by no n., Age 13
, Grade 6, mason middle, mason, MICHIGAN USA
Stanley got dressed. The clothes smelled like soap.
Mr. Sir told him he should wear one set to work in and one set for relaxation. Laundry was done every three days. On that day his work clothes would be washed. Then the other set would become his work clothes, and he would get clean clothes to wear while resting.
"You are to dig one hole each day, including Saturdays and Sundays. Each hole must be five feet deep, and five feet across in every direction. Your shovel is your measuring stick. Breakfast is served at 4:30."
Stanley must have looked surprised, because Mr. Sir went on to explain that they started early to avoid the hottest part of the day. "No one is going to baby-sit you," he added. "The longer it takes you to dig, the longer you will be out in the sun. If you dig up anything interesting, you are to report it to me or any other counselor. When you finish, the rest of the day is yours."
Stanley nodded to show he understood.
"This isn't a Girl Scout camp," said Mr. Sir.
He checked Stanley's backpack and allowed him to keep it. Then he led Stanley outside into the blazing heat.
"Take a good look around you," Mr. Sir said. "What do you see?"
Stanley looked out across the vast wasteland. The air seemed thick with heat and dirt. "Not much," he said, then hastily added, "Mr. Sir."
Mr. Sir laughed. "You see any guard towers?"
"How about an electric fence?"
"No, Mr. Sir."
"There's no fence at all, is there?"
"No, Mr. Sir."
"You want to run away?" Mr. Sir asked him.
Stanley looked back at him, unsure what he meant.
"If you want to run away, go ahead, start running. I’m not going to stop you."
Stanley didn't know what kind of game Mr. Sir was playing.
"I see you're looking at my gun. Don't worry. I'm not going to shoot you." He tapped his holster. "This is for yellow-spotted lizards. I wouldn't waste a bullet on you."
"I'm not going to run away," Stanley said.
"Good thinking," said Mr. Sir. "Nobody runs away from here. We don't need a fence. Know why? Because we've got the only water for a hundred miles. You want to run away? You'll be buzzard food in three days."
Stanley could see some kids dressed in orange and carrying shovels dragging themselves toward the tents.
"You thirsty?" asked Mr. Sir.
"Yes, Mr. Sir," Stanley said gratefully.
"Well, you better get used to it. You're going to be thirsty for the next eighteen months."
Excerpt from Chapter 6
There were six large gray tents, and each one had a black letter on it: A, B, C, D, E, or F. The first five tents were for the campers. The counselors slept in F.
Stanley was assigned to D tent. Mr. Pendanski was his counselor.
"My name is easy to remember," said Mr. Pendanski as he shook hands with Stanley just outside the tent. "Three easy words: pen, dance, key."
Mr. Sir returned to the office.
Mr. Pendanski was younger that Mr. Sir, and not nearly as scary looking. The top of his head was shaved so close it was almost bald, but his face was covered in a thick curly black beard. His nose was badly sunburned.
"Mr. Sir isn't really so bad," said Mr. Pendanski. "He's just been in a bad mood ever since he quit smoking. The person you've got to worry about is the Warden. There's really only one rule at Camp Green Lake: Don't upset the Warden."
Stanley nodded, as if he understood.
"I want you to know, Stanley, that I respect you," Mr. Pendanski said. "I understand you've made some bad mistakes in your life. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. But everyone makes mistakes. You may have done some bad things, but that doesn't mean you're a bad kid."
Stanley nodded. It seemed pointless to try and tell his counselor that he was innocent. He figured that everyone probably said that. He didn't want Mr. Pen-dance-key to think he had a bad attitude.
"I'm going to help you turn your life around," said his counselor. "But you're going to have to help, too. Can I count on your help?"
"Yes, sir," Stanley said.
Mr. Pendanski said, "Good," and patted Stanley on the back.
Two boys, each carrying a shovel, were coming across the compound. Mr. Pendanski called to them. "Rex! Alan! I want you to come say hello to Stanley. He's the newest member of our team."
The boys glanced wearily at Stanley.
They were dripping with sweat, and their faces were so dirty that it took Stanley a moment to notice that one kid was white and the other black.
"What happened to Barf Bag?" asked the black kid.
"Lewis is still in the hospital," said Mr. Pendanski. "He won't be returning." He told the boys to come shake Stanley's hand and introduce themselves, "like gentlemen."
"Hi," the white kid grunted.
"That's Alan," said Mr. Pendanski.
"My name's not Alan," the boy said. "It's Squid. And that's X-Ray."
"Hey," said X-Ray. He smiled and shook Stanley's hand. He wore glasses, but they were so dirty that Stanley wondered how he could see out of them.
Mr. Pendanski told Alan to go to the Rec Hall and bring the other boys to meet Stanley. Then he led him inside the tent.
There were seven cots, each one less than two feet from the one next to it.
"Which was Lewis's cot?" Mr. Pendanski asked.
"Barf Bag slept here," said X-Ray, kicking at one of the beds.
"All right, Stanley, that'll be yours," said Mr. Pendanski.
Stanley looked at the cot and nodded. He wasn't particularly thrilled about sleeping in the same cot that had been used by somebody named Barf Bag.
Seven crates were stacked in two piles at one side of the tent. The open end of the crates faced outward. Stanley put his backpack, change of clothes, and towel in what used to be Barf Bag's crate. It was at the bottom of the stack that had three in it.
Squid returned with four other boys. The first three were introduced by Mr. Pendanski as José, Theodore, and Ricky. They called themselves Magnet, Armpit, and Zigzag.
"They all have nicknames," explained Mr. Pendanski. "However, I prefer to use the names that their parents gave them—the names that society will recognize them by when they return to become useful and hardworking members of society."
"It ain't just a nickname," X-Ray told Mr. Pendanski. He tapped the rim of his glasses. "I can see inside you, Mom. You've got a big fat heart."