A couple friends of mine were working at this campground up on the Mississippi (on the Wisconsin side), so on weekends when I didn’t have anything to do (which was every weekend except my birthday) I’d roadtrip up on Friday after my last class and stay until sometime Monday. In a feat of logistic genius, I managed to have no Monday classes, so it seemed imperative that I make the greatest use of this three-day freedom by stalling my return to Iowa City for as long as possible. Also, being me, I was convinced this girl that worked at the soda fountain had a secret thing for me, which she’d have to reveal if I bought enough shakes and ice cream cones, and I bought a tanker truck worth of shakes that year, sipping through my crazy straw up in the crappy camp arcade tucked inside a school bus on blocks, console Joust and Burgertime and 1941 machines with initials carved in the sides. Being a writer seemed like a really good idea that year.
I can’t play pool for shit, which is lame, as both my brother and my cousins play serious pool, so I figured that summer I’d work on my pool game, but my friends weren’t into pool at all. They were smoking a lot of pot, drinking a lot of tea, and playing a lot of go, which is not a bad way to spend a summer, but when they were high these guys would take hours to finish one game, as they ruminated and pontificated and generally held court before each move. Eventually I found three Filipino kids with candy stuck in their hair who could just barely see over the table, which is probably a worse way to learn pool than just playing by yourself, but these three kids would triangulate the table, find the perfect spot, and sink any shot they managed to hit hard enough to reach a pocket. I ended up losing more games than I won that summer, and I’m kinda glad my friends weren’t there to see my constant defeat.
One of those kids lost an eye that fall, and the last time I was at the camp I saw him and his brother and his sister, all three of them wearing eyepatches even though he was the only one with a missing eye; the little sister kept switching her patch from one eye to the other, and would hold it up while we crossed the street to go get shakes.
“So what’s this, then?” said the maltshop girl. “You got a wife I don’t know about?”
“No. This is my gang. Anybody messes with me, they mess with the
“We’ll burn you!” said Eyeball.
I’m tempted to write some more about the maltshop girl, but all she did was laugh, and say goodbye when I left, and that was the last time I saw her, or the Magnaye kids, or my stoner camp friends. Though I know that can’t be right, not really, not in the way time actually took place, but that’s how I remember it, and I’m a writer now, so I guess I can remember it any way I want. All I do is remember things now, only I can’t remember anything.