By Macy M
Seven girls remained to be auctioned off. The auction was a silly Valentine’s Day tradition done to raise money for a cause--this year, for a new park swing set. The current one was at least thirty years old, two of the six swings were broken, and all of them screeched like cats with stepped-on tails.
Missy was giddy to take part in the auction this year. She’d never partaken before because she’d never had a boyfriend. It wasn’t a rule that one must have a boyfriend to take part in the auction, but Missy had never been comfortable with potentially going on a date with a guy she didn’t know.
This year was different. This year, she was going steady with Clint Meyers, the biggest dreamboat at her high school. He had the prettiest lashes, most gorgeous hair, and niftiest Bel Air around. Missy grinned just thinking about him, and about him and her, about them.
“Well, golly, this’ll be a ball!” said the girl who was just (going once! going twice!) sold. There were only two more girls to be auctioned off before it was Missy’s turn. She nearly clicked her heels in delight. Luckily, she caught herself before it was too late: one of the rules of the auction was you couldn’t move your feet.
The girls were sold entirely based upon their feet and ankles. All fifteen sat behind a screen that revealed them only from the ankle down. Each had to wear the same white tights and dark Mary Janes, and movement was prohibited lest a girl signal to her beau with a secret code. Including Missy, there were six girls left. She was jittery with anticipation.
“I’m positive, Missy, I’ll know which one is you. How could I forget the Mary Janes of my best girl?” Clint had assured her yesterday. Missy made Clint (Meyers) study her ankles and Mary Janes for almost a whole hour the day before to ensure he wouldn’t bid on the wrong girl. She hadn’t been convinced by his words, but Clint just pecked her on the cheek and headed to football practice.
“Numberrrrr Ten, canigetabid for Numberrrr Ten?” called the auctioneer.
“Five dollars!” said some guy.
Missy gave a start. The man who bid seven sounded almost exactly like her Clint.
“Nine!” Missy’s jaw dropped. The boy who said nine (and seven) was certainly Clint Meyers. She should know-- they’d been going steady for four months now! Missy wanted to yell to Clint that he had the wrong Mary Janes, but that’d be against the rules, and she was no rule-breaker. She prayed someone else would outbid him.
The numbers went up and up to twenty-one dollars, at which point the auctioneer piped in, “Going onnnnce! Going twiiiiice! Sold to Mister Clint Meyerrrrrs!” Missy’s face crumpled. Anne Padgett, on the other hand, looked absolutely charmed to hear Clint Meyers just bought a date with her.
Missy didn’t hear the auctioning of Number 11. She hardly heard her own auctioning over the sound of her efforts to control her breathing. When her bids were up to about ten dollars, she was finally sure she wouldn’t burst into tears. Clint hadn’t done it on purpose, because all Mary Janes look the same and can’t be told apart, and that was the point of the Attington Ankle Auction anyway.
Missy was sold at thirteen dollars (how unlucky). She walked down the covered stage past the empty chairs and emerged next to the auctioneer. The boy who won her was not on the stage yet. Missy didn’t care--she was looking for Clint Meyers.
Clint (Meyers) was one of two boys fighting through the crowd to make it to the stage. The other, Missy assumed, must be her date. A sour-faced Anne Padgett was trailing Clint, whose own countenance was overcome with agony.
“Oh, Missy, I didn’t mean to win Anne Padgett!” cried Clint Meyers when he reached the stage. “I thought she was you! I studied all the girls’ feet real hard, I swear on it, and--”
“Aw, did you bid on the wrong girl?” said the other boy who just reached the stage. Missy vaguely recognized him. He must go to school with her or something. “Ain’t that a bite.”
“You be careful--” Clint shook his fist at the boy.
“Oi, don’t flip your lid. I ain’t no bird dog. It’s only one date. Besides, I won her fair and square,” the boy drawled. Missy’s face drew into a look of horror at the exchange.
“Yeah, it’s only one date,” chimed in Anne Padgett. She clung to Clint’s arm and batted her eyelashes.
“Now, now, kids. Why don’t you settle this somewhere else so we can get on with the auction!” said the auctioneer. The four quickly moved off the stage.
“Let’s both just have our dates. The sooner we go, the sooner they’ll be done, and the sooner you two lovebirds can reunite. Capiche?” said the boy.
