The Truant Risk

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 11 (v.1) - SUMMER'S LAST HURRAH

Submitted: June 08, 2019

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Submitted: June 08, 2019

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“What time is Pam expecting us over?” asked KariAnn while the two of them shared the bathroom mirror and applied their make-up.

“There was no real time set, just whenever we get there.” replied Debbie.  “Ray said he and Ken would be there around one so I thought we’d head over after we get ready.”

“Does Pam know that it was Romeo that betrayed us to the Road Agents?  He’s not going to be there, right?” asked KariAnn.

“Hell no, you don’t ever have to worry about Romeo anymore.” Debbie assured.  “Pam hates him as much as we do, and no one wants anything to do with that snake in the grass now.  Ray also says one of these days he’s going to catch him alone and beat his ass.”

“I’d pay to see that!  Well, I’m ready to party down so let’s go.  Come on, you look beautiful.” hurried KariAnn.

It was after one o’clock when they arrived at Pam’s.  Seeing Ray and Ken’s cars, they headed in search of their boyfriends.  Ray was over talking to some guy KariAnn had never seen before, and Ken was making eyes at a good-looking, well-endowed blonde who she also didn’t know.  “Who’s the gorgeous blonde, Deb?” whispered KariAnn trying not to show she was jealous of Ken’s interest in her.

“Oh, that’s Pam’s cousin, Suzie.” Debbie answered flatly.  “I’d watch Ken around her.  She’s a real flirt.”

“Thanks for the warning, but it may not be easy to drag Ken away.  Let alone get his eyes popped back in his head and off her chest.” sighed KariAnn feeling inadequate next to her.

“I don’t know if this will be any comfort to you, but Pam tells me she’s only a cock tease, and I do know she’s dating some well-off playboy who drives a red sports car.” Debbie tried to ease her friend’s mind.  “Hell, Ken is way out of his league with her, and wouldn’t stand a chance of impressing this chick.  So I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you.”

“Oh, I’m not really worried.” she covered up.  “Ken has told me he loves me, and I can’t be jealous every time I see him talking to some pretty girl, right?”

“Right!  Just go over and let him know you’re here.” Debbie suggested.

“Okay, I will.” said KariAnn taking a deep breath, and regaining her confidence.

As she neared the two of them talking, Ken finally noticed her presence.  “Hi, KariAnn, I see you two finally made it.” he acknowledged, and smoothly proceeded to introduce the two girls.  “Babe, this is Pam’s cousin, Suzie, and this is my girlfriend, KariAnn.”

“Nice to meet you, KariAnn.” smiled Suzie.  “Your boyfriend here was just telling me about you.  I wouldn’t let him out of your sight if I was you or someone might try to steal him away.  He’s quite a hunk you know.”

“Yeah, I know.  Thanks for the advice, and I do intend to keep a good eye on him.” KariAnn smiled back.

Feeling suddenly a bit nervous, Ken offered to get KariAnn a beer and then excused himself.  Suzie too excused herself spying Pam, and KariAnn stood there alone and waited for Ken to return.  “Hello.” came a cheerful voice behind her as she turned to see who it was.  It was the guy she saw talking to Ray when they first arrived.  “I don’t think we’ve met yet,” he smiled warmly “because I never forget a pretty face, and yours I know I’d remember.  My name is Tony.  What’s yours?”

“Hi, Tony, mine’s KariAnn, and I know we’ve never met.  I’m sure I’d remember a smooth talker like you!” she laughed.

“That’s good, then you might remember me the next time we happen to cross paths.” Tony smiled.

“You can be sure I will.  So tell me, who did you come with?” she asked curiously.

“No one, I’m by myself.  I was just in the neighborhood and dropped in hoping Pam had a couple extra joints that she could maybe sell me and accidentally stumbled in on the party.” admitted Tony.  “Are you a friend of Pam’s?  I’m surprised I’ve never seen you before if you hang out with this crowd.”

“Well, maybe it’s because I only moved out here a little over two months ago.  I’m staying out at Glen’s commune with Debbie.  I met both Pam and Debbie, would you believe, while on a pizza delivery when I used to work at Livio’s for a short time.” KariAnn told him.

“I know Livio.” Tony answered matter of factly.  “Why did you quit?  Did you find something better?”

“Well, I see you two are hitting it off.” observed Ray, as he just then interrupted the conversation.  “Here, KariAnn.” he said extending her a beer.  “Ken told me to get you one and tell you he’d be back in a bit, but the way he’s running his mouth in the kitchen I doubt he’ll be right away.  You know how Ken is.”

