Pedro Mairal

Both first and second grade are putting down the tents, packing their backpacks. The weekend in Maschwitz is over, the first camping of our lives. We camped beside a lake, under these tall eucalyptus trees that cover the ground with curved green and pink and yellow leaves. We had to bring a list of things: sleeping bag, flashlight, mug, canteen, bug repellent, compass, ten meter nylon rope. It was fun unpacking all that equipment during the weekend, but now we have to put it away and things lie scattered around without an owner. Mr. Gomez, our gym teacher whose moustache gets crooked when he is furious, is checking one by one, helping us close our backpacks. Last night I wet my sleeping bag. Nobody knows that. Mr. Gomez empties the back packs that are not done properly and packs them all over again. He unfolds sleeping bags in full day light to fold them again. That’s bad. They are going to notice my piss.

Last night I tried to concentrate not to wet my sleeping bag but I forgot. At some point I fell a sleep without remembering that, because we were having fun with Vaca and Crespo and Miguel, we were excited about the novelty of sleeping in a tent. We tried out our flashlights on Fidalgo’s face while he slept, we bitched about him until he said I’m awake and I heard everything, so we laughed even louder. Then at some point I fell asleep without remembering and the next morning I felt I was wet and I prayed that it was just sweat but it wasn’t, and the worst thing was that it showed. I know there are even worst things, that others were really in trouble. For example, Diego Larroque almost hanged himself with the ten meter nylon rope while playing executions with Rosemberg; he kicked a bit and Mr. Inschauspe ran and saved him. Or Teubal and Giménez who got lost because they went really far away while trying to test the compass. Or Manfredi who stuck a fishing hook in his finger and the drivers of the bus had to take it off with pliers. But that doesn’t comfort me. The situation is bad all the same.

I try to close my back pack neatly so that Mr. Gomez doesn’t unpack it, but I cant, I have too may things, and corners of things are sticking out all over the place. What was well folded before is now a bundle that takes up three times the space and doesn’t fit anywhere. Mr. Gomez is already beside me, with Aguirre. I’m next. Aguirre’s backpack doesn’t look good, and Mr. Gomez empties it. When he is trying to fold the sleeping bag, he notices a dark circle. I see it too and I’m surprised that Aguirre belongs to the same secret brotherhood as I do. Mr. Gomez smells the dark circle and asks him: Did you wet yourself? Aguirre nods slightly as if saying: Yes, but let’s keep it between ourselves, shall we? “We’ll have to dry this”, says Mr. Gomez and, very naturally, without even suspecting that he is traumatizing my poor comrade for life, hangs the sleeping bag from the branch of a tree. Laugher starts building up, the sleeping bag waves in the breeze with the dark circle in the middle. It’s the flag of the bed wetters.

I take advantage of the distraction, grab my things and walk away as if I were looking for something. “I forgot my canteen at the lake,” I cry out loud although no one is listening to me. I reach the lake; I take out my canteen and start filling it up holding my backpack with just one strap. The movement comes out quite right: a common slip on a slimy stone, quite possible, and the backpack is in the water. The delay in pulling it out is also believable, because it’s totally soaked and heavy. It’s an absolute triumph and I have no problem at all facing all the picking on me and the jokes. I even fearlessly confront Mr. Gomez’s punishment. He makes me pull out every thing and lay it on the grass. I do it calmly hiding my grin because everything is evenly wet and dark. My piss flag is totally unnoticeable and I wish that every time I slept over at a friend’s house I could open all the taps and drench the whole room the morning after or sink the whole house in the bottom of the sea just to avoid the terrible evidence of the wet mattresses drying under the sun.