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This Totally Scary True Story About When My Aunt Died, страница 1


This Totally Scary True Story About When My Aunt Died

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This Totally Scary True Story About When My Aunt Died

  This Totally Scary True Story About When My Aunt Died

  A Short Story


  Theodore Kohan


  Published by:

  Copyright © 2010 by Theodore Kohan


  Everybody says I’m very mature for my age, so when my grandparents invited me to spend my summer vacation with them in Chile, my parents thought it’d be okay if I traveled by myself. Mom was kind of unsure at first, not so much because I’m a twelve-year-old girl and I’ll be traveling alone, although, of course, she worries about that too, but because I won’t have any summer this year. The problem is, when it’s summer here it’s winter there, so this year I won’t be able to go to the pool or to camp or do any of the fun stuff you do in the summer. But I don’t care. I’ve been to Chile before with my family, several times, actually, usually when it’s summer there, which is great because the weather is hot but not terribly hot and it never rains so you can do all kinds of cool stuff, but I was there once during the winter, too, two years ago, for my cousin’s wedding, so I know the winter is not bad at all in Santiago, nothing like on Long Island, where we live. It almost never gets below freezing except sometimes early in the mornings, but at that time I won’t be out, anyways, because I’m sure Grandpa and Grandma will let me sleep as late as I want. It can rain a lot, though, and it gets gray and gloomy and kind of sad.

  At Kennedy Airport Mom and Dad look a little uptight, as if asking themselves if they’re doing the right thing, but they don’t say anything, I guess they don’t want to freak me out. But I’m not freaked out. I know it’s a very long trip, overnight and all, with a couple of stops along the way, but I’m sure I’ll be able to manage okay, I always do. At the Lan Chile Airlines ticket counter, checking in, Dad tells the ticket person, or whatever you call him, she’s twelve years old and she’ll be traveling by herself, but she’s asked not to be put in anybody’s care, she feels she’s old enough and capable enough to manage by herself. I’m a little worried, though, you think it’ll be okay? I get pretty mad hearing him say that, I’ve told him and Mom I don’t want any fuss over this, I’ll be perfectly fine. The ticket guy looks at me and smiles, I’m sure she’ll be fine, he says, and then he finishes tagging my suitcase and hands me my ticket. Have a good trip, he says.

  We go to the waiting area and I know Dad wants to say something, but he’s kind of unsure. Well, Sonia, he says and then he stops. It’s pretty crowded here, lots of people with lots of duffle bags and suitcases and winter jackets and overcoats, all piled up on the aisles, and I hear a lot more Spanish than English. Well, Dad says again, remember everything we’ve— Dad, stop worrying, I cut him off and then I feel bad about it, but we’ve gone over it a thousand times: be alert, don’t talk to strangers, ask the airline personnel for help if you have any problem… I’ll be okay, Dad, I’ll be so okay.

  They stay with me until the last possible moment, and just before I get to the ticket person at the gate Dad gives me a quick, nervous hug. Mom is more relaxed about it, she’s always more relaxed than Dad, less of a worrier. She gives me a good, long hug and pulls my hair away from my eyes and kisses me on the cheek.

  I have an aisle seat, which is a good thing in case I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. You have to climb over people when you have a window seat and I hate that, there is so little room between rows. A chubby but nice-looking woman sits next to me in the center seat. She’s wearing too much perfume and the smell of it grosses me out, but otherwise she’s nicely dressed and seems pretty friendly. Hi, she says and looks around, maybe to see who I’m traveling with, like wondering why I’m by myself in this row, then she takes the airline magazine out of the seat pocket and opens it sort of in the middle, so I do the same, although I brought The Diary of Anne Frank with me to read. The woman doesn’t really seem interested in the magazine, though, and flips pages back and forth and finally she closes it but she holds it in her hands. Are you traveling by yourself? she asks me, and I don’t know if I should answer or not, she is a stranger, after all, but what am I going to do, traveling all night next to her, just keep quiet and pretend she doesn’t exist? So I say, yes, I’m going to visit my grandparents, and we have a nice conversation. She tells me she has a son and a daughter, but older than me, she’s a grandmother, actually, which totally surprises me because she doesn’t look old enough to be a grandmother. Her daughter married a Chilean and they live in Chile now, in Viña del Mar, which is a nice city on the ocean, a couple of hours’ drive from Santiago, actually me and my family spent a week in a hotel there during one of our trips and it was great, we went to the beach every day. This daughter just had a baby boy and my new friend is going to Chile to see her brand new grandson for the first time. She talks to me like I’m a grownup, not down or anything, with no airs, so I tell her about myself, too. I’m the youngest in my family and the only one born in the United States, I explain. My parents are originally from Chile and so are my brother and sister, and they all immigrated to the United States like fifteen years ago, when my brother was five and my sister three, but they’re all American citizens now, which I am also, of course, automatically in my case because I was born in the United States. After that I think I doze off for a while because I don’t remember anything else until they announce we’re ready to land and we need to fasten our seatbelts and bring the backs of our seats up.

