Trail McKenzie is a high school basketball star who's smart and handsome. Everything is perfect for Trail until he meets Susie-Q, a girl from the other side of the tracks. Pretty soon Trail's life is out of control, but he loves the feeling!
The fight happened after school.
Two boys, both wearing denim shirts, jeans and dusty boots, circled each other cautiously. Around them a crowd grew as people hurried out the back door of the school.
"Come on, Trail," someone yelled, "lay into him!"
This advice was directed at Trail McKenzie, a slim sixteen-year-old with curly brown hair and light blue eyes. He ignored the plea for action, but continued to watch for an opening against his opponent, Duke Hardin, who was taller and heavier.
"I'm going to squeeze you, little man," Duke said. "Come and get it."
The feud between Trail and Duke had begun shortly after Trail had arrived at the Junior Secondary in Campbell River, British Columbia.
Trail had been assigned to Duke's class, and within an hour they had quarrelled because both had wanted to use the same reference book in History.
Later, an argument over a lathe in Woodwork had made the two enemies. Finally, no longer satisfied with exchanging dirty looks and jostling in the halls, they had decided to meet behind the school for this "fight to the finish."
The crowd was getting impatient. Some of the spectators standing on the slope behind the school began to clap in unison; others called for the fighters to get on with it.
Trail knew the first move was the key. Hoping to land a good opening blow, and so gain the edge, he watched for Duke to relax his defences.
At the top of the slope a tall teacher was pushing his way through the crowd. "Hold it!" he yelled again. He looked around at the crowd, scorn on his face. "What are you people doing?" he shouted. "Why are you here?"
Silence. Trail moved to his right, trying to watch both Duke and the teacher.
"Go home!" the man ordered. "If you weren't here, they wouldn't fight. Are you too stupid to understand that?"
It was the wrong thing to say. Angry mutters broke out, and a boy hidden at the back of the crowd shouted, "Why don't you go home?"
"Yeah!" another voice agreed. "This is none of your business."
"You want them to fight?" the teacher shouted.
"YES!!" came from dozens of throats.
"Why?" The teacher shook his head. "Why?"
"We want blood!" someone answered.
Trail was distracted by the argument. He watched the teacher, forgetting about Duke. When he remembered, it was too late; a red fire exploded in his head and stones ripped into his body as
Duke's fist knocked him to the ground.
The crowd roared.
The tall teacher, still shouting, was ignored as everyone pushed closer, straining for a view. Trail shook his head and scrambled to his hands and knees. Duke stood back, waiting for his opponent
to stand, but instead Trail suddenly threw himself forward, driving his shoulder into Duke's stomach and hurling him to the ground.
The two boys rolled together in the dirt, struggling to gain control of the battle. Duke grabbed Trail's hair and yanked. Trail, gasping, forced his hands up into Duke's face and tore at his skin, trying desperately to make the other boy release his grip.
A big hand grabbed Duke and pulled him backwards. At the same time two arms dragged Trail away, then pinned him to the ground. Trail looked up into the face of Mr. Stanley, a gym teacher.
"The fight is over," Mr. Stanley said. "Next stop is the office."
Released, Trail stood up. Another gym teacher was leading Duke towards the school. The tall man still stood near the top of the slope, shaking his head.
In the principal's office, Trail and Duke glared at each other from chairs against opposite walls.
Mr. Signet, the principal, tapped a pen against his desk as he stared out the window.
"Is this going to happen again?" he asked at last.
"No, sir," Duke lied.
"I guess not," Trail said.
Mr. Signet turned to look carefully at Trail. "You guess not?"
"How can I be sure?" Trail asked.
"Easy," the principal answered. "Just remember this: if you two fight again, you'll be expelled from this school."
Trail walked home alone, thinking about the fight. Who had won? Duke had landed the first
blow, but it was a dirty punch thrown when Trail wasn't watching. Nothing had been solved; the
fight was sure to happen again.
That evening he borrowed his mother's car and drove aimlessly around town, wondering if he'd
looked like a loser to the crowd. When he spotted an A& W sign he pulled in for a hamburger,
impatiently blowing the horn for service.
