The canteen was crowded with campers, all ravenous after the
day's activities. To my relief, I spotted an empty place at one of the long
tables. I walked there quickly and put my tray down. Just as I did so, I felt a
bump against my hip. Then there was a clatter as a tray dropped on the table and
curry splattered everywhere. "Yikes!" Someone yelled, followed by gales of
Curry was dripping all over my new camp shirt and my new jeans, and I could not
find any humor in the situation. "Can't you look where you are going, you
clumsy oaf! And what's so funny anyway?"' I shouted, glaring at the culprit, a
lanky boy with wild hair.
"Sorry! Can't help laughing! You look so funny!" the boy sputtered, bent over
I was too annoyed to answer and just stomped away to change my clothes.
The next morning, we were all assembled for roll call, when I saw the same boy
come sprinting out of the quarters to join the lines, his unbuttoned shirt
flying behind him. Before he could slide into place, he was spotted by the Camp
Commandant. As a punishment for being late, he was made to do a hundred pushups.
As we walked past him, on the way to breakfast, I let out a loud chortle.
"Sorry. I can't help laughing. You look so funny," I said.
So the war of words began with the wild-haired boy, whose name, I found out, was
Ben. A few days later, when I had trouble rappelling, it was Ben's turn to laugh
at me and make rude jokes. Then, I had my revenge when Ben capsized his canoe.
By now, however, I was beginning to regret this "war"; there was something
mean-spirited about it.
On the last day, we went for an extended mountain trek. On the way down, I hurt
my ankle slightly. I was able to stumble on but got left further and further
behind my patrol. After some time, they were out of sight. Though, I knew I
would get back to the camp if I just kept on the track. I was getting anxious as
evening fell. I tried to walk faster but my ankle was getting worse. Then, as I
was negotiating a path that clung to the mountain side, I tripped. My unstable
feet slid on the muddy ground, and, unable to stop myself, I slid right off the
path and down the ravine.
Fortunately, my fall was stopped by a clump of
bamboo. I saw that I was about ten meters below the track. There was no way I
could climb up the slope, with my hurt ankle, which now seemed broken. I shouted
for help, but in my heart, I knew it would be in vain, as I had been left far
behind the group. All I could hope for was that they would send a search party
for me. So, I could only wait.
It got dark and I became afraid. Then, I saw a
faint light, and heard a voice calling out my name. I recognized the voice as
"Ben! Help! I'm down here!" I shouted.
Soon, I saw Ben's wild-haired
silhouette on the top of the ravine and the light of his torch shining down at
me. "Hold on. I'll be there soon," he said. In a few minutes, Ben was rappelling
down the slope. He examined my ankle and, after pronouncing it was not broken,
bound it up, gently and expertly. As he was doing so, some others from the
search party arrived. I was brought back to camp, not much the worse for my
The next day was a flurry of activities so I was unable to speak
to Ben until we were boarding the buses which would take us back to our
respective homes. Ben came from a state up north whereas I was from Johor, in
the south. "Thanks for finding me yesterday. I'm really sorry for my stupid
behavior," I started to apologize.
"That's okay. I was stupid too. We missed
the chance of being friends but, perhaps, we'll meet at another camp," Ben
"I'd like that," I said. Then it was time for the buses to
leave the camp site. So, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.