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Authors: Robert Klane

The Horse is Dead (9 page)

BOOK: The Horse is Dead
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"Don't blame me," Rena said, "you jumped on so quick I didn't have time to get my guitar out of the way."

Nemiroff looked again. It was true. "Geez," Nemiroff said.

"Congratulations," Rena said. "This has to be a first"

Nemiroff jumped up and started screaming at Rena. "You dirty whore." He was really pissed off.

"Oh, oh," Rena moaned, "don't stop."

"I ought to shove this guitar up your ass." Nemiroff was furious.

That's beautiful, don't stop."

"No," Nemiroff shouted, "no more talking dirty, no more guitar, no more you. Get out."

Nemiroff waited patiently in the living room while Rena packed her things. Good riddance, he thought
She's been nothing but trouble since she got here
. Nemiroff heard her footsteps coming into the room.

"Nemiroff," she whispered.

"Get out"

"Do you really mean it?"

"Get out"

Rena started for the front door. "O.K., I'm going." She opened the door and hesitated for just a second. "Nemiroff?"

"What?" He refused to look at her.

"How about once more for old times' sake?"

"Fuck off," he screamed.

"Oh, thank you, thank you," Rena whimpered, and closed the door behind her.

 

About four weeks earlier Uncle Bernie had called the special counselors' meeting in the dining room. It wasn't often that Uncle Bernie called a special meeting; usually it was just to tell the counselors that the payroll had been held up by a group of savage Indians who refused to be dominated by the white man. The excuse had worked well a couple of times for Uncle Bernie, especially when he stuck the half arrow into his shoulder and poured ketchup over his shirt.

As the counselors filed into the dining hall they were tense, to say the least. Any more bullshit about the payroll was sure to draw real blood. All of it Uncle Bernie's. Uncle Bernie walked into a room filled with deadly silence. Nobody was talking but he blew the whistle anyway. Then he blew it again just to be sure.

"There's a terrible crisis," Uncle Bernie coldly announced.

Nemiroff stood up. "If you give us any shit about the Indians and the payroll," he began.

Uncle Bernie blew on the whistle and held up his hand. "Forget the payroll," he said, "this is more important." Uncle Bernie could never figure out why everyone got so excited about the payroll anyway. He didn't pay them enough to get upset about. "It seems," Uncle Bernie went on soberly, "that we're going to have another Parents' Day this year."

The counselors were up out of their seats, screaming and shouting. Uncle Bernie blew on his whistle.

"I know, I know," he continued. "I promised no more Parents' Day, but it seems some of the parents can't believe the stories they've been hearing, and they want a chance to check up on the place for themselves." He threw a glare at Nemiroff. "Especially the ones in your group."

"The kids in my group have parents?" Nemiroff asked sincerely.

"Yes," Uncle Bernie answered. "So well swing into my overall plan to cover Parents' Day." His eyes swept around the room. "You all know what that is, so let's get going"

The counselors started to get up and leave the dining room. Uncle Bernie waited until they were almost out of the door, then blew sharply on the whistle.

"One more thing," Uncle Bernie said, starting for the rear door, "the payroll is being held up by Wells Fargo agents until they can clear up this whole Indian mess." He made a quick exit parents that the outrageous sum they were paying was well worth it.

Nemiroff had run his group through the routine so many times now they could almost do it blindfolded. In fact Uncle Bernie made them do it blindfolded a couple of times. Uncle Bernie wanted to be sure that nothing went wrong on Parents' Day. For Nemiroff, there was no more fun. They spent so much time getting ready, he hardly had time to beat up on the little bastards. But Nemiroff was saving it. As soon as Parents' Day was over, he'd make up for lost time.

 

Preparing for Parents' Day at Camp Winituck was like going into rehearsal for a Broadway show. Everything was written down on a master script conceived by Uncle Bernie. Every step, every word uttered on Parents' Day was carefully written and practiced many, many times beforehand. The parents were supposed to believe that this was the way it went every single day in wonderful Camp Winituck, everything well organized and perfectly run. The idea was to get in as many different activities as possible to show the parents.

