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The Challenge

The short story below was written by a first year Towanda Parent, who was inspired by the stories of their child’s first summer at camp.
Names are fictitious.

“No way!” Billy said. “I am not going near that thing.”

“It’s really fun,” his counselor told him. “You just need to give it a try.”

Billy was trying hard to be brave, and not to cry, but it was difficult. He had never been to camp before and didn’t like heights. He had heard the other kids screaming with delight as they shot down the zip line, each one trying to go faster than the rest. You were strapped in, sure, but look at that thing! It was so far up!

“It’s practically in the clouds,” Billy tried to explain, a little over-dramatically. “What if I get hit by lightning?”

He knew that wasn’t a great point as soon as he made it, since it was a beautiful sunny day. “Umm, what if all the trees fall over?” he tried again, realizing that he was not going to win any points for logic.

His counselor looked at him skeptically. “I really don’t think that’s possible,” he responded patiently. “And you know what? I really don’t think you think it is, either.”

Jack Greenstein had been a counselor for three years, and a camper for many years before that. In college all his friends called him Jack, but here he was Greenie. He got the nickname as a Cadet, in Bunk 5, when one of the other kids was also named Jack – Jack Goldman. In school they would have been Jack G. and Jack B., but here they were Greenie and Goldy, and they became the best of friends. Goldy was down at the waterfront right now, and Greenie tried to think of what he would say to help Billy. He also tried to recall the first time he had climbed the rock wall and gone down the zip line. It was so long ago. Was he scared? How did he get over it? All he could remember was how much he loved it once he did it, and he was sure Billy would too.

“Come on,” said Justin, as he rushed to get back on the line. He had already been down three times and couldn’t wait to try again. Justin and Billy were becoming good friends, and Billy wanted to go with him, but it was so high! “It’s not scary,” Justin encouraged. “It’s EPIC! Just come!”

Billy thought about it, looked at Greenie, then at Justin, and then at Greenie again, and took a deep breath. “Okay,” he thought, “you can do it.” And he took a step forward.

Billy was nervous as he started the long climb. The higher he got, the more he wanted to quit, but he didn’t. Up and up he went, until he found himself at the top, getting strapped into the harness. He began to sweat. “I can’t let go,” he thought. But then he heard his friends’ voices from below. “Billy! Billy! Billy!” they were chanting, cheering him on. “Yeah, Billy!”

The O & A counselor told him what to expect. “You’re going to zip along the rope to that end over there. See it? . . . Okay, ready? Go!”

Billy let go and began to soar, zipping through the open sky. What a feeling! “Wow!” he thought, and then he yelled: “This is awesome!”

When he got to the bottom his friends crowded around him. “Great job, Billy! We knew you could do it!” He rode twice more before the period was over.

That night he got called up to the flagpole for bravery and in recognition of his excellent zip lining. It was one of the best days of his life!

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