California Diaries #15: Ducky, Diary Three
Ann M. Martin
The author gratefully acknowledges Nola Thacker for her help in preparing this manuscript.
Copyright © 2000 by Ann M. Martin.
All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Inc.
SCHOLASTIC, CALIFORNIA DIARIES, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered
trademarks of Scholastic Inc.
Printed in the U.S.A.
First Scholastic Printing, September 2000
This eBook is for educational and reference purposes only. It is not intended to infringe on or circumvent copyright. No monetary gain is made from the distribution of this eBook.
Work. Work. Work.
The True Story of Ducky
You’re complaining about work.
Work is good. Work is not being at home counting the half-full (half-empty) cereal boxes that line the counters of our kitchen.
Cereal boxes are a big decorating item in your house since Ted has suddenly decided to eat most of his meals at the college caf. This is so he doesn’t have to wash dishes.
Lately, Ted seems to feel overextended when he has to rinse out a cereal bowl and load it into the dishwasher.
You believe, almost, that if you had a dog, Ted would put all plates and utensils down for the dog to lick clean. Then …
No. You malign him, Ducky.
He wouldn’t really put them back on the shelf.
He’d just stack them in the sink.
But enough about Ted. Enough about life on the take-out menu.
Let’s talk about …
Work is BEING IN CHARGE.
Okay. So you’re not in charge of the bookstore exactly. But Mr. W is out at the moment and only you and Sunny are here.
Process of elimination: Boss gone.
Person (or persons) in charge: Sunny (boss’s daughter). And/or Ducky.
No, let’s call you Christopher for the mo. Sounds more bosslike.
Christopher. (Boss’s daughter’s best friend.)
Are you? Are you, Christopher “Ducky” McCrae, the BF of Sunny Winslow?
Too much. You don’t need the pressure of figuring it out. Why define something that doesn’t need defining?
Why overanalyze everything?
Okay. The boss’s daughter is your very good, close personal friend. You feel comfortable with that.
Right now Sunny is organizing the impulse purchases around the cash register — all the little, cute, not-too-high-ticket items that you can point out to customers as you ring up their purchases.
Or if they are truly good customers, they pick ‘em up themselves and say, “This is sooo cute,”
and toss ‘em in with the other books.
You do not think little tiny books are cute.
You have (TRUE CONFESSIONS) never used a bookmark in your life. Seasonally themed pens
— the kind with Dracula painted on them or whatever — are NOT A FASHION STATEMENT,
in your opinion.
But hey, whatever.
Sunny looks up, sees you looking, and smiles.
She knows how you feel about the impulse items.
She herself likes them.
A strong woman with a mind of her own.
D: May I help you?
IC: No. Thanks.
D: Well, let me know if I can.
Sunny passes you with a big box. She puts it down next to the front display window and opens it. She peers in.
You peer in.
You get a shock.
It is full of Barbie dolls.
“Sunny,” you say, “we have to talk.”
Ignoring you, she says, “There’s a bucket of sand by the back door. Would you get that for me?”
When you return, Sunny is emptying all the best-sellers from the window.
You return them to the shelves, refraining from asking questions. By now, you have cleverly deduced that Sunny has PLANS for these dolls. Plans involving the window display.
You spend a pleasant half hour or so pulling books that involve beaches, oceans, and summer activities from the shelves. These include a horror book set at the beach, Moby-Dick, several guides to shells, a book about beach vacations, and Treasure Island (personal childhood favorite).
You’ve decided to insist it be included, even if Sunny objects.
But she doesn’t. Instead, she suggests that you get some petty cash and buy a bottle of suntan lotion and some not-too-uncool-but-cheap sunglasses to go with the display.
You return to find Sunny arranging the books on a couple of beach towels that she has also brought along.
You remind her that she’ll be in trouble if she gets sand in the books’ bindings.
Or at least if they were library books she would be.
She makes a face. You make a face back.