“Yeah, I know.” sighed KariAnn.  She also knew how he was with the ladies, and couldn’t help wondering if Suzie was one of the people he was deep in conversation with.  Quickly she glanced around to see if she could see her, but didn’t.

“That’s okay, then that will give us more time to get acquainted before he comes back and steals you away.” Tony replied, recapturing her attention.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.  Ken has a way of frequently slipping off to mingle on his own at parties.  I don’t mind too much though,” she lied, “because his disappearing gives me a chance to meet new people and socialize a little too.”

“I wish Deb held the reigns as loosely on me.  Shit, before I have a chance to even think about screwing around she’s checking on my ass.” Ray laughed.

“I don’t know if I’d want a girlfriend of mine left alone for too long if she looked anything like you.  I’d be too afraid someone might move in on her.” Tony flattered.

“Is this guy for real, Ray?” asked KariAnn jokingly.

“If you ask me, I’d say he probably needs glasses!” teased Ray.

“Gee, thanks a lot, Ray.  I hate you too!” she smiled teasingly back.

“Say, why don’t I get Debbie and the four of us can go out on the porch swing and try out some of this hash I just got.” said Ray.

“I’m all for it.  It’s a shame to waste such a beautiful day indoors.” said Tony.  “Come on, KariAnn, let’s wait for them out on the swing.”  Tony held out his arm in a gentlemanly fashion, and putting her arm in his, they headed out while Ray looked for Debbie.  Reaching the swing, Tony sat down beside her and starred into her eyes a moment before speaking.  “Do you know you have the face of an angel and eyes so dreamy that when you combine them with your smile, I find myself melting on the spot.” Tony flirted.

There was something about the way he looked into her eyes, like they were portholes to her mind, of which he was attempting to take in her every thought that started her heart pounding.  KariAnn felt as if he was enchanting her into some kind of spell.  “You’ll have to stop before my head gets any bigger and explodes.” replied KariAnn almost at a loss for words.  “I must say, Tony, you’re loaded with enough charm and good looks to probably get most anything you want.”

“Even if what I want is to steal you away from Ken?” he tested.

“I think I’d be safer not to answer that one.”  She’d temporally forgotten her jealous feelings of Ken’s intense attraction to Suzie, but now with the mention of his name, she began again to wonder where and whom he was with.

“I’ll let you get away with that answer for now, but let me warn you I don’t give up easily.” said Tony as he saw Ray and Debbie walk through the door.

“You two ready to party hardy?” asked Debbie smiling, and holding up an already packed bowl of hash.

“I’m always ready.  Let’s light it up.” responded KariAnn eagerly.

“Here, I’ll let you do the honors then.” said Debbie handing her the pipe and lighter.  “If anyone needs a trip away from the real world it’s you.”

“What does she mean by that?” Tony looked puzzlingly at KariAnn as she lit up the pipe handed to her.

“I guess you could say that things haven’t been exactly peaches and cream lately,” answered KariAnn vaguely, “but nothing stays bad forever and I’m sure things can only get better.”

“That’s putting it mildly, but at least now thanks to Nazi we won’t have to worry about the Road Agents anymore.” added Debbie.

“Who are Nazi and the Road Agents?” inquired Tony wanting to know more.

“Nazi is a friend of Debbie’s who helped us last night by taking care of some creeps you wouldn’t want to know.” KariAnn again answered vaguely, hoping to think of a way to get off the subject before Debbie could shoot off her mouth anymore or Tony asked any further questions.

“Are these creeps, the Road Agents, a local motorcycle gang that’s been hassling the two of you?” Tony quickly popped the next question.

“Yeah,” Ray spoke this time, “these bikers actually held KariAnn hostage about four days at their clubhouse before she escaped, and then just two days ago they returned with guns looking for her and almost got Debbie this time along with her.”

“You both must have been scared shitless!  So what happened then?  How did you get away?” Tony then fired one question after another.  There was nothing to do now but explain the whole ordeal one more time.  Tony was just too intrigued to let it drop.  He listened intently once KariAnn took over explaining what happened, and didn’t comment till she was done.

“You should have someone to take care of you, KariAnn, and I don’t think Ken is doing a very good job of it.” Tony finally remarked.  “I can’t believe you’re only fourteen and living on the run.  You should be home with your family.”

“Please no lectures now, Tony.” pleaded KariAnn.  “I like you, I really do, but you don’t know the whole story and I’d rather not go into the reasons right now why I ran away or why I can’t go back.”

“Okay, no lectures.” he agreed.

