• Joia

Today's rhaps is on ... Tracy


Union Gospel Mission at Snail Lake

I met Tracy in 1970 at the Union Gospel Mission summer camp just off Highway 96 in Shoreview, Minnesota. That summer I was madly in love with Ronnie, who spent every free hour at the cafeteria piano playing Chicago's Colour My World with a very blonde and very beautiful flutist. I was madly in love and very skinny that summer between tenth and eleventh grades, since most of the time all we got was baloney sandwiches on Wonder bread. On Fridays we got grilled cheese, the rubbery orange American kind, but at least it tasted better melted.


The first night when all the kids were getting into bed I found Tracy on my counselor bed instead of in her own bunk bed.


"Ain't gettin' in that bed, that bed's funky."

"That bed's funky?"

"Yeah that bed's funky."

"Okay."

"Okay, what? I get to sleep here?"

"Sure."


And Tracy would snuggle into my sleeping bag for an hour or so while I'd go hang out with the other counselors, hoping the Chicago duet would be over for the day, and then when I got back I'd pick up Tracy and carry her over to her bed and tuck her in.


The next night was the same thing, and every night that week.


"That bed's funky, ain't sleepin' there."

"That bed's funky?"

"Yeah."

"Okay."


And when I'd come back in to sleep, I'd pick her up and put her back in her bed. Well, every night until about Thursday, that is. I'd taken the whole cabin down to Snail Lake to swim that afternoon and saw that she wasn't with us. I ran back up to the cabin, to the cafeteria...and finally saw this tiny figure standing out in the softball field on the pitcher's mound in the blazing hot sun.


"Tracy what are you doing here?"

"Director put me here."

"Why? Why would he do that?"

"Have to go home now."

"What, no, why?"

"Cussed him out. He sendin' me home."


This scrawny little kid standing there with sweat pouring down her face, so full of rage and pain, so disillusioned by life, by all the stupid grownups, by this fat fuck of a balding master-director getting mad and yelling at her, cutting her one week out of the city short.


I still get angry thinking about it.


She had to stand in the hot sun until the car came to take her home, after defending herself the only way she knew how, this tiny angry person cursing this big asshole with the power to yank her from one place to another for no reason. This child who pissed off everyone so much that she had to test me nightly with a silly stubborn story, just to feel a little slack, a little bit of a private joke, some arms around her, a little bit of love.


I'll never forget you, Tracy.

18 JUNE 2019

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