In this cynical comedy, the teaching methods in an ultimate survival camp are about to get deadly serious...
Wilderness Survival Tip #1 Drinking your own sweat will not save your life. Somebody might have told you that, but they were trying to find out if you'd really do it.
Henry Lambert would rather play video games than spend time in the great outdoors--but that doesn't make him a wuss. Skinny nerd? Fine. But wuss is a little harsh. Sadly, his dad doesn't agree. Which is why Henry is being shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp.
Strongwoods isn't exactly as advertised. It looks like the victim of a zombie apocalypse, the "camp director" is a psycho drill sergeant, and Henry's sure he saw a sign written in blood...
Wilderness Survival Tip #2 In case of an avalanche, don't despair. You're doomed, but that's a wicked cool death.
Wilderness Survival Tip #3 If you're relying on this book for actual survival tips, you're dead already.
Praise for Jeff Strand's A Bad Day For Voodoo: "Just the thing for teen wiseacres."--Booklist "[A] free-wheeling dark comedy that starts off running and doesn't stop until all plausibility is exhausted. Sam Raimi fans should eat it up."--Publishers Weekly
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"Is your son a scrawny little wuss?" asked the man on the YouTube video.
Henry felt like he was getting a sunburn from the eyes glaring at him through the computer. Wuss? Nerd, sure. Geek, yeah. Dork, not since fifth grade. Not always operating at maximum courage levels, he could accept. But wuss was definitely going too far.
The drill-instructor narrator was bald, dressed in camouflage, and had biceps as big as a standard-sized human head. The camera zoomed in on his face and Henry could see the vein pulsing on his forehead, like he had an angry worm in there. "It doesn't have to be this way!" the narrator said, his voice echoing dramatically. "We can Fix! Your! Son!"
On the screen, a line of boys walked through the woods. One of them tripped. Another one walked into a tree branch. A third started frantically slapping at something that had crawled down the back of his shirt. The muscular man stepped into the frame and shook his head.
"Disgraceful, isn't it? It would make me want to cry, except Men! Don't! Cry! At least not after they've gone through—"
There was a whoosh and then a loud clank as the following words slammed onto the screen in manly steel letters: STRONGWOODS SURVIVAL CAMP!!! The words exploded.
It was kind of a cheesy explosion. Henry could have done a much better one on his own computer. Unfortunately, he didn't think that his dad was making him watch this video to get his opinion on the quality of the special effects.
"Two weeks at Strongwoods Survival Camp is all it takes to turn your cowardly lion into a fearless panther! He will learn how to stand up for himself...and how to survive! Whether it's school or the zombie apocalypse, our graduates fear nothing!"
A small caption read "Disclaimer: Zombie apocalypses are fictional and not part of the Strongwoods Survival Camp curriculum."
"We teach archery!" A shot of an arrow hitting a bull's-eye.
"Hand-to-hand combat!" A kid punched a bigger kid in the face, apparently knocking him unconscious with one blow.
"Water transport!" A fearless kid rode a canoe through violent rapids.
"Hunting!" A kid strangled a deer, though a caption read "Re-enactment. Do not attempt."
"And more! More! More!" The camera zoomed way too close to his face. "Strongwoods Survival Camp!" the man shouted, getting a bit of saliva on the camera lens. "Register your scrawny wimp of a son today!"
Henry's dad turned to face him. "So what do you think?"
Henry stared at the screen for several seconds before he spoke. "This is a joke, right?"
"No, it's real, and we think it would be good for you."
"See, I was kind of thinking the exact opposite. Literally. The exact opposite. One hundred and eighty degrees."
"You mean three-sixty."
Henry shook his head. "One-eighty. Three-sixty brings you back to where you started."
"Oh, you're right."
"Maybe you need geometry camp."
"Maybe you need to stop being a wise guy. Your mother and I just want what's best for you. This could be a life-changing experience."
"More like a life-ending experience."
"This could turn you into a man. How were you planning to become a man?"
"I just kind of thought my body would keep growing."
"Henry, you're a good kid. You're smart, your grades are fantastic, and we're proud of you, but there are gaps in your life skills. This will help fill some of them."
"I'm sixteen," said Henry. "I'm way too old for summer camp. That's for little kids."
