The swift brown fox jumped over the dying boy. Skittishly running as deep into the snow trodden woods as a fox might be able. The men in white and orange dress would surely make her their supper. She was too fast and too sly and still too hungry. Ah, but there was still the garbage cans nearby.
It seemed only a few hours before when she caught the faint smell of fresh kill. It woke her out of her temporary hibernation. She could only afford temporary hibernation because of her pups. Something was out of cycle and she gave birth to four brown pups and one grey pup right before the start of winter. She knew it was coming. So did her mate.
When she heard the thunder come from the stick of the men and saw her mate lie forever still, she knew all was her responsibility for that point on. Things were fine for a while with mothers milk, but the pups started for the thirst of more. Blood and meat. A mother could only catch so many birds in a day.
The scent was the smell of something big. Larger than a bird was what was for sure. What was also for for sure was that the lovely whiff was also wafting Into the nostrils of Wesley the bear and jack the grey maned wolf. Although with any luck, they would be hunting on the far side of the lake this morning. Actually, come to mind is that they were both hibernating. She almost forgot this because she was the one the one that decided to play baby maker in the off season. So once again luck was on her side, so haste needn’t be.
The fox made sure her pups were all nestled. Their home was a beautiful tiny cave nestled beneath a larger cave. It only went in about four feet and was barely a foot of width, but came into a nice meter by meter living quarter. She was fortunate to have this space undiscovered for years even with the sounds of roaming small men about. They would play in the above cave for hours, leaving her trapped in her little space. One time one of the small men spied her little entrance. She thought she saw a hand reaching when she said another small man mention something about snakes. The hand quickly recoiled and she looked around for the snakes.
Now, years later, the once spacious hole in the woods has become a whole lot tighter with fuzzy little bodies of fuzzy little hungry foxes. Very hungry little foxes.
The smell that attracted her snout wasn’t all unfamiliar, though one that she hadn’t sniffed in quite some time. At least not in the dead of winter. Upon first sense see could see the sun shining brightly peering into the edge of her cave. Now she realized that she must be getting older. Not as sly as she once was as they say in the fox circles. The sunlight that once brazen a bold golden ray began to quickly turn to blue to deep blue. It was blackening although it was day.
She need not be so sly to figure out what was happening. Her entrance was being closed up by snow. Snow. Every year. She used to love it as a pup. She used to watch her mom trek out into the wonderful white stuff. Hours later she would bring home a nice bloody bird or maybe even a squirrel. She no longer had that love for snow. She heard the birds squawking something about flying south.
Maybe when the pups are out on their own. She thought.
It seemed like a good idea. Although, once again, an idea for another day. Today she smells scents of the next meal and snow or no snow, she was heading out into it and feeding her babies.
It was snowing heavily all through the night and when it seemed to have stopped early this morning she dug a hole for when she was to go on her rounds. Now, after thinking the snows had stopped for the day, she shivered at the thought of drudging through it. She was sure of her footing, but weary of depth perception. One time she had fallen into a hole over her head. She panicked so fiercely, she bumped her head and didn’t get up until morning.
Regardless of fear. Regardless of the fierce cold. The scent was lovely and she was hungry.
Gwendolyn did a fast paw through the snow the covered up the hole to their tiny cave. Her pups all gave a giggle at this act and gave the cutest little faces.
“Mother may I?” said the grey fox pup.
“Mother may you what?” Said Gwendolyn.
“Mother may I go with…” started the grey pup.
“No you may not go with me. For heaven’s sake, a pup could get lost forever in a snow such as this.”
“I’ll hear no more of it grey pup. You must mind your sisters. Protect them from Squire, if perhaps he is not in slumber.”
The grey pup nodded although not so enthusiastically. Squire was a nasty varmint and for mother to think he brave enough to fend his sisters from him, soothed and ill feelings.
Gwendolyn headed out the entrance to the cave and when she would come back, it will be through the exit. She thought she might name the grey pup after this expedition. He was certainly seeming brave enough and saw no apparent reason why he wouldn’t live until summer. Then, she was sure, he would make his first kill.
Gwendolyn was not named until after her third kill. This was mainly because her mother was gone for days at a time. She realized early that she would have to help feed her sister if she too was to survive. Her two brothers and one other sister were all taken by the bad beasts. Father himself had fallen trying to protect them. When she went to see her bloodied father, a hawk swoop down and with its massive claws carried him away high into the sky.
