We're the Cupcakes
Ohh, that smell!
“Get the Pine Sol, extra strength!” urged May. She sounded like a Doctor calling for 50 cc’s of Maltrobloxin, stat. She was scrubbing the floor.
Ten was tired and a little cranky. She wasn’t a morning person. “Wha?”
“There was a boy here. I can smell the peaches. McCabe will surely be able to tell.”
See I told you she wasn’t dumb. Sometimes, she was the only one on the ball.
“Right that was Jess. Crud, I heard the shower shut off already, McCabe will be out here any moment” cried Ten and she dropped her teddy and ran for the broom closet. The bottle was empty. “Aghhh. We’re out!”
Had this been a TV show, now would have been a good time to take a break for a commercial for some sort of other, better, longer lasting floor cleaner with a fruitier, mintier, lemonier smell but this isn’t a TV show. It’s a book.
They didn’t have much time, McCabe—Spy of the Year in 1974 and ’76, the mistress of the house and the Cupcakes’ band manager—had a regular morning routine. She woke up and did fourteen minutes of yoga beside her bed. Downward dog, forward lunge, upward dog, back to the downward dog and repeat. She then brushed, flossed and applied a thin coating of Vaseline to her teeth. The perfect smile was just a glob away. Next was a seven-minute shower. She would then step out, dry her short wavy hair in a towel, apply sunscreen and throw on her predetermined-the-night-before outfit to come out and cook the girls breakfast.
Ten ran across the room, dropped to the floor and slid into the sink cabinet as if it were home plate. “Ow!” she cried but she didn’t stop to milk any sympathy, she threw open the door and found, and found, and found— nothing. Nothing but crinkly plastic grocery bags, a zillion of them overflowing.
She rubbed her head, the bump was for naught! “Think Ten, think” she told herself. And then, “Cat food!”
“Yes, cat food” she mumbled. She scrambled for the can opener. She always wanted one of those electric jobs that spun the can around and around but had read that all those tiny metal moving parts got all gunky and gross and were serious germ magnets. Plus, that’s not the sort of thing a young girl spends her money on without people talking.
“Where is it?!” She found the crank kind in seconds, dug in the cupboard for a can of cat food and effortlessly pierced the top and turned. Running to the scene, she scooped it out with her fingers and threw it on the floor where May was still scrubbing.
“No, Ten, ewwww!” It had splattered and hit May in the face. Just a drop, near her upper lip. She shivered with the willies.
Do you think that expression began from someone named Will who was hideously stinky or creepy or disfigured beyond recognition? Or was he just cold?
“Freaking Ten, what the, uh, gr, doing?” May was sweet like cream pie. Freaking was as bad as it ever got.
“The smell, it will take McCabe off the scent. Anyway, she’d recognize the Pine Sol and realize we were trying to hide something. This way is better, this way we’re not covering it up, we’re creating a whole new story.”
“Wipe it off your face and follow my lead.”
Ten had just enough time to trash the cat food can and rinse her fingers before McCabe came waltzing out of her room humming a jaunty tune. She was beaming. McCabe loved the mornings.
“Good morning girls, where are my two other cuppycakes?”
“I think Lola is in the shower now and Vivi’s getting dressed,” said Ten.
“Yeah, Vivi is getting dressed, Lola’s in the shower” said May with complete and total awkwardness. Her nerves were rattling her bones silly. But McCabe didn’t notice anything peculiar. That is, until she walked across the room to grab the paper from the front porch. She bounced right across the spot on the floor where Lola had left her mark.
And then she backtracked.
Sniff. Snifffffff. McCabe’s face was sour, her feet frozen right there on the proverbial X. “What is that smell?” she inquired. She wasn’t Spy of the Year twice for nothing.
“Oh that. You know, it’s a funny story,” said Ten calmly.
“Yeah, a funny story,” echoed May. Her face was contorting out of genuinely imagined pain.
“Funny story?” repeated McCabe with skepticism.
“Yep, You know last night, May and I were fast asleep but there was this buzzy mosquito in our room, buzzy buzz buzz it went, right in my ear. I swatted it and it went away for a moment but then it was right back there buzzing in my ear. So I got up and flipped on the light and that’s when I woke up May. I started chasing this mosquito all over the room with my slipper and it was really taking me for a ride. I climbed up on May’s bunk to get the little bugger and accidently swatted May with my slipper and boy she was ticked off, weren’t you May?”
But Ten didn’t wait for May to answer, she kept on going.
