Young Adult Fiction posted August 28, 2009

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
short story, beginning: Something was wrong.

Trouble Stinks

by Soulester


Something was wrong; I could smell it--Mom’s expensive perfume.


My parents sometimes call Kara, my teenage sister, BG—you guessed it—for Big Girl, but I call her TROUBLE (in caps). I’ve been worried about Kara ever since we moved here and she started hanging around with our neighbor Lisa and her friends. 


As soon as my dad left for the office, Mom called Kara to come downstairs and eat breakfast, so she could load the dishwasher.  “Will you go bring it up here for me, Amy?” Kara asked.


“Why can’t you go down?” I asked.


“I’m in a hurry.  Please?” she called from our parents’ room.


Our parents’ room?   That’s when I caught a whiff of Mom’s Dior J’Adore perfume.  Mom’s gonna kill her. Sure enough, she was spraying a cloud of Mom’s expensive perfume and walking through it.   Mom’s gonna kill you, Kara!”


“Not if you help.  Go stall Mom.  Hurry!”      So, I did.  Color me guilty.


My sister and I go to different schools, but we live just outside the city limits, so we ride the same bus.  We usually don’t sit together, but Kara had had a fight with her boyfriend and she wanted to sit with me on my seat, beside the aisle where Jason could see her ignore him.


I didn’t see Kara and her golden locks again until after school.  She and loudmouth Lisa met me by the bus.  “I’m staying late to help paint signs for the game Friday.  Tell Mom I’ll catch a ride home with somebody.”


“Hmmm.  Something smells fishy,” I said, hoisting my book bag over my shoulder. 


“If she can smell it, so will Miss Druek,” cried Lisa.


Kara put her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye.  “Smell my breath, she said.  Her friend was nodding encouragement.


She blew in my face.  “It smells like liquor,” I said. 


Kara backed me up, and lowered her voice.


“Promise you won’t tell.  I only took a little on a dare. Do you have some gum I can chew before I go home?”  


“I don’t like it, Kara.  You could get suspended for this,” I said, but I gave her my last stick of Berry Explosion.


“Don’t worry, Amy; it’s no big deal,” she said.  “Everybody does it.  Hurry!  Get on the bus.”  I was an accomplice in crime.


I’m not sure, but I don’t think she really painted signs with the Pep Club.  Usually, she says one thing and does another.  Like if she says she’s going to the library, she might really go to the mall.  And if she says she’s going shopping at the mall, she might just meet her friends at McDonald’s for a Coke and fries instead.  Our parents don’t have a clue.  I like that she confides in me, but it also makes me nervous. Today in school we discussed cause and effect and natural consequences.  My sister’s very good at dodging consequences.


So, what did Kara really do after school today?    I know part of it, anyway.  When she and Lisa got dropped off after sign painting, they went out behind our garage.  They were supposed to be digging worms for their biology teacher’s aquarium fish for extra credit, but I was out there pretending to collect seeds for a science project, and I smelled cigarette smoke. 


“We’re not inhaling, Amy.  We’re just practicing for the school play.” Kara was a fast talker.


“Yeah, right.”  Lisa laughed and blew a smoke ring.  She blew the rest out of her nose at me, like a dragon.  It was disgusting.


I could tell Kara was upset that I’d caught them. “We’re just experimenting.  We’re just sharing one,” she said. 


Like that was okay then. “Do you know what the consequences will be if Mom and Dad find out?” I didn’t know, really, but I knew it wouldn’t be good and didn’t want to find out. 


Kara produced my last piece of Berry Explosion from her pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it into her mouth.  “Not to worry.  We’re doing something else now, if you want to join us.”


“Mom wants us inside for dinner pretty soon,” I said.  “What’re you going to do?”


“I’m so over Jason,” she said.  “We’re going to burn up his class picture in a ceremony back here.  Remember, if Mom asks, tell her we’re still looking for worms.”


“Ah, no thanks.  You better hurry.”  I put my imaginary seeds in my pocket and walked back to the house.  Just then Mom called us all inside.


Lisa ate dinner with us, and those two got excused early to go back worm hunting, now that it was near dusk.  I didn’t have much homework, and I finished it in a jiffy. 


