AN: I am working on a short story project/anthology relating to Eagle Rock. The other works are viewable here. Check them out if you so desire, but prior knowledge of the story and the world isn't necessary. This will probably be two or three parts. Enjoy and please offer your honest feedback.
If you so desire and you like to immerse in your reading, feel free to listen to the two songs I mention that play in the ice cream shop to get more of a sense of the environment.
On July 3rd, 1969, I was working the night shift at the Baskin Robbins in Lincoln. It was miserably hot and humid, the kind of hot that made people want to stay inside in the air conditioning. It was a quarter past eight. Less than an hour until close. The shop was empty, and I could feel the dead, thick silence of the summer heat waiting for me on the bike ride home.
I was working alone, so I had control of the radio. The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” was the choice of the moment. While I thought it was ridiculously overplayed, I had to admit that it was catchy. It was either that or Vietnam, and the latter was something I was tired of thinking about.
I leaned down against the display, comforted by the coolness that radiated from the ice cream. I thought about my birthday, a week and two days away. I was turning seventeen, and I had no idea if I was going to end up having any plans at all. I thought about how stressed Mother was about the barbecue we had planned for the fourth, and how it seemed like she was letting herself get awfully uptight about something was supposed to be fun.
As the song came to an end, I became aware of two girls staring at me. One blonde, the other brunette. Neither was gorgeous but I still found that I was intimidated by them. It was something about the way they carried themselves. The blonde wore faded cutoffs and a multicolored sleeveless top, and the brunette a long sleeve red and white dress. The clothes fit them awkwardly, and between their makeup-less faces and matted hair, I knew something about them was different from anyone I’d ever met. Next to them, I felt woefully inadequate.
The blonde fished some money out of her pocket. “We’ll have double scoop of chocolate mint.”
“Cup or cone?” I responded automatically.
The girls looked at each other.
“Cup,” the blonde said. “With two spoons.”
She handed me a single dollar bill, and her hand was warm but limp to the touch. As I prepared their change, the girls turned to each other.
“I like it here,” said the brunette. “I’m sure they have fireworks. Maybe Jay will let us stay another day.”
I momentarily forgot I was supposed to be scooping their ice cream, and quickly took a cup and began to serve it. As I did, I was self conscious of how stupid I looked in my pink uniform. Not that they cared. They were deep in conversation about something I couldn’t fully follow, something about being in Denver the day before, wanting to see Lake Michigan and someone named Jay. They seemed to be in their own world, so I cleared my throat to let them know that their change, and their ice cream, was on the counter. The blonde took it and offered the brunette a second spoon. They saw me staring and gave me a condescending smile.
“I take it you’re not from around here?” They didn’t hear me, so I repeated the question.
“No,” the blonde answered. “We live on the road.”
“The two of you?” I merely asked.
“No, there’s a few others,” said the blonde.
“We’re in a different place every night,” the brunette added. “It’s a lot of fun.”
“You both seem really cool,” I said, feeling myself blush.
The girls both exchanged a smile. “You seem cool too.”
I almost couldn’t believe what I’ve heard. I was cool? I couldn’t be. “I’m Debbie,” I said.
“Alex,” said the blonde.
“Sasha,” said the brunette.
Alex took a step towards me, holding out the ice cream. “Want some?” I froze for a moment, confused. No customer had ever offered me ice cream before. I didn’t know if it was even allowed.
“Uh, no,” I said. “I’m okay.” They looked at me for a moment. “I get a free scoop at the end of the night.”
“Jealous,” said Sasha.
The 5th Dimension’s “The Age of Aquarius” began on the radio now. This station was nothing if not predictable. I didn’t want them to think that my taste was boring, but at the same time, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself to walking over to the radio. But they didn’t seem to care.
“What’s your favorite flavor?” Alex asked.
“Banana nut,” I said.
“Oooh,” she responded. Then, she took a bite of ice cream. “This is really good.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “When do you get out of here?”
Alex looked at the clock, and I realized neither girl was wearing a watch.
“Well,” she said. “We’ve been looking for cool people to hang out with while we’re here.”
I knew Mother was waiting for me when I got home help her set out the dough for the strawberry turnovers, which I wasn’t exactly looking forward to. I was fascinated by Alex and Sasha and the friends that they’d mentioned. “Tonight?” I asked.
“Sure,” Alex said.
“I have to go home,” I said. “We’re having a barbecue tomorrow. At our house.”
“That sounds fun,” Alex responded.
“Maybe you can come,” I blurted out, without considering what would my mother would think. “Invite your other friends too.”
The girls nodded. ”We’re headed towards Wisconsin,” Sasha said. “We want to see Lake Michigan.”
“I’ve been there once,” I said. “For my cousin’s wedding.”
“The barbecue probably won’t be that exciting,” I said. “It’s going to probably just be a lot of my mom’s friends. No one our age. My mom’s a good cook though.”
“Debbie,” Alex said. “Can I ask you something?”
“Do you want to go home?”
I was unprepared for the question. “We think you’d like Jay,” Sasha said.
“Who’s Jay?” I asked, as I’d head the girls mention him several times already.
They both smiled, about as wide as anyone could. “You just have to meet him.”
“I really wish I could,” I said. “But I would like to change. And I have my bike.” If this Jay as special as they were making him seem, the last thing I wanted him to see me in was my Baskin Robbins uniform.
“If you really want to come with us,” Alex said, “Then we’ll help you talk to your mom.”