“Sounds like a grand idea.” Anne Padgett stumbled over her words they came out so quickly. Missy’s hope drained away when Clint sighed.
“Alright. It’s only one afternoon, Missy. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just the rules of the auction! I’m truly sorry--”
“Yadda, yadda. Come on, Missy.” Her chin dropped at the insolence of the boy. He’d already turned and was heading toward the far end of the town square. She gave Clint one last look before fast-walking to catch up with her date.
“You didn’t even tell me your name,” she harrumphed.
“Then what do I call you?”
“Whatever you want, sweetheart. Maybe if you called me Clint you could pretend you’re on a date with your boyfriend.” Missy couldn’t believe this boy! She had never talked to anyone ruder in her whole life.
“Where are you taking us?” The boy had long legs and a quick gait, so Missy struggled to keep up with him. “Can you please slow down?”
“No, thanks.” Missy studied the boy. She hadn’t gotten the chance before, when Clint (Meyers) was around, and she was rather disappointed she was given it now. The boy was tall and lanky, had a confident stride, and terrible clothing. A fedora sat crooked on his head, and the vest over his short-sleeve button down made him look like a clash between this decade and the 1920s. His face wasn’t unattractive, but he was no Clint Meyers.
“Here we are, m’dear.” The boy gave a grand gesture to the front door of a dilapidated diner. Through the dingy windows, Missy saw a fat waitress stumbling about and one old man at a booth.
“Cheedo’s?” Missy asked incredulously. “Everyone knows this is the worst diner in town--”
“Have you ever been here?”
“Well, no, but--”
“So how do you know?”
“Come on, Missy.” The boy didn’t even hold the door for Missy, she noticed as she stomped in behind him. He snatched a menu off the bar, sat down at a dirty table for two, and gestured for Missy to join him. She didn’t bother to mask the disgust on her face as she lowered herself into the seat across from him. Missy didn’t want to see what the back of her sunny yellow dress would look like when she got up again.
“Gol-ly it smells!” Missy pinched her nose.
“You get used to it.” The boy looked at the menu for a minute before he handed it to Missy.
“How may I help you today?” the fat waitress asked in a monotone.
“I’ll take a burger with pickles, onions, mustard, anchovies, and no cheese. Oh, and a pickle-juice shake,” the boy said. Missy’s eyes widened, and her stomach turned.
“Um, may I please have a burger with no onions, and a chocolate shake?” she asked the waitress.
“Out of chocolate,” she said.
“Then, vanilla, please.”
“Out of ‘nilla, too.”
“She’ll take a pickle-juice shake,” interrupted the boy.
“I most certainly will not!” Missy cried, but the waitress was already back in the kitchen. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes after she left.
“If I were with Clint,” Missy said, “I would be at the Family Diner on Main, and he would have given me the sweetest Valentine’s gift by now.”
“You want a gift?” he said.
“Not from you!” He pulled something wrapped in a greasy napkin out of his pocket and deposited it on the table. Missy shoved away from the table when the napkin fell open to reveal a dead rat.
“Oh my God!” she yelled. “That’s it! I am leaving this horrible date!” The boy didn’t look at all fazed.
“Here’s your food.” The waitress dropped their plates and drinks onto the table and left. The pickle shakes were bright green with red straws, through which the boy was already sucking his down. The burger looked more appetizing, more normal than anything else in the diner. Missy hated herself for it, but she was hungry, and the burger looked good.
Chin upturned, she sat back down and grabbed her burger. She took a big bite out of it and immediately spat it back out onto her plate.
“This is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten!”
“Really?” said the boy between sips of his shake.
“Yes, really, and I’m leaving for real now. Thank you for the worst Valentine’s date ever, Whatever-Your-Name-Is. I’m leaving!” Missy jumped up from the table and made for the door.
“Wait!” called the boy. Missy spun around, hands on hips. “Truth or dare?” he posed.
“What?” She paused. “Truth, I guess.”
“Why are you leaving?”
“Because this is a terrible restaurant, you are a terrible date, and I’m never participating in the Attington Ankle Auction ever again! Good-bye!”
Missy turned on her heel, sunny dress twirling, and ran smack into the glass diner door.