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Authors: Margaret Clark

Cool Bananas

BOOK: Cool Bananas
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About the book

A kidnapping? Rival gangs? Ransoms? What’s happening in Coolini Beach?

All the teenagers in Coolini Beach use the expression ‘cool bananas’; life is pretty relaxed and free and easy but what does it mean when police crime tape is found around the public phone box and rumours of death threats start circulating through the beach town? Has there been a murder?

To my sisters Jill and Gaylene with love
.

To Flick, may you find what you are seeking
.
And to my editor Glenda
who is a wonder with words
.

CHAPTER 1

‘She’s up to her old tricks again.’

Propping her elbows on the counter Flick leaned forward to get a better view out of the windows of the Kayah Cafe.

‘Where?’ Liz nudged Flick to move over a bit.

‘There. See? She’s got that new guy, Will, all lined up to be her next conquest. See him gazing into her eyes? He’s mesmerised.’

‘Yeah. Like a rabbit with a snake.’

Flick and Liz were watching Angela at work. She was supposed to be clearing the tables outside but of course while she was doing this she was also flirting big-time with Will. Her red mouth curved invitingly as she bent closer and wiped a speck of something, imaginary or real,
from his table. He said something and she laughed.

Despite Kay the proprietor’s repeated instructions about dress code, Angela had ignored it like she usually did. She had on a tight, white ribbed top cut very low. Under her waist apron she was wearing brief black shorts that showed off her smooth tanned legs to perfection when she turned her back or bent over, which she did a lot. She had actually managed to follow Kay’s instructions about sensible footwear, however, and was wearing Blundstone boots on her feet. But somehow the boots seemed to make her legs look even sexier.

‘What are you two staring at?’ Kay popped her head between the two of them and stood on tiptoe to look. ‘Oh. That poor boy. He hasn’t got a hope, has he? Unless I do something, and quick!’

Kay bustled to the door. ‘Angela, could you come here for a minute please?’

Angela spun round, her shiny brown hair (the new colour of the moment) in its ponytail flying out provocatively. Her dark eyes changed from smouldering sexuality to irritation.

‘What do you want?’ she called.

‘I want you to come here. Now!’ said Kay in a voice that meant ‘do it straightaway or you’re fired’.

Picking up her laden tray, Angela sauntered
towards the door, making sure that her butt swayed saucily so that it would make a lasting impression on Will’s befuddled brain.

‘What’s up?’

‘I need the cold prep started and the frozen food defrosted. The floor needs sweeping, the ice-creams need sorting out, the shelves need restocking, the magazines need tidying, and that’s just for starters. So all of you, get busy!’

Flick glanced at Liz. Kay was shrewd. She’d made it look like she was marshalling all of them to do some work and not just Angela. Despite Angela’s preoccupation with guys, her sexy voice, dress and manner, her avoidance of certain jobs like peeling onions, which made her cry and ruined her make-up, and scouring pots which wrecked her nails, Angela was actually a good worker. It was the busy season and Kay didn’t want to sack her. Good help, even though in this case it was a sex-bomb on legs, was hard to find.

Kay depended on a core of good workers to make the Coolini Beach general store a thriving business. Without her stalwarts, Flick, Liz, Angela and Braden, the store would be almost impossible to run because her own daughter Roxie, although a hard worker, was unreliable, especially after she’d been out all
night partying. And in the summer season the store needed the regular employees as well as lots of casuals to serve the steady stream of customers who surged through the doors wanting food, ice-cream, drinks, papers, bread, milk, tools, fishing bait and assorted grocery items. They also dispensed bags of ice, filled gas bottles, sold postage stamps, postcards and phone cards, and sold petrol as well.

Flick and Liz got on really well together. Flick was going out with Liz’s brother Tim, but he’d just gone with his parents to Surfers Paradise for ten days because his grandma, who lived there alone, was ill. Liz probably should have gone as well, but Kay couldn’t spare her from the store and Liz had intended going to stay at Surfers Paradise at the end of the summer break anyway, so her parents had decided to let her go later.

Liz and Josh were an item, but he’d headed off on a surfari that morning to Johanna with his mates and would probably be gone for a week.

‘What are you two looking so glum about?’ said Kay, as Angela mooched off to start the cold prep.

Flick groaned. ‘Tim’s deserted me for his grandmother and Surfers Paradise,’ she said.

