Miguel nearly screamed as a strong hand gripped his shoulder and shook him awake. His eyes flew open as he clawed at the fingers that were over his mouth and he thrashed about, but someone held down his arm and kept him from freely moving. Then he remembered where he was. All of this occurred with a few seconds and then he relaxed, which led to the release of his arm and the uncovering of his mouth.
His eyes made out Antonio's silhouette in the dark. The man held a finger up to his lips and then leaned in close. "You good?"
"You scared the crap out of me!" Miguel hissed.
Antonio's shadowy figure shrugged. "Sorry."
Antonio stepped back from the bed and Miguel rolled out of the bed and landed on the balls of his feet. He crouched down to find his shoes in the dark and then slipped them on. Within minutes of waking up, he was standing with Antonio, Héctor, and Gio.
Gio was kneeling over the space heater that was at the center of the tent. After some fidgeting with the box, he stood and gave a thumbs up. Héctor gave him a pat on the shoulder and then stepped close to Miguel, his mouth pressed to his ear. "Gio has the heater primed. Count off five minutes after we leave and then stuff the napkins inside."
Héctor and Gio went to the entrance of the tent but Antonio held back. He placed his hands on Miguel's shoulders and gave them a squeeze. "You got this. We'll see you on the other side of that fence."
Miguel nodded his thanks but then realized that his friend probably couldn't see it. "What did Gio do to the heater?" he whispered.
"He made it so that it would over heat." He laughed and said, "He's an engineer," and then left Miguel alone with the shocking revelation. So he isn't an idiot after all, Miguel thought as he watched the three slip out of the tent. He immediately began his mental stopwatch and paced, his anticipation growing with each second that crawled by. Upon the five minute mark, he stopped his pacing and went to the heater. It was running hotter than usual and the metal gave his palms a painful, hot kiss. He nearly dropped the heater and readjusted his grip. Carefully, he brought the heater over to his bed and placed it in the space between the frame and the tent. He faced the grate towards him and stuffed the napkins inside. The effect was almost immediate, with the napkins pulling inward like gnarled hands before smoking and tossing out flames.
He crept his way to the opposite side of the tent, his feet rising and falling with gentle steps as was careful not to wake any of the sleeping men. Once he reached the tent flap he stopped and turned around; the flames of the heater were now visibly reaching over his mattress.
Please don't let anyone get hurt.
Miguel turned from the tent and stepped outside. His body went still as he listened, his ears picking up on the occasional gust of wind and snore but no sign of passing guards. If Antonio was right, which Miguel trusted he was, there was only one guard on patrol and at this moment he should be stopping by for a Snickers in the security booth.
Miguel bent his knees slightly as he moved down the row of tents and towards the dumpster where his friends waited. His skin tingled beneath the soft brush of the cool night air. He couldn't be sure if it was from a chill or his nerves.
He reached the dumpster and saw Gio and Héctor peeking their heads out from the sides. Miguel slipped around to the back and saw Antonio working the cutters through the chain link fence. He was impressed and surprised with his progress, seeing that the fence was almost all the way cut through. Shouts from behind them startled Miguel and he peered over Gio's shoulder to see smoke rising from where their tent was.
"Nice job with the heater," Miguel said.
"Thanks," Gio whispered back. He pointed a finger to the tent. "Looks like she went up quick. The guard usually comes over here for a smoke break but that should keep him busy long enough."
YOU ARE READING
Huddled MassesGeneral Fiction
Miguel and his friends are weeks away from graduating high school. Everyone is looking forward to graduation parties, summer break, and the start of college; but not Miguel. Miguel is undocumented and the President has just initiated the largest im...