  The first stop is Panama City and we all get off and these weird-looking buses that go up and down take us to the terminal, which is crowded and hot and very humid. I don’t think it’s air conditioned, or maybe the air conditioning is broken or not strong enough to cool the place down, and me and the lady I was sitting next to on the plane walk the terminal’s hallways back and forth, looking at all the stuff in the store windows but not going into any of the stores, and then I have to go to the bathroom, and when I come out she’s not around anymore, so I walk along the hallways by myself.

  The layover is supposed to last only an hour, so I go to the gate like twenty minutes before reboarding time, but the hour comes and goes and there is no announcement to reboard. Actually there is not a single airline employee at the gate, and people start wondering what’s going on, and finally, like half an hour later, an employee shows up at the counter and tells everyone in Spanish there will be a delay, although he doesn’t say for how long, something about a problem with one of the engines. He can’t repeat it in English, though, his English is very poor, and my friend from the plane, who’s now next to me, plus a bunch of other Americans who’ve gathered around, have no idea what’s going on, and I have to translate for everyone what the airline employee said, and they all ask me all kinds of questions, like I know what’s going on.

  Me and my friend sit near the gate. We’re tired of walking the hallways back and forth, we know the stores by heart by now. My friend can’t walk much, anyways, because she’s wearing these incredible high heel shoes and she looks like she’s ready to fall over with every step that she takes. She’s also all dressed up in a blue suit with a very short skirt, above the knees, which I think is kind of silly for a woman her age, she’s got big, heavy legs besides. I’m wearing just jeans, a t-shirt and tennis sneakers, and I’m sure I’m a lot more comfortable than she is. I wish I’d brought my book down, I only had a chance to read a few pages before landing, but I didn’t think it’d be worth bringing it down for only an hour, and now sitting like this, with nothing to do, I’m afraid I may fall asleep and miss the boarding call. My friend says not to worry, she’ll wake me up when it’s time to reboard, she’s not going to fall asleep, but I don
t believe her, her eyes look small and glassy, and most likely I’ll have to wake her up when it’s time to reboard. It’s one o’clock in the morning, Long Island time, I don’t know what the local time is. It’s gross in the terminal, so hot and humid I’m drenched in sweat and my hair feels stringy and wet, and I’m afraid I’m going to look like a scarecrow when I arrive in Chile. All of a sudden things begin to look kind of weird. I see colors but no shapes, and I’m afraid I’m falling asleep and I force myself to wake up, which startles me and makes my heart pound, and this happens again and again. My friend, next to me, is snoring away, and the sound of it feels like huge waves rushing to the beach and breaking right on top of me. Then the airline employee who can’t speak English says we’re ready to reboard, and I have to translate what he says for my friend and the other Americans, and everyone rushes to the gate, pushing and shoving, like they’re afraid if they don’t get to the front quickly they’ll be left behind, and the airline employee, all by himself, has a heck of a time trying to check everyone in, you can see the sweat running down his brow, it’s so disgusting I feel like puking, and people are getting annoyed and start yelling at him and he yells back, but finally it’s my turn to go through and I feel kind of relieved after I do.

  Me and my friend sit in our seats, but then we have to get up to let the person who sits by the window in, he’s an older man walking with a cane, and he takes a long time getting settled and we have to stand in the aisle while everyone pushes to get through. The old man with the cane hasn’t said a word all night and I don’t know if he speaks English or Spanish. We’re going to be pretty late arriving in Santiago. We still have another stop to make, in Lima, and I hope there is no delay there, otherwise we’re going to be really, really late. I’m sure my grandparents will check with the airline before going to the airport, otherwise they’ll be waiting there for hours and they’ll get all freaked out worrying about me, especially Grandpa, I know how he is, just like my dad.

  In Lima the flight attendants let me stay on board during the layover. I’ve been in the terminal before and I’m not interested in seeing it again. I try to sleep a little now that the engines aren’t roaring and the airplane isn’t bouncing all over, but I’m getting all excited about arriving in Chile and seeing my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and I can’t relax enough to fall asleep, plus it’s light out already, seven in the morning according to my watch, and when I finally think I’m dozing off the passengers are coming back in, including my friend, and I have to get up to let her in. I wait for the old man with the cane before sitting down again, but it looks like he was traveling to Lima because he doesn’t come back, and my friend moves over to the window seat so we can have more room. I wished she offered me the window seat so I could have a good view of the Andes as we get near Santiago. My dad always gets all excited about them when we travel together, look, look, Sonia, the Andes! he yells, as if they’d just popped up, as if he were seeing them for the first time, that’s Mount Aconcagua, right there, the tall peak above the clouds. I know, Dad, I know, I’m looking at it, I say. My friend doesn’t offer me the seat, though, and I feel kind of funny asking her, besides it’s winter in Chile and it may be
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