“Thank you.” KariAnn said in appreciation.  “I think I’m going to grab some of the munchies I saw sitting out on the table inside and get another beer.  I’ll join you guys a little later.”

“I hope so.” she heard Tony call out before she closed the door behind her.

She headed directly for the kitchen looking around for Ken as she went, but he was nowhere in sight.  He was no longer in the kitchen either.  Grabbing a beer from the frig, she walked over to Glen and Pam talking in the living room while selecting the next album to play.  “Hey, have either of you seen Ken recently?” she asked.

“Last I saw him,” remembered Pam, “he was talking to Suzie, but I don’t know where he is now.  I think Suzie went upstairs, but she was alone.”

“Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find him.” thanked KariAnn.

“You might check out in the backyard.  I know a few people wandered out there.” Glenn suggested.

“Okay, but first I need to use your bathroom.” she smiled.

“I think Johnny just headed for it.” said Pam.  “If you have to go bad, there’s another bathroom at the top of the stairs.”

“That’s great, because this beer ran right through me.” KariAnn said over her shoulder as she headed upstairs.

She could see the bathroom as soon as she reached the top of the stairs, and went in closing the open door behind her.  When she was through, she quickly combed her long hair in the mirror and smiled to herself remembering the compliments Tony gave her earlier about her face, eyes and smile.  She wished Ken still said such sweet things to her, but ever since her horrific experience nothing was quite the same between them.  She was just about to head back down when she heard giggles coming from one of the bedrooms.  Suddenly she was filled with dread that she may have just found Ken.  What if he snuck upstairs after Suzie did and no one saw him?  She simply couldn’t leave until she knew for sure, and with her heart in her throat, KariAnn slowly headed toward the closed door where the giggles came from.

“Oh, Ken,” the giggles came again, “stop that!”

As she flung open the door and saw Ken and Suzie naked in bed, her Irish temper took over.  “Yeah, Ken, stop that!” she mocked.  “Maybe next time you should remember to lock the fucking door you God damn bastard!”

“Oh, shit!” was all Ken managed to say.

“I guess I should have kept a better eye on him, huh, Suzie?” she now hotly addressed her.  “After all you did try to warn me.  Well, he’s all yours now honey, because I don’t want him anymore!”

“KariAnn, wait!” Ken yelled as she turned to leave.

“Let her go.  She said it was over, remember?” she heard Suzie’s voice trail off as she hurried down the stairs.

She told herself she would not cry, but the tears came anyway.  When Tony found her crying in the back yard and Pam explained what happened, he was ready to step in and comfort her.  “Don’t cry, KariAnn, he’s not worth it.”

“Tony is right, KariAnn.” said Pam hugging her friend.  “I’m sorry my cousin is such a slut, but if it makes you feel better, Ken just left the party alone.”

“I don’t care what he does anymore, Pam.  It’s over.” KariAnn said drying her tears and recomposing herself.

“So this is where you guys have been hiding out.” said a stout, heavy-set guy who came walking over.  “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything is fine.” said Tony.  “Hey, Johnny, have you met KariAnn?”

“No, can’t say that I have.” said Johnny holding out his hand.  “It’s nice to meet you young lady.  Is she the one you were saying might be interested in a job?”

“Yes, the very same.” replied Tony.  “KariAnn meet Johnny, my next door neighbor and one of my best friends.  He drives a Yummy Wagon, and is looking for some help.”

“I’ve been looking for someone I can depend on who can wait on the customers while I drive the truck.” Johnny told her.  “My last helper took too much time off and I had to let him go.  The hours are long from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but the work is easy and sometimes fun.  It has been hard finding someone willing to work those hours.”

“Why aren’t you working today?” KariAnn wondered since it was a Friday afternoon.  “Do you have today off?”

“Yes, I asked for today off, because it’s my birthday.” answered Johnny.

“Well then, happy birthday Johnny!” smiled KariAnn.  “I am very interested in hearing more about the job too.  Do you drive up and down the street like an ice cream truck playing music?”

“Yes, most of the time that’s exactly what we do, but sometimes we get to set up the truck at special outdoor events and concerts.” Johnny explained.  “A week from Monday is Labor Day, and we are signed up to be one of many food trucks to cover the annual event at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.  I heard this year the Cowsills and James Darren will be performing there.”

“That does sound like fun!” exclaimed KariAnn.  “So what do you sell on the Yummy Wagon?”

“Well,” Johnny began, “in addition to ice cream we also sell cotton candy, peanuts, popcorn, gum, candy bars, hot dogs, sodas, cigarettes and the like.”

