“I’m about to go down to apologize, when I hear a voice that’s unfamiliar, yelling my name. ‘ANNE! ANNE!’ I turn around my whole room and look out all the windows. ‘Hi, Anne. I’m up here.’ I look up on my ceiling, and a strange blue substance is oozing off my ceiling.”
One Saturday morning, I sit up in my bed, get up, and run to my window. I lift up the shades and peer out the fogged up glass. I see the pond my older brother, Kyle, built yesterday in my backyard. I’d only helped him with a little bit, until I got tired and went back inside. Last night, Kyle’s college break ended, and he had to drive back to Massachusetts, so he didn’t get to finish his pond. I just stare at that unfinished pile of wood in my backyard. I guess I have to finish it myself if I want something done about it. I don’t mind about putting proper clothes on, so I stay in my saggy, old pajamas. I don’t ever care about my hair, mostly because I’ve just given up on tending to it.
I call to my mom as I drape myself over the railing and slowly slip down. “Mom, I’m hungry,” I say as I mope over to the kitchen.
“Get your breakfast yourself, weasel.”
I give her the stink eye as I attempt a grab at the cream donuts we got last night at The Donut Parlor. My mom doesn’t even have to turn around and look at me to say, “No.” I growl at that and slide open the glass back door that leads to our backyard.
“Put some shoes on, Anne, it’s bee season.”
I stare her down as I shuffle into my worn down flip-flops. I stumble outside onto the brick patio and run into the grass, until I get to the unfinished wooden pond at the end of our fenced-up yard. I look down at the slabs of wood.
“Better get my hands on this,” I say to myself, grabbing a plank of wood and holding it up to where it will be once this pond is finished.
“Whatcha doin’?” Mom says from the kitchen window. I growl again.
“Stop being so nosy. You don’t have to know what I’m doing all the time,” I say, not thinking.
Mom makes a face that looks hurt, but I know she doesn’t really care on the inside. “Okay, weasel, just get inside soon. Breakfast will seem to eat itself in this family.”
I grab the piece of wood again. I need gloves, nails, a hammer, and… that’s pretty much it, but whatever. I run back inside and grab a tiny index card from one of our island’s drawers. I shuffle around the drawer for a few more seconds, until I realize there’s no pens in there. I run down the hall to Mom’s office, where I think I can find a pen. I rustle and scramble through her stuff — twice — until I just can’t find any pens.
“Mom! Do you know where any pens are?” I call.
I enter the kitchen, and she shrugs. “I don’t know. Uh… maybe my office? I’m not allowed to barge into your life, anyways.”
I growl once more.
“Please, Mom, I need to finish this! I want to make Kyle proud, y’know?”
“Awww. You want to be a handywoman!” Mom gushes.
I pout. “Just ‘cause I want to make a pond that I promised Kyle I’d finish doesn’t mean I want it to be my full time job when I’m older.”
Mom shrugs. “What’s with the attitude, weasel? Anyway, why do you even need a pen to make a pond?”
I grumble. “You’re so annoying! And immature! Stop acting more childish than me! And I’m the actual child here.”
I feel kind of bad after I storm out of there, because Mom has this sad look in her eyes. She was only trying to help, and I got mad at her.
I’m about to go down to apologize, when I hear a voice that’s unfamiliar, yelling my name. “ANNE! ANNE!” I turn around my whole room and look out all the windows. “Hi, Anne. I’m up here.” I look up on my ceiling, and a strange blue substance is oozing off my ceiling.
“AAAAA!” I run downstairs, panting. I slide on my socks into the kitchen. “MOM! I think I’ve got a fungus or something in my room. It’s blue and disgusting! Can you help?”
Mom sighs. “Sorry, honey, I’m trying to be more adult-ish, like you said. I’m texting Alexandra, the insurance woman. I was looking through my work and found out about the money for the house we got lost year that we didn’t buy. We didn’t pay for the special fee to ignore the business emails the buyers would send us. I have to cover that up.”
I sigh. “Okay, you don’t have to help me. Anyway, sorry about earlier.”
I slouch upstairs and look at my little sister, Liliana. She’s holding a fluffy bear that’s on Care Bears.
“Play,” she says, holding out the pink bear to me. I pat her on the head and go to my room, scared. Liliana follows me. “Play!” she says, stuffing the bear into my stomach.
“Not right now, Lili,” I say. “Don’t come in, okay?” Liliana sadly walks away, and I feel bad for the second time in the last hour. “Wait,” I say, gently grabbing her arm. “I can play.”
I follow her into her and my other little siblings’ room and sit on the floor next to her. We shake around Barbie dolls, have tea that’s actually hot water from the bathroom sink, play with her Care Bears, and put on a princess fashion show. I’m pretty tired, and I have homework to do, so I start out the door.
“Play? More play?” says my three-year-old sister, waddling out of her room in a princess dress.
I sigh. “Sorry, Liliana. I can’t. I have work to do, Okay?”
She tilts her head. “You job like Mommy?” she babbles, hugging the bear close to her chest.
“No, it’s easier. I only have to read a book.” I give her and her bear a big hug. “When I’m done, we can play some more, okay?”
She nods. After I pick up my book, The Candlemaker’s Son #4, I read at least seven chapters before going down for breakfast.
“Mom? Can I have some breakfast?” I say, looking around the kitchen to see if she’s still here.
