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Authors: Kathy Parks

The Lifeboat Clique

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just before he drowned.

Of course, I suppose that's what happens when you're dying of thirst. It turns you into a drunk. Not a fun drunk but a dying drunk, when all the cravings come to a screeching halt except for that of plain, cool water and the brain shrinks back to the dumbest part, the part that sees horses galloping on the flat ocean and talks about crazy things and generally makes a drunken, dying ass of itself.

The problem with this theory is that Trevor Dunham talked about his Man Part even back in ordinary times, when he was slinking down our school hallway or getting
his lunch tray or drumming two pens on the zinc counter of chemistry lab. Apparently, that particular organ was the driving force of his life. The muse that guided his path. The wingman that helped him pick up girls. The dog that caught his Frisbees.

And yet the whole dying-of-thirst thing made him step up the crotch talk considerably. Slumped in the swivel chair in the drifting boat we'd found and thought would save us, he described his Man Part, which he'd nicknamed Ranger Todd, in minute detail. Ranger Todd had a favorite color and a favorite childhood memory. Ranger Todd told jokes. The more Trevor died, the more Ranger Todd came to life. It was hopeless and horrible and annoying.

P.S. Don't drink seawater.

I didn't know Trevor that well at all. He was the drummer in a garage band called Death Stare and had a lean surfer's body, a permanent tan, and a shock of blond hair that he kept long in front so he could flip it this way and that instead of using words. He was one of the popular kids who just ignored me, except for the time he suddenly approached my locker and demanded: “Go on, thump them. Thump my abs.” And kept saying it until I did it, thumped his steel abs and thought I heard a clang somewhere.

There were five of us in the boat at that time: Trevor,
myself, and the three girls I would least like to be cooped up with after a catastrophic seismic event. Sienna Martin, soccer captain and winner of the Bitch Most Dedicated to the Craft of Bitchiness title at Avenwood High School, thought she saw an airplane and waved her arms at it. Hayley Amherst joined her, because she went along with everything, and the two of them cawed like insane pelicans at the empty sky and the plane only Sienna could see.

“Stop it. For God's sake, there ain't no helicopter,” said Abigail Kenner in her I-lived-in-Texas-three-years drawl. Abigail was the person most responsible for this disaster. Not the big one—the giant wave that hit the West Coast. The smaller disaster that encompassed this gently bobbing boat and our prospects of sharing it as a coffin. She was the one who had the stupid party in a house that sat on a low bluff in Malibu.

It wasn't even her house. And I wasn't invited. But I went, anyway.

We used to be best friends. But then I killed her dream and ruined her life, at least according to Abigail, and she punted our friendship and joined the cool kids and turned everyone in school against me for something that was all her fault.

Perhaps that is why I hated her the most. Because I once loved her like a sister.

She should not, by all rights, have been popular. Straggly red hair, freckles, boyish gait, terrible dresser, affected Texas accent, horrible use of basic grammar—and yet she was. She had defied the odds and won the lottery. She was a constant reminder that it could be done—and I hadn't done it.

Back to Trevor.

We didn't quite know what to do with him or his pal Ranger Todd. We weren't much better off ourselves. We were dying, too. Dying in the worst possible way: together. An ungainly assortment of cool kids and outcast, all in one convenient boat. We were like one of those ice cream flavors that never quite work, like Grapefruit Praline.

Actually, Grapefruit Praline ice cream sounded awesome to me.

Hayley was absolutely freaking out. Crying and begging Trevor not to die. We tried to make Trevor get under the broken awning and at least get out of the sun, but he just sat there, his eyes going dull, drumming on his knees and singing a song about Ranger Todd that went something like this:

Ranger Todd, Ranger Todd

Go, boy

Go, boy

Go, boy

You're so awesome

I love you

Ranger Todd

Right up there with One Direction, I suppose, but it would have to do as a death chant. After an hour or so of this, Ranger Todd suddenly detached and fell out of the boat. At least it did in Trevor's seawater-ravaged mind. He began calling for Ranger Todd in a sad, hopeless voice. Before anyone could stop him, he dove off the boat and started swimming away. He got five or six strokes in before he sank beneath the waves.

Of all of us, he had seemed the most likely to survive. But that was the cruelty of fate, whether you were dying at sea or simply trying to get through high school. Sometimes fate kissed you. Sometimes it snubbed you. Sometimes it passed you a love note, and that note was a lie.

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