Calamity Jayne

CHAPTER 1

“Know what you call five blondes at the bottom of the ocean? An air pocket.”

My lip curled. Despite the distorted cutting in and out of the Dairee Freeze intercom, I’d know that voice anywhere. “You know why Indians didn’t scalp brunettes? The hair from a buffalo’s butt was more manageable. May I take your order, please?”

“I was going to order some buffalo wings, but you’ve spoiled the moment. How about a chicken basket with onion rings?”

“With mouthwash on the side, I hope. Anything to drink?”

“A strawberry shake sounds good.”

“That’ll be five seventy-four. Please pull ahead.”

I waited for the vehicle to move up, annoyed that this particular customer always seemed to know when I was working the drive-through. He pulled his candy apple red, four-by-four Chevy pickup truck alongside the narrow window.

“You still workin’ here, Calamity?” he asked. “Gotta be a record.” He did an exaggerated head slap. “Oh, that’s right. Your uncle owns the place. You have job security.” He shoved a five and a one in my direction. “Keep the change,” he said with a grin.

“Gee, thanks, Mr. Ranger, sir,” I remarked. “Not working today? No reports of rabid skunks in the yard, snakes in the birdhouse, or bats in the bedroom? No varmints to relocate? No mating pelicans to spy on? Hey, somebody nailed a squirrel over at Second and Arthur. The tail was still moving. You might check that out.”

Rick Townsend worked for the state Division of Natural Resources, enforcing fish and game laws. Three years ahead of me in school, “Ranger Rick” as I liked to call him, was, and still is, best buddy to my brother, Craig. And he was, and still is, a mega-irritant to me. Good-looking enough to be on magazine covers—and we’re not talking Field and Stream here, ladies—Rick Townsend was still single and always looking. He had been known to step out with my archrival from my high school days, Annette Felders, a snobby brunette with drill team thighs and perfect hair, hence my brunette joke.

“No roadkill for me today, brat, but thanks for the tip. I plan to do some water-skiing later on. I’d ask you to join us, but, well, with you working two jobs...” He stuck his hands out, palms up, in a what-can-you-do? pose.

I grabbed his shake and passed it out the window to him, my fingers tightening around the cup, much as they ached to stiffen around his big, tanned, arrogant neck. The plastic lid popped off and the contents of the cup erupted over the sides and down my hand.

I thrust the mess at him. “Now see what you’ve done!”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You provoked me, that’s what.” I grabbed his chicken basket and dumped it in a sack. “You always provoke me.”

“That’s ‘cause you’re so much fun to watch get all riled up, Tressa,” he had the audacity to admit.

I shoved his sack of food at him. “Will there be anything else, sir? “I asked, ticked at him but furious with myself for rising to his bait.

“Some ketchup would be nice. Oh, and one more thing. Did you hear about the blonde who sold her car so she would have gas money?”

I grabbed a handful of ketchup packets and baseballed them out the drive-up window. Unfortunately, Ranger Rick had moved on.

“One of these days I’m going to get the best of that Neanderthal,” I said to no one in particular. I was going to have to spend yet another day slaving away at two jobs in order to pay the bills, while Joe Cool would be spending the afternoon on the lake, enjoying early