By Tuesday night everyone who would be kicked out was already gone and the rest of the campers had settled into a nice grove. People were making new friends and some were coupling up but Nolan wasn’t really the type to make fast friends. He kept most people at arms length for the first couple of years he knew them and certainly no-one at a one week long camp would make a memorable impression. Not that he didn’t like many of the other kids, he did like them. Nolan liked a lot of people but he couldn’t let people into his weird little world without knowing they would be around awhile. He let people in closer to him in very small, gradual stages.
Even without any new friends Nolan was getting to be friends with Vince. They were in the dorm together and playing basketball together every day. Plus after Vince’s big brother got into that fight, Vince opened up and started telling Nolan what it was like in his world. He was the youngest of five kids, three boys and two girls; and they moved a lot from rent house to rent house. He and his brothers and sisters fought a lot but they also fought together around the neighborhood. They were all like a team when the other kids tried to fight one of them. Nolan didn’t live in a neighborhood like this and it all sounded so interesting yet foreign to him.
Vince had plenty of friends at school, the girls at camp seemed to like him and he was tough from his home life. It was pretty helpful for a guy like Nolan to know a guy like Vince. He started teaching Nolan to work on his basketball and how to punch harder by playing a game where you punch each other in the arm. This was a new sort of world for Nolan and he desperately needed it, so he tagged along with Vince all over camp. When afternoon chapel time came along the two were thick as thieves and they sat together. Vince was enjoying how quiet Nolan was and that he would actually listen to him. His family didn’t spend much time listening to him, so when he found a Nolan’s listening ear Vince just talked and talked. It worked out good for Nolan because he preferred someone else do the talking so he didn’t say anything too weird.
After the singing out came today’s speaker, the witch lady from Nolan’s dreams. She spoke fluent Christianese but something about what she was saying just didn’t sit right with Nolan. Of course, nothing about a witch from his dream manifesting in real life sat right with him. She began to tell the story of Jesus on the donkey. She told about how most people considered it humble but donkey’s were very expensive animals in that time. She told the whole story from unusual perspectives like that and really negated a lot of the meaning that Nolan usually attributed to some of these things. He wasn’t that well educated in the Bible though, so he couldn’t put what was wrong with it into words or clear concise thoughts even.
In the middle of her sermon, as she made eye contact with various people and used very expressive body language, she looked into the Nolan’s eyes and pointed at him ever so briefly. “What if a snake had crawled out in front of that donkey?” She said this in the making of a larger point and she looked on at other people and moved her arms in different directions as engaging public speakers do. But those words struck Nolan with an unusual force. He felt the words strike him in the chest and he began to be very anxious, though he didn’t know what anxiety was called at that time in his life. He just knew he was uncomfortable and ready to get out of there.
Soon the sermon was over and the kids had free time for a few hours. Vince asked Nolan if he had money for the snack bar. Nolan did and Vince’s family was a little too poor to send him and all the other kids with cash. There were three meals a day provided and that would have to be enough. Nolan didn’t snack much and hadn’t spent any of his money snacking yet, so he didn’t mind sharing. Nolan needed something to get his mind off of the strange words from the sermon hitting him in the chest. It wasn’t like he could tell anyone, it wouldn’t make sense to them. So off they ran to the dorm to get Nolan’s money out of his suitcase.
Vince waited outside the door as Nolan ran in. He pulled his suitcase out from under the bed. It was cracked a little because he never bothered to close it all the way. He opened it up on the floor and reached for where he kept his money. He saw what looked like a rubbed snake sitting in the bottom and he just knew some idiot was playing a practical joke. As he opened the suitcase further to get a closer look, the snake began to move. He jerked his hand back out, dropped the lid back closed and ran like hell. He ran right past Vince and went running through the camp looking for adults. Over and over again he yelled, “There’s a snake in my suitcase, there’s a snake in my suitcase!”
One of the youth pastor’s from his church listened to Nolan and ran up to the dorm. He pulled the suitcase out into the road with a stick. A crowd began to gather and Nolan remembered this from his dream before camp. He had thought about it yesterday, he knew it was coming but he couldn’t tell when or how. He also remembered the words of the witch, “What if a snake had crawled out in front of that donkey?” It felt spooky, especially since he knew what was about to happen for the next minute or so. Sure enough it went exactly as his dream had predicted. The youth pastor opened the suitcase with the stick, spread Nolan’s underwear all over the road and the crowd laughed. Then out he pulled a diamond back rattlesnake. He carried it off into the woods and nothing else was said about it.
Nolan’s underwear was the center of attention for the whole camp but Nolan was concerned that he could have been killed reaching for snack money. No one really seemed to care, so he went over in the laughter and picked up his underwear. He loaded his things back up, got out his money and put his suitcase away. This time he would be sure to latch it closed every time. Then off he went to get candy bars and snow cones and nachos with Vince. Nolan told his story an annoying number of times but he felt like it was the most interesting thing happening. He had been cursed and protected from the curse in the invisible realm but nobody else noticed the war, all anyone saw was his underwear.