PLAYING HURT alternates between Chelsea’s and Clint’s POV. This excerpt introduces the reader to Clint, and is the first chapter told from Clint’s viewpoint:
“Call me crazy,” say Earl, owner of Lake of the Woods fishing resort, from behind the check-in counter. “I happen to think that a man on vacation wants…a vacation.”
I instantly feel deflated. I glance back up at the poster I’ve just thumb-tacked to the wall of the lobby. It’s not a BAD poster. In fact, I personally think the collage I’ve put together of the northern Minnesota landscape looks enticing. Whitewater rapids, kayaks on clear rivers, brown fingers of hiking trails—what could be better? GIVE ME A WEEK, I’LL GIVE YOU THE TOOLS FOR THE BEST BODY OF YOUR LIFE! my poster promises. LAKE OF THE WOODS BOOT CAMP!
“It’s a good idea,” I say, trying to defend myself. But my words hesitate far too much to convey any real confidence. I clear my throat and decide to be more assertive. “It’s not like I’m forcing people into the gym. It’s intense outdoor activities—hiking, swimming, rowing—surrounded by our incredible scenery. Isn’t that why people come up here in the first place? For the scenery? You don’t vacation in Minnesota to be INSIDE.”
“I dunno,” Earl mumbles. “Most people like a little leisure with their time off. Hikes are strolls here, Clint. Kayak trips are sight-seeing adventures, not races. Swimming amounts to floating on an inner tube near the dock. VACATION, son. Rest. Relaxation. That’s what folks come here for. You should know that by now. The men fish. The women make eyes at the tour guides.”
“They don’t ‘make eyes’ at me,” I say, as the door to the dining room flops open.
“It’s all right, Clint,” Todd says around an enormous bit of a sandwich that reeks of vinegar. “Not everybody can be the stuff of fantasy. Just a select few of us.” He’s not really joking all that much. Here we are, on our first day of summer work back at the resort, and already he’s walking around in a Lake of the Woods T-shirt that’s too small for him, displaying all those hours at the weight bench for the girls on vacation. Usually, we don’t get too many eighteen- or nineteen-year-olds here at the resort, mostly families with younger kinds. But Todd’s obviously hoping for the best.
He wipes his mouth with the back of his wrist and lets out a moan when he sees my poster. “What is THAT? What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s just an idea,” I say.
Todd shakes his head. “No, no, no—no more ideas. You’re blowing everything.”
“Blowing what? I told you, it’s just an idea.”
“No, no, no,” Todd mumbles, finally swallows. “Look. I can understand you working hard senior year. Making up for lost time, maybe. Okay, sure. But last year—you, me, and Greg, away at school. Didn’t even have to deal with being in a dorm—we had our OWN PLACE. No parents. The perfect opportunity. And you STUDIED. For God’s sake, who works so hard, freshman year of college? Huh? Do YOU know?” he asks, turning to Earl.
Earl just tugs on his steel wool beard, trying not to laugh.
“Really—who STUDIES like that?” Todd shouts again, like I’m deaf of something. “You take—gym—you take—James Bond Movies 101—you take—freshman comp. Did you go to a single party ALL YEAR, Morgan?”
I just stare at him. He knows I didn’t.
“You blew it. The freebie, gimme year. You BLEW it. And now, at the very beginning of the summer, when everybody takes a little breather, you’ve got THREE jobs?”
“I don’t have three—”
“Tour guide here at the resort,” Todd interrupts, holding up his index finger. “Working at Pike’s Perch,” he says, holding up his middle finger when referring to my parents’ restaurant. “And now,” he finishes, holding up a ring finger slathered in mayo from his sandwich, “THAT.” He points at the poster, then shoves the rest of his sandwich in his mouth.
“Maybe you’re spreading yourself a little thin,” Earl adds.
“It’s not like my folks pay me or anything,” I protest. “Working at Pike’s is just kind of like helping around the house. And some extra cash on the side would really help with tuition next year. Not to mention geology textbooks—those things aren’t exactly cheap. Maybe you guys could sign up for my boot camp. Help a guy out.”
“No way,” Todd says, shaking his head. “Huh-uh. I’m not contributing to this WORKING craziness. Working, studying, JEEZ. And another thing—if your parents don’t stop bragging about your A’s to everybody at Pike’s, I’m gonna kill you. My parents eat in there.”
“What about you?” I ask Earl.
Earl grimaces. “I’d rather get a whoopin’.”
“I’ll get somebody,” I insist, laughing now. “You just watch.”
Thanks Holly and Teen Book Scene!