Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

Ah summer! As a kid, summer vacation meant empty days and travel with the family. In high school, though, it meant getting a summer job.

In Texas Gothic, my new book (which comes out on July 12, just saying), Amy Goodnight has a summer job farm-sitting for her Aunt Hyacinth, a literal witch. Amy thinks it just means feeding the livestock twice a day and lying around reading and relaxing for the rest of it. But then a skeleton turns up on the neighbor's property, and a ghost turns up in her bedroom, and a cranky (and hot) cowboy turns up in her front yard, and things get much more complicated.

Now, MY first paying job was working for Chuck E. Cheese. The pizza place. Where a Kid can be a Kid. Unless you’re a high school kid, trying to earn money to put gas in your car.

First I was on pizza making duty. That wasn’t actually so bad, as long as you were on the assembly line. I wasn’t so great working the oven. Let’s just say, wielding those paddle things takes a leverage that I found it hard to manage. For one thing, I’m petite, and the actual conveyor belt where the pizzas come out of the oven was about head high. It wasn’t so hard holding the paddle over my head like a lance and sliding it under the pizza. But bringing it down and around without tipping the pizza off onto the floor?  More of a challenge.

So they moved me to that’s costume character department. That’s right. I was Chuck E. Cheese. Frankly, assembling pizzas was a better gig.

You’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese, right?  Well, even if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen its clone on TV or in movies. Or, you know, if you’ve made a Dante-esque journey through the outer circles of hell. It’s auditory torture, full of bells, whistles, screaming kids, running around… Oh, the humanity.

Now imagine being in the middle of that dressed as a giant rat, with this big head with this little bitty space for you to look through.  It was hot and smelly, and the kids would always run up and give you a bit, sloppy hug and wipe their pizza and snot covered faces all over you. The best, of course, was when one of the taller ones realized Chucky E. is a girl. And then proceeded to feel you up.

Good times.

To top it off, our animatronic musical character was “The King,” a lion who sang Elvis songs. Only he was broken, so the only song he sang was “Viva Las Vegas.”

Bright lights shining in the *mumble mumble*
Gonna SET my SOUL on FI-er

Now I can never hear that song without having flashbacks to anchovy smell, oven burns, sweat stains and getting groped by eight year olds.

Good times. I'm not sure I wouldn't take a mysterious human remains and a vengeful ghost over that. I'm VERY sure I'd take a cranky (hot) cowboy any day.
So did you get a job this summer? Or what was YOUR first summer job?  Could it possibly have been as fun as wearing a giant rat costume in June in Texas?


  1. I love that! And as a parent who has been to Chuck E's I feel for you. Summer job stories are so great. My first summer job was as a bun girl.

    I'd gone away to the Rhode Island School of Design for a summer program right after my sophomore year of high school and couldn't wait to get home in August and get a job to make money. As a bun girl at a local restaurant (the Silvermine Tavern) I walked around with a basket full of buns - sticky buns, dinner rolls and corn bread. I artfully placed one of these on the bread plates of diners. Easy gig, if not the best paying job in town. I lasted there through Christmas, at which time I left so I could have my weekends free for parties - working as a bun girl on Saturday nights wasn't exactly optimal for a social life.

  2. You had me at hot cowboy...looking forward to reading your book!

  3. I can totally relate to your description of the kids running around and screaming; I'm working at a tourist attraction this summer, selling overpriced souvenirs. Every five minutes I hear a kid throwing a temper tantrum because his or her parent won't buy him or her a new toy. Sometimes the kid will try to run off with the toy anyway, and then when the parent returns it to the store the tantrums start up again.


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