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The Water Fight ProfessionalT

by Angela Ruth Strong

I, Joey Michaels, am the Water Fight Professional.

Basically this means that customers pay me to soak other people. But my super-competitive best friend is sucking all the fun out of summer. All because I made a secret bet with him.
Winning the bet wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have the following three problems:
1) My dramatic mother who feels the need to schedule every moment of summer
2) A surfer-dude mailman who can’t keep deliveries straight
3) The annoying neighbor girl who all my friends have a crush on

If I lose … ugh, I can’t even tell you what I’d have to do. I’d rather lick a slug!

Chapter 1

Crouching behind a scratchy bush, I balanced a squishy water balloon in each hand.

Austin Clairmont’s family slowly walked down the brick path of the nature trail. Very slowly. Was his mom really reading all the little signs that described each plant? People only read those on field trips.

My right foot tingled like it was starting to fall asleep.

The family turned left to go over the footbridge. I awaited my victim on the wrong path. This wasn’t part of the business plan.

The Clairmonts strolled out of my line of vision—even Austin’s super-tall dad who hired me to soak Austin in the first place. He’d paid me to use two water balloons and my Mega Drench 200, the water gun tucked in my belt behind my back. It was my only sale on that cloudy, early summer day.

Lucky for me, unlike my own dad, Mr. Clairmont liked to spend money. He’d come right up to my booth in the park and arranged for my services. Of course, since Austin was a whole year older than me and going into 8th grade at Cole Valley Christian School, I would have to be sneaky in my attack or he would certainly get me back.

Half crawling, half running, I started after the family. My sneakers kept my bridge crossing silent. I slowed down as I came to the bend and peeked around the corner.

Perfect. Austin had gone down the hill next to the fish-viewing windows.

I crept backward two steps to the railroad tie stairs which led up to an overlook of the pond, waterfall, and windows. I couldn’t have planned it better.

Mr. Clairmont caught my eye through the tree branches and winked.

My pulse picked up.

I angled my body so there was a clear shot through the tree branches. Lifting the red balloon in my right hand, I focused on my target and counted down in my head. Three … two … one … FIRE!

Splat. Direct hit.

“What?” Austin leaped off the bench he was standing on and examined his royal blue T-shirt, now a navy color where the water had hit him.

Austin’s two brothers laughed and looked around, but they didn’t spot my second balloon before it arrived. Yikes. I hit Austin’s little brother. That meant trouble, but I had to finish the job.

I pulled the Mega Drench out from under my belt and charged down the steps with a war cry. My position had been perfect for launching water balloons, but if I stayed there, the brothers would find me for sure, and I would have no escape. “Wah!” I yelled, gun pointed in front of me as I turned the corner.

One run-by soaking coming up.

Austin saw me. “It’s Joey,” he yelled.

“Who’s Joey?” asked the little brother.

I aimed the nozzle slightly to the left of Austin—the Mega Drench never shot straight—and pulled the trigger.

“He’s the professional water fighter.”  Austin jumped behind his big brother, Grant, to avoid my attack.

I doused the fifteen-year-old. Crud.

“Hey,” yelled Grant. “You’re gonna regret this.”

I was already starting to, but that was the hazard of my chosen career. Mr. Clairmont high-fived me as I kept moving down the path, heart pounding in my ears.

He was the only one still laughing.

I glanced over my shoulder.

Austin had his mom’s water bottle in hand and was in hot pursuit.

I faced forward and ran faster.

Heavier footsteps scuffed past Austin’s. Grant was gaining on me.

Glancing back, I extended my gun and shot as I ran.

Water dripped from Grant’s chin, but that didn’t stop him.

How was I going to escape?

“Get him,” shouted Austin. His voice faded behind me. I must have worn him out.

Sliding on gravel, I tried to leap toward a second bridge, but Grant grabbed my shirt. My collar held me back like a dog on a leash. I twisted side to side, whipping him back and forth, and jerked him off balance.

Grant tumbled to the ground but wrapped an arm around my ankle on the way down.

I lost my footing and joined him on the hard wooden planks.

Austin reappeared. I hadn’t worn him out. He’d just ducked down to the creek to fill up the water bottle with slimy green stuff. Sick. That was so much worse than the drinking fountain water I used in my balloons.

I kicked at Grant and clawed at the bridge. No use.

Austin stepped forward with a huge grin on his face.

I shielded my head with my arms as algae and duck poop greased my body. My water gun bumped against my shoulder.

Oh, yeah. I was still armed.

Rolling onto my back, I aimed the weapon to the side of my assailants and fired. Woohoo!

“No way.” Austin reached down for my right arm and Grant grabbed my left.

I tried to pull the brothers together so they would hit heads, but that must only work in kung fu movies.

Austin hauled me toward the side of the bridge. He wouldn’t—

“Let me go,” I hollered.

“I’d rather lick a slug.” Austin didn’t even break stride.

Grant paused, but didn’t relax his grip on my arm. “Didn’t you lick a slug on our camping trip last year?” he asked Austin.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Ready?” asked Grant.

“Set,” answered Austin.

“Go,” they yelled together and tossed me over the railing.

I flailed through the air, barely catching my breath before splashing into the icy, murky pond.

A fish slipped past my neck.

I emerged to the sounds of laughter.

Baby Clairmont—I didn’t know his name—had caught up with his brothers and they all smirked down at me from the bridge. Mr. Clairmont’s tall frame doubled over in laughter in the distance. He was the reason I was floating in the muck. Was it worth it?

I thought of the soggy dollar bills stuffed into my jeans pocket. Oh yeah. It was worth it. I would do it again every day that summer if I got the chance.