Mom was working at the glass factory. I had the whole day to myself, though she called randomly to check on me. She worried a lot.
Once I tried to explain I had been in the bathroom when she called. She said, ‘That’s no excuse!’
Across the street from our house lived two sisters. Jane was 10 like me and Ida 12. The sisters were latchkey kids also.
On a hot summer afternoon that seemed to slowly idle by, I was on my perch at the top of our porch step wondering if a person could actually shrivel up and die of boredom. Then like an answered prayer Ida shouted at me, “Hey kid, do ya wanna come over and play hide and seek with us? We got cold lemonade!”
I followed them to their backyard. It was overrun with tall weeds and rusted junk. Next to the house lay the cellar door. Ida opened it.
“Kid, you’re first,” Ida demanded.
“My name is Soledad.”
“Whatever, go down there and count to a hundred before coming out to look for us.”
“When we’ve all had a turn we’ll get some cool lemonade,” Jane promised.
“Okay,” I answered shyly. I slowly went down the narrow steps. Suddenly, the door slammed shut, startling me. I lost my footing and bounced down the rest of the steps like a rubber ball, landing face first on the cold dirt floor. I screamed, “Help!”
From the side wall vents I heard the girls shriek with laughter.
I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or shut. I held my hands in front of my face…nothing. Oh, God. Did the fall blind me, as my mortal self lies in this pool of blackness? No! I managed to get up.
There was a strong odor of insecticide. I waved my hands to cut through the cobwebs I felt on my head and face. I’d heard of people going mad in this kind of inkiness. Mad! That reminded me of what Mama was going to be if I died here without food or lemonade and wasn’t home to answer the phone. I pictured her standing over my corpse saying, “I told you to stay in the house. See what happens when you don’t mind me!”
“Ida, we better let her out. Mom called, she is on her way home.”
Dang it! “Okay, Jane. On three let’s unlock the door and run in the house.”
I turned in the direction of the rattling sound of the lock and found the steps. I pushed the door several times with my shoulder before it swung open. As I bolted across the street I managed to pull the yarn off my neck that my house key was attached to.
I ran up the stairs two at a time. As soon as I opened the door the phone rang. I picked up the receiver.
“ Nina, what are you up to?”
“There’s some frozen lemonade in the freezer. Why don’t you fix it for yourself?”
“I’m not in the mood for lemonade, Mama.”
“Okay. Stay out of trouble. Bye.”
I hung up the phone and returned to my perch at the top of our porch and wondered how many people die in cellars.
Yolanda Adele is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.