‘And Josh has cleared off to go surfing.’

‘Grass widows, the two of you,’ Kay joked.

‘What’s that mean?’ Liz looked puzzled.

‘You’re here, your men are somewhere else.’

‘But why’s it “grass widows”? It doesn’t make sense.’

‘I dunno.’ Kay scratched her head. ‘Maybe the saying came from the fact that in the olden days men were away fighting wars and charging at the enemy across grassy plains, or maybe they were out in the fields while the women were home cooking and minding the kids. Nowadays, the men are probably playing lawn bowls or cricket or footy or something.’

‘In that case we’re blue widows,’ Flick said. ‘Our guys are surfing.’

‘Yeah. And we’re feeling blue,’ Liz added with a mock mournful look.

The two girls were now firm friends, even though there was a three-year difference in their ages. The only glitch in the friendship was that Liz couldn’t hit the pub scene with Flick because she was fifteen, but then Flick wasn’t that interested in the pub scene anyway. Liz stayed over in Flick’s converted bus some nights, and other nights Flick stayed at the beach house belonging to Liz and Tim’s parents.

Now they’d gone to Surfers, Flick had moved in temporarily to play at being the responsible adult, supposedly in charge of Liz.

‘Try bossing me about and see where it gets you,’ Liz had challenged.

‘Yeah? Right. If I throw a ball you’d better fetch it pronto or else.’

‘Or else what?’

‘You’re not rufus.’

‘Oh yeah? I’d rather be dead first.’

‘As if.’

Last night Flick had slept in Tim’s room. There were other bedrooms, but Flick had pretended to inspect them and then declared that it had to be Tim’s, because it was good karma to have her head facing north and her feet south. Then of course she’d burst out laughing.

‘You just want to sleep in there so you can perv on his stuff and have sweet dreams about him,’ Liz had scolded. But she’d put clean sheets on the bed, opened the windows wide to let in the sea breeze and swiped a mop over the polished floorboards before she’d let Flick inside the room.

‘It stinks of Tim,’ she said. ‘You know, that all-male smell of sweat and smelly socks. Yuck.’

Secretly, Flick had wanted the Tim-smells to remain: it made him seem closer to her. She’d spent half the night looking at his books and posters, playing his CDs, and hugging his robe that was
hanging on the back of the door, because it smelt vaguely of his aftershave. She’d finally fallen asleep with her nose buried in one of his windcheaters, having privately to agree with Liz that his old Nikes shoved under the bed were a little too smelly to love.

The two girls had woken early, showered and had a quick breakfast of cornflakes and toast together on the verandah with its fantastic views over the ocean, fed the kookaburras and parrots that came flocking for raw meat and sunflower seeds, respectively, then headed off to the store. They’d been flat out ever since, except for the brief respite when they’d been leaning on the counter watching Angela.

And now it was work, work, work.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if Tim married you,’ Liz said to Flick, as they made assorted sandwiches and rolls for the first busload of tourists. ‘I could be your bridesmaid.’

‘Don’t let Tim hear you say that,’ Flick warned. ‘He’ll do what most guys do — run fast in the opposite direction. Although it’d be great if you could.’

Flick looked at her friend, visualising her in a bronze silk dress, off-the-shoulder, carrying cream roses.

‘I’d wear pink satin,’ said Liz. ‘And I’d carry cream roses.’

‘At least we agree on the roses,’ said Flick drily.

‘What?’

‘Hi girls,’ interrupted a cheery voice.

Flick looked sideways at Liz and groaned. It was Rob, the grossest male in the millennium. He cleaned the toilet blocks in the caravan park at the beach and had christened himself the ‘dunny budgie’, though no one knew why. He seemed to think it was a compliment to himself, whereas everyone else thought it was a major put-down. But then, as Flick pointed out, he was putting
himself
down so it was okay.

Rob thought he was a bit of a god even though no one else did. He always wore a dirty white singlet or a T-shirt with the arms ripped out, and baggy navy shorts. To make matters worse he also wore red or black socks with black leather boots, or rubber thongs on his callused feet. It was hard to decide which looked worse.

‘He has got good muscles,’ Kay had once remarked, when Rob had asked Flick to go to the pub with him, which was his idea of a hot date.

‘Oh, erk. I’d rather go out with Dracula,’ Flick had rejoined.

‘What? And get your blood sucked out?’