She shook her head from these disturbing memories, gave the last glance at the pups and really headed out this time.
The snow was falling very heavy now and the world outside the cave was all white. The trees and the boulders. The top of the big cave and the hidden trail all but buried. She was worried that her tracks would be covered after finding her meal. She knew that she couldn’t think of that now. With laser like precision, the swift brown fox honed in on the prize.
She was right. She knew she was right. She was always right. No one ever dare disagree with one right fox. The snow was deep. The snow was beginning to hide the scent. Why was she right? She took too much time making the author some peppermint tea. Oh well, she still knew she was right.
From her cave she knew where the dead thing lie. It was far to the other end of the great long wall. Her cave sit on one end, surrounded by a mass of trees hidden from most humans and luckily most other beasts. She had lived among the great wall since she herself was an unnamed pup. There was no way to climb straight up it, but from her cave she could easily climb up and around. This way very useful for finding prey in the rain from the top of the wall. Sometimes, without reason, the great winged beasts would fly straight into the great wall as if they saw nothing at all. She minded not at all. It kept her belly full and her pup’s as well.
There was no time to climb to the top of the great wall this time. She felt that by the time she reached the top, dinner would be completely covered with the blizzard. She had to hoof it. And although she pretty much knew every rock and stick and any other unnamed object, she must proceed with caution. Extreme caution. She only made it four steps before tumbling down into a small ravine.
“blast.” she said aloud. Why didn’t I think that? What if a human were around?
Unhurt, Gwendolyn shook herself off of the caked snow from her fall, only to be quickly covered again.
“Is this a good idea?” This time thinking inside her head.
“Well, I’ve made it this far.” Thinking again inside her head but confusing the ten steps she had covered with some great distance.
Trying to peer ahead, she could make out some activity near the top of the great wall. A large sheet of snow slid off the side of the great wall crashing towards where the smell was. A few blinking lights then all was white again. The snow was coming down even harder. She must keep moving.
How long it took depends upon the watch of the wearer and animal class you belong to. Hours, minutes, long seconds?
However long it took, it was wearing on Gwen. Each paw step was slow and deliberate. Each step pushing through the deepening snow and also feeling for the ground beneath. She had to constantly shake her head as the snow quickly piled up on her snout. She was beginning to think that she had lost her way. The carcass would long be buried under too much snow. For some reason the scent was still there.
In her little world where everything was completely white a small stream of steaming red trailed down to the next level of the great wall. Following the thick line of blood she came upon a boulder. A giant boulder cracked and split from a time long ago in the shape a V. She knew the boulder well. Today, in the snow, it looked like a giant human hand. In that hand, under a blanket of snow was a small boy. He was bleeding from his head or was bleeding. She couldn’t tell. She didn’t care. Every step of her journey was worth it. Breakfast was ready. And lunch for that matter. And dinner tonight. Gwendolyn licked her chops and readied herself for the first bite.
“I found him! I found him! Hey git! Git now!” A voice screamed through the white.
“What is it?” Another voice asked.
“A damn wolf or something. Bring the kit. It’s bad.”
Chapter Two – Jason Knows an Argonaut
He never heard a scream. Then again, he didn’t hear much of anything. His head was tightly layered with ear muffs, a fuzzy scarf from Aunt Jill (just received and adorned this Christmas) and the hood from a big blue parka. Even the hood had fuzzies all around the perimeter and helped catch the snow that would otherwise gather down his neck. That was just for his head. The rest of him was tucked in with sweaters, snow pants, long under wear, long under shirt, t shirt, jeans, and two pairs of socks and suspenders to hold the whole thing up. His boots were bright mustard slickers made for the winter. Fuzzy material placed as liner made you believe you had warm feet. You never realized how frozen your toes actually were until mom yanked them off and poured hot chocolate down you gullet.
When Jason emerged from the hidden trail, he saw a bewildering light. The hidden trail was name the boys gave the trail. It led to the secret cave, which eventually led to the bottom of cliff. If he was once unsure of which way to head, now he seemed to find purpose. Even in the blinding snow and peering through the slits of scarf, this light shone like a beacon. He didn’t notice it when they first climbed to the top of the cliff. Then again, he didn’t feel safe when they first reached the summit, so he hung back to the side. Also, it wasn’t snowing then. His slickers didn’t really have the traction one might require for mountain climbing. They were basically good enough to walk around the block or possibly to the top of a sleigh riding hill with some level of difficulty.
