Hello dear readers. I’m coming to you with another story of trial. This is the story of Malcolm, a young man whose parents are taking him to camp. It’s a place he doesn’t really want to go to. It’s a place he fears. There are those who would say he has good reason to. His parents, James and Grace, chose this place for him. They’re worried about him. That’s what they’ll tell you. James and Grace think this is what’s best for Malcolm, because deep down, they’re angry with him and they’re not sure what to do.
I’ll be up front with you about this. Malcolm is going to be fine, eventually. Right now he has to sit through a rather brutal meeting. One that his parents are very excited about.
The room was comfortable. Two soft chairs facing one another sat in the middle with a long sofa against one wall. It was decorated in tones of green and brown, recreating the nature that was just outside the building. There was a small table by the door with a couple of brochures sitting on it.
James picked one up and idly thumbed through it. He turned it back to the cover showing a picture of smiling campers and counselors standing by a large bonfire area. They were all waving at the camera and smiling. The sign for the camp hung at the top of the image; Camp Divine. Across the bottom was the camps motto, “We fix families through understanding.” A small note at the bottom listed the camp as being funded by the Christine Jorgensen Foundation. James wondered who that was and started to ask Grace if she knew.
A door at the far end of the room opened and a young man entered. He was wearing a sterling white t-shirt and khakis; carrying a clipboard. He smiled at the family. Walked over and shook James hand. “Hello, I’m Chip. Head counselor here at Camp Divine.” Chip looked at the clipboard. I believe we’re here to meet about Malcolm.”
“Yeah,” said James. “Malcolm.”
Chip smiled at James. Looked to Grace and then turned to the final member of the family. “And you must be…”
“Sarah,” said Grace. “This is our daughter Sarah.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Of course. Why don’t you and James sit here on the sofa while the two of us will talk in the chairs?”
James and Grace sat down while Chip walked to the large chairs in the center. He indicated one and sat in the other. After they were both seated he smiled again. “That’s a lovely dress, did you choose it?”
“No, my mother picked it out.”
“And your hair,” said Chip. “Did she do that as well?”
“Speak up Sarah,” said Grace. “I did her hair. She looks so good in braids.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “I appreciate you wanting to help. I’m going to need them to answer me.”
“If you want us to be quiet,” said James. “Why do we need to stay for this?”
Chip smiled at James. “I’m sorry. I do get excited. Always anxious to start. I need you here in case I have any questions for you. Mostly, I need you to hear this. You need to hear their words and know how long this has been going on. We can’t start the rehabilitation process until we all have the truth.”
Grace put her hand on James wrist. “We need to do this for Sarah.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Of course.”
Chip returned his focus and let his smile fade into a look of concern. “How long have you felt this way?”
“I need you to be as specific as possible. It helps in the process. No one will be mad. There’s no judgement here. We need to hear it. They need to hear it.”
“Since I was five, maybe less.”
“Oh God,” said James.
Chip smiled at him.
“Sorry,” said James.
“You’re what?” asked Chip. “Fifteen maybe sixteen?”
“You’ve been aware of this for a while. Have you had any problems?” asked Chip.
“A couple of girls at school. There’s a guy that’s been giving me problems.”
“It’s okay,” said Chip. “You’re with people who care about you now.”
“Yeah. Trevor, he grabbed me and…”
Chip reached out and rested his hand on theirs. “It’s okay. You don’t have to go into detail. The fact that it happened is enough.”
“Any friends? Have you told anyone?”
“Yeah. My friend Linda. She knows. A couple of others.”
Chip reached into a pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. “Take this. Use it to dry your eyes.” Chip motioned around his eyes. “Your makeup’s running. Why don’t you clean that up too? You’ll not be needing it here at camp. In fact, there’s a bathroom right through that door. Go in, fix yourself up and when were done we’ll take everyone to the room.”
After they were alone Chip smiled and turned to James and Grace. “Seems like a pretty typical case. Bullying, isolation, and a couple of people as allies.”
