The Sword in the Stump

Tuesdays are bowling days for Rob Khale. He gets off early. Daniel the Wielder got sick fighting a fire yesterday, and so on until I was the only one left at the end of the day. My boss Rob Whorton called and asked me to lock up.

“I’ll pop, lock, and drop it up,” I answered. He ended the conversation by telling me I was reaching.

I found out that Juan was also there. There were no more engines to repair, so he came to help me cut up fallen trees along the fence line. Sometimes I accidentally speak to him in Turkish.

“Juan. Watch out – SEJAK!”


“Oh – um…it’s hot. The engine’s hot.”


When camp first opened and I first joined as a counselor, there was a special landmark near the wooden ampitheater where each camper’s morning begins. It was called the Sword in the Stump, and every child knew it’s name. Counselors told a legend that there was indeed a special sword at the bottom of this hollow stump next to the canoe pond. Brave boys would cautiously approach and dip their hands in before running back to their friends saying, “Can’t do it, I JUST CAN’T!”

There was a repeat camper named Dances. I can’t remember his real name because he would only answer to Dances or Dances With Wolves. He liked Transformers and baggy shirts with nature scenes. As a pudgy nine year old with curly black hair, Dances was convinced of by the legend of the Sword in the Stump. He boldly approached it and stuck his entire arm down to the roots. When he pulled it out of the stump, his arm was orange up to the shoulder. He then threw up all over his nature themed shirt.

There is now a rule against the Sword in the Stump.

I bring this up because today I was given a special job. Though there is no longer a stump, there is now a small concrete bubble at the water’s edge. It houses PVC pipes and a pump. After 250 gallons of canoe pond water were pumped out, I was given a pair of wading boots and a dust pan and told to lower myself down. I spent the next thirty minutes in a tiny ball, leaning forward on my toes and scrapping dead leaves out of the muck with a broken plastic scoop. This was a place where peasant rats are unjustly locked up by their lords. This was the place where raccoons hide dead bodies and pray they decompose before raccoon CSI puts it together. This was the new Sword in the Stump.

While I was in this hole, Terry Faulkenberry, the fifty-year-old jack of all trades, crouched over the opening and dumped out the refuse buckets I handed him. I told him the story of Dances and the Sword in the Stump. He laughed and said he hadn’t heard that one before.

“But you think this is bad,” he said, “wait a couple of months until you have to muck out waste water.”

Thanks, Terry.


3 thoughts on “The Sword in the Stump

  1. Hi! I really enjoyed this piece!
    I also really like the image of the sword in the stump. Did you do that yourself? Or do you know where I can find the original image?

      1. Yeah, I tried the reverse search and this was the only page that popped up.
        I’ll keep looking…

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