 

Parents' Day finally arrived, and Nemiroff was now waiting nervously as the cars started to fill up the long driveway that led into Camp Winituck. This was the big day. The day he was finally going to have to face the parents of those shitheads he had been destroying for a good part of the summer.

Nemiroff had his group lined up in front of their lockers as some of the parents started parading down the grounds. A few of them stopped in front of Nemiroff's group and pointed and waved at some of the children.

One of the mothers approached Nemiroff. "Is this it?" she asked, slightly horrified. "Is this really Camp Winituck?"

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Nemiroff answered.

"But it doesn't look anything like the movies Uncle Bernie showed us," she went on.

"Movies?" Nemiroff asked.

"Yes, the ones he showed us before we gave him the money."

"Money?" Nemiroff asked again. "You paid Uncle Bernie money to send your kid here?"

The mother looked at Nemiroff. "Yes, why?"

Nemiroff looked back at her. "Because that son of a bitch told us this was a camp for charity cases. That's why he could only pay us ten bucks a week."

The woman looked shocked and walked back to whisper in her husband's ear.

Uncle Bernie blew his whistle. Parents' Day was on.

Nemiroff marched his group over to the rifle range. He wondered if the parents thought it was strange to see their little kids walking around with their eyes closed and moving like robots. The parents followed along behind. Each kid took his ten shots with the rifle and the parents oohed and aahed as they hit the target.

Nemiroff saw one of the fathers walking over toward him. He had his hand in his pocket and Nemiroff knew that he was probably going to give him a tip. How big it was depended on how big a lie Nemiroff told him about his lousy kid. "That's my son," the man was saying, "the one that got the seven bull's-eyes." He waited for Nemiroff to finish the compliment.

Nemiroff stared at the man. The man made a noise in his throat and jiggled his hand in his pocket. Money, Nemiroff thought, money for college. Don't blow it. "What's the matter?" Nemiroff asked, "your balls itch?"

The man stammered for a few seconds, then pulled his hand out of his pocket with a few bills folded between his fingers. "He's pretty good with a rifle," the father went on. "He's a born killer," Nemiroff said. The boy's father stared at Nemiroff, his eyes wide open; then he shoved the money back in his pocket. They finished at the rifle range exactly on schedule. Exactly as they had for the past four weeks. The parents marvelled at how efficiently the camp was run. The robots started to walk off.

"Hi," said another parent, putting a hairy arm around Nemiroff's shoulder. "I'm Jimmy's father."

"That's your problem," Nemiroff replied, brushing him away. Then he led the whole group into the arts and crafts room. Mr. Green was dressed for the occasion. He had on pink open-toed sneakers and a matching bow in his hair. He shook hands with all the ladies and kissed the fathers' hands. Nemiroff took over before things got out of control. "If you'll just walk around the tables," he said, "you can see the beautiful things that your children have made for you this summer at Camp Winituck." The parents started to walk around the table.

Nemiroff watched as one mother picked up a clay ashtray that crumpled in her hand.

Another of the boys' fathers came over to Nemiroff. "I'm Harold's father," he said.

"Which one is he?" Nemiroff asked.

The father looked unbelievingly at Nemiroff. Then he slowly pointed to one of the boys. "Oh," Nemiroff said.

The father started again. "I wonder if you'd mind showing me what Harold made this summer?"

"Sure," Nemiroff answered. He led the father over to one of the tables. "Right here." He pointed to something on the table.

The boy's father stared at it for a few minutes. Then he turned to Nemiroff. "What is it?" he asked. "Frankly, it looks like a pile of shit."

"That's what it is, sir," Nemiroff said, congratulating him on guessing the first time. "Your son isn't exactly what you might call talented, so he got the idea of plastering over a pile of shit and giving it to you as a paperweight. I thought it was a hell of an idea." Again Nemiroff watched the hand come out of the pocket empty.

The man moved quickly away from Nemiroff. Nemiroff saw that time was almost up and yelled to the group to start lining up.

Nemiroff led the group and the parents over to the corral. The fat riding instructor walked over to the fence and threw a fat hand into the air. "Howdy, pardners," he drawled. "Come to see the little buck-aroos go for a ride?" He laughed to himself.

"Cut the crap," Nemiroff said, "and put the kids on the horses."

