Sixth grade was dunzo! I snatched my skateboard, stashed in a bush outside Barclay School, and hit the sidewalk with a slap and roar of joy. After narrowly avoiding prison, aka Grace Farm, that boarding school for “troubled youth” in the boondocks of Maine, I celebrated the start of summer with eight packs of Pop Rocks, all shoved in my mouth at one time. Each sugary snap created a chorus of freedom ringing down East 74th Street.
My parents love “the country,” meaning Southampton, but I way prefer the city unless it’s summer when I can boogie board. So I quietly sat in our green station wagon with my headphones on as my parents drove the two hours to Southampton. My punk rock playlist drowned out most of their annoying conversation, which centered on some “ghastly” (my mom’s favorite word for anything she didn’t like from people to someone’s shoes) divorced woman who had been black balled from the beach club where I basically spent every day all summer.
The beach club isn’t all that sucky. You can charge ice cream all day and crawl under the wood planks of the locker rooms and look through the cracks as chicks change into their bathing suits.
My first day back at the beach club, I reunited with my gang: Chipper, Steven, Teddy and Frick. After bacon cheeseburgers, I decided we needed some action. There’s this really, really old dude named Isadore Knopp who collects the beach towels embroidered with a blue seahorse, and loads them into a big white canvas hamper on wheels that he rolls to a laundry room behind the lockers.
I had a brainstorm. When Knopp wasn’t looking, I put a black bandana over my face like a gangster and holding my tennis racket, jumped in the hamper, hidden under the salty smelling, fluffy white towels. Knopp started his rounds, tossing towels on top of me. He wheeled the cart a bit slower, but was too dumb to notice that there was a live kid inside.
We finally arrived to the noise of ten industrial size washer and dryers in a depressing room that looked like a serial killer’s lair. Knopp began to unload the towels. But just when he reached down for a third handful, I jumped up holding my tennis racket like a machine gun, making really loud rifle fire sounds. Knopp made an animal-like dying groan and holding his heart as if shot, practically fell out the door. I was laughing so hard; I could barely breath and my buddies, crouched under the one narrow window, cracked up uncontrollably.
After Knopp had vanished, I ran out and high-fived my group. Soon dozens of kids surrounded me as I retold the story of my super successful prank. I was a star!
Suddenly, mid-sentence, I felt two fingers pinch me by the ear. “Ouch,” I yelled in pain.
The fingers belonged to the beach club manager Mr. Preston, a nosy fatso in green pants with blue whales. How fitting.
Before I knew it, I was in Mr. Preston’s office, which was decorated with a color picture of him and a fat lady in a Lilly Pulitzer tent that I guessed was his wife.”
“Charlie Campbell, do you realize that you could have killed Mr. Knopp?” he asked me with total disdain in every syllable. “They should lock you up and throw away the key. Mr. Knopp had to go home for the day. He said he has never been more shaken and distraught in his life.” I tried my best not to smirk. “I’m sorry,” I replied, looking down at the temporary tattoo of a grinning skull on my ankle. “It was just meant to be an innocent joke.”
Mr. Preston’s ruddy apple cheeks grew redder. “Well guess what Charlie Campbell? Your summer has just come to an abrupt halt.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“You have no idea what awaits you,” Mr. Preston declared, standing up with his pudgy hands on the desk. “Oh Charlie Campbell, you have no idea.”