By Antony Buonomo
I was about 12. The Blob was a little older, maybe 15. He was loud and rough, and the two boys who helped him were rewarded with cigarettes and the occasional can of the cheapest lager. He snarled at you if you looked at him, and then laughed at you if you turned away. His two helpers laughed with him. I don't know how he got the beer. The nearest shop was about half an hour from the campsite. Maybe he had brought them in, or maybe one of the helpers trekked out to buy them.
He mostly wore children's dungarees, as he was basically just a torso with flippers for arms, hands, legs and feet. When he wanted to be lifted somewhere, out of, or into his wheelchair maybe, his helpers would just grab the cross straps on his back and lift. I can't remember if it took two of them, or if he was small enough for just one of them to do it. He looked dense, like a badly formed pile of pale pink rubber, but I can’t remember how large he was. I think my memory makes him bigger than he really was. He called himself The Blob.
He slept in another dormitory, so the only times I really saw him were at communal activities. I saw him at mealtimes. Even though his reach was very short, he could manage to hold a fork and feed himself by getting into a hunched position over the table.
He didn't really attend all the campfire stuff, the storytelling and the singing, but I saw him a few times at the outdoor pool. It was an English summer, so the water was always cold and full of leaves and insects. I hated getting into the water, but happy enough when I was in, although I dreaded a huge dead spider or beetle drifting toward me as I took a mouthful of water and spat it out.
To get into the water, I was lifted out of my wheelchair and placed at the top of a shallow ramp that descended into the pool. Sitting up, I slowly shuffled my way deeper into the water. When it reached somewhere around the middle of my chest, natural buoyancy took over and I could gently paddle my way into the pool proper.
One time, near the end of that week, as I was inching my way into the water, I heard a loud splash next to me, and turned.
The Blob had been placed down next to me, and he looked at me, smiling. I was nervous immediately. I didn't know whether to wait for him to go deeper, or just carry on. He had bright orange inflatable armbands up near the top of each flipper, almost at his shoulders.
The only way he could get around on his own was with some kind of waddling arse movement. He would rock slightly to one side, then twist his body so that one of his arse cheeks moved forward slightly. And then using that new position, he would rock in the other direction, and then do the same with the other cheek. It took a lot of effort, but he could move pretty quickly.
We were still in quite shallow water, so this method worked very well for him, as the water took a lot of his weight and he had to expend less effort. In any case, he wasn't far from me, so it only took a couple of seconds for him to come right up next to me. He still hadn't said anything. He saw I was scared.
I wanted to get away, so I tried to move faster, to get into deeper water, and away. I tried to shuffle quicker, but he leaned into to me and I didn't have enough strength to push him away. I fell backwards into the water, and he rolled onto my chest with his back pressing me down. He was laughing. He must have judged it perfectly, because the water just about covered my mouth and nose, and I started to panic.
I don't remember how long I was under. I remember his wet flabby body, and how heavy it felt, and how relieved I was when he rolled away, and I floated to the surface. I was coughing and crying, but no one had noticed anything. I don't remember if I saw him again.