The camp was idyllic, on a lake, cabins scattered among tall Pine trees, with dirt trails connecting everything to ball fields, the dining room and recreation center. There were 12 waiters, 16-17 year old boys, who were housed in the cabin closest to the dining room.
Rocko, the leader, was 6 feet tall with a physique that suited a Neanderthal. He was assigning jobs to the 11 boys who were all in various stages of making their beds and unpacking their trunks. The first day of camp was filled with learning dining room protocol and that evening the boys were organizing their personal belongings.
“Hey douchbag, you’re not listening to me,” Rocko yelled to the slim boy at the far end of the cabin.
“I’m making my bed,” the boy said.
Seconds later Rocko was standing chest to chest with the slim boy. “I said I was talking to you!”
The boy just stood still, a hard expression forming around his mouth and eyes.
“If you don’t like it, do something about it,” Rocko spat out, his 200 pounds of muscle tensed for an onslaught. He chest butted the boy and put his face just inches from his face. “Chicken shit! Do something or do exactly what I say.”
The boy just stood and stared, not moving a muscle, not blinking.
Rocko pushed the boy and walked away. “Chicken shit.”
It was 11 years before they spoke again. The slim boy, now a doctor and a resident in psychiatry, was moonlighting doing insurance exams for a friend, an insurance agent who had been a fellow waiter that same summer. The patient he was paid to examine was no other than Rocko, who was 30 pounds lighter, had pale skin and a dead look in his eyes.
The doctor asked all the appropriate questions and did a careful physical exam. Rocko had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a serious form of lymphatic cancer. The 2 men never referred to the decades-old altercation and never would. Rocko died a few years later.
The doctor experienced no joy in observing Rocko’s terminal illness or any sense that justice had been served. There was only the feeling he had failed himself by not handling the old situation with more courage.
Now, decades after Rocko’s death, there is finally closure for the slim boy who became a psychiatrist. Joe Belmont, the main character in his novel Chasing Backwards, doesn’t let people push him around, even if those people are the police or professional criminals.
It feels good having a character do what he needs to do. It always feels good to not be afraid.
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