“Do you think it’ll be normal this time?” Mac asked me. I grunted and turned my gaze down the short hallway, upon the arena floor. My eyes were momentarily blinded from overhead light’s sheen on the plastic floor below.
“Nope.” I growled, squinting. I had forgotten my lucky running shorts. Damn. “Never normal.” Mac only nodded and followed my gaze.
“You do realize I’m going to win, don’t you?” He asked.
“Maybe.” I admitted. “There’s been others that have said that, and looked what happened to them.”
“No. But they wish they were.”
“It’s true,” said Mac. “If I was missin’ out on this chance to win $75, I’d fucking kill myself.” He turned to the left and spat, and then continued staring. We could hear a dull roar from the crowd, like the sounds of surf crashing on a beach, heard distantly through a window, or perhaps an open door. It was intoxicating.
It was hard to believe that we had been through eight weeks of hell to get here. Eight weeks of screaming children, insect bites, sun burns, nauseating adolescents and bizzare, sometimes idiotic challenges. Eight weeks of forgotten lunches and visits to the nurse for scraped knees, or bruised arms, or more insubstantial injuries, whose only remedy was an ice pack and attention. Eight weeks of bus rides. Eight weeks of clubs. Eight weeks of summer camp.
“You remember that one time when timmy beat everyone at gaga, like he was King Leonidas or something?” I asked, a faint smile playing across my face.
“Yeah,” Mac chuckled, “You remember when my team beat your team at lacrosse-volley-basketball?” My hands involuntarily tightened on the shafts of the two lacrosse sticks I was holding, whitening my knuckles as I frowned
“Yeah.” I growled, “We better not play that stupid fucking game again, or I’m liable to spear Ray Jay with these lacrosse sticks. Then I’ll just take the money.”
“Yeah, but you’ll be a wanted killer.”
“Not in Tijuana mate. You know how many lacrosse sticks $75 can get you down there?”
“A. Fucking. lot, mate.” We stood in silence for a while, each thinking about the riches we would be able to afford with $75, especially in Tijuana. I decided that if I did indeed lose, I probably wouldn’t spear Ray Jay with his own lacrosse sticks. It would cause too much of a scene, though I’m sure it would help sate the beserker’s bloodlust that most of the campers have during these exhibitions.
“BLOOD!” Little Timmy the camper screamed, leaning over the railing, frothing at the mouth and dribbling pop tart crumbs across the gym floor. His eyes flashed feral, like a wolf sensing its prey is near, and he beat his fist against his chest. His cry riled up the campers behind him, who began to roar like little lions. “BLOOD AND DEATH!” He roared, turning towards them slowly, arms upraised. The crowd repeated his macabre cheer. I remember them being disappointed that day. There was no blood, only bitter defeat for my partner Amy and me.
This day was no different. I could hear distant chants of “kill!” and “maim!” coming from the second grade boy’s section of the lunch area. I was becoming worried. What if they didn’t see any blood? It was the last day of counselor survivor, and the last day of camp to boot. Would they riot, like angry, english soccer fans? One would think the concept of 2nd grade boys rioting would be humorous, but I can tell you it is anything but. They have incredibly bony knees and elbows, and teeth as sharp as knives.
“Where are the girls?” Mac asked, referring to Amy and Pristine. I shrugged.
“They went into the gym locker to get something for the final challenge.” I muttered, wondering what in god’s name they could be getting. The lacrosse sticks had not reassured me.
“Maybe we’re just playing lacrosse.” Mac offered. I shook my head.
“That’s normal. Lacrosse is normal. It’ll be something harder. Something weird.” We fell silent, and waited. I amused myself by playing with the rubber tread that was peeling off the bottom of my ratty old sneakers, while Mac picked at the plastic trim on the wall. Finally, I saw two figures approaching us through the glare. I nudged Mac in the ribs, and we both stood up.
“Well,” he asked “what is it?”
“We don’t know.” Amy responded. “He wouldn’t say, but he had us get two scooters and 6 volleyballs out of the supply closet.”
“Bloody hell,” I breathed, anxiously brushing back my hair, “what’s he up to now?”
Ray Jay suddenly appeared before us, materializing out of the glare like some sort of djinn.
“You ready?” He asked us, holding his hands on either side of him in a welcoming gesture.
“Yeah sure,” I growled, “But what are we doing?”
“Does it matter?”
I stood silent and thought for a long time. The roar of the crowd washed over us, growing in volume and viciousness with every swelling cheer. “No.” I finally answered, hefting my lacrosse sticks on to my shoulders. I glanced at Amy, who nodded slightly. “Not one bit.”
“Good.” Ray Jay said, clasping his hands together. He moved to the side of the passage and bowed low. “After you.” I gave Mac a look, and he just nodded, and so the 5 us went, into the brilliant light of the arena floor.