“And apparently my slippers weren’t too clean, you know I wore them out in the yard on trash day and it had just rained the day before so they were a bit muddy and now poor May had this slipper-shaped dirt blob on her forehead so she climbed out of bed to wash it off and well I was feeling lousy for getting her with my slipper so I followed her into the bathroom where she turned on the water but lo and behold (not a phrase Ten ever used unless she was lying, this should have been a bright crimson flag) but lo and behold, no water came out. So I, feeling guilty, put on my already muddy slippers and went out the back to see if the water spigot was somehow turned off, you know I think I saw the guy from the water department here just yesterday checking our meters, and so I went out back, in my muddy slippers and,” Ten wasn’t gonna take a breath, “and there he was mean ol’ Billy Bully’s Rottweiler, apparently loose and on the prowl for he had giant slobbergobs hanging from his shiny white teeth and that killer dog look in his eyes, you know the one, and just then May came out to find out what was up with the water and I told her quick, make wild animal faces at the rotty and so we, May and I, we both made wild animal faces at the dog, well mine was more wild than May’s but neither one really worked and then I remembered the tiki mask on the wall, the one from our show last summer in Timbuktu and I yanked it down, carefully of course so we wouldn’t damage it and then I moved it back and forth in front of the window like It was doing some sort of ritualistic mating dance and well that finally scared the old dog home and we were about to go inside when (quick, half breath here) we heard this whimpering sound and we were quite scared because it sounded almost human and I thought no way, are we gonna find like some abandoned baby and have a big media scandal on our hands but then it meowed and we realized no, it’s just a cat, but see the cat sounded trapped so we went a little closer to where the sound was coming from and it was Fluffball, the O’Ryan’s white Persian, and she had apparently backed into that big orange planter while scooting away from the dog, the mean fierce dog and she seemed dazed and confused and we were about to shoo her on home when she made the most pitiful little whimper of a cry and so, feeling so sorry for Fluffball, who let me remind you was frozen with fear, we opened the slider but first, I turned the water on, it was off and I’m not entirely sure how that happened and then we let Fluffball in and well she was shaking like mad and we thought the best way to calm ol’ Fluffball down was with one of those cans of lamb and turkey stew that we have from that time we watched her that one weekend and so we fed her and then sent on her way home and well whoa, what a night. Cat food. You must smell the lamb and the turkey.”
Ten could have just said they fed the neighbor’s cat, but she had a flair for the dramatic and loved to tell a story. That’s why she wrote all the bands songs.
“Never did find the mosquito,” added Ten, finally.
May was just wide-eyed, shaking her head “yes” the whole time. Had McCabe any suspicion, she would have clearly noticed May’s guilty, quivering lip and her right twitchy eyebrow, but this was Ten talking, the most responsible girl in the band, she had no reason to doubt her admittedly overwrought and elaborate story. Plus, she had something else on her mind, but more on that in a minute.
“You should have woken me, girls. That dog could have hurt that little cat AND you. I’ll give that Billy Bully’s parents a call and make sure that dog isn’t off his leash again! Oh and I should ring the O’Ryan’s too, they should probably hold back on feeding that cat today if it got an extra can last night,” and then this part she whispered as if the cat was in earshot and she didn’t want to hurt its feelings, “Fluffball doesn’t need any extra food, if you know what I mean,” and she moved her hands far apart to indicate the cat was downright fat.
Ten’s stomach gurgled and something. She didn’t want anyone getting a McCabe earful because of a lie she told. She looked at May who gave her a pouty look. And then a big smile as if to say that was some story. “Where my pancakes?” asked May without another care in the world.
“Coming up. Get the other girls, I have something exciting to share with you all.”
Ten slumped back to the bedroom. She was still mad at Lola. “Wake up” she yelled. But Lola didn’t budge. “Wake upppp!” she screamed in her ear. Still nothing. She ran to the bathroom and looked for a bucket. But honestly, why would they have a bucket in their bathroom? The closest thing wasn’t much—the cup that held their toothbrushes. She dumped the brushes on the counter and flipped the water on cold. She filled the holder up as long as she could bear to stand there and then she ran over and dumped it on Lola’s head.
“McCabe wants you. Us.”
“Does she know?” Lola sounded genuinely scared. And cold. And wet. She wasn’t mad at Ten in the slightest. Ten could’ve dumped a whole bucket, had she found one, on Lola’s head and she wouldn’t have been mad. She understood she deserved it. She just plain didn’t want to be booted.
“No, I covered. But I’m mad. You owe me big. Now get out of bed.”
“Thanks T. You rock.”
“And roll, don’t forget roll.”
“Like sushi baby.”
Ten then went to see Vivi who was getting dressed. “McCabe doesn’t know about last night. I told her a fish tale about a cat. I feel ultra lousy but what could I do?”
“I know Ten. I know.”
“She wants us in the kitchen, something to tell us.”
“Are you sure she doesn’t know?”
Moments later all the girls were gathered in the kitchen. McCabe had already made pancakes. It seemed impossible really, but the girls, they never questioned her stealth speed. She passed them out with plenty of Aunt Jemima and sat down on a barstool. They were like the fluffiest pancakes, ever. “Big, big news,” she said.
McCabe was excitable. Big news could have meant a sale on pork at the A&P.
But not this time.
“Girls—they’re holding auditions for the spectacular, all new, old Band of the Future TV show. The one and only Bud Ingstarr will be at the Surf Shack today and he himself will choose the groups who will compete. We’ve got to get you down to the auditions lickety split!
And this is how the girls came to face their greatest challenge heretofore, The Mysterious Case of the Bogus Band of the Future.