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The Making of an Insomniac

She also says she pinched my ankle to hurry me along. Since she typically, reflexively, pinched in retaliation, there's no reason to doubt that detail. Of the sequence, first to last, I remember only this: I woke where I started, on the top bunk, snuggled in. To SWIM IN THE CROATAN SouND meant hiking beyond concrete, through a yaupon grove. Along that patchily shaded trail, we kicked up bits of burning sand and snapped towels at one another, messing around while we could. No horseplay allowed in the water. To keep track of us in the Croatan Sound, the swimming instructor had erected a corkboard with numbers. A number turned "in," toward cork, meant the camper was in the water; number turned "out" meant the camper had returned landside. Before each lesson, the swimming instructor harped on the importance of the check in and out board while we fidgeted, restrained from diving in by his authority-but just. Then came the afternoon when, wrapped in damp towels and queued up in standard Head/Heart/Hands/Health fashion, we counted off and were told to count off again. And again. In all three instances, our numbers were off by one. On the board, we now noticed, a single number faced inward. In a voice that alarmed us far more than the wayward digit, the swimming instructor ordered us into a different kind of line, one that stretched to his left and right, parallel to the water's edge. Arms linked, when told to walk forward, we walked forward. If our fellow camper had drowned and sunk, if that sunken body had snagged on seaweed or other underwater debris, our death chain aimed to free it. The water sloshed around our ankles, then our knees, and then our waists. No one joked or whimpered. No one said a word. We walked staring straight ahead, not looking down as we usually did to avoid antagonizing vengeful crabs, praying, on that expedition, to disturb crabs and only crabs. Until the water reached the shortest camper's neck, we walked and then we turned and sloshed back. We didn't dislodge or discover a body, young, old, friend or stranger. As it turned out, hurrying to the bathroom, the missing camper had forgotten to turn her number-the best of all outcomes, but because that happy ending took awhile in arriving, during the anxious interim a patch of summer lost its carefree glisten for campers and counselors alike. The night after our water walk I couldn't have been the only sun-toasted, concrete-scabby 4 H-er afraid to close her eyes, afraid dream would replay the day's trauma. I couldn't have been the only one afraid, after lights out, to feel again the Croatan pressing hard against my shins and thighs-harder than I thought those calm waters could press in resistance or warning. But whether I counted as one of several scarcely mattered. I was shunning sleep at sleep-away camp. My first bout of agitated wakefulness. Summer - Fall 2006

lOS

Profile for University of Idaho Library

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho