I woke up the next morning with a jolt from a very vivid dream.
I never remembered my dreams, but I remembered this one.
Big, bubbly clouds parted, freeing the moon from their hold and illuminating Rashid, who climbed like a happy Neanderthal up the tallest of the three jungle gym pyramids at the park ve blocks from my house in Scripps Ranch. Everyone believed that if you sat on the top platform of the pyramid long enough your creativity would expand, and some people even said they saw things like impossibly mutated insects. Rashid once told me he saw a caterpillar with tiny butter y wings. I didn’t talk to him for a month after that.
I was about to yell for him to stop climbing the pyramid when,
suddenly, he stopped and screeched at the moon. Then his feet
burst into long monkey-like claws that wrapped around the wood
planks. For some stupid reason, I wanted to run at him, but when
I tried, I found myself buckled into a hard leather baby swing.
Rashid abruptly stopped screeching and xed his dark stare down
at me with an evil grin, just as absolutely everything turned red.
I looked up to the moon, but saw only blood-red clouds churning
like boiling water. Turning to the big kid’s swing next to me, I was
surprised to nd a normal Rashid swinging in slow motion. When
he passed by me, his eyes were huge silvery moons circled in
“Do you like my fangs?” he asked, but his voice came from
across the park. I looked over and saw him running in circles
around the pyramids, laughing like a crazy man.
He stopped my swing like a parent. “I used my money from
bagging at the supermarket to buy fake fangs. Do you like them?”
he asked, leaning in to my ear. I leaned back to tell him how much
I like them, only to see his mouth open wide. He gently tilted my
head and ripped out my throat.
I woke up and rubbed my eyes, then I rubbed my neck just
to make sure. It didn’t take long for me to gure out why I was
dreaming about him. Rashid was way too smart, and no one really
liked him. I was the only one who ever talked to him on the bus,
and our conversations were mostly about how people sucked.
He worked every day after school and all day on the weekends.
There wasn’t much competition for his job because bagging gro-
ceries was far beneath the teenagers in my neighborhood, and
no one from the rest of San Diego would drive all the way to the
middle of Scripps Ranch for such a low-paying job. It was still
weird, though. I hadn’t thought about him even once since sum-
mer started. I sucked at nding friends, and Rashid didn’t have
time for friends because of his job. So I was dreaming about him
because I needed a job, too.
The morning’s ocean breeze nally got my attention, so I
rolled my head back and saw that I had gone to sleep with the
window open again. I pulled my covers tight to my neck and just
stared at the ceiling. I needed normal.
I pulled my quilt off my bed and wrapped it around me, know-
ing the windows would be wide open in the living room, too. I
hated overcast mornings, but my dad loved them. He often woke
up early to walk down to the cliffs and watch the sunrise. I went
with him when I was a little girl, but I hated it. I have never been
a morning person. I was so rotten in the morning that I used to
refuse to eat or drink anything before lunch, and I was insanely
stubborn about it. In fact, one time my mom totally lost it on me.
It wasn’t long after the divorce. She wrestled me to the kitchen
oor, pinned both my arms and legs, and stuffed Cheerios into
my mouth one at a time. She was not in good place mentally.
That was the only time she had ever managed to hold me down,
though. I was always small, but I was very strong and very quick.
I pretty much always did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted,
and if that meant I wasn’t eating before noon, then that was it.
I hated it when my dad opened all of the apartment windows.
I waddled into the kitchen wrapped in my pink quilt and sat at the
tiny kitchen table. He had already gotten me a bowl, spoon, and
a glass of orange juice. I hated orange juice, but I never told him
that. My dad was a sweet bear of a man. He was just over six feet
tall, very tan and stocky, with a growing beer belly. I got my ability
to tan easily from him. We both would end up very dark after a
long day on a boat.
After punching my quilt down into my lap, I said, “So, Larry.”
“Larry?” he choked.
“What?” I asked innocently.
“You never called me Larry.”
“I’m talking business here,” I explained innocently.
“You can still call me dad,” he said, pouring me a bowl of
Count Chocula. I looked at the box sideways. If I was going to eat
something in the morning, it had to have chocolate, but the Count
seemed to be smiling back at me.
Anyway. “So, Larry, how might I go about getting a job in this
“You want to work?” he asked, lifting one eyebrow.
“I need to work,” I said to the Count.
He shrugged. “You could babysit.”
I dunked every last bit of the dry cereal pieces and swirled the
milk to make it even more chocolaty. “I don’t know anything about
babies,” I said.
“You want to be a teacher. Maybe you should start with
His logic was undeniable, but I still didn’t want to babysit.
“I was thinking something easy, like bagging groceries,” I said,
wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. “I won’t ever be
expected to know when to call nine-one-one. Besides, I hate
going into other people’s houses. That’s mom’s thing.” And my
mom only recently stopped dragging me into strange houses.
She was an interior designer who didn’t ever want to pay for a
“You could walk dogs,” he said as he got up and washed his
dishes. “Everyone in this town has a dog.”
I liked it. I didn’t know anything about dogs either, but how
hard could it be to walk a dog? “Do you know anyone who needs
a dog walker?”
He laughed. My dad had shing buddies; he knew next to
nothing about their lives off the boat. “Make a yer and hang it at
the Dog Wash,” he said as he left the kitchen.
“I love you, Dad,” I shouted with entirely too much
He laughed. “Do you need the bathroom?” he shouted from
“Nope, I am gonna make a yer,” I said, waddling into my
room like a penguin with my quilt tucked up under my arms. I
got my laptop out and settled, all bundled up, on the couch. As
my computer booted up, I tilted my head back to the window,
closed my eyes, and really listened to the waves. The strength
and force of the water smashing onto the earth amazed me. The
very existence of the ocean blew me away. Water could be soft
and soothing when you oated on it, or it could smash you like a
pancake. And there was so much of it. Like, seriously, there was
a mind-boggling amount of water on this planet. My computer
called me back to my task.
Dog Walker was way too boring for a business title. I wrote
a capital D and a capital W, and then tried to created a cool
acronym. After several lame words, I decided on DEW (Dogs’
Exceptional Walker). It was still lame, but I liked it. My company
would be known as DEW by Rain. It didn’t take long to create an
amazing yer. I asked my dad to check it for me when he got out
of the shower. He looked it over and laughed.
“How will you get a job if you don’t even give a phone num-
ber?” he asked, xing it.
“I am Lorraine, the psychic dog whisperer, and I’ll just know
which dog to walk,” I said with big eyes and a deep voice.
“Where are you going to walk these dogs?” he asked, getting
some baby blue printer paper out of his old desk.
“Down the street, duh.”
“Not to dog beach?” he asked.
“No,” I said with a lot less attitude. “I’m not letting a strange
dog off the leash and hope it doesn’t run away.”
“Don’t you think the yer should say that?”
“Maybe,” I said, adding it to the yer. “Hey, I’m getting a car.”
My dad stopped in midstep. “Excuse me?”
“Mom is buying me car so I can take a class where I’ll work
for a teacher in Mira Mesa,” I said. As I said it out loud for the rst
time, it felt more real. I was getting a car. Lorraine Meriwether, car
owner. “I am getting an old VW Bug.” A pink one. Yeah, it had to
“You are not old enough,” he said.
“Dad, I have my learner’s permit, and my birthday is right at
the beginning of the school year. Sixteen is so old enough.”
“You’ve driven?” His world was crumbling around him, and I
enjoyed my front row seat.
“Yeah, a lot.”
“Your mother taught you?” he asked painfully.
“We are going driving this weekend, and you will forget every-
thing she told you,” he said, walking out the door. “And you better
drive better than her,” he practically shouted at me. “I think I need
to have my heart checked out,” he said before closing the door.
After sending ten copies of my DEW yers to my dad’s printer,
I took a long, glorious shower, and then spent way too long doing
my hair and makeup.
I closed all of the windows, spread my quilt on my bed, and
went back to the couch to check my e-mail. My mom hadn’t called
or written yet, which wasn’t surprising in the least. My mother had
been an earth-loving, bell-bottom wearing, ower power hippy
until I turned eight. I had been harshly shoved out of her focus
when she magically decided that she needed a tennis court, pool,
and an expensive car to be happy. Less than a year after the
divorce, she married Mathew Worthington III, a high-paid bank
manger for one of the biggest banks in San Diego. He bought
her a huge house with a huge pool and two expensive cars for
her brand new three-car garage, all of which were like ve blocks
from the country club.
Mathew Worthington III worked constantly, leaving my mom
with more than enough time to learn all about interior design.
Over the years, she became the preferred interior designer
for Scripps Ranch. The few months a year I lived with my
dad during the summer were a break for my mother from her
unbearable responsibilities of motherhood, so I never expected
to hear from her.
Whenever my dad picked me up for my court-ordered visita-
tions, he would wait out on the front porch while I said good-bye
to my mom and stepfather. The three never met without some sort
of argument, so it was always pretty much the same scene: my
dad picking the perfect ower for me out of my mom’s manicured
front yard while I went to the back yard where my mom worked on
her laptop, lounging next to the totally awesome pool. She would
always hug me lightly, kiss me lightly, and then relax back down
to her laptop.
The woman would always say, “Get to the coffee shop as
often as you can to send me updates.” She totally thought dial-up
was the best my dad could provide, but we never told her that
someone near my dad was shooting out free wireless. What
she didn’t know wouldn’t bug me in the least. And just maybe
she wouldn’t check my Facebook page as often if she thought I
couldn’t get on it.
“No promises,” I would always say. “I’ll try.”
If home, Mathew Worthington III would glance up and wave.
“Did you pack a jacket?” he would ask his laptop. “It’s constantly
overcast in Ocean Beach.”
I rested my ngers on the keys to send her an email, but they
wouldn’t move. Maybe it was better that way. Besides, the only
thing I could think of writing about was about the old American
Eagle model guy who suffered from a few major aws. I shut my
computer down with a sigh.
The sun had burnt away the clouds by the time I worked up
enough nerve to go to the Dog Wash. Everything I walked past
reminded me of Harold. That was the spot where he asked me
how old I was. That was the spot where he looked so amazingly
hot. That was the spot where we shocked each other, and that
was the spot where we got in trouble with the police. Well, I didn’t
get in any trouble.
It was a typical summer day at the beach. The tide pools were
lled with too many children, the boardwalk was lined with dirty
musicians playing for tips, and the beach was spotted with way too
many umbrellas. I never understood why a person would come
to the beach and sit under an umbrella. I was never comfortable
with so many people wearing practically nothing. Compared to
the many bikini-clad girls, I was plain and way overdressed in my
jeans and T-shirt.
I didn’t want to, but I looked for Harold everywhere. I was
certain he was hiding behind everything. I looked intently around
every car, up every street, and I even circled the lifeguard
The Dog Wash was back near dog beach on Voltaire Street,
so I was completely justi ed in walking past Harold’s party house.
A newer, dark grey Mustang with two black racing stripes that
stretched from the back end to the nose was crammed into the
tiny driveway in front of the gorgeous house. It crowded the little
bit of grass in the front yard and sat almost next to three new,
oversized, dark brown, wicker lounge chairs with immaculate
white cushions. The grass was amazingly thick considering the
onslaught of sand it must suffer from. The house didn’t really have
walls so much as glass with some wood supports here and there.
It was three stories, each of which was fronted with a large deck.
All of the wood was weather beaten and grey. It looked like it had
stood there forever, but I knew the house used to be a normal
two-story apartment and was totally white the year before. It had
thick brown curtains that were drawn along the walls of glass.
Everyone was probably sleeping off the party I had been invited
to. I waved my hand at the house like a Jedi master. “You do not
Walking up one more block with my head heavy, I turned
down Voltaire Street. A sea breeze gently presented me with the
unique, fresh-poo aroma of dog beach. The poo smell usually
wasn’t bad, but sometimes, if you stood in just the right place,
it was nasty. The sea breeze could have brought a far worse
smell, though. When the tide was out, the bay entrance rot could
be smelled even out on the freeway, and that smell could totally
make you choke. You had to live in OB for a while to appreciate
the semi nasty smell of dog poo, which thankfully didn’t follow
me down Voltaire. The Dog Wash’s door was propped open. I
casually looked in and saw nobody. My stomach twisted into a
What was I going to say? And who would I say it to? I didn’t
want a job. Who was I kidding? My life was easy, and a job would
only complicate it. I didn’t even like dogs. I walked right past the
grooming shop, pulled out my phone, and scrolled through my
pictures like I was completely walking where I had intended to
walk. I don’t know who I was fooling or who I thought might be
watching me. Okay, yeah, I did. Mr. Perfect could be anywhere,
watching me be stupid again.
The library was only a couple blocks up. I walked into the tiny
library as if that was my destination the whole time. And then, lit-
erally, I turned right back around. I didn’t want to go to the library,
I could feel the blood rush my face. I did want a job. What
was I afraid of? Was someone going to bite my head off for ask-
ing them to hang a yer? I walked back quickly down Voltaire and
turned into the Dog Wash.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute,” a woman’s voiced called from
I placed the yers on the counter near the cash register and
looked around. The signs on the wall behind the counter said
that anyone could wash their own dog, or they could let the
washers do it. The instructions were written like a self-service
car wash. I liked it. It felt comfortable. The place was covered
in dog art. Bright and crazy sculptures hung from every beam,
the walls, and even from the bottom of the washing tubs. The
same artist didn’t make them, but they were all dogs, and they
were all brightly painted. And the walls were painted with colorful
“Hi, honey. What can I do for you?” asked a tall woman with
an extremely large bottom. Like freakishly large. It pointed out
at the sides like her butt was being pulled by two very strong
invisible strings. Everything else was proportioned normal. In
the olden days, she probably would have only found work in a
I shook my head and focused on her normal face and her
1950’s, pointed, white glasses. “I was wondering if you wouldn’t
mind if I hung these yers up in your shop?”
She took one and read it. “DEW by Rain? I like that.”
I just smiled.
“I’m looking to hire someone who can help with cleaning up.
Are you interested in doing that instead?” she asked, pulling me
Catherine Olson 25
into a small back of ce. It was basically a small closet lled from
the ceiling to oor with papers and three incense cones burning
dangerously on top of the papers.
“I don’t think I’m old enough to legally work.” I stepped politely
back into the shop.
“Do you have any friends who are older?” she asked after
nding a stapler and waving it in the air like it was some long-lost
Friends. No, I didn’t do that. I was really bad at that. I guess
she was going to make me say it. I looked at her bright sandals
and her brightly painted white toenails. “No, sorry, no friends.”
She waddled over to a crowded corkboard near the front
door and stapled up one of my yers. She turned back to me
with a gleam in her eye. “I have an idea.” She took my hand and
squeezed it lightly. “We do most of our business before eventide,
so you could hang out in here and offer to walk the dogs that are
brought in for grooming.”
“What’s eventide?” I felt like an idiot for not knowing.
“Eventide is sunset—the moment between day and night,”
she clari ed way too sweetly.
“I can be here before sunset,” I said, smiling. She was de -
“And if you get too bored, I can pay you secretly for helping
me clean up.”
I liked her. “I get bored easy,” I said, smiling.
She became really serious and whispered, “Don’t le taxes
“Don’t even know how,” I assured her. “Oh, I have to be home
by ten, though,” I apologized.
“Sweetie, you come and go as you please. You don’t work for
me, remember?” She winked. “Oh, sorry, sweetie, my name is
Mama Cass.” She looked over her glasses at the yer and asked,
“Rain? Your name is Rain?”
I just nodded.
“Rain before eventide. Sounds like a poem.” She smiled at me
and shrugged. “Can you come back tonight?”
I nodded and left quickly. My heart was racing, and I really
didn’t want her to misread my blushing face. I almost did the
chicken dance right there on the street, but there were way too
many people around. I could not believe my luck. Mama Cass
was really nice. I could learn not to look at her butt.
I had gotten my rst job, but there were many hours to waste
before eventide. I had absolutely no idea what to do. My nerves
forced my feet to move, and they moved right back in the direc-
tion of Harold’s house. I didn’t really know if he lived there; I just
started thinking of it as his.
As I neared it, I realized how nice it would be to tell him about
my new job. It would be even nicer to talk to him while I walked
dogs. As strange as he was, I liked talking to him.
I took out my phone to call Stephanie, but I couldn’t hit send.
She wouldn’t get excited about my news; she would expect me to
be excited about hers. She always had better news than me. She
had probably gone all the way with her jerk boyfriend by now, and
I didn’t want to hear all about it. I scrolled through my contacts list
and didn’t want to talk to any of them.
I walked back to the apartment, watched some old cartoons,
and apparently fell soundly asleep. I practically jumped out of my
skin when my phone began to vibrate.
“Hello?” I asked in a huff.
“Rain, honey?” asked the woman on the line.
“Well, sweetie, one of my best customers would love it if you
could walk her baby, Snukums, before he gets his bath.” It was
“Oh,” I stammered. “Now?” I had to nd a clock. Why did I
have to have a dad who insisted that if you constantly stared at
a clock, time actually slowed down? I looked out the window—
the sun had already set. It wasn’t quite black, but de nitely past
eventide. Then I remembered I wore a watch. I had been passed
out for hours, and I was late for my rst day at my rst job. Was
there nothing I did not suck at?
“Sorry, honey. Do you live far?” I could hear at least three
dogs barking in the background.
“I can be there in ten minutes.” If I ran.
“Great. See you soon, sweetie.”
I stood like a tightrope walker, with my hands out to the sides.
What did I need? In a split second, I pocketed my cell, grabbed
my keys, and veri ed that the twenty was still in my back pocket. I
locked the door, sprint walked down the musky smelling long hall,
out the main door, and turned to leap down the many stairs to the
sidewalk. But tall, dark, and perfect was leaning on the railing and
looking at the tide pools. My heart jumped into my throat, and I
almost choked on it. He turned and smiled up at me. Oh my God,
I wanted to die for that smile.
And oh my God, I wanted to forget everything that had hap-
pened that day and spend the rest of the night walking with him
on the beach. Even with his issues.
I could have cried. I wanted to go down those stairs that badly,
but I couldn’t. Snukums needed me. I pivoted on my heel way
too quickly and practically ran down the dark alleys all the way to
the Dog Wash. I didn’t have time for him. Every inch of my being
wanted to go back, except the tiny part of my brain that controlled
my feet. I made it across town in record time.
I turned into the shop and was greeted by a tall young man
who looked to be an eleventh or twelfth grader with dirty blond,
short hair and a serious acne problem.
“Can I help you?” he beamed.
Mama Cass turned from the ball of hair she was wetting down
and smiled. “Rain,” she exclaimed. “Parker, this is our dog walker,
I smiled and nodded to him. He stepped behind the register,
staring so intently at me that I blushed. I knew that look—he was
way too old to be giving me that look. Old guys were continually
freaking me out.
Mama Cass dried her hands. “This is my son, Parker. He
helps me during the summers.” She leaned down to a German
shepherd whose leash was hooked to an artfully carved strip of
wood that spanned most of the sidewall. It had carved faces of dif-
ferent breeds of dogs and the hooks were all dog tongues. They
were all painted in bright reds, yellows, blues, and gold.
“Come here, Snukums,” Mama Cass sweetly coaxed him.
I knelt down to Snukums and let him smell my hand. He licked
it and scooted as close to me as he could.
“I knew you were a dog person,” Mama Cass said proudly.
She stepped away from the metal tub and became very serious.
“You have about twenty minutes before I need to get started on
him, and whatever you do, do not let him off the leash.”
I nodded, unhooked the leash, and let Snukums pull me
out of the shop. He turned onto Voltaire in the direction of dog
beach, but I wasn’t going there for my rst walk. I pulled him
as hard as I could in the other direction. He nally agreed with
a jerk, and I pretty much was dragged up the street by a dog I
“Hey? Do you mind if I walk with you? I’m going to get dinner,”
Parker asked, already catching up to me.
Snukums yanked me into a small yard of grass in front of an
old apartment building.
“I used to live in there,” Parker said, pointing to the
I yanked the German shepherd back to the sidewalk and
smiled at Parker. His acne wasn’t the usual, get-some-better-
face-wash stuff. He had lots of scars and huge mounds that
looked extremely painful, and the zits went down his neck.
“Are you going to college?” he asked, putting his hands in his
“Yup,” I proudly answered. I really liked that he asked. He was
the rst nonadult to ask that.
“I am going to be a lawyer,” Parker announced proudly.
“Holy crap, dude,” I blurted out. He didn’t seem to think that
was totally inappropriate to say to someone I didn’t really know.
“Yeah,” he said. He took his hands out of his pockets and
picked a daisy for me. “Do you surf?”
“No, I sh,” I said, taking the ower as best I could.
Parker laughed at me. Like a full-on guffaw. Totally rude.
Snukums pissed me off too by stopping to smell every single
inch of grass he could nd. He was jerking my arm right out of its
socket. “What’s so funny?”
Parker turned back to me, waiting for me to get it. I never did.
“Everyone shes, but no one says ’I sh.’ It’s like saying ’I drive.’
Snukums pulled me to the next bush, and I had absolutely
no choice but to wait again until the invisible wonderfulness had
been suf ciently sucked into the dog’s snorting nose.
“I body surf and wind surf,” I said shyly.
“Interested in learning surfboard sur ng?” he asked awk-
wardly with a de nite gleam in his eye. It felt like he was asking
me out on a date. What was with all these old guys? And why
was the only guy I wanted to be with really, really, really old? And
“Snukums, come on,” I yelled at the dog. I held onto the leash
with both hands, pulling the stupid dog away.
“Is that a yes?” he said, smiling.
“Sure,” I said, laughing. He felt like a far more appropriate
friend than Mr. Perfect. Parker was de nitely the smarter choice.
He was older than I was, but he was nice. And fang free. Besides,
Harold was certainly just wasting time with me.
“I’m going this way,” Parker said as I was pulled totally the
other way by the stupid dog. Parker laughed. “I’ll see you back at
my mom’s place.”
I waved, allowing the dog to pull me on again. We turned
around not long after Parker left. We were almost back to the
shop with ve minutes to spare when Snukums realized where
we were headed. In an instant, the German shepherd headed
back in the opposite direction by way of the thin gap between my
legs. I didn’t have time to react as the leash and then my hand
also slipped through the thin gap between my legs. I tried to lift my
leg, but I ended up twisting around on one foot and landing hard
on my butt. Then I swear I heard a laugh. I looked around quickly
to nd my audience, but I only saw a car’s headlights up the alley
far away from me. I didn’t appreciate being the butt of a joke. I
wanted it to be someone I knew, like Parker or even Harold, so I
could yell at them and then ask for some help. But no. Whoever
laughed was gone.
I reached over to pick up the ower Parker gave me, but Snu-
kums started to drag me butt- rst down the sidewalk, my jeans
scraping on the concrete.
“Hey,” I yelled at Snukums. It sounded like my mom yelled—I
was horri ed. Snukums stopped and looked back at me. “Don’t
you move one inch, mister!” Yep, I had my mom’s voice. I put my
legs right, picked up the ower, and sat there staring at the dog.
Snukums slowly walked toward me and totally licked my face. I
rubbed his neck—hard. “Someone doesn’t like baths, huh?” I said
in a baby voice.
I got up using Snukums’s back. “Too bad,” I declared in my
mom’s voice, and I pulled him with all my strength back to the
“You’re a natural,” declared Mama Cass.
I hooked Snukums’s leash to the boxer tongue, collapsed into
one of the chairs along the wall, and smiled an honest smile. My
Parker had walked to the only fast food place in OB and
ordered lots of different things so we could pick out whatever we
wanted. He made it back just in time for Snukums’s owner to pick
him up. She was a tall, tanned supermodel. Well, at least she
could be if she wanted to.
“Hewwo wittle mister Snukums, you missed your mommy,
didn’t you, wittle handsome guy?” the supermodel cooed at
“That’ll be the usual for the bath and trim and twenty for the
walk,” said Mama Cass with a smile to me. I wasn’t going to
charge that much.
“Is this the wonderful person who walked my little
I nodded. I didn’t know if I was supposed to tell her about the
walk or what.
“I hope he wasn’t too bad,” the supermodel cooed at her dog.
Then she straightened up, looking at me with a serious expres-
sion on her face. “You have no idea how much I appreciate that.”
She gave me a ten and a twenty.
I was about to protest and give the money back when Parker
shoved the ten back in my hand while telling the woman to let
everyone in town know that I could be found at the Dog Wash. I
looked at the poor wilting ower he gave me and smiled. Parker
was de nitely the smarter choice.
Snukums pulled his owner out of the shop happily, and Parker
put the bags of burgers on the counter.
I laughed at him. “You’re not from OB, are you?” I asked.
Mama Cass came to the counter to pick a burger. “No one
who lives in OB actually goes to that place, honey.”
“Fast food chains are not welcome in OB,” I said seriously.
Then I laughed at Parker.
Catherine Olson 31
“I’m sorry,” he whispered and began packing up the food.
I felt bad. I didn’t mean to embarrass him.
Mama Cass stopped him. “It’s ne, honey. We will eat wher-
ever and whatever we want to. Right, Rain?”
Parker took two burgers and stared at me while he ate them.
It was way too weird. “So where are you from?” he nally asked
with a mouth full of burger.
I was horri ed that I had already taken a bite. I swallowed as
much as I could and covered my mouth with my hand. “Scripps
“Nice,” he said slowly.
“How about you?” I asked. I was proud of myself, talking to
strangers and making friends. And it was a normal conversation,
so hopefully I wouldn’t make an idiot of myself.
Mama Cass spoke for him, since his mouth had almost half
a burger in it. “He lives with his dad in Chula Vista. I get him for
Parker had nished the bite. “What’s your whole name?”
I put my hand over my mouth again. “I don’t want to tell you,”
I said, laughing.
“Why?” he asked.
“Parker,” Mama Cass corrected him. “She doesn’t have to tell
you anything she doesn’t want to tell you.”
“No, it’s not like that.” I swallowed. “No one ever believes me.”
I almost took a bite, but I stopped. “Even the cops last night didn’t
Parker stopped eating and looked up. “Cops? Last night?”
My mouth was dry, and I couldn’t continue. Mama Cass read
my waving hands and pulled bottled waters from a small refrigera-
tor behind the counter. “Thank you,” I said, taking another drink. “I
was ne. They were just making sure I was okay.”
“I hate it when they do that to young girls,” said Mama Cass.
Parker looked sideways at his mother. “Well maybe if young
girls wouldn’t walk around this town at night, they wouldn’t have
to check on them.”
Mama Cass smiled at me. “Parker thinks it’s perfectly ne for
him to surf at all hours the night without lifeguards, but girls should
stay home and knit.”
“They should,” he agreed.
Mama Cass rolled her eyes and said, “You were ne, weren’t
I was standing in a dark parking lot with an old man who wore
fake vampire fangs and who thought he was a Jedi knight. “Fine,”
I said, smiling back at her.
“If she is attacked, she could just mace the guy and run,” said
Mama Cass with authority. “You do have mace, right?”
“No,” I confessed.
She happily waddled her large bottom into her of ce and
came back out with a new treasure. It was mace on a key chain.
I gave her my keys, and she twisted the ring onto it. “There, now
Parker shook his head and just smiled in resignation. I cleaned
up the dinner trash while they cleaned up the shop. There was
obviously nothing else I could help with, so I thanked her and
I walked slowly, spinning the limp daisy in my ngers; it had
been a good day. I wanted dearly for Harold to magically show up
again so I could tell him about it all. I tucked the ower behind my
ear and walked down the sidewalk by his party house.
I couldn’t help but smile at all of the crazy things so many
people were doing. One guy was hanging from a balcony and
literally swinging over to the next balcony. A little boy was break
dancing on the sidewalk. There were even people howling at
other people in other houses, like they were communicating
in a wolf’s Morse code. The fun was contagious. Music blared
from mobile homes parked at dog beach, and I was pretty sure I
smelled pot twice.
As I approached Harold’s yard, I saw him lounging on one of
the oversized wicker chairs with his arms wrapped around a very
beautiful girl. She seemed to be sleeping despite all of the noise
around her. I stopped near the Mustang.
“What?” Harold asked rudely.
I felt like I should apologize, but I couldn’t gure why. “I
thought I was invited.”
“Did you not take your drugs today?” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” I crossed my arms.
“You saw me waiting for you at the tide pools,” he said. “I g-
ured you must be ADHD or something. You run away one minute,
then stop by like a friend the next.”
“It’s been a weird day,” I replied.
I crumpled it in my hand.
“Do you want something?” he growled.
“No,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ears.
“Keep the jacket,” Harold said. “You’ve probably ruined it by
He might as well have punched me in the stomach. “I already
threw it away,” I stupidly shot back.
He just stared at me, and then he tilted his head to kiss the
sleeping girl in his arms.
As I turned away to leave, I peeked back at him. He watched
me walk away with a grimace. My chest hurt, tears welled, and
I even started shaking. I wasn’t going to cry. I wanted to cry, but
I didn’t even know why. I never had any hope with someone like
him. And oh my God, he was probably just a child molester, and
I was his next mark. Or he was a serial killer who was setting me
up. I even pictured the house as a Ted Bundy–like place where
he stored severed heads in a super-cool refrigerator. I waited until
my back was completely to him before I rubbed the tears away.
And two different girls in two different nights. How could he
be so infuriating? What did I care if he was with a different girl
every night? I never had a chance anyway. Why did I even want a
chance? But the more I thought about it, the more I accepted that
what really hurt was the look on his face. I couldn’t bear the idea
of him not liking me, which was stupid. Why would he like me?
I would never be a model. I wasn’t exactly a brain. I didn’t even
know how to make friends, much less reach a level of semi popu-
larity. I was nothing, and he was absolutely amazing. I wanted to
cry because a slutty, hot Star Wars freak with fake fangs didn’t like
me. Could I be more pathetic? I was horri ed at myself. I was not
that girl. Then I lost all control of my face as it scrunched painfully.
I cried as quietly as I could so people wouldn’t actually talk to me
as I walked home quickly. I hid my face and sucked in my sobs
as best I could.
I stopped at the pier stairs. I knew Harold could be anywhere
in Ocean Beach at any time, which meant he’d pretty much
locked off the whole town from me. I couldn’t walk on the bad side
of the strip, thanks to the bars and tattoo shops, or the good side
of the strip thanks to the surfer guy I dated for one night and who
thought I was like eighteen and so not a virgin. And now Harold
had xed it so I couldn’t walk anywhere. The summer was going