaller campers. A couple of other coaches and I had spoken to him, but he didn't seem to be getting the message. Josh, one of the counselor/coaches (half the counselors were also coach/instructors working directly with the campers) brought his behavior and attitude up in the week's staff meeting and Brad asked if it was time to send him home. We decided Sergeant Major would talk to him and if he didn't shape up immediately, out he would go.
Wednesday, I caught him smoking, I hauled his butt into the office and read him the riot act. “You're not my old man,” he sneered. “You can't tell me what to do. You're not in charge. Besides, I heard you are a faggot just like your white faggot daddy.”
“No, Dewayne, thank God, I am not your father, but I am in charge at the moment and I can tell you what to do and the first thing you are going to do is eliminate ‘faggot’ from your vocabulary. The second thing you are going to do is apologize to my dad and the third thing you are going to do is swim laps—one hundred—while the rest of the camp enjoys free time.”
“Fuck you faggot, faggot, faggot.”
“That's it. You had your warning. Alex,” I called to one of the personal trainer interns. When he came over, I asked, “You free for a half hour?”
“I am. Just had a canceled appointment.”
“Will you go with Dewayne to the dorm while he packs? When he finishes, bring him back to the office. I am calling his parents to come get him.”
Dewayne turned snow white. “Shit, Man, you can't. My old man will kill me.”
“Sorry, Dewayne, you knew the rules and you refused to follow them even after being warned.”
“Man, I'll do anything. You can't call the old man,” he pleaded, then started crying.
I took him into the office, motioning Alex to come with me. Being called a faggot made me a little paranoid. When we were seated, I said, “Dewayne, you knew the rules, you started the bullying shit and continued after being warned and knowing full well what the punishment would be. You have not respected the instructors and counselors. You know that means you can no longer be a part of the community.” The boy was crying in great sobs, but still managing to beg and plead for me not to call his father, repeating over and over, ‘He'll kill me.’ I began to suspect he was genuinely frightened and not just playing to escape. “Dewayne, perhaps if you tell me just why all the crying and pleading and I see a reason, I could figure out a way to have you stay here.” Half an hour later, both Alex and I were sick to our stomach and well aware we were out of our depth.
The long and short of it was, there was a problem at home and one in Stanton. When Dewayne was eight, his mom died. His father married his secretary less than six months later. She hated Dewayne and his father felt he was a bother, so he was sent to boarding school. When he got kicked out of one a year ago, he was sent to a military school where he was bullied by senior high cadets. He in turn bullied middle-school ones. Finally, he was caught sucking off one of his tormentors and his father was called. Dewayne was yanked out of that school and sent to one which would 'cure' the faggot.
His father had severely beaten him when he picked him up from the military school and while he was home. When Sergeant Major said he saw nothing to indicate he had been beaten, Dewayne said he his old man had broken a couple of ribs kicking him and had 'cut the blood out of his ass'. He pulled down his pants and sure enough, his ass was scarred. Later, x-rays confirmed the broken ribs as well as a healed green fracture from a blow to his shin, which his father explained to the doctor resulted from a soccer injury.
“Dewayne, that doesn't explain why you called Mr. Wilson a faggot. You know that hurts because you have been called one. Why did you do that?” Sergeant Major asked.
Dewayne hung his head and said, softly, “I'm sorry, Mr. Wilson.” He then told an incredible story. The son from one of Stanton's FFS was also at the military school last year and the two had run into each other downtown. Seems his uncle hated Brad and while he himself had been a failure at everything he had tried, he’d had to witness the town's hated fag return and become the grand success he was. He arranged for his nephew to introduce him to Dewayne and started bribing Dewayne to accuse Brad of trying to seduce him. When Dewayne got pissed at me, he thought he had a way to get me in trouble and him out of trouble by calling me a faggot. “Dewayne, you know you are making some pretty serious charges without evidence, don't you?”
I was shocked when he responded, “Mr. Wilson, I know it's not a nice thing to do, but I have proof.”
“You what?” Alex exclaimed.
“I have proof.” Seems he told his stooges he was getting a lot of stuff and money from the uncle and all he had to do was claim Mr. Hunsinger had tried to fuck him. They, of course, didn't believe him, so Dewayne arranged to see the guy again and his buddies used a hidden camera and taped the whole meeting.