Whether he saw it before of not mattered not. Not at this moment. He went to the light.
The next thing that he remembered or actually, the next thing that he realized was that he was climbing down the steep driveway. He was already past the Ho-Chi-Min trail (Pete named it that and it stuck) and the house at the top of the driveway and was sitting on his butt. He must have slid and fell hard, because he felt a sensation that he labeled pain.
No bother, he thought. More important things to tend to. I must get home. Must get home.
He got up and didn’t brush himself off. It was no matter. He fell again. Again and again. He might as well have stayed on his behind and slide the rest of the way down. Trivial things like balance seemed not to matter to him as this moment. Pain was of no importance to him. He did start rubbing his butt after the last spill. All the layers he mother had put on him only a few hours before, were probably the only things actually saving him from real pain.
After the trivial struggle, Jason had a moment. He stopped. Stood completely still at the bottom of the driveway. He was covered in snow. It was caked all the around the perimeter of the fuzzies around the hood of his parka. At the bottom of the driveway that led to the Ho-Chi-Min trail that led to the cliff, Jason turned and faced the long driveway that he hardly just walked down. He had his last moment of clarity as he looked. It only lasted for a moment. He looked at his mustard slickers, then slowly raised his head trailing his eyes up the driveway.
‘I’ve forgotten something’ He thought. ‘I went up there with something and left it up there’
In the mere moments he left of this reality, he went through a mental checklist. At the age of nine, he wasn’t a bright kid so his parents taught him to always backtrack to remember things. He would practice his mental lists as soon as he would come home from school.
Give the dog water. Check.
Do homework. Check.
Wash the dishes. Check.
Something like that. Now it was a checklist for something else. Something very important.
‘What would I leave up there?’
All his sweaters and hoods and scarves and shoes and glasses were all there. He climbed up the driveway to the cliff and then the light.
‘I must get home to my notes.’
That was it. His last thought in reality. His feet were now basically firmly planted on level ground. As level as could be in the heart of the Ramapo Mountains. He started the trek homeward.
Jason’s fingers were tapping each other. From the thumb to the forefinger, to the thumb to the middle finger and then to the ring finger and finally the pinky. He was simultaneously doing it on both hands. Over and over again. All the while mumbling numbers and scientific reasons of everything around him. He began pinpointing the properties of the snow falling around him. Where it was coming from, the direction of the winds, how it was formed, which Canadian body of water these drops were from.
He fingers were moving as fast as double layers of gloves would allow. Subconsciously he pulled the fingers loose of his right hand, so he could touch skin to skin within the gloves. He was tapping fast within the confines of his glove actually producing a fair amount of heat.
Jason was overwhelmed. Not just whelmed. He knew so much. He knew everything at once. He needed to get home. Everything out here was in his way. The snow. This darned snow! It was everywhere and getting deeper. He had to kick in order to walk. It made a temporary path for him to walk through. The mailboxes he passed had18.4 millimeters of snow on them.
He no longer found a use for the English standard of measurements. An instance decision making allowed conversion of all things to metric. But that was only human measurement. He realized a standard far greater than earthly measurements and began calculating both at the same time. He looked at the cars buried in the snow and calculated the parts he needed. He could easily build the required vehicle. All the parts were right here. The fabrication would not be so easily achieved.
He mind was simultaneously calculating in Astro physics the amount of time it would take to get home.
The planes and angles and slopes.
‘Did I forget something on the cliff?’
Tangents and apple pies.
‘I must get home.’
Blue stripes and a red hat. Red stripes on a blue hat. A red hat with blue snowflakes.
‘A boy. Was there a boy?’
Deep thoughts that no one on this or many other planets could understand.
‘I didn’t hear a scream.’
Then he did hear a scream. Not so much a scream as a battle cry. Not so much a battle cry but pure satisfaction. A pure satisfaction sound. Actually three pure satisfaction sounds or battle cries or screams, if you will.
Moments later maybe less than moments later, a thud was felt on his chest. All thoughts of deep involved things were immediately halted and Jason willed his head to look at the thing that made the sound. The sound on his chest.
