Boy, Interrupted

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Boy, Interrupted by Ross Martin

4:30pm |
Uri the Unit Head, a former Israeli Defense Forces Sergeant, delivers his orders: “Campers  . . . roll out!” Tug at my Umbro shorts so my package looks right. Untie one shoelace on Sambas for casual effect. Mess with hair. Buckle waterproof fanny pack (blue). Remember to pack lotion. Go.

4:32pm | Two-mile hike to Schmungleland, Jewish summer camp equivalent of the Amazon ecosystem. Complaints about rough terrain voiced by girl campers from Long Island and weak boy campers from Bethesda, Maryland.

5:00pm | Rough terrain produces, from behind a bushy hump, one medium-sized Pennsylvania black bear. Jody yells: “Holy Jeez, Scott, that’s a real bear right there not ten feet from us!” Jody is instructed by a counselor to lower her voice. Jody grabs my hand, her palm sweat light and refreshing. Stephanie, Jody’s former best (but subsequently fourth-best) friend, notices our hands linked and, bemused, smiles at her competition. Because everybody’s eventually Stephanie’s, aren’t they?

5:10pm | Freezing stream hike. Testosterone handy as boys help girls from Long Island. I lower Jody, then Stephanie, both in fuchsia Umbros. Uri the Unit Head commands sheepish boys into the stream: “Suck it up, yeledim!” All boy campers forced, then, to suck it up. In other words, prepare body for excruciating pain. Lower oneself into the freezing domain, balls after balls into the blue. Entire being as frozen nutsack. Oh why must my people suffer so?

5:25pm | Stream cul-de-sacs at the campsite destination. Unit disembarks to pitch camp on dry ground. Ahhh, the thawing. (Thank you, Mom, for sending me to camp with such an amazingly embryonic sleeping bag.) How to get close enough to both Jody and Stephanie’s sleeping bags so as to maximize chances with each or both?

5:45pm | Zoning out on these above-ground roots, transporting life-juice from the nether to the hither. The natural movement of stuff, the circulation, the glorious unclogged flow, the log flume of it all, then, Jody kisses me — soft lips to lips, versus the rough bark of a strong oak I’m leaning against. Sun, down. One hand free on each. Where don’t fourteen-year-old bodies need touching?

5:59 pm | She’s got a good body, Jody does  . . .

6:02pm |  . . . though she doesn’t seem to want me to really touch it. What is this week’s Torah portion, anyway, and how does it relate to this experience? And why does this enter my consciousness now? After all, the just-kissing is kind of nice.

6:05pm | Kissing still nice, but getting a little boring.

6:13pm | Kissing nice, but a juicy burger would also be nice. And do I smell them now on the grill?

6:22pm | Kosher hot dog on the lips of Stephanie. Oh, the intake of nitrates, the holding of buns by fingers with painted nails!

6:30pm – 9:00 pm | Corn. Cleanup. Tug of war. Red hands.

9:15pm | Sleeping bag positions finalized, with apologies to Jody: “The wild oak roots divide us.” There is only room here for two: Stephanie and me. (The choice was easy: a night of kissing Jody or a night of who-knows-what with the legendary Stephanie.) We skip Uri the Unit Head’s campfire tales of secret midnight assassinations by the legendary Israeli defense forces. Instead, Stephanie and I opt for our own private Kumbayah. We combine bags, stare at the Schmungleland stars and thank our mothers for their foresight, for zippers that zip us together and keep mosquitoes from our candy.

9:55pm | Stephanie does the Gaza strip for me under the covers. Hot-dog breath on hamburger breath.

11pm | Chubby spot below Stephanie’s belly becomes a sofa for my fatigued hand. Thighs like love seats. Neverminding mosquitoes and counselor patrols. Stephanie’s hand becoming devoted to what it is doing. Stephanie’s hand knowing exactly what it is doing. Hand keeps going and going and  . . .

11:30pm |  . . . going. Enough friction for a secondary campfire. Why did I forget the freakin’ lotion?

11:45pm | When is enough enough? Exhausted, we fake sleep as Uri the Unit Head approaches on handjob patrol. Fade into real sleep.

5am | Awakened by a foreign pain, unpleasant and worsening. The possibility of spoiled kosher meat crosses one’s mind.

6am | Awakened by kosher dogbreath from Stephanie’s sleeping mouth and Uri the Unit Head’s cock-a-doodle-doo effect signaling a breakfast of hardboiled eggs, yesterday’s toast, water, bug juice. But wait — I can barely move! This is killing me! What has happened?! A fever in the groin, an affliction, a souring. What rough beast slouched toward Schmungleland to be born in my terrified balls?

6:15am | Private conversation with Uri the Unit Head, appealing to his sense of decency and his understanding of the male form in combat and torture situations. Doubled over and blue, I relate the events of my night with Stephanie, special emphasis on how nothing came of it. “I knew she was handjobbing!” Uri says, a swarthy grin telling me he understood the natural biological phenomenon occurring within me better than I did. I am then compared to a firework undetonated, unpopped popcorn, a clogged Uzi, a shook can of Macabee beer. Uri orders me to nest temporarily in some off-the-trail part of the woods and  . . . (for however long it takes)  . . . (however painful)  . . . self-detonate.

(Unaccounted-for dead air as the full aspect of Uri’s order is digested.)

Uri: “Scott, we have six-mile hike to man-made beach in front of us, Scott. I roll out whole unit in five minutes. I vill stall zem and you go explode your prick as fast as human. Zis secret: me, you, Scott.”

6:30 | Unforgivable self-anguish, going and going and going and then powerful relief into an unfortunate Schmungleland bush. Would have impressed NASA’s jet propulsion lab.

6:31am | Out of nowhere, Stephanie: “Do you need my help, Scott?”


“What? How’d you know I was back here?”


“Scott, the entire unit has been waiting for you for like ever! Uri told us what’s going on. Are you okay? I’m so sorry, Scott, we should’ve kept at it. I just fell asleep.”


“What do you mean, Stephanie? I was just back here taking a whiz!”


“Come on, Scott, everybody knows what’s happening to your nads.”

6:35am | Violent images dance through my head: Uri the Unit Head strung up by his matzoh balls as I pelt him with stones. Step by humiliating step, I plod along the trail back to Uri, Jody and the rest of the camp unit’s hysterically laughing legions. The six-mile hike to Beltsville Beach seems a cakewalk compared to the short trail’s mortifying distance. My own unit is exhausted and blue, its head shameful and beat.


For the rest of the Summer Camp Issue, click here.

©2002 Ross Martin and, Inc.

Ross Martin’s recent work appears in magazines such as Agni, Bomb, Boulevard, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Witness and others. He has taught at Rhode Island School of Design, The New School University and Washington University in St. Louis, where he received his MFA. His first book, ‘The Cop Who Rides Alone,’ is published by Zoo Press (