'How Best to Avoid Dying: Stories'

An excerpt

'How Best to Avoid Dying: Stories'
Photo By Will Van Overbeek

From "The Martyrs of Mountain Peak"

Kent is dead. All the kids at the camp are crying and singing and praying. They don't know that it was my turn, not his.

Rich is standing in front of us leading the songs. The ten kids who had Kent as a counselor are huddled in the front row. Already seven of them have announced that they've given their lives to Christ – although one is actually regiving his life, since he already gave his life to Christ as a sophomore, but since then he's been smoking pot. None of the kids I counsel have given their lives to Christ, but they look pretty sad. ...

A few kids sob out loud. Kent had been trying to beat the Camp Mountain Peak speed record on the waterslide when he died. According to the slide's digital timer, the record is 23.2 seconds, which I set way back in June. Kent was obsessed with beating it. He was competitive like that, which is totally not the point of Camp Mountain Peak. Rumor has it that when the panel gave he was wearing Speedos and had greased up with baby oil. Total pride. For one thing, counselors aren't allowed to wear Speedos or two-pieces in the swimming area. When I was a camper here five years ago, not even kids could wear Speedos or two-pieces, but they've laxed. And baby oil? I mean, what's Christ-like about baby oil? I was going to die on the ropes course, fully dressed.

"No, the waterslide that Kent is riding right now is faster and wilder than our slide and no chance of falling out, and even if he did, he'd just fall on a cloud instead of down a cliff. You know Kent is just loving that." Kids nod along. Rich crouches down and kind of whispers so all the kids have to lean in to listen. "He's looking down right now on us here and feeling sorry for us. Probably wondering why we're so sad when he's having such a blast. Probably hoping that we're buying a ticket for the Camp Mountain Peak he's at. Only we can't afford that camp. We can't even make a down payment. The price is way out of range. You know why? The price for that camp is perfection. Anyone perfect out there?"

'How Best to Avoid Dying: Stories'

All the kids shake their heads back and forth.

"Didn't think so," Rich says and stands up. "But it's okay because you know who bought the ticket for us? Jesus did. He is perfect and with his own blood Jesus bought us all a pass to the best camp you can imagine, and it doesn't last just two weeks, it lasts forever and ever." He stretches his arms out, trying to show how much forever is.

"And you got to know," Rich says, looking real profound. "The waterslide is the only route from the ledge to the pool, and just like that Jesus is the only path that splashes into Heaven. Nothing else works. Jesus is our waterslide."

I'd heard this several times before, though the part about the waterslide was new. Every two weeks a fresh group of teenagers from all over America comes to Camp Mountain Peak, and every two weeks a counselor dies. It's become an unofficial policy. Always an accident. One of us just acts a little less careful and the rest of us let it happen. end story

Excerpted from How Best to Avoid Dying: Stories by Owen Egerton. Copyright © 2007 by Owen Egerton. Reprinted by arrangement with Dalton Publishing.

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