Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bad Book Choices

Today, I'm going to tell you the story of the worst book choice I ever made.

The book itself wasn't bad, mind you. It was the timing that sucked. Back in the summer of 2000, I worked at as a camp counselor at a Girl Scout camp in Illinois. My future husband was going home to Sweden during summer break from college; this gave me something to do, and maybe a little bonus adventure. Unless you count the first two years of my life, I'd never lived anywhere but Pennsylvania. Illinois isn't exactly exotic, but it's not spelled P-E-N-N-S-Y-L-V-A-N-I-A, either.

Problem was, I didn't know anyone in Illinois. That meant I had two choices during the one-or-two day breaks between sessions--stay with a host family, or stay in camp alone.

There was never really a choice for me. As a socially-awkward introvert, the simple thought of staying at a strange family's house, eating their weird food, making polite conversation and hanging on as an extra wheel in their weekend family activities, was enough to make me shudder. So I told the director I preferred to stay at camp. I was the only one who did.

And I. Loved. It. Loved it. After a week of screaming, crying six- to thirteen-year-old girls, it was bliss. I was alone in the woods. Miles from civilization. It was so quiet. I could get up at whatever hour I wanted, read a book, use the payphone to call my parents or fiance and stay on as long as I wanted, raid the kitchen for whatever I wanted to eat, lounge on the staffhouse get the idea.

So, preparing for one of these blissfully quiet weekends, I caught a ride to Walmart and bought a book.

It was a new Stephen King, one I hadn't read yet. And, being Stephen King, I didn't even glance at the back cover copy before I bought it; it was a default decision. I didn't give it a second thought. Horror doesn't really creep me out; mostly I find it more exciting than scary.

I kept myself busy throughout the first day alone, so I didn't get a chance to read until after the sun went down, and I was stretched out on my cot in my platform tent. I turned on my taplight and started to read. And realized what a terrible mistake I'd made.

The book was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It's about a nine-year-old girl who gets lost in the woods and is pursued by a monster. Definitely not the kind of book you want to be reading when you're alone in the woods. So alone that, before everyone leaves for the weekend, you're given a radio. On the other end is the park ranger, who's available 24-7--but that "other end" is three miles away.

Also definitely not the book you want to be reading on the night the pack of coyotes living behind the Pine Tree campsite one up from yours start a sing-a-long. Or the night when several raccoons/possums/some-damn-things are having a dance party out behind your tent. And certainly not on the night when thunder is rumbling continuously overhead, and the wind from the storm keeps snapping the heavy canvas tent sides inches away from your head.

But did I stop reading? Nope. Neither wind nor rain nor howling coyotes will keep me from a good book. I finished the book around 1:30 a.m., just when the storm hit full-throttle. Which was fine. I didn't get a whole lot of sleeping done that night, anyway.

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