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The Ball Breakers Summer Club

by Valerie Brook


Felicia and Ruby are just about the best sixth grade friends with bicycles that ever existed in a trailer park. They do everything together, no matter what, including resisting being sucked into an 80’s time warp at the local Pizzaria ’N Kabob Shop. One afternoon while trying out the career of Private Detective—because before you go to college to become learned on a subject, you first should try it out and make sure it’s up your alley—they privately witness a real crime. And sometimes you just can’t count on the insane world of adults to right all the wrongs without a little top-secret help from the kid’s in The Ball Breaker’s Summer Club. 


Copyright © 2018 by Valerie Brook

All rights reserved.

First Published in Fiction River: Justice Volume 27 © 2018

Published by Kickit Press/

Cover and Layout Copyright © 2018 by Kickit Press

Cover Art: /

This is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form.



THE FIRST MORNING OF summer vacation seriously needs big fluffy buttermilk pancakes, so you can celebrate, like right out of the Oprah magazines on the bottom rack of the Quick ’N Go. 

Without the buttermilk, actually. 

Because I can’t stand that sour stuff. But you know what I mean. 

All my stepmom, I mean my step-not-mom, had in the pantry was box yellow cake mix, so I was currently fighting with the only spatula we owned and proving to a point that non-stick is a lie. 

Ruby rang my cell phone and it vibrated off the counter and fell into the bowl of wet brown dog food on the floor in the rainbow plastic bowl.

Now that tells you something when Wiener, my big giant fat wiener dog, sniffs food and walks away from it last night. 

I pulled the Nokia out of the dog blob and wiped my pay-as-you-go phone off with a paper towel. I’m just trying to say that it’s cheap, not that we’re poor and it’s all we can afford.

“Don’t do that,” I said. “Now I have to talk to you and my phone smells like human mouth.”

“What?” Ruby whispered. “Don’t even start with that bacteria thing again, Felicia. I know the molecular world is a new discovery for you and all, but sixth grade science is over. I need you here, pronto.”

“As in right now?” I said, looking woefully at my celebratory breakfast. Even though it smelled wonderful it actually looked a bit like vomit in the pan, and for that reason only I’m sure Oprah would not eat it. I slid the hot pan onto a cold burner.

“No, yesterday.”

I paused to think about that. “That’s impossible.”

“Just get over here.”

It’s really easy to go to Ruby’s house. I walked out the front door of our single wide trailer in the park, sponged across the fake outdoor golf-course-grass carpet mat which is mysteriously always soggy, hopped over the two-foot white plastic garden fence for which we have no garden, and looked up at her faded pink trailer door.

I’m not allowed to knock anymore. 

Ruby lives alone with her grumpy dad and he got a new job at the graveyard doing shifts. He has about the personality of Mr. Potato Head the toy. The last time I knocked he answered the door in his Christmas boxers and yelled at me in Cuban Spanish, which has English in it, and I never knew men could grow so much hair there. 

I mean on his back. 

It makes you wonder about the theory of evolution and maybe the missing link is not actually missing anymore. 

Anyway, I promised myself not to see Mr. Vasculez mostly naked again. One time did it enough for me.

I saw movement to my right and Ruby’s face enlarged like a magnifying glass in the window to the right of the door. Ruby has really beautiful brown skin and I’m just white as a ghost. 

It kinda sucks that way, but we can’t like everything about ourselves. 

I do have really pretty shoulders. I’ve been told that before.

Ruby gave me the five minute hand signal, then disappeared. I’m like, really? Because I could have finished cooking and eating by then. 

So I ran back over to my house and finished cooking and eating and came back over to her house.

She opened the door and flew out like a bird because she’s as skinny as a piece of graph paper. She could practically be an origami doll all folded up and intricate, but super functional just the same.

“What on earth are you so excited about?” I said. It was Saturday morning around ten o’clock and the whole octagonal trailer park was shrouded in an awkward summer mist. This is what we get for living in Arcata on the damp northern California coast.