“I’m going out to watch Kara and Lisa get worms,” I called to my parents as I stepped out the back door with a flashlight.


I smelled smoke.  Not just cigarette smoke.  Real fire smoke! Sure enough, there they were, squatting over a little fire behind the garage.  Jason’s face was turning brown and curling.  A breeze stirred; the fire started spreading to the surrounding weeds.  Kara and Lisa squealed and started stomping on the runaway flames.  Kara grabbed their bucket of water, but there wasn’t nearly enough.  “Get the hose!” she yelled. 


But I was already on it.  It was amazing how fast that fire spread, but we got it out.  It was amazing that our parents were inside the house, totally oblivious. 


I headed back inside, hoping I didn’t smell of smoke.  My plan was to get into the shower ASAP.


But although our parents didn’t realize what was going on, our Black Lab, Beau, knew something was up.  He practically knocked me down when I opened the door, and he ran out behind the garage to investigate.  He was ready to save somebody.  I guess once he found out the exciting part was over, he took the opportunity to run.  There’s  nothing Beau likes better than a good squirrel chase. 


I paused to watch as Kara and Lisa called him and called him.  He dashed right past them, then ran out into the field and headed for the trees again.  He didn’t come back for a while, and then we heard him howl.  He came tearing across the field toward the garage and practically jumped into Kara’s arms.  “Help me get his collar,” she shouted to Lisa.  Beau was wild.  It took both girls to hold him still and grab his collar to lead him back to the house.


I smelled it just about the time Lisa the drama queen said, “He got sprayed by a skunk!”  They hauled Beau to the porch. He was bucking like a bronco. 


Right about then, Dad came out.  “What’s all the commotion about?” he growled, sore at missing the end of CSI Miami. He got a good whiff.  “Pew!  Get the hose.  Don’t bring him in the house like that,” he said. 


So, by now the teenagers were gagging and wrestling with the hose and the dog. They soaped him and rinsed him while my mother drove to the nearest grocery store and bought all the tomato juice she could carry.  


Meanwhile, my dad brought a big washtub out from the laundry room to give Beau a tomato juice bath.  He told the girls to bathe him.  “You already smell like skunk yourselves.  And you’re next.”


“What?!”  They had been so busy, they hadn’t realized the skunk scent was all over them, too.  They started squealing again.


“And Amy,” Mom asked, as she brushed past me, “Why do you smell like smoke?”




The girls stopped squealing and tried to look sorry and like they wanted understanding and forgiveness, as they explained they’d burned Jason’s picture behind the garage. 


My parents were alarmed at how big the black patch of burned grass really was.  Dad looked at the girls with disbelief, as he pointed to the cigarette butt. “Let me get this straight. Instead of doing homework, you came out here and smoked cigarettes?  And then you lit a fire in the grass back here? What is the matter with you?”


I got to shower inside, but Kara and Lisa had to soap up and rinse off with the cold hose water, and then take tomato juice baths.  Lisa’s parents agreed with Mom and Dad.  They made both girls go to school the next day, still smelling a little like skunk.  I’m pretty sure you could say Kara and Lisa got a natural consequence.


Later I learned they had played hooky the next day, but Kara was acting normal, and it felt like everything was okay again at our house. 


It was Friday after school, and I was celebrating by painting my toenails sky blue.  I sat on the toilet seat, one leg propped up on the rim of the tub.  I could see directly into Kara’s bedroom. 


Oh, great.  Loud-mouth Lisa’s over.  Kara grabbed Lisa’s hand and studied her new ring.  “Oh, my God, where did you get this?” she cried. 


“At Lieman’s.”  Lisa pulled her hand away and fluttered her fingers in front of her face.  


“But I thought you were broke.  How could you afford it?” asked Kara.


“I got the five-finger discount,” Lisa laughed. 


Five-finger discount? I sat poised with one hand holding the nail polish bottle and the other one holding the brush in mid air.  “Five-finger discount?”  I interrupted, loud as Loudmouth herself.  “Is that the same as sticky fingers?”


Kara looked totally stricken, but Lisa snorted.  “Exactly!” she said, waving her ring so I could see.  Then she turned to Kara.  “If you want to be in the club you have to steal something.”


