Academy of The Holy Angel. Ada-Borup; public and parochial; Adrian; public and parochial. I wake up to the sound of the radio in the kitchen. Aitkin; public and parochial.@ WCCO, good neighbor to the north is announcing school closings. Albert Lea; public and parochial. It’s also been announced that Minnesota has just been hit by the snowstorm of the century, and I=m only nine years old. I look over at my brother, still asleep on his twin bed, identical to mine. When he sleeps, he looks so harmless, so innocent. I get a feeling of actual affection for him when he=s out cold. I look over at my shirt and pants in the corner of the room. I quickly get out of bed, run and grab them. I get back under the covers and hold them until they warm up. Alden Conger; public and parochial.
In the kitchen, mom is staring out the window at the new blanket of snow, leaning on one elbow on the counter with a cup of coffee. Forest Lake; public and parochial. She’s waiting for the O’s.
Osseo, have they said Osseo?
Not yet, she says.
Orono; private and parochial.
Please oh, please Osseo, say Osseo. I’m about ready to make a deal with God when, Osseo; public and parochial.
Yahoo! So long suckers! No school and it’s a weekday, and I’m not sick. There is a God, there is, there is.
No school today, says mom.
Boy, don’t I know it.
Now you’ll have time to spend with Grandmother.
Grandmother is visiting from Missouri, and granted, I don’t see her very often, like twice a year maybe, and I do love her, I swear, but this is a snow day. Come on, it may never happen again. I gotta be out in it. Something big is going to happen out there and I need to be there when it does.
Then I notice Grandmother standing in the kitchen in her robe. Grandmother; public and parochial. I think she’s heard everything. I’m busted. She comes over and hugs me. She smells like every flower I’ve ever smelled all at once. I’m her favorite, no matter what my brother and sister say.
I have some things to do this morning, she says to my mom. We can catch up at lunch.
I know by mom’‘s look I’m supposed to argue, but I can’t. I’m sorry warden, but the governor called and I gotta go.
My brother and I get down to the hockey rink just as Paul Puncochar finishes shoveling off the last bit of the storm of the century. It’s time for hockey. We choose teams, sing the National Anthem, make the public address, Athere=s no smoking in the arena, drop the puck, and it’s non-stop action.
I have to use my mom’s figure skates. At first the guys laugh because they are white and have a ring of grey fur around the top. But because of the grip toes on the front, I can beat anyone in a short burst of speed. Besides, nobody has skates that actually fit, or are new. In fact, Hank and Frank Haines, the twins from down the block, have racing skates. They are fast, but they can’t turn. The blades are too long, so they have to go straight till they hit a snow bank and then turn around.
Nobody has equipment either, like shin pads. So we make the rule, Ano raises. The puck has to stay on the ice. Five minutes into the game nobody follows the rule, and besides, if you break it, the penalty is the other team saying, AKnock it off, no raises. And the action continues.
The worst pain I can think of as a kid is a raised puck to the ankle. Especially in white figure skates with fur on top. And Pat Gilligan from the point takes a slap shot. The puck, like a deadly ankle-seeking missile on a mission from hell, finds it=s boney target. AARGH! I’m nailed in the ankle. AARGH! My toe catches. AARGH! I fall forward and hit my head on the ice. I feel a coldness flowing up from the point of impact. It spreads through my head, and as I turn and look up, the world is framed in blue. My body tingles and there=s a single high note in my head, and I want to throw up. My brother stands over me framed in blue and says the magic words. They’re from an episode of Star Trek, where Captain Kirk and Spock are dressed up like Nazis. Whenever one of us gets hurt, the other says, ALook at him, definitely an inferior breed. Note the dull look of a trapped animal.@ But the magic words don’t work. I’m in pain. I’m going home.
I get there just in time for lunch. Spaghetti-Os are usually my favorite. No other food is the same color, texture, or flavor as Spaghetti-Os. Made by a real chef, and nothing cuts authentic Italian food like a grilled Velveeta and a large glass of milk. But when I look into my bowl of Spaghetti-Os, they seem even more vibrant than ever. Then they start to do a strange little dance in the bowl. I tell mom I feel sick. She looks at my eyes and immediately calls the doctor.
I have a concussion. I have to stay awake for a whole day because if I go to sleep, I might never wake up. I decide to stay awake. Pat Gilligan you’re dead meat.
That night I want to sleep so bad. Mom takes the first shift to keep me awake. She reads from the storybook Bible. Moses twice. A lot of questions about Moses. We watch Johnny Carson, and she explains the need for Ed McMahon. Then I need sleep. Grandmother takes the second shift.
Grandmother help, I’m going to sleep. And every time I do, I recite, Now I lay me down to sleep,@ until I hit, if I should die before I wake. It scares me, but not enough to keep my eyes open.
Grandmother wraps me in an afghan and says, AAre you comfy?
Yes, but that could mean death Grandmother.@
But then she starts in. She tells me of growing up in Holland, learning to skate behind a chair along the canals. I say that’s how I learned to skate. She knows. She tells how she ran away from home to the city at age sixteen. She tells me about being a flapper. In my delirium I imagine her arms going up and down really fast. Her hairdo was called a bob. I imagine it named after our neighbor, Bob, who is bald and used to say he shampooed with Mop-and-Glow. She tells me about Grandpa and mom as a little girl, and by the time she gets to my part in our family history the sun is coming up and I’m still alive.
The next night we’re huddled around the TV watching Gilligan‘s Island, the one where the monkey is throwing plates made of explosives. There’s a fire going in our fireplace. I look over at Grandmother. She’s looking into the fire with that look she has when she’s talking about Holland. I wondered who or what she might be seeing in the fire.
We go to bed that night. I get to go to sleep. Sleep. School tomorrow. I don’t even care. I throw my pants in the corner. My brother gets into his twin bed, identical to mine.
Good night, Steve, I say.
Shut up, he says.
No problem. In a couple of minutes he’ll be out cold and I’ll love him again.