‘Better than getting bored to death and having my brains sucked out through my ears.’

Rob studied the blackboard menu with his head on one side as he always did. To Flick and Liz it was a complete waste of time, because he always ordered the same food every morning, although lots of items on the menu changed daily. He read aloud, slowly and laboriously.

 

Soup of the Day:
homemade potato, bacon and leek

$4.00

Swiss Surprise:
Jarlsberg cheese, bacon and avocado toasted sandwich (your choice of white, wholemeal or mixed-grain bread)

$4.50

Shark Attack:
flake fillet fried in breadcrumbs with salad in a bun

$5.00

Kay’s Big Burger:
two homemade mince patties with the lot and your choice of sauce (sweet chilli, barbecue, tomato or satay) and chips

$6.00

Veging Out:
vegie burger (choice of sauce), salad and chips

$5.00

Hop Till You Drop:
kangaroo steak sandwich and chips

$5.50

Seafood Surprise:
medley of seafood in crispy pie

$3.00

Bucket of chips

$1.50

 

Rob scratched his head.

‘Give us a pie and two sausage rolls,’ he said.

‘Sauce?’ Liz asked sweetly.

‘Yeah. Of course. No taste without the good old dead horse.’

Liz put the food in the bag and grabbed two tomato sauce sachets from the container to pop in as well.

‘Hey. What’s this?’

‘The health inspector said we’re not allowed to pour on the sauce like we did: it has to be sachets.’

‘Yeah? Well what about if I want sweet chilli or satay? They’re not in sachets.’

‘But you don’t.’

‘How do you know I don’t?’

‘You never have before.’

‘Yeah, well I can change me mind, can’t I?’ Rob’s voice rose an octave.

‘What’s wrong?’ Kay stuck her head round the servery.

‘These!’ Rob plonked the sachets down on the counter.

Kay sighed and passed him the tomato sauce. ‘Help yourself, Rob. And if the health inspector comes in, it’s your problem, not mine.’

Rob upended the bottle and gave the bottom a hefty wallop. Half the contents poured out all over his food. Liz looked at Flick and pulled a face. Forget pie and sausage rolls with tomato sauce. It was now tomato sauce with pie and sausage rolls.

‘Just how I like it,’ said Rob, putting the sauce bottle precariously on the edge of the counter. ‘See you later.’

‘Not if I see you first,’ muttered Flick, rescuing the bottle.

‘Have you seen his latest notices on the toilet doors?’ said Angela from inside the kitchen. ‘I’ll write it down for you. His spelling’s atrocious as usual.’ She scribbled furiously then passed the paper through the servery. It read, ‘Only three peaces of paper per go as toilets keap getin bloked. Bye order. The Dunny Budgie.’

‘What? That’s disgusting!’

Rob was always on a power trip with his notices. It had become a joke among the campers to see what he was going to come up with next. Firstly, he couldn’t spell, and got really aggro when people changed his notices. And second, his requests were so ridiculous that they verged on the insane.

Do knot spit on the flore. Bye order. The Dunny Budgie

Pleese harf-flush to save wata. Bye order. The Dunny Budgie

Do knot blok the toilet with strange items. Bye order. The Dunny Budgie
.

Rob was also sexist because Flick had checked with
Nathan, one of the surf lifesavers, if there were any notices in the Men’s and apparently there weren’t.

‘He wouldn’t dare or he’d get them shoved up his nostrils,’ Nathan had said with a grin.

There had been countless complaints to the camping committee, which were pointedly ignored, because dunny budgies weren’t easy to find. No one wanted the job of cleaning the toilets and Rob did a thorough job and took his work very seriously. It was just the notices that offended. The camping committee had decided they’d rather have the females offended than Rob, and it was all a bit of a laugh really. But then the committee consisted of a bunch of males who were about ninety with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin, so their attitude wasn’t going to change in a hurry.

Kay had taken a stand and was getting a toilet built at the back of the store for her workers so they wouldn’t have to troop across the road to the camping ground and be subjected to Rob’s notices. But plumbers were scarce so the work was only half done.

One problem for the handful of permanent residents at Coolini Beach was its isolation. It was hard to get tradesman to come and when they did they charged an arm and a leg.

But there were no problems for the holiday-makers
when they surged into the small village and swelled the population by thousands. All they wanted was surf, sand, sun and swimming. And Kay’s food.

BOOK: Cool Bananas
11.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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