“What club?” asked Kara.


“It’s just some kids--and it has to be witnessed.”




“Yeah, like a kid has to see you do it.”


“So, if I say I saw you steal that ring, you’d be in the club?”


“Sure, but you don’t have to lie for me.  This was just a test run.”


“So, how does it work, then?”


“A bunch of us are going to the  grocery store before the game.   Are you in?”


“No!”  I yelled from the bathroom.  “She’s not a thief.”


“Mind your own business, Amy.” Kara said.


“Well, you can’t, anyway.  You have to stay home with me.”


“Yeah,” agreed Kara.  “I’m grounded tonight.”  She closed the bathroom door on me.  “Maybe tomorrow,” she told Loudmouth. 


“I can hear you!” I cried.  They mumbled for a few minutes, and then Lisa left.  Good riddance.  At least Kara’s safe for tonight.


But after our folks went out a couple hours later, Kara told me she was going out for a while, too. I smelled Mom’s perfume on her again.


“I’ll call Mom and Dad! I’ll tell them you’re out drinking and stealing with your friends.”


“I’m not,” she said.  “I’m just going to meet some kids.  Just for a few minutes.”


“You’re going to wind up in juvie,” I said.


  “I need friends, Amy!”


“Well, Jason was nice, but you broke up with him.”  


“It’s different here.  Go ahead and call Mom and Dad.  I don’t care if you do.  I just won’t come back home.”


“I’m scared.”  I said.


“You’ll be okay. I won’t be gone long, I promise.”


 “I mean I’m scared for you.  This stuff is dangerous!  I don’t want to lose you!”  I started crying—blubbering, really.  I grabbed her arm.  “Don’t go, okay?”


She pulled away.  “You come, too.  I just want to see if anybody’s there, and then we’ll come home.”  Anybody, as in Jason.  She got our jackets out of the hall closet, and handed mine to me.  I caved.  I put it on and wiped my nose on the sleeve.  I did.  It still smelled like smoke.


It was maybe a fifteen minute walk to the shopping center.  I was scared every step of the way--scared of being caught, but mostly scared of walking right into trouble.   I kept getting whiffs of Mom’s perfume.


We headed across the parking lot, but Kara stopped short and pulled me back.  There were two police cars parked right between the grocery store and the music store.


“And there comes another one!” I said.  The siren made one winding down errrrrp sound as it approached the small crowd, and the blue blinking lights were shooting like fireworks on all three patrol cars. 


 Just then, Jason walked around from behind a double row of cars.  He was holding a cell phone to his ear, but he said Hi as he approached  us.


“Hi,” Kara maintained her cool self.  “What’s going on?” she asked.


“A bunch of kids just got caught at the grocery store for stealing cigarettes and candy.” 


“They’re being arrested?” Kara asked.


 Jason nodded.


“How do you know?” I asked.


“I work there,” he answered, closing his cell phone.  The store has security cameras.  They got it all on tape."


We were all three glued to the scene unfolding before us. Four high school kids were already lined up, backs to the building, the spinning lights spotlighting them over and over.  It looked like the police officers were asking for ID’s and taking down information. I couldn’t see their faces well.


“I wonder if your friend Lisa’s there.” I said to Kara. “Kara?”  She looked gray under the parking lot lights. She was clenching her teeth. “Kara?”


She turned toward Jason and me.  I could see her jaw muscles twitch.  She looked back at the crime drama for a bit, and then turned to us again, holding back tears.  


“I don’t have any friends,” she said.  Her voice actually cracked when she said that.  It broke my heart.  She turned and started walking like a zombie out of the parking lot toward home.  


Jason and I looked at each other.  “You’ve got me,” he said, catching up to my sister.


“And me,” I said, running to catch up. 


The three of us walked along together, Jason on one side of my sister, me on the other.  No one spoke. Not a word.  Awkward!


Finally, Jason reached in his pocket and offered Kara and me each a piece of Juicy Fruit gum.  Kara just took a piece and said thanks, but I took a big long sniff of mine.  It didn’t smell like trouble.  It smelled like hope.    




This Sentence Starts The Story contest entry


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