Then, he heard or felt something whisk by his head. He turned around to find the thing that made the sound. As he turned to try and recognize this second object, his brain made a large crashing sound. Louder than a gong. Louder than a gang of gongs. Everything in the universe stopped.
Jason had been the victim of a snowball attack. Unprecedented and unprovoked. Just a boy all swaddled in many layers of cushiony warmth and love. Just another victim. If he hadn’t been calculating the formula for Earth to Mars gravitational dialysis, he may have been aware of what was around him. He may have remembered about the boy he left on the cliff.
Everything was forgotten. All he knew about the languages of whales, the chemical makeup of asteroids and what makes biscuits rise. All of it knocked loose and stolen by billions of ice crystals that were formed together by the hot hands of Richard Darby. He packed that snow hard. He would pride himself on making better snowballs than either of his older brothers. Anyone on the block for that matter. Other boys would put rocks on their snowballs for maximum effects. Richard didn’t need too. His snowballs were harder than rocks.
Jason was shaken and just couldn’t move. Thoughts were scattering and reforming in the nine year old brain of his. He spun back around and blurred vision cleared to the three Darby boys staring at him. They didn’t reload, restock or rearm any more snowballs. They had a feeling they may have done a good one on Jason. He wasn’t a boy they knew, but they had seen him before. Jason lived up the road no one really went to.
Jason didn’t know if he was defeated or not. He didn’t know what to think. His eyes knew one things and his head began to feel pain. He started bawling. Bawling hard.
Then he began to remember something.
Chapter Three – He Fell Down the Well!
The Darby boys were a little older than most of the other boys that lived on the block and there were three of them. Richard was the youngest. He always had an angle up his sleeve. Thomas was the middle child. A daredevil child, but as innocent looking as a boy could be. Louis was the oldest. He was what defined cool on the block and everyone looked up to him. They all spent the first handful of years of their lives in Brooklyn. Mr. Darby was a trash man for the city of New York and decided to up and move his family to the safe mountains of New Jersey. It was an hour commute to work, but he didn’t want his boys to have to grow up on the tough streets.
The Darby boys brought the tough streets to this little block of home tucked on the side of no particular mountain of the Ramapo Mountains. Even tougher was their mom. When she decided it was ok for them to go out and terrorize the neighborhood, she sent them out in jeans and Herman Survivors. They each had a scarf knitted for them by their grandmother this past Christmas.
Author pause – I am still writing but I am thinking too much about this story. It should get better soon. I think I am freaking out. Matter of fact, I know that I am. Okay, whew.
The Darby boys didn’t show their excitement of going out to play in the snow. This was because they were not headed out to play in the snow. They lived in the house at the turn of the block and up high on a hill. The driveway to the house was so steep you had to walk at an angle to get the top. They had stairs that run alongside of the driveway and all the way down to the street where the mailbox was. Which was also covered in approximately 16.4 millimeters of snow at the time. The mailbox, that is.
The steps were long. One would have to take one and a third of a step to reach the next step, but then each one was a different length. They were all covered in snow. The driveway was covered in snow. Three grumpy snow suited and scarved Darby boys headed out the front door with shovels and brooms.
‘”Get it down, now!” said a mom voice from within the home.
Everything was divided into threes. The porch, the steps and the driveway. Shoveling and sweeping the snow down the hill. After it was all down it would have to salt as everything was solid ice because the ground was so cold.
As they dug as sweep, the occasional snow ball fight would break out. These snowball fights led to real fights which led to their Brooklyn mom storming out of the house to break it up. Heaven forbid that day for this to happen. Not only would she whack they heck out of them with a metal spoon, but they would get it twice as hard for making her come out into the snow. As an added deterrent, their dad was home that day. He pulled a sick day. It would be a tough commute that day and beside it was Friday. It was a great day to sleep in.
Even with the looming threat of mom lurking in the second floor window, small snowball fights would break out. All she would have to do was rap the window hard enough and they knew enough to stop. She was a practiced percher from her days watching from the fire escape of their old apartment. She knew all that see could see. Now that she was higher, she was queen of all that she could she. Secretly, she wanted to be higher still. More houses! Higher still!