She’s yelling in the next room. I try not to snoop into her business, so I head out the door, feeling bad yet again. Whatever trouble she’s in, it’s my fault, because I forced her to do work she didn’t have to. I go up to Liliana’s room, and she’s playing with my other younger brother who’s older than her. They are playing ninjas, and she seems to hate it. I run to my room. I have to get rid of this weird slime, I say inside my head. I run down to the kitchen with a great idea. I grab a dirty spatula from the sink, the stepstool from the upstairs bathroom, duct tape, another roll of duct tape, another step stool, my beanbag chair, gloves, science goggles, a doctor mask, two headbands, a large tin bucket, and some pillows. I take the pillows and put them on the sides of the bucket. I duct tape the two step stools together and place my beanbag on top of them. That’s there for me to stand on when I remove the substance. I put the pillows out in case I fall. I have the goggles, so nothing gets in my eyes. I have the headbands, so none of it gets in my hair. I have the gloves for the removal. The only thing I don’t have is confidence, which I need most. I feel silly in my little costume as I tightly grip the spatula and step onto my wobbly structure. I go on my tiptoes and almost vomit when I see the stuff up close and personal.
“Hey there, how’s it goin’, weird thing. Well, I’m about to scrape you from my walls, so I can dispose of you. Goodbye!”
I push the spatula against the ceiling and the substance, and it easily glops off into the bucket, and a bit of it is on the pillows. I climb down and take a close look at the blue stuff. I don’t poke it, because no death please, thank you very much. I collect the extra bits that snuck onto my pillows and throw the cases into the wash. I go back upstairs and carry the large bucket downstairs, holding it away from my face. I gag as I pour the blue stuff into a trash bag. I throw it out front, since trash day is two days from now. I go back inside. What even was that? I really should tell Mom. But I realize she’s still working, yelling at the phone. I slump back upstairs, feeling that my room is unsafe, even though the substance is gone. I go to Liliana’s room instead of my own. I sit down next to her. My brother that was playing with her, George, has left.
Liliana looks really sad, so I say, “What’s wrong?”
Lili sighs. “Georgie only let us do what he wanted to do.” She pouts.
“I’ll do what you want to do, okay?”
Liliana nods, and before I know it, we’re drawing pictures of her imaginary friend. Actually, she’s just scribbling, but I don’t think about it too much. My worries seem to wash out of my mind like a big wave in the ocean at the beach. Then I look over at my shoulder, because it’s hurting. I notice something there.
“OH MY — ”
There is the blue stuff, on my favorite Ramones shirt. I almost wipe it off, but I run to get my gloves instead. Liliana is calling for me.
“Play!” she screams, but I don’t listen.
It must’ve been from the removal, or maybe when I was reading in my room. This wasn’t funny anymore. I washed the slime off. I could die! I run yelling to Mom.
“MOM!” I yell, about to cry. The blue stuff is all off, but I have to tell her. She is cleaning up plates from breakfast, but I am not hungry anymore. I feel like fainting, or vomiting. “Please, please, please, Mom, listen! I could die. Please.”
Mom sighs. “Honey, I tried all I could, but the buyers were fine, absolutely fine. I don’t have any work to do, I’m sorry. I don’t want you to die, so maybe I can do my taxes early, I guess — ”
I shake my head as I say, “Mom! No, it’s not that. I don’t care about that anymore! There was this weird fungus, and it dripped, and I read, and I removed it, and there was a step stool, and a trash bag, and it was blue, and it knew my name, and — ”
Mom stops me. “Wait, wait, wait just a minute! Why didn’t you tell me?”
I sigh. “Because you were so busy” — I did finger quotes — “That I didn’t want to disrupt you.”
Mom laughs a little bit. “Oh, Anne!” Mom says, leaning over to give me a squeezy hug. “You could’ve told me! I would’ve loved to have an excuse to stop that call!” I chuckle. “Well, wait here. I’m going to call Dr. Gantome, okay? I’ll see what he can do. That stuff fell on you, right?” Mom runs to the home phone and dials Dr. Gantome’s number. We haven’t seen him in a while, since Mom went on her healthy diet and forced us to go along with it. “Hello? Oh, you’re there! Dr. Gantome, hi!” There’s a short pause. “Oh, yes, I’m well.” Another pause, except shorter. “Liliana’s growing up! Oh, yes, everyone’s okay, healthy, and Kyle’s good!” Another pause, longer than the other ones. “Oh, it’s actually Anne this time. George and Mia are okay.” A very short pause, and then, “Well, she says there was a weird fungus… ? Right, sweetie?” I nod. “Yeah, and it was blue.” A pause as long as all of them combined. “Well, she got rid of it herself, and I was working… and she threw it out, but we just found a bit on her sweater.” Dr. Gantome talks on the phone for so long that I decide to leave. I hear Mom yelling to me, and I come back downstairs. “Did you get it off?” she whispers, holding the bottom of the phone. I nod, and she gets her phone back to her ear. “Dr. Gantome? Hi, yes, yes, I just couldn’t hear you — what? No, my hearing’s fine, it’s just there was static — Dr. Gantome? I’m sorry, yes… no, she hasn’t been acting strange since the incident. Actually, she just told me before our call… ” A short pause is there. “No, Dr. Gantome, everyone else is fine, everything’s okay, it’s just Anne… ” She pauses and talk and pauses and talks. I’m tired of listening by now.