5 Shorts From Fun Camp

Gabe Durham

Gabe Durham


Here light the delusions of the coddled. Here persuade Deb not to unjustly inflate egos at the craft hut, since Braden’s train wreck of a bead bracelet was neither “inventive” nor “a labor of love” and Randi’s kitty sculpture was an insult to the kiln it crumbled in. Here may we better utilize the tetherball court. Here may campers refrain from saying “punk” when they mean “prank.” Here may we grant merit to the long-dead’s shruggy explanations for the sun’s once-mysterious patterns. Here quench trees, bolster defenses against each summer’s parade of closet pyros. Here prove nature’s got its moments. Here honor scrapes as proof. Here urge Grant and Kyle to make sure the unsuspecting volunteer they pick from the audience during the Ugliest Man in the World skit isn’t actually one of the ugly kids. Here remind Candice it’s not her responsibility to break up the pack of Hispanic girls or to impose a language everyone can enjoy. Here reward resistance to inoculation. Here may we, come Sunday, require a whole day and night of recovery sleep. Here may we honor the Lutheran couple who founded this ranch, their names irrelevant to their legacy, their breath cold on our necks.


Maybe some rule where everybody has to be nice and talk to you and not move away when you sit by them since it is hard and I am trying.

Chucky Bucky

I agree it’s unfair that a kid somewhere choked—a precocious little weed cut short before etcetera, but the greater loss is that she took Chubby Bunny to the grave with her. Every six minutes a kid drowns from pool cancer, and yet I swam for two hours today, played Chicken Fight most of that time, and if I’d died, you wouldn’t’ve see mine or anybody else’s parents calling up to get the pool slabbed over in my memory. But one kid—one kid—chokes on a mouthful of mallow and the mollycoddlers get a beloved tradition banned for life, one where the risk was part of the excitement in the first place. Listen to these rules pretending you’ve never heard them before: Each player puts a big marshmallow in his mouth, does not swallow, says “chubby bunny,” adds another big marshmallow, says “chucky bucky,” adds another, tries not to choke, says “chuh-ee uh-eee,” and stuffs in another one or five or thirteen until one player is left standing. Remind you of any other games with the word Chicken in the title? Those worried about asphyxiation turn back early, spit their goo into a bucket, and hit the water fountain. Those who want to win proceed. Without the risk, Chuh-ee Uh-ee would be nothing at all, kid stuff.

Bean People

Today we make bean people. We’ll each glue six to ten beans to a sheet of construction paper—light-colored is best, blue or gray or yellow, so the beans look like they’re three-dimensional, which they are. Then we’re going to paint faces on the beans, different expressions but especially smiling, and draw legs and arms on the paper around the beans. Hands and feet too if you like. Shirts and ties and jobs and bills, fill out the lives of your bean people with the richness of your imaginations. You can make them into fish, cats, dogs, birds, bugs, whatever. You can make them skate, ski, crawl, fly, any G-rated thing at all, just by drawing what their limbs are doing. But before we begin, let’s pass the big sack of beans around, careful not to spill, and each take a turn reaching a hand in deep. Aren’t the bean cool and smooth? They almost feel wet, don’t they? This is one of those shortcuts to pleasure, kids, sticking your hand deep in some beans. We don’t ask why it’s so good, we just be thankful. A few hundred more delights like this and you’ve got a life worth living.

Logistically, A Real Momentum-Wrecker

One night at skits back when I was a camper, one of the tight-jeaned older heartthrob guys from Cabin 1 got up and said, “Here’s a song I like,” and they’d rigged up the PA to play a seven-minute David Bazan song, the first I’d heard by him. I later acquired the guy’s whole catalogue, listened my way through Bazan’s ascent/descent from sleepy Christian sweetiepie to conflicted Christian questioner to pissed-off agnostic antagonizer. All his best music is from that middle period when Bazan was in the thick of it. The track in question, “Secret of the Easy Yoke” (off Bazan’s best and most conflicted disc, It’s Hard to Find a Friend), is a gorgeous downer about wanting to know God while ever-put off by His parishioners. “I still have never seen you,” Bazan sings in the chorus, “and some days I don’t love you at all.” After the bridge, there’s an instrumental verse that functions as an outro. When the song finished playing that night at skits, the heartthrob got back up and told of the time he saw Bazan play the song live. Bazan allegedly played it just as he had on the album until the third (no longer instrumental) verse, in which he sang, “In a moment, I’m alive again.” So after the show, heartthrob asked Bazan why he didn’t sing the line on the album version. Bazan said, “Because that’s the verse where I reconcile with God. But you have to figure that part out for yourself.” And I thought, This guy talked to a musician after a concert? Badass. And then Brent bought all the albums and then I bought all the albums. And on YouTube there’s a video of Bazan playing the song live in 2007 and he just ends it at the bridge.


Gabe Durham lives with his wife in Nashville, TN. He’s a recent graduate of the MFA program at UMass, Amherst. He edits Keyhole Magazine and gives away free words at gatherroundchildren.com. These shorts are from a project called Fun Camp. You can read more of them in Hobart, Quick Fiction, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere.


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