Read Slick Online

Authors: Sara Cassidy

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Sara Cassidy

Orca Currents


Copyright © 2010 Sara Cassidy

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Cassidy, Sara
Slick / written by Sara Cassidy.
(Orca currents)

Electronic Monograph
Issued also in print format.

I. Title. II. Series: Orca currents
8555.A7812S55 2010      JC813'.54      C2010-903583-6

First published in the United States, 2010
Library of Congress Control Number:

Thirteen-year-old Liza gets involved in activism and takes on the oil industry.

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Dreamstime

In Canada:
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626, Station B
Victoria, BC Canada
V8R 6S4

In the United States:
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer, WA USA
13 12 11 10 • 4 3 2 1

For Hazel


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen


Author's Note

“Our cultural way is of respecting the land and living in harmony with it. Everything is in balance. All the animals, all the plants, even the rocks. There's no one thing that's more important than the other, and we're not any more important either. I don't think there's an understanding of that in the business world.”

—Lynne Hill, Gitga'at Nation,
British Columbia

Chapter One

“Could you get the map out of the glove compartment, Liza? You'll need the butter knife to pry it open. Stupid plastic latch,” says Mom.

The butter knife is about a hundred years old. The handle is made of real cow bone that has yellowed over the years. The silver blade pops the glove box open perfectly. I find the map underneath a blue wool chauffeur's hat and a pair of cracked leather driving gloves.

“Here, give me those,” Mom says, reaching out. “They'll help me focus.” She wears the hat and gloves when she's cranky about driving.

Ever since Dad moved out, I sit up front beside my mom. It is perfect timing. The backseat was getting tight with my not-so-little-anymore brothers elbowing me and yelling to each other
my head. Mom tries to be environmentally friendly, which means we don't have a roomy suv with tv screens. Our limpet-sized car starts on gas, then switches to electricity. It's called a hybrid.

“Like your hybrid running shoes,” Mom said once to convince me this was cool.

of my runners,” I'd said. “Where's the shoehorn to get us in?”

My mother
shoehorns. She has one made from a seashell and an amazing one molded from paper. Mom also collects eggbeaters, irons, dice, globes, pictures of roads curving off into the distance, and many other things, like old butter knives. Objects are her business. She helps auction houses, museums and collectors figure out what their old things are worth. She can look at an old teacup and tell you who made it, who used it and how it made its way to your hands.

I like the color of our new car, I'll say that much. The color is Vixen Red, officially, but we call it Tomato Soup. It sure stands out, which means we no longer wander parking lots like dazed earthquake victims, looking for our small car.

I've been riding up front for a year, ever since Mom took us to Elk Lake and, in the middle of our nature walk, told us Dad was moving to England. Now when I go to Elk Lake, I look at the water and it's got that bad day in it. Somehow, though, it's still beautiful.

My parents' breakup is the same way. Dad's happier, Mom's happier, and the house is a lot calmer. Everything is better in lots of ways. Mom got busy after the panic was over. She reseeded our yard so the grass is lush for cartwheels, and she fixed up the house. She got the roof patched and the walls freshly painted. I do like the calm house. But that doesn't mean I'm not sad once in a while. Sometimes I feel as if I'm suffocating, I'm so sad.

I've learned what to do about the sadness. I get into bed and flip through my DIY books. DIY stands for Do It Yourself. It's about making cool stuff for really cheap or free, like by recycling or thrifting.
means shopping at thrift shops, which enviro-Mom totally supports. By the time I start making something, I feel fine again.

Last week, I made a bowl from an old music record in the stack Dad left behind. I put it on a cookie tray at two hundred degrees for five minutes, molded it over a metal dish and let it cool. I gave it to Leland to hold his arsenal of Playmobil swords and cannonballs. Now Silas, my older little brother, is begging me to make one for his compass collection.

Leland is six, energetic, and cuddly about once a month. He's cute though, especially when he's sleeping. Silas is cute too. Both my brothers have little noses and swarms of freckles. People say the three of us look like fairy children—whatever that means. Silas is really sensitive. He doesn't like other people to be sad or upset. He cries easily, but he also laughs easily. And he'll drop everything anytime to play with me.

“My butt's sore from all this driving,” Silas calls out after a while.

“Yeah! My heinie's numb!” Leland shouts in agreement.

“My tush feels like it's on a porcupine,” Mom says. Then she reaches under her and pulls out a hairbrush.

As we drive along, we start to make a list of words for
. We get twenty-one! There's bum, bottom, behind, heinie, butt, derriere, buns, buttocks, rear end, fanny, cheeks, posterior, rear, rump, seat, gluteus maximus, backside, keister, haunches, tush and can. There is also a word that also means donkey. This brings our list to twenty-two, even though we're not allowed to say all the words. Mom says we're not allowed to curse until we're eighteen, which is totally ridiculous. She only lets us swear if we're singing along to the Black Eyed Peas.