“Is that really typical?” asked Grace.
“More than I’d like it to be,” said Chip.
“I was a little nervous about bringing her here,” said James. “But a buddy from work told me about this place. Dan Mason, you helped his son last year.”
“Michael,” said Chip smiling. “He’s one of the counselors here.”
“Dan talked this place up pretty good. Said you fixed his family. Michael’s getting married.”
“I know,” said Chip. “I’ll be attending the wedding. We’re all very proud of the Mason’s they’re one of our more successful treatments.”
“One of,” said Grace. “It doesn’t work all the time?”
“As I’m sure you were told when you signed up for camp, nothing is certain,” said Chip. “We’re better than some of the others. We have just under a fifty percent success rate. We do our best, but it’s not perfect.”
Grace turned away. Her shoulders slumped slightly.
“Look,” said Chip. “I’m going to get us back on task here. When we’re all back together I’m going to have us go through that door.” Chip indicated the door he’d entered through. “I have a couple of orderlies on the other side. Some of our guests can be a bit resistant. I find it best to be ready.”
The door to the bathroom opened and everyone stood.
“Let’s go this way.” Chip walked to the far door and opened it on a long hallway.
There was a door on the far end and several large windows in one wall. Two large men with thick arms stood on the other side of the door. Their t-shirts pulled taunt across their massive chests.
The group began walking down the hall. Out the window several campers ran around playing. Some stopped to wave at Chip.
“Look honey,” said Grace. “Everyone looks like they’re having fun here.”
Chip smiled at Grace. “Absolutely. I pride myself on how much fun our campers have. You’ll get to meet some of them later on. We want to get everyone settled first.” Chip started pointing out different points out the window. We have the tennis and basketball courts. There’s an Olympic sized pool. There’s a nightly bonfire. And we have a full kitchen with an excellent cooking staff. There’s even cooking classes if you want. I understand you like cooking.”
Chip pointed to a large two story building. “Over there are the dorms. That’s where you’ll be staying with the other campers.”
“Wait a minute,” said James. “I thought you were taking us to her room.”
Chip smiled at James. “No we’re going to your room. Malcolm will stay in the dorms with the other kids.”
“Sarah,” said James. “Her name is Sarah and my wife and I aren’t staying here.”
“Of course you are,” said Chip. “That’s the whole point of camp.”
“No,” said James. “The point is for you to fix our daughter. That’s what your brochure says.”
Chip smiled. “I’m sorry for the confusion, but our brochure clearly says we fix families. Right now there’s nothing wrong with Malcolm. The problem is you and Grace. We’re going to run you through our reeducation and prayer process. In the end you should be far more enlightened.”
Grace began to back down the hall until she bumped into one of the orderlies.
“What about Don Mason and his son Michael?” asked James. “You fixed Michael.”
“Not at all,” said Chip. “We fixed Don.”
“But Michael’s getting married.”
“To a wonderful young man named Jeff. They met here at camp. We’re all so proud.”
An orderly stepped forward and placed his hand of James shoulder. Chip smiled.
Well, dear reader, there you go. Camp Divine has another couple of residents. I do want to take a moment to say this. I hope that I got all of the terms and ideas correct here. I’m old and learning. I still don’t have it perfectly down to what it’s supposed to be but I’m trying. I hope that’s enough. I apologize if I’ve fallen short in that.
As for Malcolm, I want to reassure you that he’ll be okay, He’s going to have a wonderful time at the camp. It’s helped a lot of young men, women, and non-binary youth over the years. Malcolm may even return as an assistant or counselor in the future. Many do.
Now for Malcolm’s parents, I can’t say. They’ll eventually go back to their lives and Malcolm may or may not be a part of that. It’ll be up to them. Sadly, the therapy isn’t perfect. There is, after all, only a slightly under fifty percent success rate.
If I made any mistakes in terminology, please let me know in the comments. I'm trying to do good here. I fall short, but I want to do better.