A carhop finally appeared. "How come you're so impatient?" she said.
The girl was tiny; the wind blew her hair as she stood, order pad in hand. Trail looked at her brown eyes and decided she looked kind of nice. "One Papa Cheese, fries and a Brown Cow," he said to her.
"Please," she said, smiling.
Trail watched her walk away, liking her. When the wind scattered some raindrops in his face, he
rolled up his window and switched on the radio.
" ... another entry In our Poet of the Week Contest," the announcer was saying. "Are you
ready, Mrs. Aubersley?"
"I think so," a nervous voice answered.
"Then go ahead, and good luck!"
Silence extended for long seconds, then Mrs. Aubers1ey began to read:
When I see the dawn of day,
I bow my head and start to pray.
Trail punched a button and the radio jumped to a rock station. He listened to a song about a boy
who had committed suicide, then punched back to see how Mrs. Aubersley was doing.
I see a lovely sky of golden hue
As evening comes to Waskesiu.
More silence, then the announcer exclaimed, "Hey, that's good! Now your name goes into the
grand draw for the Super Night Out."
Someone was tapping on Trail's window. He saw the tiny carhop struggling to keep a tray of food from blowing away, and opened the window. She hooked the tray in place, then held out his bill.
"Money," she said.
"Please," Trail reminded her.
The girl grinned. As Trail dug in his pocket for change she said, "I saw your fight today."
He looked up, startled. "What?"
"I saw your fight. You would've beat Duke if the teachers had stayed away."
"You were there?"
"Sure." The girl looked annoyed. "I go to the same school you do."
She took Trail’s money. "I only work here part time, you know. I'm not just some dumb carhop."
Trail watched her leave, the wind lifting the brown hair which hung down her back. Remembering that she'd said he would have won the fight, he smiled. The food tasted good in his mouth, a victory celebration. He was disappointed when a different girl came to remove the tray.
After school on Tuesday, Trail and his friend Larry Shallot walked down the hill towards the
shopping district. To the north, thick smoke spiralled from a pulp mill and was blown across the
town, its odour sickly sweet.
"On a clear day, it will stink for-e-ver," Larry sang, holding his nose.
"That's the smell of money," Trail said, taking an imaginary cigar from his mouth and tapping
ashes into Larry's shirt pocket. "Don't knock it, boy."
As the two friends passed a supermarket, Trail snapped his fingers. "Hey, I almost forgot. I'm
supposed to bring home some dog food. Wait here."
"Dinner for your father?" Larry called, but Trail was already inside the store.
He hurried towards the far aisle, half listening to the music which drifted from the ceiling. As he
reached the pet foods, he saw the girl from the A&W pushing a cart full of groceries. Today her
long brown hair was in pigtails, and she wore a grey sweater, jeans and a windbreaker.
"Hi," Trail said. "Doing the shopping?"
"Nope, eating my supper." The girl took a bite from an apple she held.
"No, thanks." Trail looked around and grabbed a tin of Pal from a shelf. "Listen, what's your
"Well hi, Susie. I'm Trail McKenzie."
"I know." She finished the apple, dropped the core into the shopping cart and snapped open a can
of Coke. "Like some?"
Trail shook his head. He watched the girl take a long drink. "Listen, Susie, I'm going with a friend to The Bus Stop for some fries. Want to come?"
Susie smiled and put the Coke back in the cart. "Let's go."
"What about your groceries?"
"They're okay there." She started toward the door, leaving the cart in the middle of the aisle.
Larry was surprised to see Susie emerge from the store with Trail. He was cool when his friend
made the introductions, and looked annoyed when he heard the girl was joining them. Susie didn't seem to mind. She put her hands in the pockets of her windbreaker and smiled up at Trail as they started walking.
"Did you enjoy your Papa Cheese?" she asked.
"I told the cook to do a special job."
"Sure did," Trail said, smiling. "Hey, were you really eating your supper in that store?"
"Yup. I push a cart full of groceries up and down the aisles, eating stuff from it. Then I leave
the cart and go home."
Larry made a hooting noise that made Trail angry. "What's with you, Shallot?" he said.
