The Snack Shack Snipe

By Ashlin Awerkamp


A drop of water hits your toe, yanking you out of the world of Nancy Drew and her detective work and back to the foofaraw that is the public swimming pool. You pull your legs up to protect your book from the threat of future assault as you watch four teenagers locked in a chicken fight. One pair smacks into the water, and you lift your book high above your head. The kids stand up for another round. You cluck your tongue, grab your shoes and bag, and walk across the pool deck away from the rogues. The hot pavement sears your feet, so you turn toward the serene, dry shade of the snack shack.
    As you walk, you wipe sweat from your brow and check your watch. An hour down and four to go. Knowing your dad and younger brother, there was no chance of going home from this blazing hot work party early. They would ride the slides until their backs broke. Adrenaline junkies. At least three hours would give you plenty of time to see how Nancy Drew solved the mystery of the crocodile island.
    You reach the counter and peruse the impressive array. The company had spared no expense, it seemed, and brought a semitruck’s worth of food for each guest. The greasy smell of hot dogs and hamburgers hits your nose. You inhale deeply but then look at your book with its pristine pages and move on. A bartender serves smoothies to a gaggle of teenage girls. Farther down the counter you see an array of desserts arranged on platters for the picking. You follow the line and look over the drooping lemon squares, the wilting key lime pie, the pale brownies. You shake your head. All the expense on the food but not enough to save them from the berating heat of the August sun. You reach for a cookie that looks relatively intact, but the person in front of you turns and you see their plate. Your hand freezes. Could it be?
    You scan the table, inspecting each tray until . . . there! Cream puffs! You scurry down, weaving between the crowd. Pure, delectable, cream puffs! You push through and see . . . one. One cream puff resting forlornly in the nook of the tray. What had happened to the rest of the semitruck’s worth of cream puffs? Had the rest really been gobbled up in the time it took you to get through the crowd?
    You reach out to rescue the puff, but your hand collides with two other hands reaching over the same silver platter. All three hands hover for a few seconds. You look up from the pink-painted nails of one hand into the pool-blue eyes of a middle-aged woman and then over at the other girl sporting a sensible ponytail.
    Sensible Ponytail pulls her hand back and looks between you and Pool-Blue. “Aren’t these so good?” She grins. “I promised my brother I’d save one for him.” She pulls the platter toward herself.
    Pool-Blue pins down the tray with her hand. “No, I’m pretty sure this one is meant for me. You see, I’m the host of this party, and I’ve been working all morning and haven’t had a chance to eat since six o’clock this morning and cream puffs are my favorite and this is my last chance to eat before the belly flop competition and so . . .”
    Pool-Blue pauses for breath. You roll your eyes.
    “And so you see that I really must have this cream puff!” She yanks the tray toward herself.
    You put your hands up between the two women. “Look, I’m sure more will be coming out. Hey, bartender!” you call. “How much longer until the next batch of these cream puffs?”
    The bartender shakes his head. “Those have been running off like five-year-olds on the pool deck. That there’s the last one.”
    The three of you look at each other with wide eyes and then down at the cream puff only to see it swiped by a hefty, calloused hand. A teenage boy with muscles stretching against every inch of his skin places the puff daintily on his plate next to four brownies, three cookies, and a slice of pie before sauntering off down the deck.
    You blink a few times, then blink at the other girls, and they blink back, and you all blink at the boy again. Sensible Ponytail puts her hands on her hips. “Oh, no, he di-in’t.”
    Pool-Blue crosses her arms. “I do believe that kid owes us a cream puff. I didn’t expect to go on a heist today, but this is an emergency. You with me, girls?”
    You look at your new allies, smile, and nod. Time to make Nancy Drew proud.

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