"This isn't summer camp. This is survival camp. Your mother and I don't expect you to become captain of the football team or even demonstrate mild competence at bowling, but wouldn't it be nice if bullies didn't kick sand in your face?"
"Nobody has ever actually kicked sand in my face."
"And do you know why? Because you never go to the beach. And do you know why you never go to the beach? Because you're afraid of sharks."
"So? That's a good fear! It keeps me from getting eaten!"
"But it's not just sharks. You're scared of jellyfish—"
"Which sting you!"
"Monsters from hell."
"I'm not proud of that."
Okay, Henry did have a fairly long list of fears, but still...wuss was too harsh. It wasn't like he slept with a night light or peeked under the bed for tentacled monsters. He just had a healthy fear of nature's vicious predators. And seahorses.
"I never said I was scared of halibut. I said that the way they've got both eyes on the same side of their face was creepy. I didn't want to swim directly into one. What's wrong with that?"
His dad sighed. "The thing is...you could overcome these fears."
"Going out in the woods is going to conquer my fear of jellyfish?"
His father sighed. "Look, Henry, I can't force you to go. Actually, I can. That's the whole point. If you went to this camp, then nobody could force you to go to camp ever again. Don't you want strength? Don't you want self-confidence?"
Actually, Henry wanted both of those things. Though he would never, ever, ever admit this to anybody, he was always envious of the guys who could easily talk to girls or who could play team sports without embarrassing and/or hurting themselves. Not that he wanted to be a jock or anything—that would be ridiculous. Still, he was pretty sure that girls would like him once they got to know him. It would be nice to have the self-confidence to say, "Hi, I'm Henry. Wanna get to know me?" (He wouldn't say it in quite that manner of course. That was just the general concept of what he'd say if he had self-confidence.)
But he didn't want to acquire those skills at a camp with that guy in the video bellowing at him for two weeks. Henry was short, skinny, and nerdy/geeky—the ultimate prey for a noisy bodybuilder.
"Are you sure Mom wants me to go?"
"Then why are we talking about it when she's in Delaware for the week?"
"Your mother may not be quite as sold on the idea as I am, but she definitely agrees with the general concept...in theory."
"Do I still have to scoop ice cream when I get back?"
"Yes. Anyway, I'll give you some time to think about it, but you should go with Randy."
"Wait a minute—Randy's going?"
"It's gonna be the greatest thing ever!" Randy shouted, forcing Henry to hold the phone a couple of feet away from his ear. "Two weeks of awesome sauce!"
"It looks like two weeks of torture sauce," Henry said. They'd been best friends since kindergarten and Henry was used to Randy being extremely enthusiastic about things, but these things were usually related to Facebook posts rather than physical exertion. Randy got out of breath if he ate corn on the cob too quickly.
"Are you kidding me? Did you even look at the website? There are going to be survival games just like The Hunger Games in real life!"
"Well, that might be kind of cool," Henry admitted.
"This'll be the best summer of our lives."
"You understand that there won't be any girls there, right?"
"So?" Randy asked. "What difference does it make if there are zero girls at survival camp or eight hundred girls here that we don't talk to?"
"Good point. Good, depressing point."
"Anyway, there is an all-girl camp somewhere around there, although I think it's more about music and less about violence."
"Well, that's encouraging," said Henry. "Maybe we can get more dates if we ask at crossbow point. So we're really going to do this, huh?"
"I don't know about you, but I am."
"All right, all right. Then I guess I am too. But I have a bad fee—"
"Sorry, gotta go. Talk to you tomorrow."
"Do you realize it's two thirty in the morning?" Henry's dad asked, walking into the living room, fastening his bathrobe.
Henry kept his attention on the TV screen. "Yeah."
"Have you considered going to bed?"
"It's going to be two weeks without video games. I have to play enough now to sustain myself through that time."
"That game actually looks kind of cool."
"It is. And it's helping me build my survival skills before camp."
In this game, mummies had taken over the world, and the player's job was to kill them. It was kind of astonishing how many ways there were to kill a mummy. Though Henry could safely say that there would not be any mummy-killing exercises at camp, the dexterity and problem-solving skills he was demonstrating now would help him in real life, right?
"All right. Whatever. Have fun."
WILDERNESS SURVIVAL TIP!
Ninety-seven percent of our nation's ponds are filled to the top with piranha, which can skeletonize a cow in seconds. If you value your cow, don't shove it into a pond.