I laid in bed on top of damp sheets staring up at the molded ceiling which just started to leak. Drip, drip, drip, water fell into various pots and buckets spread around the room. My grandmother’s “friend” allegedly fixed this problem the day before but I could tell Jim didn’t have a clue what he was doing by the way he strapped on his useless seventy piece tool belt, like he was about to build a dining room table. Idiot. Jim just wanted to impress Grandma Stone so he could get some more of her homemade raspberry cobbler— unfortunately not the kind you eat with a spoon. He was disgusting. They were disgusting and very loud in the adjacent bedroom. I could hear my Grandmother trying to quiet him down, “You’re going to wake her up”, she would say. Every Friday night he would come over for dinner, hours of the game show network, then late night dessert. “Just because there’s a wall doesn’t mean I can’t hear you banging my grandmother”, I calmly told Jim while he was “fixing” my ceiling. He fell off the ladder and busted his nose on the way down. I guess I startled him. Mom used to say I walked around the house with ghost slippers.
Drip, drip, drip—the robotic sound of water picking up-tempo like a metronome. My dad would have fixed it. The rain began to sweep into my bedroom creating an “under the sea” kind of effect. I got up and shut the window as lightning struck and lit up the rumbling sky. This was the first thunderstorm to ever make me smile. “Maybe our flight will get canceled,” I thought. I proceeded to open up my door—although sleeping with the door open always made me uncomfortable for some reason— to get some kind of air circulation going. I plopped myself back into the concrete bed. Back into soggy sheets, sweating, dripping, roasting, melting, helpless, like Donald Duck spinning in a set-it-and-forget-it machine. The oscillating stand-up fan might as well have been a baster filled with oil and meat juices. The clock read 4:50 am and I hadn’t closed my eyes all night. Tends to happen when you think you’re about to die.
In less than five hours I would be on an airplane for the first time ever. “How will they find our bodies if we end up in the Atlantic Ocean?” I thought. My Grandma said it was the fastest way to Europe. She also said that not too many thirteen-year-old girls from South Boston have ever traveled overseas. That meant I was supposed to be thankful. Thankful that I was selected by the Student Ambassadors Association of America—along with thirty-nine other middle school students from all over the city—to represent a country that didn’t care about the neighborhood I grew up in or the people in it. I remember my Dad explaining to me what gentrification meant after we walked home from our favorite little league baseball park that was no longer there. “Basically rich people move in, and poor people like us get kicked out,” he said. “Where do they go?” I asked. “At this rate we’ll all end up in the Charles River,” he replied. There’s a Whole Foods there now.
I can’t say that I was thrilled to be a United States Student Ambassador, a fancy title that was handed out to everyone at the first delegation meeting—the first of ten. Maybe if we had taken a cruise ship with batting cages on board. I pictured myself smacking homeruns off the edge of the deck into the ocean. It was after all the middle of July, the heart of the Major League Baseball season. On a three-week trip I calculated that I would miss fourteen games including the all-important all-star game and home run derby, which was of course at Fenway Park that year. Fenway Park! Nothing was more important to me than baseball. I stared at a picture on my nightstand of my Mom, Dad, and I at my first Red Sox game. I don’t remember it, I was only two years old, wearing a “cute” Red Sox branded outfit, but I looked like I was having a good time.
The basic essentials filled the rest of my room. A dresser stuffed with old clothes and books, an overflowing hamper, posters of Dustin Pedroia (my favorite), Ted Williams (Dad’s Favorite), Carlton Fisk (Mom’s favorite), and a wooden desk that I would carve drawings into instead of actually doing homework. A packed suitcase lay next to my bed with a Student Ambassador lanyard draped across it. “I can’t breathe,” I said whipping sweat off of my forehead. The heat was unbearable: I had to turn on the air—a forbidden act in that house even if it was ninety-two degrees inside. Ninety-two, I stared at the thermostat which I swear was sweating even more than I was. I had never touched the AC before, but figured 64 degrees would do the trick.
Cool air pumped down onto my warped body. “Hopefully Grandma stays asleep.” It actually got comfortable enough for me to get underneath the covers, which had finally dried up. I began to drift in and out of consciousness. Next thing I know, my grandmother banged on the door. It sounded like a sledgehammer. I popped up, kind of disoriented. Clock read 7am, and I was FREEZING—which meant Grandma woke up in the North Pole as well. “Kat,” she said. That’s what everybody called me. Kathleen sounded like some southern house wife with five kids and a dog, I refused to acknowledge it. “Kat, are you up?” she said while continuing to bang. I always hated when she said that. “Of course I’m up, you’re banging on the damn door,” I murmured. If only I could’ve had five more minutes. “Just five more minutes please,” I said to myself, staring up at the ceiling. She continued to bang. “Kathleen Evelyn Stone,” the point of no return, I had to stick out my stubborn defiance until the end. When she opened the door I flipped over and closed my eyes. My mom used to always give me those extra five minutes. “Kat”, she said again. I continued to ignore as I felt her eyes piercing through my skull.
Then, out of nowhere, she grabbed the covers with both hands and ripped them off the bed. “Grandma, come on” I said. She had a huge smile on her face. “Cold isn’t it.” She bawled up the covers. My long and skinny legs dangled off of the twin bed. “But it was boiling last night. Give me the covers back.” “I gave you ten extra minutes.” “Please, just five more minutes.” My Grandma was actually a very sweet and caring person, if you looked past her dark sarcasm, short temper, faded tattoos, and 5’10”, 200+ pound frame. She began to laugh at me like a military drill sergeant waking up the new crop of soldiers. “What are you going to do with five minutes besides make me angry?” She had no idea that five more minutes would have completely changed my life. For some reason, whenever I would wake up before the sun cracked the sky, an extra minute felt like an extra hour.
“I swear, that’s all I need.” I put on my award winning puppy dog face. “Please?.” I thought I had her in the palm of my hand. Then she smiled at me. “Come and get ‘em.” I smiled back then tried to snatch the covers from her. She moved them out of reach then tossed them on the floor behind her. I got out of bed and tried to force my way past her. I was giving it everything I had and my grandmother wasn’t even breaking a sweat. She may have been old but she was strong as hell. I wanted those covers back. She began to laugh at me. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. She grabbed the covers, tossed them on top of my head, and wrapped me up. I began to wriggle and squirm like a mummy being prepped for burial. I could barely breathe. “Stop it!” I shouted, sounding like a muted trumpet under five feet of water. I give up, I give up.” She continued to laugh. “I need an apology young lady,” she said. “Ok! I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I said, waving the white flag.
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you. Speak up.” “I’m sorry!”, I shouted. Then she picked me up and threw me on the bed. “Get dressed. You’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane.” I fought off the covers as she walked out of the room. Breathing heavy. Exhausted. Then, like any other kid would, went right back to sleep and got five more minutes in.
Daniel K. Hunter is a Brooklyn based writer and an alum of Berklee College of Music. He’s the co-founder, a long with his brother David, of the literary and lifestyle blog Writers and Hunters and is currently hard at work on the Epistolary Novel “Wake Up Ambassador Stone.”