Trail turned back to Susie. "How come you do that? Don't you get fed at home?"
When they reached The Bus Stop, Trail led the way to a corner booth with a vinyl-topped table
and bright orange seats. Two men in hard hats were drinking coffee at the counter. In another
booth an old man wearing a tie and suit sat alone with a pot of tea.
A waitress approached. "Yes?" she asked.
"Uh," Trail said, "je voudrais une shake du fait et -how you say -?"
Larry looked at the waitress. "My friend has just arrived from Quebec. He doesn't know much
"Oh, I see," the woman said. She smiled at Trail. "Do -you -want -coffee?"
"Coof-fey?" Trail asked, frowning. "Qu'est-que c'est fa?"
"Coffee." The woman pretended to raise a cup and made sipping noises.
"Ah!" Trail slapped his hands together. "Cafe!"
The waitress beamed.
"Non." Trail shook his head. "Pas cafe".
"Oh." The waitress looked at the menu board on the wall, trying to find something she could
translate into French. "Omelette? That sounds French."
"Give it up, Trail," Susie said. "You're wasting her time."
"Okay," Trail said. He looked at the waitress.
"We'll have cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate shakes."
The woman stared at Trail. She started to say something, then shook her head and walked away.
Trail and Larry grinned at each other, but Susie looked annoyed. "You guys are nuts," she said.
"I'm a carhop, you know. It isn't any fun when things like that happen."
Trail lifted one hand. "Well, what the hell. Just a bit of fun."
"Maybe, but it still chokes me." Susie slid out of the booth and stood up.
"Hey!" Trail said, disappointed. "You're not leaving?"
Susie smiled. "Nope, Just going to the can. See you in a minute."
When she had left, Larry leaned towards his friend. "You don't want to be seen with her,
"To start with, she lives down in the trailer park with her father and he's hardly ever home.
There's rumours about what she does at night. ,.
"Probably B.S. What else?"
"She's an Occy." Larry informed him. a significant look on his face.
"An Occy. She's in the Occupational class at school"
"It's a special class for kids who keep failing. They get extra help."
"What's wrong with that?" Trail asked, frowning.
"Nothing, except you've got your reputation to think of. You're new in the school, and you don't
want to be seen with an Occy especially after getting beat up by Duke Hardin."
Trail stared at Larry. "So you figure I lost that fight?"
A blush spread over Larry's face and into his blond hair. "Sorry. I didn't mean that."
"Sure you did." Trail looked across the cafe.
"Here comes Susie. You know something, Larry?"
"I like her."
He stood up and made a deep bow as Susie approached. She laughed, dropped a curtsy, then
"Hey, Susie," Trail said at once, "I hear you're an Occy."
Larry turned crimson. A hard, angry look passed across Susie's face. Then she laughed.
"That's right," she said. "So what?"
"Larry figures I shouldn't be seen with you."
Susie looked at the blushing face. "How come?"
"I don't know. Forget it, will you?" Larry stood up and looked at Trail. "I'm gonna split. See you
"Maybe." Trail watched Larry leave, then looked at Susie. "That kind of snobbery drives me
crazy. You get it everywhere."
Susie nodded. "You sure do."
The food arrived, carried by a different waitress. Susie looked at the three plates, heat rising from
the burgers and fries. "What about Larry's food?"
"I'll get a doggie bag and take it home for my baby sister. She'll eat anything." Trail squirted
ketchup on his fries. "You have trouble in school?"
Susie bit into her cheeseburger. "I missed a bunch of time in grade four and after that I was
hopeless in Math and English, so I guess I stopped trying. Anyway, who cares?"
"Why don't you quit school?"
"We do learn things in Occy class, you know. Besides, my father always says I'll quit, just like
my sister did, and I intend to show him he's wrong."
"You live in a mobile home?"
"Hey, Susie, you see that old man over there?"
Trail took a drink of his milkshake. "What do you figure?"
Susie looked at the man, then at Trail, her brown eyes puzzled. "Figure?"
"A couple of times he's taken out an envelope and held it up to the light, but he hasn't opened it."
"So he's a nut."