“I think I’d really love a job like that, and you could count on me to be dependable.” KariAnn assured.  “How much does it pay?”

 “I can pay you ten dollars a day; tax free under the table at the end of the shift on Saturday nights.  I won’t be able to get you on the payroll because of your age, but I can pay you cash out of my salary.” said Johnny getting down to business.

“That’s more than I made a Livio’s.” said KariAnn quickly doing the simple math in her head.  “Would you be able to pick me up?”

“Yes, of course, but I need to know I can count on you to be ready to leave each morning by 9:30 when I pull up and honk the horn.” Johnny waited for her to agree to the commitment.

“You just hired yourself a helper!” smiled KariAnn holding her hand out to shake on the agreement.

Life moves fast when you’re young, and on Monday she started her second paying job.  Johnny drove the truck around their route which he knew like the back of his hand while KariAnn waited on the customers in line and took their money.  She loved waiting on the kids best and seeing their big smiles when she handed them an ice cream bar or a big cotton candy cone.  Every night Tony would be waiting for her at the warehouse at ten o’clock when they dropped off the company truck, took nightly inventory, and turned in the money they made for the day.  Then Tony would drive her back to the commune, and spend an hour or so with her before going home.  It was now the end of August, and the end of her first week working on the Yummy Wagon with Johnny.

“You’ve turned out to be a good partner, KariAnn, and I enjoy working with you.” said Johnny handing KariAnn her first week’s pay of sixty dollars cash.  “Try not to spend it all in one place.”

“Thanks, Johnny, I’ll try not to.” she said placing the money away in her purse.  “Well, I’ll see you Monday morning, if I don’t see you Sunday.  I’m really looking forward to our Labor Day gig at the fairgrounds.”  She waved goodbye, and ran over to Tony who had just pulled up in his blue Caddy with the fuzzy dice on his mirror.

“Hi, babe,” Tony greeted her, “how’s my little working girl tonight?”

“Fantastic!  I’m sixty dollars richer than when I last saw you, and I’m all ready to start what’s left of the weekend.” she beamed from ear to ear.

“Well, what are we waiting for then?” Tony asked.  “Hey, how does a pizza sound?  I’m hungry, how about you?”

Tony was nineteen and the perfect boyfriend having both good looks and money.  His father died in a plane crash when he was ten, and he lived with his mother, who was a judge, on the east side of Detroit in an exclusive subdivision for the upper class called Indian Village.  Tony was studying to be an architect at U of M, and received a college deferment to keep him out of Vietnam.  His mother gave him a brand new arctic blue Cadillac convertible as a graduation present last year to get back and forth in, yet in spite of his advantaged background, Tony never put on airs of being any better than anyone else.  He told KariAnn that he found it refreshing that she was willing to work for what she wanted and wasn’t a spoiled rich brat that got everything simply handed to her on a whim.  KariAnn and Tony was sort of an unlikely match coming from two completely different worlds, but life seemed happy and good when they were together and that was all that mattered.

Come Labor Day morning, Johnny picked her up an hour early so they could find their spot and get the truck set up and ready for the on slot of people wanting refreshments.  It was a short drive from the commune to the Michigan State Fairgrounds which was between 7-1/2 and 8 Mile Roads just east of Woodward Ave.  Pulling into the fairgrounds, KariAnn was in awe of its size.  “Wow, this place is huge!” she remarked with her mouth slightly open.

“Yes, it is.  I hear it’s over 160 acres.” said Johnny, and then spying the reserved spot with their name on it, pulled the truck over.  “It looks like we got lucky as our spot is in the shade.  It can get pretty hot inside the truck when you’re in the sun.”

“Yes, I bet it would.” said KariAnn.  “Do we have some tape to hang the sign I made for the promotional plastic sunglasses and sun visors?”  These were not regular items they sold, but had a great potential of bringing in some extra money as a popular and much sought after commodity on a hot, sunny day as well as a souvenir.  The various color plastic sunglasses only cost the company about twenty cents each and were expected to fly out of the box at fifty cents; and the adjustable cloth sun visors which also came in various colors a bargain at seventy-five cents.  Johnny warmed up and stocked the hot dog machine while KariAnn got the cotton candy machine ready.  The Yummy Wagon was packed full with extra inventory hoping for a big money payout.

It was around 10:30 when Debbie, Ray, Pam and Glen showed up and found where they had parked the truck and set up.  Tony was spending Labor Day with his mother at a family reunion he couldn’t get out of, but had planned on meeting up with her later.  Johnny told her she could take a 20 minute break, and then he’d take one when she got back.  KariAnn was wearing one of the promotional sun visors, and talked Debbie and Pam into buying one too.  She lit up a cigarette not knowing when she’d be able to have another one, and walked around with her friends taking in the sights.