“This I have to see,” Sergeant Major said. He and Mr. Andrews, a high school teacher who was working as a personal trainer intern, went with Dewayne to pick up the tape. We watched it before showing it to Brad.
When Brad saw it, he was livid. “That son of a bitch made my life as miserable as he could from first grade until I left Stanton!”
Brad never discussed the outcome of his meeting with the guy, but I do know shortly thereafter the man left town and his family made a large donation to the Augusta Center Foundation which made the front page of the 'Stanton News-Leader' with a three column photo of the family patriarch handing a large mock check to Bradford Hunsinger, president of the foundation. He also nominated Brad for Stanton's Man of the Year and, to everyone's surprise, he was so named. FFS stick together.
When Brad contacted Dewayne Richardson, IV, Dewayne's father, he was all blustery about his 'lying faggot son.' Brad replied, “The x-rays and doctors think otherwise. The question is how we are going to handle this. I can report you to the authorities (which Brad had said was probably the bottom line and not best for Dewayne since he'd just get lost in the system) or we can work something out to Dewayne's benefit. You obviously have money since you have spent piles avoiding responsibility for your son. We have an excellent military school here with good teachers who genuinely care about young men. If you are willing to see Dewayne enrolled there, my husband . . . .”
“You are a god-damn faggot?”
“I am gay, Mr. Richardson. That is well known and I make no effort to hide it, but since I have you by you bigoted balls, I suggest you remember that and watch your language and attitude. The only thing separating you from a jail term and public disgrace is my discretion.” He paused for several seconds to let that sink in. Then he continued. “As I was saying, my husband and I will be happy to assume guardianship of Dewayne under certain conditions, the first of which is the establishment of a trust fund to assure his high school, college and graduate education should he desire. In return, we will see that he attends the military school as a boarding student, see he is well cared for there and on holidays. You may visit him here; he will not be returning to your home without supervision. Other conditions will be spelled out when we meet next Monday at 10:00 in my lawyer's office. You will need to bring identification, evidence the trust has been established and a check for the first year's expenses at the school. You have any questions?”
“You faggot son of a bitch.”
“Language, Mr. Richardson. It’s only because I care about your son that we’re still talking, and the sheriff isn’t on his way to your house. May I assume you agree?”
“I'll be there Monday,” he replied and slammed down the phone.
Dewayne was swimming laps every day for half of what would have been his free time and did so without complaining. Brad had told him he was working out a plan, but didn't go into details until Thursday afternoon when he called the boy into his office and explained what he had proposed to his father. Dewayne was nervous, of course, but also relieved he wouldn't have to go home. Friday, the two spent the day at the military academy and Dewayne came back, still nervous, but excited. Monday, Brad asked him to join him and his father at lunch. Dewayne and Brad both said it was not a good lunch, but all the papers had been signed.
Friday night’s dinner was wild. It began with skits at the Center, then moved downtown to a banquet room where a delicious meal was served although the menu was selected by middle-school campers. The meal was followed by rewards. No one was more surprised than Dewayne when he was voted most improved camper by his camp mates.
The three of us went back to Grace House and collapsed, but were at the Center at 8:00 the next morning. The campers began leaving at 9:30 and Sergeant Major left to take Dewayne to the academy. I was surprised that as Dewayne was getting in the car, he stopped and ran back and gave Brad and me a hug. The last camper waved goodbye at 11:00 and we all went back downtown for a staff lunch which was a lot of fun.
My two weeks coaching middle-school swimmers probably did me more good than them. They were young and unskilled for the most part and where they needed the most improvement was very obvious, but it pointed out the areas I needed improvement, areas I may not have realized I needed to work on unless I had seen my kids struggling with them.
We all slept late Sunday morning, had breakfast and still managed to get dressed and make it to church on time. I was surprised when I was asked to come forward and handed a red leather Book of Common Prayer . A prayer was said for my safe journey the next week and I was blessed. Back at Grace House, Brad and Sam gave me a beautiful white gold cross. As they did I realized for the first time I was about to take a major step in my life, a very major step.
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