The kids started to mount on the horses. The horses followed each other around the corral, carefully following the ruts in the ground from the thousand other times they had done the same thing. Not one kid knew how to ride, but as long as the horses could follow each other around the circle, it looked as if they knew how. And that was all that mattered.

One of the parents walked over to Nemiroff. "How come my son isn't following the others?" he asked.

Nemiroff glanced over to where the parent was pointing. "Oh," Nemiroff explained, "he has the dead horse."

"The dead horse," the parent stammered. "What in God's name are you doing with a dead horse?"

"I don't know," Nemiroff said. "He just died one day and that was that Most of the kids like to ride him. He's very gentle."

The parent couldn't believe it "But look at him, he's covered with flies."

Nemiroff looked. "Yeah, but he's cheap to feed."

Another empty hand. Nemiroff started to wonder if he would even be able to make one semester at this rate.

Nemiroff thought, thinking of how the fathers had dived into the pool. I didn't think they'd really give a damn.

 

They finished riding, and Nemiroff marched the group to the pool. He waited until they were all lined up at the far end of the pool, then he moved out to address them. "The boys would like to show you what they learned in swimming class this summer," Nemiroff announced. The parents all chittered and squealed. "O.K. Everybody into the pool." The boys all jumped into the pool. Nemiroff watched patiently as all of their heads started to disappear below the surface of the water. The parents looked on anxiously.

"In case you're wondering what they're doing," Nemiroff said calmly, "they're drowning. We spent so much damn time practicing for this Parents' Day, I never had a chance to teach them how to swim."

The parents looked on horrified, until finally a few of the fathers began to jump in to save their sinking children. The others quickly followed until all of them were hauled out of the water. Then a few fathers started drowning. Nemiroff was disgusted with the whole thing. They really weren't much better than their lousy kids. Hardly worth getting wet for. Nemiroff turned away and started to walk.

 

Nemiroff was a little bit worried about returning to Camp Winituck the morning after Parents' Day. He was sure Uncle Bernie would be out looking for his ass.

Nemiroff drove very slowly down the road leading to the camp. He didn't even try to hit any of the kids who had already arrived and were out playing. It just wasn't in him today.

As it turned out, Uncle Bernie wasn't even mad at him, because only a few of the parents had decided to take their kids out of Camp Winituck after actually seeing the place. Decidedly fewer than in past years, and Uncle Bernie was in his glory. Maybe recruiting for next year wouldn't be too bad after all.

 

Since the disaster Nemiroff had gone through on Parents' Day, Uncle Bernie had decided it would be a good idea for Nemiroff's group to spend as much time as possible at the pool learning how to swim.

The swimming pool at Camp Winituck was the only new thing that Uncle Bernie ever added to the camp. Uncle Bernie liked having the camp look as if it might disintegrate at any moment. He felt it kept the parents on their toes, because they were afraid that if the camp did close, they would be stuck with the little bastards all summer. This way Uncle Bernie had them over a barrel when he kept raising the tuition every year for camp improvement. Only the camp was never improved with the exception of the swimming pool. And it took a near-tragedy to get the pool built. When the camp first opened, Uncle Bernie had saved the expense of building a pool simply by putting up several hundred yards of used chicken wire out in the lake that Camp Winituck was situated on. The chicken wire worked fine as far as keeping things like crabs and such out of the swimming area, but it didn't do a damn thing for the jellyfish. On the contrary, the chicken wire served as a sort of resort for the jellyfish. They swarmed inside of it by the thousands. It became a jellyfish haven. On a good day you couldn't even see the water. The campers refused to go into the water for a very simple reason. They were afraid of being stung to death.

Uncle Bernie saw financial disaster looming if he had to put in a new swimming pool, and decided that there was only one way to nip the campers' fear of jellyfish in the bud. Uncle Bernie went around screaming that they were all chicken, and to prove it, he would dive into the pool. "A couple of little stings isn't going to hurt anybody," he claimed.

To prove his point, Uncle Bernie walked to the end of the diving board and leaped into the middle of the pool. The screams were deafening, and by the time the ambulance got there Uncle Bernie was a walking welt Six weeks later, when he got out of the hospital, Uncle Bernie started the construction of the new pool.

BOOK: The Horse is Dead
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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