She didn’t see the boy who was tapping his fingers coming down the street. She was starting to settle in with a book. Her third eye was trained to focus on her boys. She rocked and enjoyed the serenity made by the freshly fallen snow. Must have gotten six inches or more last night. It was a white Christmas and the weather man said it would probably snow all week. The boys would love that. It would give them plenty to do. Toys were still strewn about the house. Hockey sticks and knee pads, board games and Legos and then the pile of clothes that would have to be returned to Stern’s. They were just growing quicker than she could put a shirt on her back. Her mother used to sew and made almost all of her clothes, but those were the old days. A time gone past. Her husband made enough money for the bills and she had a part time job at the elementary school. They were doing fine. She wasn’t buying a sewing machine if she could help it.
She didn’t see her boys going into GI Joe mode. She was still dreaming of contentment. How fortunate she was to have ended up on a street where so many families were so close. How the children all played together and got along like brothers. Well, most of them. The family around the block was from Northern Italy and it seems that their boys would be continue the next generation of fighting. Even her husband didn’t get along with them. No matter, life was very good.
She didn’t see the first snowball streamlining towards the young gloved, scarved, hooded, booted, ski panted and already snow covered boy. She did hear the battle cry of her oldest boy, Louis. It was a sound she had heard many a time. Normally it was used when attacking his brothers.
I I I yeee ahhh! Strange sound it was. She wasn’t even sure where he got it from. Most likely from some scooch on the streets of Brooklyn. Although she had very fond memories of the borough, it just wasn’t the same anymore. Nothing was the same after President Johnson.
Normally that sound was used to attack her brothers, so she only flinched a little. Knowing she would be breaking up a fight in the matter of minutes, she book down her book. When she pulled the curtain back to get a better look, she saw boy in a snow caked fuzzy hood looking at the round snow splat on his chest. Three against one. A little kid. I’ll beat his ass.
“Louis Darby!’ She yelled through the shut glass window. Normally, Peggy could be heard through walls, windows or doors. It didn’t matter. Her boys knew that they were being yelling at and very possibly (if they didn’t run fast enough) a good whack with the spoon.
Today, though, there was a different level of hearing. Even though she could penetrate the unpenetratable there were more layers on today. The house was covered in snow six inches deep, not counting the snow drifts. The winds were blowing towards the north end of the house and the boys were south. The house also stood at the top of a big hill and the boys were at the bottom. The boys at the bottom of the snow drift, windy hill were covered head to toe in insulated wraps of scarves and hoods and down jackets and face masks. They were on their own out there in the wild of their own front lawn.
She moved to get out of her chair and reached to open the window. Her senses thought better of it when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a pile of snow that was just aching to melt inside of her home. Looking out the window again, she saw a second snowball whizz by the boys head. Without a thought, she knew who threw that one. Thomas had impeccable aim, but he could never hit a boy (or any creature for that matter) when they were down. It was damn close though. So close that the boy felt or heard it go by his head. The boy lifted his head to look. The look on his face was a very strange one. It didn’t seem like he knew what was going on at all. His glance was so nonchalant that she guessed the first snowball didn’t hurt him at all.
Figures with all the layers these boys have on. She said to herself.
Then, she heard another battle cry. She froze for a second, because she knew without looking who it was. She knew another snowball was being thrown and she knew it would be hard.
“Richard Darby!” This time it was heard. There was nothing on this planet that could have stopped. It woke Mr. Darby up from his deep sleep. It rattled panes of all the nearby homes and shook the snow off of the sills. Hibernating bears’ ears perked and they all grumbled angrily. Cats and dogs moved away from each other.
The three boys stopped dead in their tracks. Yet, the snowball was launched. Nine year old Jason was just turning his head back from looking at the path of the last snowball when this new one made contact. Pinpoint accuracy, it went right where Richard aimed. The only thing missing from Rich’s calculations was that Jason turned his head around too quickly. He was aiming for the back of his head, as if that were any better.
The snowball wasn’t the hardest one that Richard had ever made. Tales where spun about him later in life that he could crush coal into diamonds. He compacted a snowball to be that hard. This one was compacted with compassion as saw it was just a little kid. Still, it was hard as a rock. A rock that had a little give in it.
Jason’s head didn’t think it had any give at all. It struck him straight on at the temple. His whole face contorted and his moved like it was about to scream in pain but the eyes rolling back in his head where telling a different story. It hit hard. Richard’s got wide. Thomas’s jaw dropped into his scarf. Louis said curse words. The three brothers were frozen for a long instance as Jason dropped to the ground.
