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Open For Summer

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Open For Summer

I rolled into town, radio blasting, top down. The lady walking her dog on my right glared at me, as did the man washing his car, and the two little girls playing in the sandbox at the park. I just looked straight ahead and ignored them. That was my strategy: if you ignore them, they will ignore you. Once enough people bothering you, you learn to ignore them. My father had forced this life on me. Last year I became like this.
I never liked attention. My parents were always talking, so it didn’t really matter. I didn’t need to be heard when there was already so much talking. My mom was a high school history teacher. She constantly talked in what she called her “teacher voice.” She projected across every room and you could always hear her. My dad thought of himself as an evolving actor, so he was also loud. Last year he got his first big movie role, Psychotic Ramblings. He played a troubled, but gifted man who solved this huge mystery. I was never actually allowed to watch it. When the movie came out, the cast, made up of complete unknowns, all became overnight celebrities. Even now, there were still paparazzi outside of our house 24/7. My dad had just starred in another film, and the paparazzi came back. After a year of constant attention, I had finally convinced my parents that they should let me move out. Now, I was going to live with my mom’s sister, Margaret.
I am moving from Portland, Oregon, to Biloxi, Mississippi. Whenever I was embarrassed, my sister, Allison, used to say, “Wear it loud and proud.” She had moved out three years ago with her boyfriend, when she was my age. My parents didn’t want me following in Allison’s footsteps, so they had been trying to be “perfect parents” - They even paid for my car to be flown down with me. She was a 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, my pride and joy. I had been saving up since I was ten years old. There was a mechanic shop down the road from my old house that had held this car for as long as I could remember. I worked my butt off to learn how to drive. My parents were both extremely busy, so I taught myself how to drive using the internet. On my sixteenth birthday, about a year and a half ago, I had marched into the shop, and bought the car. My only problem now, was that, after I paid for gas, I was usually flat-out broke. I had a job, back in Portland, which I had quit, to move down here. That meant that I needed to find another job, fast. My parents had offered to pay for the gas and anything else I needed, but I wanted to earn it for myself. I turned onto De Buys Road, searching for the address 162. I found the house, cut my engine, and pulled my bags out of the car. I piled them all on the porch and rang the doorbell. There was loud, 60’s music coming from the house.
Inside, somebody yelled, “Elaine, get the door!”
“It’s open!” Someone else, I’m guessing Elaine, shouted back.
I tried the handle and the door swung open. High security they’ve got here, I thought. The house was so organized, it hurt. There was a straight-backed, gray couch against one wall with a glass and metal coffee table in front of it. The windows looked as though you could wipe a white glove on it and not pick up any dust. I followed the sounds to the kitchen. There were ten women, all in their mid-fifties, dancing and cooking.
“Darling, oh, you look so grown up!” Aunt Margaret crooned, as she walked up and hugged me, tightly. “Doesn’t she?”
“Oh of course… All grown up… I can’t believe it…” All the women came up and hugged me in turn as they agreed with Aunt Margaret, loudly.
“I think,” I said, extracting myself, “that I am going to go see the beach.” I said this while keeping a very bright and completely false smile plastered across my face.
“I think that is a great idea!” Aunt Margaret agreed. “You haven’t been here in forever. You must have forgotten everything about Biloxi!” I smiled politely in agreement. “You’ll be able to catch up with the girls during next week’s cooking class.”
If this happened every week. I needed to find a way to get out during that. I didn’t like being stared at so much by all of her friends. However, I managed a “Definitely!” while hurrying out the door. I started walking down the road towards the beach. After five minutes, I reached the sand. I walked along the beach for about ten minutes, feet in the shallow water.
I passed several restaurants and shops, when a sign caught my eye: NOW HIRING! The sign was in front of Mugshots Bar & Grill, Best Burgers in Mississippi. I had never been there before and I didn’t think I had even seen it. The restaurant was wedged in the strip mall between Dillard’s and Wendy’s. I pushed the door open and was met with smells of smoke and burgers. The floors were in desperate need of mopping and the only customers were all sitting at the bar, watching a football game. The walls were covered in pictures of people holding Mugshots’ koozies and wearing Mugshots’ t-shirts. But, I reminded myself, a job was a job, and I needed one badly.
“Excuse me,” I walked up to the bartender.
“Yeah? What can I get you?”
“ I noticed you’re hiring and I was wondering how I could get a job.” I asked.
She looked me up and down. “You’re hired,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“Mckayla Levine.” I answered quickly, at attention. When I had gotten my first job, even without an interview, my dad had told me “Mckayla, you have to be careful. Those who are quick to hire are even quicker to fire. Always bring your A-game.”
“I’m Sophie Ashton. As you can see, I am the bartender.” She gestured towards the bar. “We’re open everyday for lunch and dinner but since Thursday is our slowest day, I’m the only one here. Usually, it’s me, Savannah, Roman, Zoe, and Quinten.”
“Great!” I said perkily, in complete contrast to Sophie. “What can I start with?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Clean up the kitchen, I guess?” She pointed to the kitchen.
I pushed open the swinging doors, to find piles of dishes covering long metal counters. On the right side of the doors was a huge white board and the only empty counter underneath. The board had been written on by multiple people, names at the top and orders all down the board. S. Thorne, Z. Glidden, Q. Clegg, B. Ashton, R. Malosh; each name was underlined in green. I moved past the board and found the sink.
After four and a half hours of loading dishwashers and cleaning other dishes, I finally finished the kitchen. It was already seven o’clock. I decided to just get dinner at the restaurant before going home. I walked out of the kitchen to find Sophie sitting on the counter, both bar and restaurant empty, reading a book about physics.
“Can I get a menu and eat dinner?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She reached under the bar, pulled one out, and tossed it to me.
“Thanks.” I looked over the menu for a few minutes and decided. “Hey, Sophie? Can I get a Caitlin’s Cajun Sandwich?”
“I have to go make it. It’ll take five minutes.”
“Thanks.” I said as she vanished into the kitchen.
I walked up to the bar and sat down. The remote was sitting next to her book so I picked it up and started flipping the channels. The Breakfast Club was on, and I decided to watch. Sophie walked out carrying my sandwich and two glasses of lemonade.
“This is my favorite movie, ever!” This was the most emotion I had seen out of her all day.
“Definitely. I love it so much,” I said in agreement.

