Positivity Camp Part XX
I didn’t leave you guys on a cliffhanger, did I? Well, it’s only going to get worse from here! Because, let’s face it, this camp is all sorts of crazily messed up!
“Why would he remove the stools?” Greg asked quietly. He looked as concerned as I felt.
“Because they squeaked,” I told him. “He wanted complete silence when we were drawing earlier. I bet he became so bothered by their squeaking that he removed them.”
“Where will we sit?” the younger kid asked.
“I think we stand,” I said quietly. It was mortifying to see all the stools outside, to see them all lined up in strict rows all along the wall of the barn, like they were lining up for a mass execution or something.
“He removed them because of the sound?” Greg asked, breaking up my dark thoughts.
“What if he just removed them because he kn-understood you were coming?” the younger kid asked, his voice shaky.
I shrugged. I honestly wasn’t sure if we would be able to tell how long they had been out there. No one had said anything during lunch about it, so maybe a later group had pushed him too far?
We were almost to the open double doors of the barn now. It was dark inside, as the only light came from the sun. Not really wanting to go in, but fearing the consequences of lingering outside, I stepped into the dark building.
The air felt colder inside, particularly when the sunlight faded from my back. I had forgotten how joyless the place had been. Even my thoughts felt sluggish with the depressing atmosphere, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed it either. There were others already inside the Art Barn. They stood at their chosen spots, silent, still, and eerily vacant-eyed.
“Pick a spot, and be quick about it,” Teacher commanded from the dark recesses of the barn.
Greg and the other kid disappeared from my side. They moved to the opposite end of the table and as far away from me as possible. Part of me, a very tiny part of me, felt angry at them for that, but the anger quickly died. In its place came panic as I realized that I still needed to pick a spot.
“For those of you still coming in, my name is Teacher. You are to pick a spot at either of the two long tables. There is a box on the table along with paper and pencils. You are to draw the box and the box alone, and you are to do it in silence. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Teacher,” we said together.
We all woodenly selected our pencils and paper. If anyone made eye contact, I didn’t know. I knew I avoided it. Something about the place just crushed our spirits. Of course, having to draw a gray square box as an ‘art’ project rather than a bright bowl of fruit likely had something to do with it. Plus, gray? And a #2 Pencil? Where was the color? The life?
Outside with our stools, I realized glumly.
Teacher made several of us jump as a few kids arrived late. He gave them a “strike one” for their tardiness. Then, somehow, one of them made the mistake of talking.
“Talking is prohibited until your work is done,” Teacher said coldly to the offending girl. “That is strike two. You would be wise to avoid any further strikes,” he warned. He was in a dark corner of the barn as he spoke, but the wood burning tool in his hand glowed a fierce red on the tip, illuminating his face in a fiery glow.
Normally I would have been terrified, but the tool tickled a memory that I couldn’t quite pin down. Everyone else went immediately back to work, or started it for those that arrived late -but not me. I stared at Teacher and his wood burning tool.
Not wanting to look like I was staring at him directly, my eyes settled on the boards that Teacher had been burning forbidden words into. I recognized one: brainless. I winced internally for that one since it was the one I had used for describing Teacher himself. It figured that was the one he had burned into wood first.
He clearly hadn’t had the time to do the rest of my list, but there were other boards on the table. I craned my neck a bit, pretending to be stretching, and read what I could. Cretin and abhor were on top, but insa- was hidden by another sign. Insacure? No, that had an e not an a. Insane maybe? The word size certainly fit the board. And monot- was likely monotonous. Then there was dreary and din- which was possibly dingy? Lastly, there was perhaps my favorite one displayed in its full glory – ludicrous.
I found myself doing something I never thought I would do in that awful Art Barn – I smiled. The words totally sounded like something Wendy would use! In fact, it had to be Wendy’s work! Who else was so bold as to take on the councilors?
I sighed then. If they were hers, then she was still following the plan, and here I was slacking off and drawing gray boxes.
“Do you really wish to push your luck?” Teacher asked.
Surprised by the sound, I looked right at him. Then his eyes were boring into mine.
I looked down, unable to respond.
“Or perhaps you would rather test the luck of those around you?”
My eyes snapped up. I hadn’t thought he would go so far as to punish everyone else for my behavior! Besides, I’d only been looking at the signs! Or was he still mad about that whole brainless thing?
“I’ve already removed the stools from the barn thanks to you and Wendy. How much more would you have me take from them? Yet more words? Or perhaps you would like to remain here with me and let a different group of campers enjoy…what activity will your group be going to next? Ah, yes. The nature walk?”
There was silence then. Dead silence. No one spoke up, not to condemn me, or defend. Then I remembered, we were supposed to work in silence. Only the foolish or idiotic would have dared to speak up or to have drawn attention to themselves. Guess I fit that category, I realized glumly. The silence though! It was unbearable!
“I thought as much,” Teacher said, several seconds later. He was staring right at me as he said too, which is why I caught what happened next. The corner of Teacher’s mouth twitched up ever so slightly in a smirk.
I hated him so much! I wanted to punch him! No, I wanted to burn all those precious signs of his! Burn them to the ground!
I looked away and took a calming breath. This wasn’t the time or the place. He was baiting me, pushing me intentionally. I had to keep calm. His signs would burn, but not yet. I just had to stay calm…
Teacher watched me and waited. It wasn’t until I returned to my work that I he went back to making more signs.
An hour felt like an eternity in that place. My cube drawing was just a square filled in with several layers of graphite from my pencil. At some point I had given up on drawing anything realistic. It was such a mind-numbing exercise. The only thing that got me through it, and probably everyone else, were thoughts of the Nature Walk.
“Alright, children. Clean up your work stations. When you are done, you are free to go.”
I looked up to see other dazed faces and even caught one kid as he stopped moving his pencil, its led long since gone. How he had managed to move the leadless tip over paper without damaging it and without causing any sounds, I may never know. We all moved stiffly as we put our ‘art’ tools back in the middle of the tables.
“Nature walk,” someone said. The words spread slowly at first as everyone waited for Teacher to scold the offending person for speaking. Then more people repeated the words.
“I hear they have rabbits,” someone else added.
“Rabbits,” I said slowly.
“Rabbits!” “And lizards!” “Don’t forget the fish!”
As one we all ditched our stupid papers and ran out the door screaming about differing animals we hoped to see. We had no time to waste here, we needed to make it to the Nature Center and start our outdoor adventure!
Once outdoors again, our morale skyrocketed. We were all talking at the same time, but no one cared. We were free!