As the assistant principal Mr. Boyle recited the Pledge of Allegiance through the loudspeakers, I bowed my head to look at Damian. As if it were some kind of twin telepathy, he lowered his head on his desk as I did mine at practically the same time. With one look in the eye, we shared one single thought: the thought to leave. The long days and even longer hours of summer school were too tiresome to tolerate. Especially during the one time of the year where the smell of roasted hot dogs and grilled cheeseburgers resonated through every crevasse in Miami. It was a planned exercise Damian and I utilized every fifteenth day of every June month from kindergarten to the current eighth grade. Or ninth, I always forget which grade I should say during this particular halcyon season.
By the time Boyle had finished the Pledge of Allegiance and Florida Pledge, Damian cried out in a sense of inexplicable pain. Damian was a theater kid, whether he knew it or not, as he clutched the heel of his foot and fell abruptly to the linoleum tile below us, as if the pain he was feeling was meant to be unendurable by all human species. Our science teacher Ms. Plantowsky raised an eyebrow, seemingly unsurprised by the anomalous behavior of my twin brother, still pleading to the unearthly aliens of the nearby solar system Alpha Centauri to spare his foot from the God-awful anguish in which encased it. But of course, Plantowsky wouldn't be buying any of his uncivil delinquency. Then again, that’s just what he and I wanted.
Over the laughs and overlapping conversation spurring through our class, Plantowsky raised her voice to speak to Damian. “What is so horrendous that you must decide to do that, Mr. Nellan?” She must’ve spat a little on the last word because a kid in the front row started rubbing her cheek in a repetitive motion.
On his rear-end and no longer holding his foot, my brother answered, “The aliens got my foot.”
Plantowsky pointed her finger directly towards the door and told him to make his way for assistant principal Boyle’s office. Then, as if absolute brightness had stricken her, she thought for a moment, pointed to Alma, the class wallflower, and told her to bring him back from Boyle’s office like the good girl everyone wanted to think she was. I could just imagine their conversation outside the closed door and through the refulgent hallways.
Damian would go, “I like your skirt.”
Then, Alma, who’d be looking at the floor, would refute by saying, “I’m not wearing a skirt, blind dipstick.”
That sort of pointless arguing could carry on for decades. Too bad the walk from Room 509 to Boyle’s office only took a diminutive five or so minutes. Damian and Alma would be the deciders of that factor. Except, Damian and Alma weren’t walking towards Boyle’s office. They both knew that. Acting like a fool in order to make Plantowsky send Damian to the office in a sickened mass was only part of the once-a-year plan.
“You know, I really wish Dakota were here.” Damian would finally say at the end of their walk. By this time, they would be standing in front of the glass doors that made up our widely-loved gym. I’d soon be asking Damian whether or not the four-letter obscenity written on the door’s rim was still there.
Alma would take a notion to this and start walking back to Room 509 while Damian would sit on the feculent floor and pick at his nose. Then he’d look up to make sure Alma wasn’t looking. Five or so minutes later, Alma came knocking on Room 509’s door once again. Plantowsky pointed at another kid, Butch Henderson, to open the door with Alma’s forehead showing through the small, bantam window.
“Ms. Lozano, where in heaven’s sake is Mr. Nellan at right now?” Ms. Plantowsky said in the most civil tone she could muster.
“He’s in the office, but Mr. Boyle said he’d like to see Dakota too.” Alma spoke meekly while focusing on a spot on the floor.
“And why might that be?” Plantowsky articulated in the same manner of speech.
“Mr. Boyle wants the family phone number but can’t find it on the school system. Damian doesn’t know it, but he’s sure Dakota will.” Alma’s lie didn’t change her position of expression not one bit. Such subtleties like this can show a person how much another normally lies on a daily basis.
“Ms. Nellan could you please follow Ms. Lozano to the assistant principal’s office. It seems as if your brother hasn’t learned anything, let alone ten digits.” I would’ve defended my brother, but Plantowsky spoke the truth. So I walked out with Alma.
Immediately, I started humming the opening to “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Black Eyed Peas. I don’t know why, but I just felt like it. Maybe the tune was just too catchy to resist. Alma looked up from the floor and started dancing like a madman with rocks in her soles. She didn’t look at me, but she was smiling, looking at a spot on the row of gray, dented lockers. In response to this, I started dancing my own madman boogie in our non-verbal conversation.
Alma and I could hear the thumping of a ball and screeching of someone’s sneakers before we entered the gym. Damian wasn’t sitting by the door for he had most likely gotten bored. I opened the glass door, a new four-letter obscenity scribbled on the handle in red ink, and Alma followed after me.
“Where the heck’d you get a basketball from!?” I yelled from the opposite side of the gym where Damian dribbled furiously.
“It was stuck under the bleachers somewhere.” Damian replied without much interest. “Speaking of which, any of you want some gum.” Damian stuck his hand into his shorts’ pockets to pull out a wad of pink rubber and looked around at the two of us. Neither of us answered.