We’re like the survivors of a lost continent out here. And when the wind blows right, the air also smells like cow patties from the pasture and the pulp mill.

I won’t tell you what the pulp mill smells like. 

Well, it’s basically poop, too.

“Look,” she said. From the pocket of her purple velvet lounge jacket she pulled out a tiny little blue plastic chip with copper squares. I knew immediately it was a memory card. And belonging to the Cannon PowerShot SD780 IS. 

It has 12.1 megapixels. And shoots video.

“OMG,” I said, just like if we were texting. “You found it?”

Ruby nodded in that I know something you don’t kind of way, her eyes all narrowed and spicy and conspiratorial. Just like a janitor would look who had just found a diamond ring in the lunchroom trash can and slinked it into a secret compartment on the end of his mop.

“It had some old toothpaste on it, but I wiped it off,” she said. I took that to mean it got lost in the bathroom.

She raised her eyebrows twice and that’s the signal for getting on our garage sale bikes and going somewhere fun. In this case, we both knew exactly where we were going without saying. 

So we raced off running toward our bikes, which are sandwiched together with a heavy chain-link that loops around the leg of the wooden picnic bench, which was like five steps from where we were already standing.

I won. 

We never actually lock up our bikes anymore because the Masterlock got so rusty we threw it away, but we do drape the chain around the tires and it looks exactly the same.

“Last one there is a rotten egg,” I said.

We hopped the curb onto Manmaker Lane and put the pedal to the metal. The downtown streets were so quiet and lazy we were able to do figure-eights through the middle of the white line down the street.

Did you ever see that movie where there were fog people in it? You really can’t see anything until it’s practically too late and you’re smack in front of it. 

Then I suddenly realized there was a huge flaw in our whole plan. Like how could we be so stupid.

“Stop,” I yelled breathlessly. Ruby squeezed her brakes right in front of me and I practically creamed her. I skidded to the left just in time. That’s a sore spot of an argument between us, “the stopping too fast in front of the other person” thing. 

So I just let it go this time in the spirit of chivalry.  

“How the hell are we going to record anything in this weather?” I said. “What are you thinking?”

Ruby nodded in that way again, the spicy I know something you don’t way. 

She always looks like a movie star when she does that. A cool Cuban cucumber. 

If we were in a movie together, I’d rather do the lighting or do the sound. I could give her hand signals from backstage to help her out if she was messing up—like forgetting her lines. 

We already decided we have to have the same career when we grow up, but it’s okay to work in a different aspect of that career. That way, we will always have our own individual lives, which I think is important.

Getting back to the point, Ruby explained that we weren’t going to our Infamous Technotronic Treehouse like I thought we both thought we were. 

No, we’re going to ground zero—Mr. Winker’s actual house. 

Because Ruby explained, last night when her dad was driving her home from afterschool super detention, which is thirty minutes longer than regular detention, she actually saw Mrs. Peabody’s car parked behind Mr. Winker’s house.

“It’s the moment we’ve been waiting eons for,” Ruby said. “Proof that they are cheating with each other. Come on let’s do a stakeout.”

My eyes widened. We’d been on Mr. Winker’s tail ever since he separated our seats in biology class for texting each other. We weren’t texting. We did happen to be accidentally surfing the internet at the exact same moment, but it was just a coincidence. 

He didn’t care.

Well, he should have cared because one of our top career options is Private Detective, and we’ll have our offices in a duplex and work out of the opposite sides on cases. But before you go to college to become learned on a subject, you first should try it out and make sure it’s up your alley.

Petal to the metal again and we raced up Old Buttermilk Lane though the swirling sheets of mist. There were some hints of blue sky but then it would vanish. Riding your bike fast though cool mist is refreshing for your face. 

It’s almost like a facelift I would imagine.

We hid our bikes in the blackberry bushes and tried to act natural walking a few blocks up a hill in the nicer neighborhood. I whistled and Ruby gazed upwards at the redwoods that are like one-legged tree giants that are standing on one leg. 

I guess that’s redundant. 


Copyright © 2018 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

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