When I was a teenager I went to The Lord’s Bootcamp (TLB), twice. Not because I was an awful kid, on the contrary, I was a perfect pastor’s kid. Rather, because I was going on a mission trip and TLB is where they train you. Anyways, what I remember most about TLB is not the sermons, getting closer to God, crying, studying my Bible, or really any of the classes we took (other than puppeteering and an intense sermon about how those who masturbate are going to Hell).
I remember the heat, an intensive humidity that made my clothes cling to my skin the second I stepped off the bus. Being forced to walk in a single file line everywhere we went. Rules forbidding pairing off, whether that being romantic or best friends. And mosquitoes. Holy Hell were there mosquitoes! They were everywhere. At the start of camp it was not uncommon to spray bug spray on yourself practically every hour. By the end of the two weeks the humid air was so thick with the spray that it was no longer necessary to apply more than when waking up in the morning at 5AM.
I got into the habit of checking my tent thoroughly for mosquitoes every night so that my exposed limbs wouldn’t get eaten up over the night. Whoever my tent-mate was at the time and I would slowly move our flashlights over every inch of the fabric walls and kill the unsuspecting blood suckers.
The third day of my second round at TLB we were switching tent-mates and I saw a Florida Tarantula fall into my soon to be abode. Naturally I freaked out, those things are huge! Several inches in size, gray and fuzzy – creepy little dudes. I called for my leader to come get it out of my tent. He reached in, said he got it, and told me, “next time you’re getting it yourself.” I would later learn that he was a pathological liar and a crazy person, but at the moment he was the head leader who was supposedly a man after God’s own heart, like King David, obviously we trusted him.
That night my tent-mate and I were checking for mosquitoes, there weren’t any (which was unheard of) but when my flashlight landed on my pillow there it was. The spider! Sitting right in the middle of where my head was about to go. Panic stuck me, at first I was in shock unable to move. Part of me wanted to run, another wanted to cry, and another wished I was bold enough to kill the freaky guy on the spot. But instead I sat there panting, my tent-mate equally silent beside me.
He began to move. Slowly, so fucking slowly, as if he was a lion on the hunt. I swear he could tell that I was terrified. His moving launched me into reality, I started screaming, crying, pleading for someone to come help me as the fuzzy jackass slowly crawled in my direction – my tent-mate silent on the other side of the tent quietly crying.
Eventually a different male leader came up to the tent, “are you decent?” he asked.
“Huh? There’s a huge spider in here and its crawling towards me.” I responded.
“But are you decent?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m fully clothed.” I was getting frustrated with the man. Who cares, I thought, just come save me from the tarantula.
He unzipped the tent and reached over me with a towel in his hand, grabbed my hairy enemy. Shortly after he came back to inform me that I needed to take care of it myself next time.
After he left I heard a girl crying. Then I heard him comforting her. It was absolute bullshit (though I didn’t swear at the time, I just thought it was unfair) she was upset because she heard that someone had a giant spider in their tent. I was upset because I had said spider in my tent. But I got no sympathy, in fact, I was scolded for not being more brave. Now, I can’t be certain of the particular breed of the tarantula on my pillow, but I do remember what it looked like so here’s a picture. Would you be brave? Especially if you were only seventeen?
Just looking at this picture makes me uneasy.