*
*
*

“Hi, Mckayla,” Aunt Margaret said as I walked in. “How was your day on the beach?”

“Great!” She looked up from the show she was watching. “I got a job.”

“That’s wonderful, Darling. Where?”

“Mugshots. I hadn’t even seen it before today, but it’s great!”

“Mugshots Bar and Grill? The one near Edgewater Mall?”

“That’s the one.”

“Oh, Honey. I don’t think you should hang around there.”

“I’m not hanging around. I’m working. I need the money.”

“I can get you a job somewhere else. I just don’t think Mugshots is the best place for you,” she said slowly, as if she was scared. “There have been rumors about the kids that work there doing very bad things.”

“How about I hang around, just to earn a little bit of money, and if I have any suspicions, I’ll let you know?” I said to appease her.

“Alright. But you’ll be careful?”

“Aren’t I always, Aunt Margaret?” I walked upstairs.

*
*
*

The next morning I got to work late because Aunt Margaret had insisted that I eat the five course breakfast she had made me. I told her I was fine with just coffee, but she wouldn’t let up. Even though I was late, there were only two other employees there. We didn’t open until noon, though, so this wasn’t all that surprising. When I walked in, Sophie was wiping the bar down. The other girl was dancing around the restaurant, setting up the tables, headphones in her ears.

“Hey,” Sophie nodded at me then yelled at the other girl, “Zoe!”

Zoe took of her headphones, which were extremely loud, even for me, and looked at us. “Hi,” she said, “You must be Mckayla. I know you are new here so I can show you the ropes. Sophie and I drive here together, so if you need a ride just ask one of us. Also, if you need any help with anything we’re all here. Well, not right now. But the others will get here at about eleven o’clock, so if you have any questions, just ask. Zoe Glidden, at your service.” She said all of this very fast and then saluted me. I was still going over all of this in my head when Sophie started talking to me.
“She does that, like, always. You’ll get used to it eventually.”
I just nodded. “So what can I get started with?”
“Well, you could re-write the board. Put your name where mine was. I’m going to cook today.”
I nodded again and walked into the kitchen. The kitchen was still clean but I knew I was probably going to have to go through the same cleaning process tonight. I rewrote the names, much more neatly, and put away a few leftover dishes.
“Hey, hey, hey!” A voice shouted from outside the kitchen. “We’re here.”
“No. Our lives did not just get better.” Sophie replied.
I walked out to see two guys standing on top of one of the tables. They both had brown hair but that was where the similarities ended. One of them had a slightly chubby face, as if his baby fat had not gone yet. He wore a white t-shirt and long khaki pants. I would have pegged him as the shy type but I was obviously very wrong. The other guy had his hair cropped extremely short and was about half a foot taller than me. He was wearing a Green Day American Idiot t-shirt and cargo pants. I loved Green Day.
They both nearly fell off the table when they saw me. Zoe, who had taken off her headphones again, laughed at them.
“We have new staff?” Baby-face asked.
“Yeah.” Sophie said. “And we talked about manners.”
Zoe laughed again.
The taller one jumped off the table and stuck his hand out, “I’m Quinten. Pleasure to meet you.” He shook my hand once and then bowed. I cracked a smile. “That my friend, is how to say something politely.” he said to the Baby-face.
The other guy turned bright red and jumped off the table as well. “Whatever. I’m Roman Malosh. Nice to meet you.”
“You too,” I said to both of them. “I’m Mckayla Levine.”