You know from humiliating childhood experience leading to lifelong fear of the species
Also lions, tigers, bears.
You will not think about those jerks, those hall jockeys, those losers who somehow manage to make your life miserable.
School is out. For the summer.
You have no fear.
No fear. Ducky fears no Cro Mag. Nor Neanderthal either. (Neither?)
Ducky is John Wayne. And the Duke fears NO MAN.
But did John “the Duke” Wayne fear women? Did he …
Another customer who politely declines your offer of assistance.
You try not to feel REJECTED.
Okay, just kidding. Customer rejection happens not to be a problem for…
What is Sunny making those faces for? Why is she pointing at that customer? Yeah, the baggy clothes are a bit fashion-over but …
A John Wayne Moment
You look up. See the guy slide a very large art book into the inner pocket of his coat.
You blink. Not a Duke blink, a Duck blink.
You do NOT BELIEVE YOUR EYES.
The guy starts to walk oh-so-casually to the door.
Sunny slides in front. “Did you find everything you needed?” she asks.
Her eyes are sending you SIGNALS.
Call the police the regular way?
“No,” says the shoplifter. He steps to one side.
Sunny steps to the same side.
He steps to the other side.
Sunny steps to the other side.
A shoplifter dance.
You recover your (dim) wits and race (casually, sweating, dry-mouthed) to join the party. “Hey,”
(Hey? Hey? The Duke, wherever he is, is NOT impressed.)
“I think you might have forgotten to pay for something.”
The guy, now that you notice, is big. As in MUCH TALLER THAN YOU.
He’s also armed with a large, heavy art book.
You brace yourself for the possible direct delivery of art appreciation to your skull. You smile.
Sunny opens her mouth. You glance at her and beam the following universal signal to her: BE
PREPARED. FOR ANYTHING.
Does she understand it?
She frowns slightly, closes her mouth. Her look says, YOUR TURN.
“What?” says the guy. “What are you talking about?” He is pretty convincing. You are amazed at how convincing he is. You want to believe him.
And then he does the most amazingly GUILTY thing in the world. He puts his hand over the inside pocket where the book is stashed (or books — at that moment, you don’t know how many he’s got kangarooed away in hidden pouches).
You look at his hand.
You look up at him.
You fold your arms and raise one eyebrow.
You admit, here only, that you’ve practiced this look on occasion. Privately. But you have never, ever said, “Bond. James Bond” while doing it.
You stare at Mr. Pocket Book. He stares at you.
It gets way too quiet. A little pulse is jumping at one corner of his mouth. He needs a shave.
But not much. His face is mostly fuzzy and you realize that he is younger than you thought he was.
Then Sunny says, “It happens more than you’d think. Book people are so absentminded. And they leave things here all the time too. Car keys. Gloves. We have quite a lost-and-found collection. … Anyway, if you’ll step to the register, I’ll be glad to ring up your choices for you.”
Pocket Book looks at you.
You drop the eyebrow and give him an encouraging nod.
“Right,” he says.
You step aside and motion toward the register. Sunny stays beside him and you step in to guard the rear as she moves around to ring up his purchases.
“Check?” he croaks. “Is a check okay?”
“Cash,” Sunny says smoothly. “We prefer cash.”
Like she’s going to take a check from him. Like he’s gonna use his real checkbook.
Okay, so maybe he would. Who knows?
He fumbles out a wallet — and the art book.
You have an inspired moment and say, “You might want to make sure you haven’t forgotten any other books you were interested in buying.”
He jumps. His hand goes to the other side of his coat.
You hope this guy doesn’t make a living doing this. Apart from the illegality thing, the ripping-people-off-who-are-trying-to-make-a-living-themselves thing, he’s gonna starve.
He’s really bad at his job.
He ends up paying for three paperbacks, but not the art book. Not enough of the folding green stuff.
And Sunny tells him, with deeply insincere regret, that the credit card machine is not working.
Just in case his credit cards are faux. Smooth Sunny.
