A brick wall of Axe Body Spray hit Jacob when he opened the camp dorm. It was his first day as an assistant custodian at Moswa Lake Gospel Camp and he had to clean out the counselors’ cabins to make room for the next week’s team. He could hardly breathe from the cloud of aerosolized deodorant, but the smell still wasn’t strong enough to disguise the musk of sweat and semen. It was not a male counselor’s dorm. In other cabins he found crushed Kokanee cans, cigarette butts, Ziploc bags with pungent flakes of weed still inside, and countless condom wrappers. They were always in the corners—of dressers, of closets, under rugs and mattresses. Those inner edges collected secrets, and he dreaded to look.
When he brought it all to Rod, his supervisor, Rod shook his frog-like head. “Chuck it with the rest of the trash,” he said, narrowing his one good eye at Jacob, his lazy eye at the ground. Disoriented, Jacob tried to focus on the left.
“All of it?” he said, waving the Ziploc bags. He wasn’t interested in telling on the counselors, but they were supposed to be good Christian teachers. They were supposed to set an example. They always had when Jacob was a camper.
“Nothin to kick up a fuss over,” said Rod, shrugging to Jacob and the ground. “Try lookin after a team a kids for a week yourself and see if you don’t wanna wind down with a couple a beer or a smoke at the end a the day.”
Jacob wasn’t sure he would, but Rod was the boss. “I guess I’m just surprised,” he said, bunching the corners of the garbage bag and tying them together.
“Clean up after folks long enough nothin surprises ya anymore. Here, dump that in with mine.”
Rod opened up his own bag. Jacob spotted a pocketknife, a pack of cigarettes, two condom wrappers, and a Ziploc bag (but he didn’t see what was inside it). Rod had been cleaning out the children’s dorms.
On the third day of work, Jacob walked in on two counselors in bed. It took him a second to spot them in the top bunk, but he knew their names and faces from seeing them speak in chapel.
“Don’t you fuckers knock?” said Ian.
“We were napping, man,” Tommy insisted.
Jacob apologized and backed out of the dorm, redder than the sun had already cooked him. It wouldn’t be the first time he caught counselors together, but as far as he knew Tommy was the only one who had a wife. Jacob even spotted kids sneaking into the brush a few times. It made his stomach curl up like a hedgehog.
“The camp owners really don’t care?” Jacob asked Rod at the end of his second week of work. He flipped the dining hall stools over and set them on the long wooden tables where they would sit until the next group of campers came after the weekend.
“Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but what good does it do, ratting on these kids?” said Rod, pushing a table against the wall. “Tell em one thing they do the other. Nothin changes.”
“I don’t know how long you been here, Rod, but nobody was doing this kind of—of shit when I was a kid.”
“Oh, no, eh? Saint Jacob over here. I been doin this job in one fashion or other longer’n you been alive. If anything, folks’re gettin more innocent. Smarter, maybe. But the kids that follow instructions and let themselves get led around don’t see the kids who don’t. Know what I mean?”
Jacob never thought of himself as a follower before. Not a blind one, anyhow.
“I hope this job’s a real eye-opener for ya,” said Rod, closing his good eye and pinching his lazy eye wide open. He wheezed a silent laugh and stared at the ground.
Day 333’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A hedgehog,” “Kids these days,” and, “Judgment.”
You never really know what goes on at those camps until you work there.