The car windows are open, and Silas is chanting
gluteus maximus
with a stuffy English accent. “Gluteus maximus, gluteus maximus,” he warbles. “Has anyone seen my gluteus maximus?” We're screaming with laughter. A man and his pug-faced dog stare as we drive by. Take a picture, sir. Take a picture of me and my awesome family.

Then we pull up in front of Mom's new boyfriend's house.

I get out of the front seat and climb over Leland's lap into the cramped backseat. Mom checks her teeth for green bits or whatever in the rearview mirror. Then she looks up and waves big to
as he locks up his house.

He gets into the front seat. “Hi, Laura! Hi, kids!” he says, overfriendly and not waiting for an answer. I don't even want to say his name. I hate him.

I totally, absolutely, completely, really, truly hate him.

Chapter Two

“Come on, Liza, he's not
bad. It's not like he's wanted by the police.” Olive, my best friend, is always urging me to be less emotional. Miss Level-Headed lives two doors down in a super organized house with polished floors and pillowy reading nooks. They even have a meditation room and a grand piano no one ever plays. Olive gets up at seven every morning to start her daily chores. This includes feeding the purebred Abyssinian cat Horus and making her parents' bed. Yes, Olive makes her parents' bed. But
. “It's a loving exchange of labor,” her mom once explained.

“Olive, he's stupid. He's got zits. He's just creepy,” I shout as we steer our scooters to the grocery store. Mom has sent us to get black beans and salsa for the quesadillas she's making for supper. Saturday is international night at our house. Sometimes we eat Moroccan, sometimes Greek or Thai. Tonight it's Mexican.

Emergency grocery trips used to be Dad's job. To reward me for doing them, Mom lets me get anything I want, as long as it's healthy. Today I'm buying mini-marshmallows. Okay, mini-marshmallows aren't healthy, but I don't plan to eat them. This morning I made marshmallow shooters out of pvc piping. Now, an afternoon spent mounting invasions, blockades, blitzkriegs and sneak attacks is totally healthy.

“My dad thinks you're scared that he's going to take your mom away,” Olive says.

“That would be so cool!” I say. “Silas, Leland and I could have the house to ourselves, eat ice cream straight out of the tub, keep goats—”

“Yeah, right, Pippi Longstocking.” Olive rolls her eyes and smiles.

I love it when she smiles. It's like she smiles twice, like she's happy to be happy. Olive's dad is a psychiatrist. He makes his living figuring out why people feel the way they do, kind of a detective of the mind. It's rubbing off on Olive.

“Your dad left.” Olive is serious again. “Maybe you're afraid your mom's going to leave.”

It hurts like hell when Olive says this. I mean it hurts like
I'm not allowed to say
. But
is sharper than
—meaner. It fits the cutting feeling I have just thinking about my mom leaving.

“Or you still want your dad to come back, which can't happen if this guy's in the picture—”

“Olive, I've told you, my parents are not getting back together. This isn't some happily-ever-after Disney movie—”

“But if you actually start to like Robert—”

“His name is Slick,” I remind her. I've named him Slick, as in oil slick, because he works for an oil company. And because he's greasy.

—” Olive smirks. “If you start to like Slick, you'd be saying that, yes, things have changed. Life is never going to return to what it was.”

“He's smarmy and ugly, and his feet turn out when he walks,” I say. “And he's always happy, or fake happy. There's nothing complicated about it. I hate him.”

I hold back from saying I hate her too. At that moment, I do hate Olive. And her dad.

But I'm saved from this stupid discussion because we arrive at the supermarket. The parking lot is crazy lively. It's decorated with balloons, and a not-terrible band is playing on a makeshift stage.

“Customer appreciation day,” explains an employee as she hands us slabs of white cake on flimsy paper plates. “A day that
our customers.”

“Wow,” Olive and I say in unison. It is like being anointed as royal customers.

We perch on one of those concrete slugs that divide up parking lots. With plates balanced on our knees, we watch the band. The lead singer is a dude my mom's age with strings of hair dangling from the shores of a bald spot. He shakes his head, sending a shower of sweat our way.

“Ugh! It landed in your cake!” I cry in mock horror. With queenly poise, Olive delicately works her plastic fork around the area we call the Rock Star Sweat Spot. That gets us laughing until we lean against each other, gasping for breath.

Chapter Three

? That's a word?” Mom looks doubtful, one shaggy eyebrow raised.

“Za. As in piz-za,” I say. “A round thing covered with melted cheese?”

“I'll look it up! I'll look it up!” Silas yells. He starts thumbing the Scrabble dictionary as he jumps on my mom's double bed.

“More tea, dear ladies?” Leland asks, bowing with a tea towel over one arm.

When Mom and I play Scrabble, Silas is Dictionary Boy and Leland is Tea Boy. Leland pours half the tea onto the table rather than in our cups, but at least Mom and I get to play.

“With the
on triple letter score for thirty points,” I sweetly point out.

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