The day passed without much further eventfulness. At about noon, Savannah showed up to help with the rush. I liked these guys because they were very different from my friends at home. They were open and funny and talked about everything with each other. They were all so different but so alike.
Savannah and I became best friends. She lived one block over from my house, so we would walk home together everyday. The first day of work, we realized that we both disliked the same things. On the way back home, we played a game where we listed things we didn’t like. Now it was a daily occurrence.

*
*
*


The same thing happened basically every day, and yet every day was different. I learned quickly with all of the help. The customers created the change. Each of us would deal with the customers differently, and it was fun to try to predict which would be the grouchiest. Sophie and I would sit at the bar during lunch and make assumptions about people while Quinten, Roman, Savannah, and Zoe would wait. And then we would rotate. It was a game. Everything was a game; and I loved it.


I had been working at Mugshots for about a month, when Aunt Margaret asked me about them again. “Honey?” she called from the kitchen one day, when I got home.

“Did you need something?” I asked.

“How is your job going?”

“Great!” I was getting much more enthusiastic lately. “It’s a lot of fun.”

“What about the other employees? We talked about them, remember?”

“Yes, Aunt Margaret,” I was dragging now. “They are my friends, there is nothing wrong with them. They’re cool.”

“Okay, then. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

I just rolled my eyes and walked upstairs.

*
*
*

The next day, we had a lull in the crowds. I was talking to Quinten about his dog, when my mother called.

“Sorry,” I said “It’s my mom, I have to take it.”

“No problem.” He smiled. “I totally get it.”

I turned away, with the phone to my ear. “Hey, Mom.”

“Hi, Sweetheart. I couldn’t get a hold of you at Aunt Margaret’s house. She told me you were at work and I should call you here.”

“Okay. What’s up?”

She took a deep breath. “Dad and I have decided that you need to come back home.

“What?” I freaked out. “I love it here, Mom. You said I could stay.”

“Yes, but Honey, we talked to Aunt Margaret, and she said that you were becoming friends with some unruly people.”

“Unruly?” I was nearly shouting now. I lowered my voice. “Unruly. Are you serious? You are going to listen to her over me. They are my friends, Mom. And they are really nice. Aunt Margaret is just paranoid.”

“Your plane leaves tomorrow,” she snapped. “That is final.” The phone clicked off.

I sat there dumbfounded.

“Aw, man. You’re living with Margaret Rodburg? Geez. I feel bad for you. She’s a batty old lady.” He looked at me. “No offense or anything.”

“None taken. Why does she hate you guys anyway?”

“Roman used to live next door to her and we T.P.ed the wrong house. She went all wacko and called the police on us.”

“Are you serious?” I rolled my eyes. “My parents are making me go back home tomorrow because Aunt Margaret thinks I’m going to go to jail or something.”

“Well that sucks.”

“I know, right?”

“Mckayla!” Savannah called from inside the kitchen. “I need help with these plates.”

“Got to go,” I said to Quinten, while he laughed.

*
*
*


It was about eleven o’clock at night when I heard something move outside of my window. I looked out to come face to face with Zoe and Quinten.

“What are you doing?” I whispered, not wanting to wake Aunt Margaret up.

“We’re here to kidnap you,” replied Zoe. “Get in the car.” she was laughing though, so it was a terrible act.

I climbed out the window, glad that there was only one story to this house. We all got in the car and Zoe blindfolded me. By now she was nearly in hysterics though, so it took both of us to get it on.

The car stopped and they helped me get out. We walked a few steps and then stopped. Zoe undid my blindfold to reveal Mugshots. Inside, Savannah and Sophie stood among a mass of balloons and banners all saying: WE WILL MISS YOU!

I walked in and Savannah gave me a giant hug. Roman isn’t here yet, because he forgot the food, but when he gets here the party will begin.

Eventually, Roman made his way, and we all ate until we couldn’t move. Sophie played loud music and we danced for hours. It was the best night of my life.

The next morning, I was on a flight back to Oregon. I got a lot of time to think. This summer would be one I remembered. I had actually opened up to people. Become friends with them. And I missed them way, way, more than I thought I would. I swore I would come back to Biloxi again, and that was the one thing that would hold me together until next summer.




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