There were carnival rides in the center of the park that would be all lit up once it got dark, and lots of game booths everywhere you looked you could win prizes.  There was an artist booth set up too where you could get your portrait drawn as a funny caricature, a dunk tank where an obnoxious clown smoking a cigar baited you into trying to knock him into a large tank of water, a test your strength and ring the bell for a prize game, bottle toss game, shoot targets with water guns, and even people trying to guess your exact weight.  In that moment, KariAnn was happy and felt like a kid again.

“Well, that break went fast.” said KariAnn looking down at her watch.  “Come find me later, and I’ll be able to take another break.  Right now I’ve got to relieve Johnny before we get slammed by the lunch crowd.”

“Will do.” said Debbie, “Tell Johnny we’re going to hang out for a while at the dunk tank and try to knock that smart ass clown into the water if he wants to join up with us on his break.”  The lunch crowd did not disappoint, and their inventory was flying out the truck’s window along with the sun glasses and visors.  Her friends came by off and on, and they’d step out back of the truck to smoke a quick joint when no one was in line.

James Darren was the main concert attraction and took top billing with his 1960’s hits “Too Young To Go Steady” and “You Make Me Feel So Young”, but it was the Cowsills that KariAnn and her friends were looking forward to.  They were an American singing group who connected with the hippie style of fashion and music especially with their version of Hair from the popular musical, and everyone began singing along to the music rocking through the speakers:

“… Gimme a head with hair

Long, beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming,

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

 

Give me down to there

Shoulder length or longer

(Hair!) Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy

 

Hair, hair, hair, hair

Grow it, show it

Long as I can grow it

My hair …”

 

All in all it had been a very fun as well as prosperous day, and both KariAnn and Johnny were beat when they packed things up and headed back to the warehouse to drop off the truck.  The busy summer season was nearing its end for the Yummy Wagon, and KariAnn collected two more full paychecks before Johnny let her know there wasn’t enough business to keep her on anymore.  Now mid-September, Tony had returned to his classes at U of M, and was working on KariAnn to think about going back to school herself.

“So what are you going to do now, KariAnn, that you no longer have a job?” asked Tony.  “Have you given any thought about getting back in school before you fall behind?”

School was something she hadn’t thought much about until recently, but knew Tony was right.  “Actually, Debbie and I did talk about this the other day, and said she thought I could sit in on her classes as the teachers never seemed to care who was there and who wasn’t, and was happy just to have students show up.”

“Even if that were true, you wouldn’t get credit for the classes, and you need to graduate high school bare minimum if you plan on getting ahead in life.” Tony pointed out.

“Well then, maybe I can figure out a way to get enrolled.  Debbie has patched things up with her mother, and maybe she could help get me enrolled into Cooley High School with Debbie.  Plus It’s right across the street from the commune too so I could walk each morning.”

“Okay, let’s say that she does.  What name are you going to use when all your school records are under your real name which is on a list of runaways?” Tony explained.  “I really think you should give your parents a call, and see if there’s any way they will let you come back home.  We can still make our relationship work, and I could drive out to see you on the weekends.”

“I promise I’ll think about it, Tony.” was all she’d agree to, not putting much trust in her parents allowing her to come home having tried it before.

It was only a few days later, however, after Debbie’s harrowing experience on the playground after school that made KariAnn rethink what Tony said.  Debbie told her she had only bummed a cigarette from this black guy, but his girlfriend saw her talking to her boyfriend and threatened to kill her after school.  There was still a lot of racial tension left over from the riots of ’67, and it was considered a bold move for a white girl to approach or talk to a black guy.  When the girlfriend came after her, Debbie slammed her notebook down on top of her head as hard as she could.  It was a little, not widely known fact that many black chicks hid razor blades in their Afros to quickly whip out in a fight, and once her attacker screamed and blood ran down her face, Debbie ran for her life knowing she could never go back to that school again.

KariAnn knew what she had to do, and couldn’t kick the can down the road any longer.  Although Debbie thought school was unnecessary and was content on simply becoming Ray’s wife someday, KariAnn had aspired higher wanting independence and knew how important a role that good education played in it.  Picking up the phone, she felt that old familiar choky feeling in her throat suddenly arising from both fear and guilt, and slowly dialed the memorized phone number to home.


© Copyright 2019 Katie McDougal. All rights reserved.

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