Sample text for See you down the road / Kim Ablon Whitney.
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One good thing about living in a trailer is that you don't have to pack when you leave town. You just go.
We took off for the summer before it was really even spring, before Florida thinned out to just the people who actually live there year round. I knew we weren't staying in Miami all year since we never do, but I also didn't know we were leaving until Jimmy and Patrick came into the store.
I was working the afternoon alone while Mrs. C. was out seeing some artsy-craftsy dealer about his overpriced knick-knacks tourists shit their pants over. Jimmy and Patrick came in, and at first I thought they were customers, so I stubbed out my butt and stashed the Coke can I was tapping my ashes into and the book I was reading under the counter. When I saw it was just them, I took the ashtray back out and relit my cigarette but left the book where it was.
"Working hard or hardly working?" Jimmy said with that cocky grin he had all the time. Ever since he'd turned eighteen, he walked around like he could do anything he wanted. Dad said what he needed was a good beating to set him straight, and I was starting to agree.
"What do you want?" There was no way Jimmy stopped by just to say hey. Patrick--maybe. Jimmy--no way. Even though Jimmy and I were only two years apart, we'd never been close.
Jimmy shrugged. "Can't I just stop by to see my little sister?"
"No. So tell me what you want."
Jimmy shifted his gaze to the back of the store where Mrs. C. had her office. "I don't think your little country boss would like you smoking on the job."
Even though all of us Travelers called people who weren't Travelers country folk or country people, the way Jimmy said country it sounded like an insult.
Usually I snuck one or two cigarettes when Mrs. C. was out and then sprayed air freshener since smoking wasn't allowed in the store. "She's not here," I told Jimmy, and wished I hadn't when he smirked and said, "Well, then, I'm gonna need a few things since we're heading off."
And that's when I knew we were leaving--nice that Mom and Dad hadn't bothered to tell me.
Jimmy swaggered to the men's section, fingering this shirt and touching that shirt. Patrick came to the counter and stared at me with those eyes of his that are so pale, they're more white than blue. My insides twisted, and I wished for a second that he wasn't so damn good-looking.
"You go to school this week?" he asked.
"A few days."
"I swear you're the only person I know who actually likes school."
"Who says I like school?"
I shrugged. "There's nothing better to do."
This was a lame excuse for why I kept going when every other Traveler quit right after they could read, write, and do simple math--after they'd learned all that school could teach them that would be of any use in our world. But I kind of got off on some school stuff, like my paper on the Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919, which now I wouldn't be finishing. But if I told anyone that--Patrick, Jimmy, Ann, Mom, Dad--they'd think I was crazy. They already wondered about me.
"You guys staying around longer?" I asked Patrick.
He rested his forearms on the counter, leaned toward me, and smiled. Even though he'd never had braces, had hardly ever been to the dentist unless something was really wrong--none of us had--his teeth lined up perfectly. It wasn't the only thing about Patrick's looks that was near perfect. There was his smooth skin that freckled just slightly in the summer and his brown hair that fell onto his forehead whenever he broke a sweat.
"We're going with you," he said.
Another minor detail Mom and Dad hadn't bothered to fill me in on. I swallowed and found there was a sudden lump in my throat. Not because we were traveling with the Murphys, but because of what that meant. It meant it wouldn't be long before Patrick and I were married.
"Hey, Pat," Jimmy called. "Come here."
Patrick walked to where Jimmy was modeling one of the most expensive items in the store--a blue Tommy Hilfiger jacket. He was checking himself out in the full-length mirror, thinking he was some kind of hot shit. I marched over and told him to take it off.
"What're you gonna do if I don't?" he said, loving every minute of torturing me.
"Jimmy, stop being such an asshole."
"That's nice language, Bridget. Real nice."
Jimmy ripped the tag off the jacket and handed it to me. I can't believe I was so stupid as to just take it from him. What I should have done was tell him to shove it straight up his ass.
"See ya later," he said. Patrick followed him out the door, not saying anything because he couldn't or he'd look like a loser in front of Jimmy. I couldn't blame him. On the way out, Jimmy grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a baseball hat. Total including the jacket: over two hundred dollars.
After they left, my mind whirled as I tried to figure out what to do. I had just about two hundred dollars buried underneath the back wheel of the trailer, but there was no way I was spending my hard-earned money on Jimmy's clothes. Squealing on Jimmy to Mom and Dad wasn't worth thinking about for more than a second, since being a snitch was worse than anything for a Traveler. I knew most Travelers would just walk out right then and there, forgetting all about Mrs. C. and the store. But most Travelers wouldn't be working a country job to begin with.
Mrs. C. came back a lot earlier than she said she was going to, and I was still figuring things out. Besides knocking over the Coke can and spilling ashes on the floor as I tried to stash it under the counter, I'd left the price tag to the jacket out. When she saw the tag, she thought I'd sold it.
"Oh, Bridget, you made such a great sale!"
From the Hardcover edition.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Irish Travellers (Nomadic people) Juvenile fiction, Irish Americans Juvenile fiction, Irish Travellers (Nomadic people) Fiction, Irish Americans Fiction, Family life Fiction, Individuality Fiction, Sex role Fiction, Conduct of life Fiction