After a moment, Alma asked a question that had obviously plagued her for a while. “I’m coming with you guys, right?” She fidgeted with the silver charm bracelet dangling from her left wrist.
“...Why of course, who would ever be foolish enough to miss a chance to hang out with the great, almighty all-Satan Alma Something Lozano?” Damian sat down on his stolen basketball and clasped his face with both hands, boring holes through Alma’s eyes.
“...It’s Lucia. Alma Lucia Lozano.” Alma started walking towards the back door. I followed, and Damian crawled away with us, cradling his new spherical friend in one arm.
Outside the doors, the sun’s immense heat shot bullets of sweat off our foreheads. It must’ve been over a hundred degrees out. We walked as a group through the football field and onto the concrete sidewalk of Richter Ln. Damian scrambled to his feet in order to lead us to a nearby ice-cream parlor, though it was a known fact that neither of us had any money worth spending.
“Now Dakota, do you have any money to spare?” Asking in a very pretentious manner, Damian set the ball down on the floor, clasped his hands together under his chin and tilted his head to the left.
“Then it’s settled, we’ll do this my way.” Damian grabbed his ball from the ground and went through the parlor’s doors. As soon as we all headed in he asked the question, “Hello. Yes you.” He pointed towards a tall guy with curly hair and a copious amount of pimples wearing a uniform apron. “What would you recommend us buy?”
“Puh-lease! I was you ten years ago, kid. I know how this works. You ask for my recommendation then I give you all the free samples you want.” The curly guy’s voice was mellow, much like his blond hair. He spread his hands on the counter, lowering himself to look Damian in the eye.
“...And?” Damian questioned, looking into the curly guy’s green eyes in response.
“And that’s exactly how it works!” The curly guy seemed very excited to pull out a trio of ice-cream cones resting at the back of the establishment’s stainless steel freezer.
“Hey! I thought you said we could have all the free samples we want.” Not happy with his amount of ice-cream, Damian was ready to fire back endlessly.
“Kid, I don’t wanna get fired.”
“Okay then.” Damian took a bite out of his vanilla ice-cream and walked out, expecting for us both to follow. I honestly don’t know why we follow Damian Nellan.
We were met with an unexpected chill -- most likely from the ice-cream -- when we ambled outside, remembering why we did this act of truancy every once a year. At first, it had just been for the 'just because,' though recently we’ve discovered some other Miami attractions that only take place during the summer. And by summer, I meant June 15th. Posters advertising the Vintage Bulldog tour crowded every wall and building door as we crossed from street to street, sidewalk to sidewalk.
“You know, it’s getting kind of cold out.” I shuddered.
“Awww, you want me to warm you up, baby?” Damian went towards me with open arms, a sign of endearment to some, a sign of utter disgust to me.
“Would you shut up?” He still hugged me, though. Alma joined in. She didn’t dare touch Damian, though. It was a touching moment.
I wouldn’t know it, from lack of experience, but I was more than sure the ice-cold particles falling on my face right then would’ve been categorized as snow. Snow Falls in Miami. It was probably some weird type of diarrhea bird poop. Diarrhea Bird Poop Spatters in Miami. Now that sounds more believable. We made it to the Vintage Bulldog concert hall, though we had to wait outside the doors. The ticketeer said we couldn’t come in, whether we had the tickets or not, because we didn’t make it on time. This ticketeer spoke lengths of truth though, so there was no need to debate over the space-time continuum. Damian wasn’t having it, though. He didn’t try to argue much, but you could tell by the way his face contorted into a pout, vanilla ice-cream napping on his upper lip.
In frustration, Damian kicked his stolen basketball into the streets somewhere to be found by another amateur thief. Small spectacles of white fluff kept falling over the streets and brick buildings. I was starting to get suspicious of this falling white substance. I was sure Alma and Damian were, too. But, for some reason, it never seemed right to talk about the elephant in the room so we kept on walking to who knows where. It’s a good thing we were walking pretty slow, because right as we crossed the street, a bird fell right in front of us. Frozen and dead, a pigeon encrusted in ice and crimson liquid fell by Alma’s sandals.
“What the-” As soon as I heard it exit my mouth, I also heard the landing of a dozen or more blood and ice encrusted animals all around us. A squirrel fell by the powerlines, another bird in the middle of the street, and a fat raccoon on Damian’s head. It was all too confusing to laugh.
“Alpha Centauri.” Said Damian in an instilled state, staring straight into the silver sky.
“Alfie what?” Alma’s mouth looked dry and cold, sleet particles emulating around her now red cheeks.
“Alpha Centauri.” Damian repeated. He turned for a second to look at me. “We’re not actually siblings.” In a flash, his dark brown eyes went icy blue as a beam of light ascended him into a spherical orb hovering above, leaving us in a cold state of matter.