I organize an overnight end-of-the-year camping trip for the Grade seven and eight classes at the United Auto Workers camp in Port Franks with the help of my father. He still works at the Ford plant and he is able to arrange a three night stay at the UAW’s family cabins in Port Franks for us. I sneak beer in my bag and Marina brings cigarettes. The Grade eight students have the private cabins. We sleep two to a cabin. The Grade seven students are divided into male and female groups and must sleep in the dorms divided by gender. Lina and I share a room, and we have a party in our cabin that first night for the other girls in our grade. I take one of Lina’s bras and run it up the camp flagpole outside of our window for the boys to salute. Lina has nice breasts and is dating the class hunk. He and some of the other Grade eight boys join the party for a time, but it is innocent fun. Several Grade seven girls snitch on us the following morning. It is the same bunch who tattled on Nikki when she pulled the fire alarm earlier in the year.
We go to the canteen for breakfast in the morning and Marina makes fart noises on her arm in place of words. Instead of talking she puts her lips to her arm and farts out the sound of our names or the name of her Raisin Bran cereal. When the Grade seven snitch bitches enter the canteen, Marina blows out their names and threats to them on her arm.
“You’re fucking dead,” she fart-says on her arm. “Sleep with one eye open,” she bweeerrrttts.
We are laughing so hard at Marina’s fart-chat that we are crying and unable to sit in a composed manner on our dining benches. Lina, Nikki, Marina, Marsha, Dina, Jesse and I have come to breakfast in our pajamas, slippers and robes, which is against the rules. Our lapsed dress code, Marina’s fart noises and our convulsions of laughter draw so much attention from our teachers that they ask us to leave and dress properly for breakfast before returning to the canteen. We leave but take our breakfast trays with us. Marina pours her mini-box of Raisin Bran cereal over her head and the dry bran flakes cascade from her head to the floor, many remaining caught in her black, feathered hair. We go to our cabins to shower and dress, and once we are ready we meet in the area between the cabins. We walk down to the beach together and begin to plot our revenge against the Grade seven squealers.
There are hundreds of dead fish that litter the heavily polluted lakeshore. The fish have washed up onto the pebbled sand of the beach and seagulls have picked at the silvery carcasses, leaving them bloody and gashed on the sand. Suddenly, I know what we can do to exact our revenge against the tattle tales.
“We’ll collect these dead fish, put them on their doorsteps tonight, and then tomorrow morning before breakfast we’ll call ‘Fire!’ and they’ll run out and end up lying in the piles of dead fish.”
My friends laugh hysterically and agree it is a brilliant plan except none of us want to pick up the dead fish.
“I’ll do it!” Dina says. “It doesn’t bother me.”
We pick up discarded plastic bags poking up from the sand and hold them open for Dina as she fills them with the stinking fish carcasses. Some of the angle are missing heads, others are gashed open in places along their six inch silvery torsos. We collect as many as we can carry back to camp and hide them in the bushes near the campsite. We are busy throughout the day participating in sports and other events the teachers had planned for us. Then we sit around a bonfire, toasting marshmellows and singing camp songs at night. The teachers tell us to turn in and all of the students retreat to their cabins. My friends and I, dress all in black once in our cabins. We meet in the woods and smudge black muck on our faces, retrieve our concealed sacks of dead fish, and carry the fish with us to the cabins of our tattle-tale underlings. We litter their back and front doorways with the rotting fish. Then we run and hide in the bushes.
“Tomorrow morning, first thing, I’ll call out ‘Fire!’ and they’ll come running out of their cabin and slide in the dead fish.”
As we run back to our cabin, I see a bobbing white light approaching us.
“Teachers!” I whisper.
“Oh fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Nikki starts to dance about.
“Sshhhhh!” I say. “Everyone get down!”
We all lie on our stomachs in the forest, the pine needles prickling through our shirts.
“What do we do, Griffin?” Lina asks.
“Stay quiet. Once that light turns, we run back to our rooms the back way. Did everyone stuff their beds to look like they are lying in, like I said?” I ask.
“Yup!” come the replies.
“Lina and I did too. We’re okay. When you get back to your cabin jump into bed straightaway. Don’t try to change until the teachers go to bed.”
A chorus of ‘okay’ and ‘sure thing’ is spoken softly behind me, and I watch carefully the light turn right and point left. We plod deeper into the woods, circle around the campsite and make our way back to our cabins unseen. As Lina and I dive under our covers, we see the light bobbing outside our cabin window. We pull our covers to our ears and pretend to be asleep while shaking with laughter. I stifle my laughter with my pillow. Once the teachers’ flashlight disappears, and without turning on any lights, Lina and I strip off our black clothes, hide them in our satchels, wipe our faces clean and hop back into bed.
“Night, Ange,” she smiles into the darkness.
The following morning, I creep outside and stand beneath the window of the Grade seven squealers to do some squealing of my own. I yell, “Fire! Fire!” The cabin doors of the Grade seven girls fly open and the whole crew comes running outside in their pajamas. Their bare feet slap against the slimy, rotting flesh of the catch-o-th’-day, and they lose their footing sliding on their backsides until they are ass-down in the stench piles. They scream in revulsion and I flee back to my cabin, laughing. Snitches end up in ditches, arse down in smelly, dead fish.
When it is time to make my First Confession it is too much hassle for my mother to take me to our parish church so that I can make it with my class. It is a Saturday night and we go to a church in the East end of the city near Argyle Mall where she is shopping. I make my First Confession at St. Patrick’s with a strange priest, and I make it alone. I don’t to see my peers that night. I wonder if it gives my mother some sort of perverse pleasure to remove me from my peers and see me alone and isolated. I already feel frightened by the whole ordeal of First Confession. To do it alone without support seems unconscionable. But that is the way it is with my mother. She couldnee be bothered. She couldnee be bothered to come for parent-teacher night. She couldnee be bothered to see me play basketball. She couldnee be bothered to come to a play I was in. She couldnee be bothered to take me to an awards ceremony at which I was to be honoured. An apt epitaph for my mother will be: Och. I couldnee be bothered! And she really couldnee.