Going to Peco, Florida, for the summer to stay with Bernadette is not Chloe's first choice. Or her second or her third. It's her only choice. She has to leave town because of the hair contract. If she didn't sign it, her friends would shun her; if she did sign it, anytime any one of them had a bad hair day it would mean total immersion in the local pool for all of them, Chloe included. Chloe not only hates total immersion, she fears it.
So it's off to Bernadette's for the summer. "Help Bernadette," Nick, Chloe's stepfather, says. Bernadette is his sister. "And give the unexpected a chance." Just what that means Chloe discovers right away. Everything about Bernadette is unexpected: her dog; her job driving a commissary van that serves sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, and junk food to shipyard and dock workers; her way of teaching Chloe to swim; her ability to skate on Rollerblades; her adventures in the commune where she and Nick had lived for a year; and especially the fact that the unexpected is never unexpected to her, not even the events that follow when some commissary drivers begin wearing T-back swimsuits to work (a way of increasing business) and other groups in Peco decide T-backs should be banned forever.
Bernadette, who will not wear T-backs but will not oppose them either, is caught in the middle. And no matter what Chloe does, the results are unexpected. Unexpected, it seems, is all you can really count on, unless, like Bernadette, you know enough about the past to have an idea of what the future might bring. And even then, well, maybe Bernadette doesn't always know everything.