The shoplifter bolts with his purchases.
You and Sunny face each other.
Sunny: You were cool, Ducky. I mean, I was totally freaked and there you were.
D: Hey [there’s that word again], if you hadn’t stepped in front of him, he would’ve been so gone.
S: Yeah, but after I did that, I didn’t know what to do.
D: That line about book people being absentminded? Brilliant.
S [modestly]: Thank you. My hero.
D: My hero.
Sunny laughs. You laugh.
“We’re a good team,” Sunny says.
“Yeah,” you say. “We are.”
Okay. You’re a sixteen-year-old boy and you like to go shopping. You just spent the day shopping.
With a girl.
Who is thirteen.
(But not just any girl. Sunny.)
Does this make you strange?
Answer: No. You are already strange.
Besides, who cares? It’s not like anyone saw you. And even if they did, WHY DO YOU
And besides again, even if THEY (whoever they are) saw you, they’d just think you were
hanging out with a cute girl.
Anyway, it wasn’t your idea to go shopping. Sunny and you were hanging at the mall and it just
One minute you were watching the little kids throw pennies in the fountain (standing, of course, right next to the sign that said, “Please don’t throw pennies in the fountain”). The next minute, you found yourself giving face time to window displays. Nodding when Sunny said, “Puh-lease, the colors are unnatural. In a bad way.”
Remarking on, for example, your need, someday, for something in cashmere.
“I wouldn’t have to wear it,” you say. “Just keep it around and pet it. A cashmere pet. Soft.
Sunny is laughing.
And then wham, bam, you’re in a store.
Actually, you go willingly into your favorite try-on-and-spend emporium. Lots of retro stuff.
Sunny has a sunglasses vision (that’s what she calls it) and you end up with a pair of either extremely geeky or over-the-edge-cool old sunglasses that she insists you wear even though you are indoors.
“It’s a very bright mall,” she says.
“Tell me before I walk into, say, a display. Or a store window,” you reply.
You drift into a wig place. You’re a little creeped out by it. All those loose scalps on all those severed heads.
But Sunny dives right in, trying on wigs like they’re hats.
A black Cher number with bangs — not Sunny’s best look.
Not yours either.
Even with the dark glasses.
The “wig consultant” has been offering advice to another “client.” She makes the sale, the client bags the hair, and then the consultant turns to you and Sunny.
Sunny is now in a Little Orphan Annie number: red curls going SPROING!
The consultant gives her a mouthful of smile. “May I help you?” she says.
Unspoken words: “Like, out of my store? Now?”
“No thanks.” Sunny picks up a mirror to get a better peek at the back of her head.
“Orphan Annie isn’t your style,” you say and want to BITE OFF YOUR TONGUE since it has
been — what? — only a few months since Mrs. Winslow died.
“Half an orphan might be,” Sunny says without missing a beat.
Her eyes meet yours in the mirror. They have a funny expression. Challenging? Expectant?
You answer with a disgusted face.
You never know what Sunny’s going to say. It’s one of the things you like about her.
You also like that you can let her know when you think she’s pushing ‘tude on you.
The look vanishes from Sunny’s eyes. She smiles. Megawatt. Indecipherable.
Like you’ve passed a test.
She says, “Don’t wig on me, Ducky.”
The consultant’s teeth disappear into a thin-lipped, “been there, heard that” grimace.
You ponder the meaning of Sunny’s look, her smile.
You ponder the idea that selling wigs is sort of like selling shoes, only at the other end.
Sunny removes the red fright curls. She stares at herself for a second in the mirror, smooths [sic]
her own much-better-looking hair, and says, “Do you think I’m pretty, Ducky?”
This you didn’t expect.
You say, “Pretty?” in a cowardly, stalling-for-time sort of way. You look at the wig. You look at Sunny.
You realize she is pretty. Without a doubt.
“As in not ugly,” says Sunny.
Are you in trouble? Could be. Trying to keep it light you say, “Without the wig you are beautiful.”