Trail studied the man as he finished his cheese burger. "I figure that old guy lives alone with
nothing to do. Today he got lucky someone sent him a letter.But he doesn’t want to open it."
"Why not?" Susie looked carefully at the mail "Did someone die?"
"I don't think so. It's just that the letter is a treat, and when he's read it, there'll be nothing else
to look forward to."
"What an awful story. You sure can see the rotten side of things."
"Life is lousy for lots of people." Trail looked up at the clock. "Hey, I've got to go."
"Okay." Susie finished her milkshake. "Aren't you going to get that doggie bag?"
Trail laughed. "I was just kidding. My mother would go up the wall if I came home with an old
cheeseburger for Kelly."
Susie picked up the plate of food and carried it to the counter. "Hey, miss," she said to the
waitress, "would you put this in a doggie bag for me?"
Trail stopped beside the magazine rack, looking at the bright covers on the paperbacks and the
girlie magazines. He smiled to himself, thinking it was nice of Susie to insist that he take the food for Kelly. He could dump it in a trash can on the way home.
"Coming?" Susie called.
Trail paid the bill and they left by the back door, choking in the smell of diesel fumes from a
bus waiting to leave. Nearby, a woman hugged a man, tears running from her eyes. Susie put her
hand on Trail's arm. "Don't tell me any sad story about them," she said.
"All right," he agreed. "Which way are you walking?"
"I'm meeting a friend at the bowling alley."
"Okay." Trail held out his hand.
"You want to shake hands?"
He smiled. "No. You forgot to give me the doggie bag."
"I thought you didn't want this cheeseburger."
"I don't, but ... "
Susie laughed. "This is for me. I'm going to eat it tonight."
"Oh!" Trail joined in her laughter. "Oh, I get it!"
"A burger saved is a burger earned," she said, smiling happily when Trail laughed again.
As they stood together enjoying each other's company, Trail glanced along the street and saw
two girls approaching. When he realized that one was his sister Robin, the happiness left his face.
"I've got to go," he said quickly.
Susie studied Trail's tense face, then followed his gaze. She saw one of the girls go into a house,
while the second continued in their direction. "Isn't that your sister?" Susie asked.
"Yeah. How come you know her?"
"Sometimes the Occies have to share the gym with Robin's class. They don't like us much."
"Snobs," Trail muttered, angry with both Robin and himself when he realized he hadn't wanted his sister to see him with an Occy. Feeling guilty, he produced a bright smile and aimed it at Susie as Robin came close.
"Hello, Trail." Robin stopped to stare at Susie.
"Who's your friend?"
Trail looked at his sister with unfriendly eyes. Compared to Susie she was beautiful, dressed in
clothes that perfectly suited her black eyes and shining dark hair, but he had never liked Robin's
willingness to hurt other people with her quick tongue. He took a step toward Susie, ready to give her his protection.
"You already know Susie," he said to his sister.
"She takes Gym with your class."
"Oh, yeah," Robin said, still staring at the other girl. "You're in the Occupational class?"
"I'm surprised that you know my brother."
"Why?" Susie asked.
"Well, Trail certainly isn't an Occupational student. "
Trail's face tightened in anger. "What's that got to do with knowing her?"
Robin looked at Trail, her eyes becoming innocent. "I'm sorry, Trail. I guess that wasn't a very
nice thing to say."
"You're damn right it wasn't."
Robin smiled at Susie. "Will you accept my apology, Susie?"
"Sure," Susie said. "I don't care."
Robin looked at Trail. "Well, I can see you're busy, so I'll say goodbye."
Still angry, Trail didn't answer. He shook his head as he watched his sister walk away. "Sometimes I wonder about her," he said. "Sorry about all that, Susie."
"It doesn't matter. Listen, I've got to get going." Susie started in the direction of the bowling alley, then stopped and looked at Trail. "Thanks for the food. It was fun."
"Yeah, until Robin the Retard showed up."
Susie smiled timidly. "I liked being with you."
"Well, maybe I'll see you around."
"I hope so," she said, and hurried away.
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Copyright 2012 by Eric Hamilton WilsonAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced inany manner whatsoever without prior written permission except in thecase of brief quotations embodied in reviews.