Tipping the Scale of Suckocity


by
Kelley Hunter





Chapter One


I was thinking five, maybe. Three, if I took really big steps.
That’s about how many it would take to reach the smart aleck kid by hole seven. Then I could steal his club and whack him with it if he opened his mouth one more time.
“What’s your problem,” the kid asked, startling me. His whiny voice cracked on the word “your.” He looked all of twelve, maybe, making him that trying age where boys thought they were all manly and smart but didn’t even know how to use, or even spell, deodorant yet. “Why are you glaring at me? It’s not like I said you were a bad wench.”
I gaped at him. So, what, he thought I was a good wench? Like that made it all better? “For the last time, I am not a w—”
“Hey, if you’re a wench, you’re a wench,” he continued. “Historically, it was a common pursuit for some women.”
Now that was the final straw. I was a lot of things, and I preferred to believe most of them were even good, but me, a common wench? So not.
“I’m a pirate,” I explained through gritted teeth, as I’d already explained to at least, oh, four hundred gazillion tourists since Memorial Day.
“A female pirate, see?” I whirled and let my skirts flair around me, purposely exposing the plastic shank tied to my calf. “I’m dressed like a p-i-r-a-t-e. Not to mention an armed one. Get it?”
The boy shrugged. His glasses hung crookedly on his nose, making him look unbalanced.  With that spiky black hair of his, he reminded me of an off-kilter sort of Harry Potter wanna be. Only without the chic, just the geek.
“Well, considering there really weren’t any female pirates, I’d definitely say you look like a wench,” he said. “You are what you are. Don’t you watch Oprah? You should embrace your identity. Maybe you have insecurity issues?”
“Are you serious?” What kind of twelve-year-old watched Oprah?  Or cared that wenching was historically a common pursuit? “My self-esteem is just fine,” I said. “And for your information, there were too female pirates.”
Someone snorted.
I spun to see a line of eavesdropping golfers had backed up almost three holes behind us. Not that unusual as hole seven was the bane of my existence. That’s the putt where you had to sink your ball into the treasure chest and not the scum-coated pond below it. No one ever did, though, and for some strange reason ordinarily sane people had no qualms about breaking the rules. Rather than take the two-minute walk back for another they’d just wade right into the disgusting water after theirs. So my job was to stand about ten feet away from it, be the official deterrent, and keep the lines moving along. In reality, I was the now the newest attraction to be gaped at.
A wiry biker guy at the line’s head snorted again and turned to his partner. “I could have sworn she was a wench,” he said. “Maybe she’s a bar maid instead?”
“Of course she’s a wench. What do you mean she’s not a wench,” the other biker asked. He frowned a weird sort of disapproving frown at me, all while fiddling with the buckle on his leather jacket. Which was crazy, because really, who the heck wears a ratty leather jacket in July? When it was ninety degrees out? And then feels they’re entitled to pass judgment on my attire?
“Well, maybe not,” the boy said. “Maybe she’s right. Now that I think about it, aren’t wenches supposed to, you know, have boobs and be pretty?”
That was it.
I dove for his putter. “I’ll show you wen—”
But arms grabbed me, lifting and spinning me away from Harry.
“Easy there,” a husky voice warned not too quietly in my ear. “You can’t kill the customers. It’s bad for business.”
Crap. It was Jeff.
I struggled against him. “Let me go! Don’t you understand?”
He hung on, dragging me away from the crowd and not letting go until we were safely behind the snack bar. He released me, and then cornered me so I couldn’t dart past. Jeff was too quick and knew me too well. Dressed in full pirate gear himself, he looked ridiculous. He also had the biggest grin on his face.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think he actually enjoyed people taunting me about being a wench.
I eyed the stuffed parrot drooping precariously on his shoulder and flicked at it. “You’ve been lax on plumping his fluff.”
My words had done their job; his smile wilted as well. Jeff hated that bird, and I’d sucker-punched his sore spot. But then, beside the crappy hours (six days a week, pulling ten hour shifts), that was the major downfall to working summers at the Pirate’s Booty mini-golf course—the stupid costumes my parents forced on us. Still, it was a hollow victory forcing him to share in my pain. It was also not the brightest way to treat your best friend, not if you wanted to keep him around.
“I was only trying to help you,” he said.
“I didn’t want your help. What I wanted was to kill that little turd. He said I was ugly and boobless.”
“You are boobless.”
I stared down at my chest. He had a point.
“Some of us guys like that, you know. The kid was right, too. You need to accept yourself a little more. You’re better than pretty,” he said, winking, “because you’re very Alli. Besides, we both know you weren’t going to kill the kid. You don’t even have the guts to squash an ant, you wuss.”
Like I’d said, he knew me way too well.
I tried to make amends by straightening out his parrot. It stood tall, and then it immediately fell to its side.
I sighed. “I’m sorry. And thank you. It’s not cool to kill the customers. I can still dream, though, right? Just between you and me?”
“Actually, I just came to tell you you’re wanted in the picnic area. A big group. Your dad needs an extra set of hands serving up the hot dogs and burgers.”
I groaned. I’d bet anything it was another flood of Canadians who’d shown up on yet another Greyhound, which was just great. A busload of tourists who’d probably all call me a wench in English and French. I groaned even louder.
“Can’t. You do it.”
“Can’t. I’m supposed to be in the golf shop helping out your mom. Steph’s late.”
Stephanie. My other best friend. Together, we’d been a threesome since preschool. She was achingly beautiful and possessed a heart of gold. The problem was, and I meant this lovingly, I swore, on her best days she had the brains of a pea. A really tiny pea. Not that we didn’t love her just as she was— even if telling time would always be a struggle for her. What this ultimately meant, though, was I had no choice. I was going to have to help my dad, like it or not. And even though I liked it not, I braced myself and turned to leave. “Catch you later.”
“Good luck,” Jeff said behind me. “You’re gonna need it.”
Good luck? Need it? I froze, and then spun around.  “Why?”
“The group is Treena and her minions.” He raised his eyebrows pointedly. I had to give him credit; he’d packed a lot of unsaid stuff in that one gesture. Stuff I really didn’t need to hear right then. “Surprise, it’s her birthday. Not that anyone called ahead or anything. She just showed up and pulled that diva crap, demanding we drop everything and fit them in.”
Was he serious? No, no, no! It was Saturday. They were all supposed to be working at Surf Land waterpark, home of the Snack Shack .99-cent all-you-can-eat cheesy fry and the Dastardly Demon, New Hampshire’s only double-inverted twist slide. The very same double-inverted twist slide where I’d puked on Treena in kindergarten. (Which explained her general attitude of hatred toward me, I was sure. Not that it was my fault—I’d always had a weak stomach and had begged Jeff not to make me go on it. But, whatever. It was what it was, and what it was, was that Treena hated my guts.)
 The look on Jeff’s face said it was them, though. Treena and her crew, only the coolest clique to walk the halls of Lakes Region High, were here. At the world’s single lamest mini-golf course ever. Which could also only mean one thing; Derek was with them.  Dreamy-god-like-make-me-lick-my-lips-and-fall-to-my-knees-Derek Lansing, the school’s star quarterback, was here.
And me. We couldn’t forget that I was here, too, and I was dressed like a wench. Could my life get any worse? Really?

Being caught dressed as a pirate (It. Is. Not. A. Wench. Costume. Already.) by the god-like Derek Lansing, never mind by Treena and her fawning underlings who would never, ever let me live it down: A solid eight on the Scale of Suckocity. And I swore if he so much as smirked, never mind laughed when he saw me, today will have scored a perfect ten.