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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short Story: Getting Caught

Getting Caught
by M Ray Holloway, Jr
February, 1993
    Sometimes when we think we are in complete control of a situation, something happens that catches us totally off guard. This was the case for Ray in the hot dry summer of nineteen ninety one when he went to his first church youth camp.
    Ray's uninitiated presence at camp that summer was unusual for a number of reasons. First of all, he was forty years old and that by itself was considered an odd age to begin attending youth camps, but because of a twisted series of events in the previous year, he was now Youth Minister of his local church. It was this occupation that had called him to be responsible for the spiritual and moral direction of the junior and senior high school boys he had brought to camp with him.
    When Ray heard two of the younger counselors talking about staying out after "lights out" to serve as security patrol for the camp, he decided that he ought to help out, too. It was common practice for the kids to try to sneak out after their counselors went to sleep. There were separate dorms provided for the boys and girls, and it was considered a challenge to try to raid the dorm of the opposite sex without getting caught. He was told that if someone tried and succeeded on the first night, more of the youth would try to get away with it during the rest of the week, and so it was important to show them up front that the leaders were in complete control of the camp.
    Determined to stop anything before it began, Ray looked out over the campground with the other two volunteers. The camp layout was fairly simple; when coming into the camp from the road, the open air chapel was on the left with the dining hall just beyond it.On the right were the four boys' cabins, and the special guest quarters just before the tree line that led into the forest. Across the road from the boys' cabins was the playground, and beyond that was the girls' dormitory. In the corner of the campground opposite the guest quarters and behind the chapel was the snack bar and a covered sports area. There was a lot of ground to cover, but they thought they had a plan.
    They agreed that the three of them would watch the camp. Scott would be stationed at the snack bar to cover the entrance side of the dining hall and the chapel. Clay would be on a roving patrol with a two way radio to keep in touch with the other two. Ray positioned himself in a dark area on the playground that was perfectly located halfway between the boys' dorm and the girls'. There were two truck tires that were partially buried in the ground for the smaller children to play on, and by sitting down in between them, he could see about half the camp while at the same time, he could not be seen. It was probably the best spot available on the grounds. Between the three of them, they felt they could see just about anything moving in the camp.
    Ray's watch began quietly but activity picked up later in the night. For quite a while, there was no movement in the camp except for the three guards, and they began to think that there would be no attempts to break curfew. Then Clay, acting as the "rover", stopped by on his patrol and told Ray that he had seen some movement around the first dorm, and advised him to keep his eyes open for anything suspicious. They radioed the same message to Scott at the other fixed position. After talking quietly with Ray for awhile, Clay moved on and Ray began scanning the open field before him. Suddenly, he heard noises coming from the tree line.There were voices and twigs snapping and the sound of people running, and Ray felt certain that Clay had caught the curfew breakers and was chasing them back to their dorms to confront them. Staring into the ebony darkness that was the forest beyond the camp, he grew worried that, in attempting to get by the counselors, some of the kids had gone into the thick black forest and run across a vicious animal or venomous snake.There was even a huge buzzing hive in the hollow of a tall tree not too far from where Ray heard the sounds. Did wild bees attack at night? He had not had experience with bees in his lifetime, and could not begin to guess the dangers they might pose.
    Soon, things grew still again, and he continued peering into the menacing overgrowth that brought thoughts of lurking evils. Then he realized that he was not watching the rest of the campground, and he began scanning once again. He started at the boys' dorms, swinging left down the line of four until he came to the guest speaker's cabins. Continuing left, he glanced across the tree line again until he got to the girls' dorm, which was one big building with four separate rooms in it. As he continued looking to his left, he came to the dining hall, following its wall with his eyes back around to the first of the boys' dorms again.As he turned his head away from the place where the campers ate, his heart leapt inside his chest as he realized there were two boys standing right there next to him by the tires! It was as if they had materialized out of thin air.
    Trying not to act surprised while his blood pumped furiously, he said quietly to them, "Good evening." He could tell that the boys were a little shaken as well, and that they were trying to conceal the fact from him, which brought a faint glimmer of an idea to his mind.
    Ray recognized Larry, the oldest boy, who answered Ray's greeting with, "Good evening," and then after a pause, he added, "Man, you are good." Not really knowing yet what the boy was referring to, Ray remained silent, trying not to give them any more clues about what he did or did not know than he absolutely had to. "Just tell me one thing," Larry asked, shaking his head in chagrined amazement. With a nonchalance that surprised even him, Ray nodded quietly. Crossing his arms and trying to penetrate the hidden shadow that was Ray's face, Larry asked, "When did you first spot us?"
    This time Ray's heart jumped with joy as he realized that the boys were under the impression that he had seen them running around outside their dorm, and rather than get in more trouble later for making the guards chase them, they had come forward to turn themselves in. Without uttering a word, he had fostered their false impression. He looked at their camouflage outfits that they had probably purcahsed at an army surplus store, and he thought to himself, "Guys, you don't give yourself enough credit. I could have been looking straight at you in the forest and never have picked you out of the background. As a matter of fact," Ray thought, "I may have done just that!"
    Now his dilemma had to be resolved; should he tell them the truth and let them realize that they could have gotten away Scot free, or should he nurture the illusion that they had failed in putting one over on the old guy? Wrestling back the twinge of conscience that was snipping at his soul, he chose to save face and casually told them that he had sighted them when they crossed between two of the boys' dorms. It was a calculated risk, but not very much of one, since they had to have passed somewhere near the boys' dorms to get to where they were now.
    His appearance of confidence had the desired effect as their faces dropped with the realization that Ray had caught them sooner than they had believed possible. After letting the new information sink in for a second, Larry, who seemed to be elected the spokesman for the two, asked Ray sheepishly, "What happens now?" Although assuring them that some appropriate form of punishment would be forthcoming the next day, he told them that if they went back to their cabin and did not venture out again, the sentence would be swift and merciful. They thanked him profusely and promptly returned to their beds.
    The following morning, the camp director announced that Larry and Bubba, the two young men Ray had caught, had graciously volunteered to clean the girls' dorm for them. Though nothing was said about what they had done, everyone was smiling and nudging their neighbor in a knowing way. Someone had broken curfew and gotten caught, and now they had to pay. No one there knew the truth of what had really happened, and how there were three people caught that night. As for Ray, he had to spend some time wording his newest prayer for forgiveness.

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