Inning 7 ★ Practice Makes Perfect

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I took the deepest breath my two lungs allowed, retained it for just a second too long to savor the moment, and then blew on the whistle with all my might.

Santiago jumped. Seeing the scene from the outside anyone would guess his bed was a pogo. He landed with a twist that tangled his bed sheets all around his torso and hips, eyes frenetic trying to find the source of torture. He then saw me, spitting the whistle out from between my lips.

"Rise and shine," I said.

It took him a moment to find his vocal chords. When he did he boomed out an F bomb followed by a string of words in Spanish. I swear this was by far louder than my whistle. I jammed two fingers in my ears until he was done relieving his misery.

"Are you done?" I asked.

"Peyton! What do you think you're doing?"

He'd sat up now and was furiously running his hands through his hair and on his face.

"Get up and get dressed, we're going running."

He looked up at me and then the alarm clock by his bed. Who keeps an alarm clock in the age of cell phones? "It's 6am on a Saturday. No one's running anywhere but back to sleep."

I blew the whistle again. Santiago attempted to get out of bed and I thought it was the tangle what held him back, until I realized that the bed sheets were strategically wrapped around him for a reason.

He was buck naked underneath.

My eyebrows went up as I watched him struggle for more coverage, torn between the desire to throttle me and protect what little of his dignity he had left. The compromise was a glacial glare, shot at me as I laughed with zero ounces of mercy to give him.

"I'll give you five minutes to join me downstairs," I said, magnanimously in my opinion. "No more, no less. If you're not fully decked and ready to run, I will split your eardrums."

"Why are you doing this?" from anyone else I would've thought they were at the verge of tears. He did have the shaky voice, but it was rage. It made it all the more worth it.

"You thought I was going to leave you alone? Hah!"

With a sweep of my pony tail, I turned around and marched downstairs. His mom was in the kitchen, getting some arepas ready for later, when we got hungry. I'd planned it all out last night. After that little episode in our backyard, we had dinner together where everybody pretended nothing had happened. Once that was done, Santiago went upstairs and my parents headed home. I stayed back to talk with the Mirandas about my plan. They were ecstatic.

"This is exactly what he needs," Barbara had said, clasping her hands together and looking to the horizon as if it held the holy grail of delight. "A good, swift kick in the butt by someone who loves him."

"Anything you need, mija," Domingo had said, clapping me in the back.

And so his parents and I had got up early. I had to get myself through my morning grouchiness before I was ready to inflict discipline on anyone else. His mom got up early to make breakfast. I had no idea what Domingo was doing.

Barbara looked up from a magazine when I walked into the kitchen. The food was packed and two big glasses of protein shake were sitting on the counter.

"One's for you," she told me. "I got the recipe from Cliff."

I startled. I hadn't realized that my dad had been in on this somehow.

"Thank you." I grabbed my glass and drank it. I'd had breakfast already, but I'd learned in my lifetime that you never say no to Barbara's food. She would cook for a full army and you had to eat the piles of food, or else.

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