“But mommmmm, I don’t want to go to this stupid basketball camp. It sounds super gay,” said thirteen-year-old Andrew Wiggins, who sat, arms crossed and scowling, in the back of his mom’s minivan. “We can turn back right now and I’ll forgive you.”
“But Andy honey, it will be fun!” his mother responded cheerily, not taking her eyes off the road. “Don’t you want to play against someone new?”
Andrew’s mom sighed. “I promise you’ll have a good time. Anyway, we already paid, and there’s no refunds, so you really don’t have a choice in the matter.”
Andrew glared at the cars driving in the opposing lane. “Why couldn’t you have made Nick go?” he asked, referring to his older brother. “Maybe the camp would teach him how to not be so retarded at basketball.”
“Don’t talk about your brother that way,” his mom scolded. “And if you don’t like something, the word ‘retarded’ is not how you express it.”
“Well, I think that’s retarded,” Andrew replied. “And I think this camp is going to be really gay.”
The minivan pulled up in front of the field house of the small college where the camp was being held. Other campers, all between the ages of twelve and fifteen, were already milling around, trying to look like they were too cool to be there. Andrew could see one of them trying to pretend like he couldn’t hear his mom saying goodbye.
“Here we are!” exclaimed Andrew’s mom, her cheeriness having returned. “Do you have your duffel bag?”
“Duh, of course I do. I’m not retarded. This isn’t a retard camp, is it?”
Turning around and looking at her son in the back seat, Andrew’s mom said, “With that attitude, the coaches aren’t going to ever put you in the game.”
Andrew shrugged. “Like I care. They probably already know that I’m better than everybody here.” He grabbed his bag, which contained a week’s worth of clothes and Gatorade, and hopped out of the car. “Could you leave, like, really quickly? I don’t want anybody to see me talking to my mom.”
“No goodbye hug?”
Andrew leaned back into the car and briefly put his arm on his mom’s shoulder. “There. Now can you go away?” He turned away and walked towards the registration table. If he had looked back, he would have seen a tear run down his mother’s face as she watched his retreat.
“This will be your room,” said Brad, one of the counsellors. “You can hang out in here if you want, but the action’s down in the gym.”
“There’s two beds in here. Do I have to share?” Andrew asked, eying the set of bunkbeds with suspicion.
“Sharing is what makes it fun!” Brad said, clapping his hands in such a sincerely excited way that it made Andrew feel sorry for him. “I bet by the end of the week that you and your roommate will want to text each other the whole summer!”
“I bet not,” Andrew responded surlily, putting down his duffel bag on the bottom bunk to claim it for himself. “Especially not after I dunk on his ass.”
“Hey now, no trash talking allowed!” Brad said, smiling but also serious. “It looks like you’re getting settled in, so I’ll leave you alone. Remember, curfew is at nine, no exceptions, and breakfast starts at 8:30. If you lose your schedule you can get another one at camp HQ in the gym lobby.”
Andrew watched the man leave, then sat down on the bed. Why couldn’t his mom understand that he was past the point of attending these stupid camps? He already had all the skills he needed. He didn’t need some dopy coach lecturing him about teamwork while everybody around him missed wide open layups.
“So you must be the fag I have to share a room with,” came a voice from the door.
Andrew looked up. “You didn’t bring that Brad guy with you?”
“Nah, I’ve been to this camp before, I know my way around.” The speaker was an older-looking black boy with a sparse growth of hair on his chin. “What’s your name?”
“Cool. I’m Mario, but everybody calls me Dooby.” Dooby dropped his backpack and suitcase in the corner. “I guess I get the top bunk, seeing as your faggot ass is taking up the bottom one.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Andrew said. “I hope you don’t bring your boyfriend in here while I’m trying to sleep.”
Dooby laughed. “I can give it, so I guess I gotta receive it. Wait, that sounded gay. I’m trying to say, I called you a fag, so you called me a fag. We’re even, right?” He held out his fist to bump.
Andrew nodded and received the bump. “Right,” he confirmed, smiling for the first time since he had arrived at the camp.
“I knew I could get through to you. Everybody here thinks they’re too cool to be here. I’m just gonna have fun, play some ball, and eat some crappy cafeteria food.”
Scoffing, Andrew responded, “Fun? Maybe if you’re in special ed. I bet we spend tomorrow morning learning how to tie our shoes and then after lunch we dribble in a straight line while the coaches clean up our drool.”
“Oh, we’ll have fun,” Dooby said. “Don’t worry.”