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New Writings

The incident described here launched my storytelling career. I first related it to other kids in my schooldays in the mid 60's. I thought it made me sound 'cool' or, rather, in the vernacular of the mid 60's, 'neat'.

These days, I'd probably tell it something like this:

By the early 21st Century, Vampires and Zombies were all the rage.
I must admit that my knowledge of them is rather limited. I think Vampires are all about blood and sex now while Zombies are more about blood and gore.
I'm sure there is more to it than that, but that's how I distinguish them anyway.

Not that I believe in Vampires or Zombies.

It's just that with Vampires and Zombies saturating the media so much recently, it reminded me of the first time I ever heard the word 'Zombie'. And the first time too that I ever saw someone 'Zombified'.

I was desperate to see my girlfriend. I was fourteen. You are desperate about a lot of things when you are fourteen. In fact, you are certain your desperation will kill you, if you cannot do what you simply must do.
And I simply had to see my girlfriend, Diane Tompkins. Whatever it took.

Diane Tompkins was the only girl on the planet to me.
Has there ever been anyone as beautiful? Has there ever been anyone so graceful and serene? Has there ever been anyone as hot as she was in her gym shorts?
No. That would be impossible.

And here it was the summer. No school. Long days of sunshine. Stolen kisses behind the groundskeeper's shed. Yes, the summer of 1966 promised to be hormone heaven.
But, no! No, Diane Tompkins had gone off to spend the summer as a counselor at a girls' summer camp. She would be at Padfoot Camping Grounds on the other side of the Maryland State Line.
Out in the sticks.
I was not old enough to drive. No magic transit bus existed to take me there.
I was in misery.

I'd be mortified a brighter shade of ruby-red, if my older brother even knew I liked a girl. He'd never tire of teasing me. I couldn't tell my parents. There was no one I could ask for help in getting me there.
And it is in moments like those when you remember exactly how rotten it was to be a teenager. You do not control your own destiny and nobody 'understands'.
So I was miserable. I was 'snappy-unhappy'.
Even I hated me.

And then one afternoon, after playing with some friends, I went home for lunch.
There was a letter at my place at the table.
'That came for you this morning, Ralphy,' my mother said as casually as you like.
I looked at the return address. It was from Diane! The whole and entire address! I could write to her! I was so happy I forgot all about lunch. I grabbed the letter and floated upstairs to the room I shared with my brother.

Her letter was beautiful. Perfect penmanship. The occasional drawn and colored daisy in the margins. The row of gold stars across the bottom. Lovely! As lovely as Diane Tompkins. And that's a lot of lovely.

After soaking up the aesthetics for a while, I got into the content itself.

Dear Ralphy ', she began.
I've made so many friends here at Padfoot already. Everyone's so nice! It's so much fun! We have campfires and sing-a-longs and all the little girls are so cute! And over on the other side of the lake is the Boys' camp and we meet with the boy counselors sometimes and this one boy, Max, showed me how to do archery. And I got good at it too!''

It went on like this for pages and pages. If it wasn't 'Max' teaching her how to sling her bow, it was 'Ricky' and how '
Everyone admires him, because he's just our age, but he's already one of the senior lifeguards!'
I wasn't floating so much anymore.

And then about six pages in, her tone changed.