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Camp Conflict boys playing chess
To my amazement, Chris just set up the pieces and started playing!

My name is Jake. I have brown hair and green eyes, and I’m eleven years old, but most importantly, I’ve always wanted to go to summer camp. Every year I beg my parents to let me go, but they always insist that it’s too expensive. It was the end of the year and I was about to confront my parents about summer camp, when they walked into my room with huge smiles glued to their faces. “This year we’re sending you and your brother off to summer camp!” my mom exclaimed.

“Hoora…” I started. “Wait, did you say me and my brother?” I inquired. I looked over at my brother, Chris. He had pale skin, sad brown eyes, and was nine years old. He had given up on the puzzle he was doing because he wasn’t able to assemble the pieces in neat rows. We both looked at my dad anxiously.

“Yes, his therapist said it could help him deal with his autism,” my dad replied.

Around other people my brother does all kinds of weird things. Going to the same summer camp as him would be a nightmare. “I won’t go!” I insisted.

“We’ll see,” said my dad.

Six days later I found myself on the bus to Sherman Hill Camp, headed straight for my doom.

As soon as we got there, we were given our cabin assignments. “Due to the fact that your brother, Chris, has autism, you will both be sleeping in Cabin D, even though he’s younger than you,” one of the counselors told me. I sighed and trudged off to my cabin.

Despite my doubts, I had a great time at camp, but for my brother it was a different story. The first day he spilled some of the water he was drinking and shrieked so loudly that, even though I was sitting on the other side of the dining hall, my ears rang for two minutes afterward. The second day I glimpsed him sobbing because the nature hike began ten minutes late. My brother didn’t utter a single word for the first two days, much less talk to anyone, and even if he did, I could tell no one would have listened. These things were all worrisome, but they were nothing compared to what happened when a boy in my bunk started bullying him.

The bullying started when a burly kid named Ned realized how important it was to my brother that his bedspread was flat. Ned was twice Chris’s size and had messy red hair. Every morning Chris would spend half an hour straightening his covers, and if anyone even touched his bed, he would get upset. One night when I got back from the evening activity I heard Chris scream. When I looked over to see what was wrong, I saw that not only were Chris’s sheets completely disheveled, but it looked like someone had poured mud all over his bed. When I scanned the room to figure out who was the culprit, I noticed that Ned’s smile was a mile wide.

All week Ned messed up Chris’s bed. The next week he asked him trivia questions and teased him when he got the answers wrong. I called Ned names and insisted I’d tell one of the counselors if he kept bullying my brother, but Ned refused to reconcile with Chris. I could hardly wait for camp to be over.

Chris had always been good at board games, so naturally he decided to participate in the chess tournament. I watched in awe as Chris beat player after player, until he finally made it to the final round. “Chris Marlow will play Ned Baker tomorrow,” said one of the counselors, and we all went back to our cabins.

The next morning at the tournament, Ned and Chris sat next to each other on the stage. Chris opened the chess board box, and water spilled all over him. Ned grinned with a sinister look on his face. I braced myself for the screams, but to my amazement, Chris just set up the pieces and started playing!

Two hours later, Chris checkmated Ned’s king and won the game. “I hate you all!” shouted Ned, then kicked my brother as hard as he could and stomped off the stage.

“Get back here!” the camp director yelled, and by the tone of his voice, I could tell that Ned wouldn’t be coming back to Sherman Hill Summer Camp. I looked over at Chris, expecting him to be paralyzed with shock. My brother was chatting with one of the kids from the semifinals. A smile lit up my face, and there was only one thought in my head: “This is going to be the best summer ever!”

Camp Conflict David Agosto-Ginsburg
David Agosto-Ginsburg, 11
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Camp Conflict Madeleine Gates
Madeleine Gates, 13
La Jolla, California