He first fell to his knees and displayed semi-consciousness, then just slowly tipped to his side.
“Louis Darby.” This scream shook the rest of the snow off the roof and got Mr. Darby soaring out of bed. Now even, though Louis hadn’t thrown that snowball, he knew that he was going to get more punishment that Richard.
Peggy ran down the stairs and grabbed her housecoat. “Lou, get up.” She didn’t need to explain what just happened. He knew it was something to do with his boys. He had heard the call before.
Louis snapped out of astonishment. Pride, disgust, fear and anguish were just some of the emotions running through him. Taking his lead, all three boys ran to Jason and knelt down beside him. Louis grabbed Jason’s shoulder and shook him gently.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
Sometimes one expects an answer from an unconscious person. Being that he was just mostly unconscious, Jason was able to mutter incoherent phases. They cradled his head and moved him or rather half dragged him to the side of the street. This action most likely further Jason’s loss of the knowledge of everything. As two of the Darby’s pulled buy the shoulders, the other sort of lift his feet, so that the boy’s butt dragged through the unplowed street.
All three of the boys became paramedics in an instant. Their mother was heading down the uneven and unshoveled steps. Lightly smacking the sides of Jason’s face they called him to wake up.
“Wake up. Wake up.” They said this half loudly, but mostly with whispered determination. Their mother was nearly upon them. They hadn’t even known that their dad was home from work and when Louis’ eyes turned towards his mother, he caught a glimpse of the front door. There he was. Dressed in the bathrobe they had just given him for Christmas, he was without a smile. He never drank, so his bloodshot eyes meant something more. Mom was mad. Mom woke up dad. Dad kills boy. Which one, he doesn’t care. Which boy that is.
That’s when it began to start snowing again. Everything around them was already covered in white. The trees, the houses, the cars and the people. Now the air was all white, too. It was snowing so hard they could barely make each other out.
“J.C. Get this boy up into the house.” Said Peggy to her boys. She took her bare hand and squeezed Jason’s cheeks lightly and, “It’s going to be alright son. It’s going to be alright.”
This time, Louis and Thomas took Jason and draped his shoulders around their necks. To feel important, Richard sort of patted his back and made sure they didn’t fall backwards. When they go to the top of stairway, Jason was feeling a lot better although his words and actions would lead the Darby family to believe otherwise.
“Sit him down on the steps.” said Peggy.
“He looks alright, mom.” said Thomas.
“I need you all to be quiet until your mother and I figure this out.” said Mr. Darby.
It was final then. The boys would do no more talking. Mom knew what had been done, they just needed assess the damage and send the boy home.
“I was up on the cliff and there were aliens.” Said Jason. Peggy stared and the boys grew wide eyed.
Chapter Four – Where Did Everybody Go
When they reached the top of the cliff, the snow was stopping. The magical place on top of the world was covered in white. It seemed as though you could see everything from up there. There was no mountain higher in sight. Down below towards the south was the lake. Skyline Lake. They weren’t allowed to adventure down there. Mom said, “You don’t know how thick the ice is. I don’t want you going near that lake. Do you understand? Do you?”
That was repeated every time the younger boys went outside to play during the winter. It was especially enforced during this Christmas vacation because it had been exceptionally cold and exceptionally snowy.
“You can’t see if there is a hole in the ice. What if someone was ice fishing and you didn’t see there hole? You’d fall right through and never find your way back out. Promise me you won’t go to the lake.” Mom said. Pick a house. It was repeated all around the block of Wildwood Terrace and Oakwood Drive.
“We’ll just play outside.” said a boy of your choosing.
Anyone would highly doubt that choosing the edge of a fifty foot cliff over the mere subtle chance of falling through the ice would help any mother sleep any better. The reply never went, “Yes, mother, I promise not to go down to the lake, but if you need me, I’ll be on the edge of an icy and snow covered cliff.”
Actually, going to the cliff wasn’t Jason’s idea. He just want to walk around in the snow, make some snow angels and maybe sled down the big hill that was behind Roy’s house. But, he thought he would be in any danger either. Hiking up there to the cliff was a place he had only been to one time before during the summer. It wasn’t on his side of the neighborhood. He lived high on the top of the next street over. His street, Oakwood Drive actually led to Wildwood Terrace. Everyone just called it the block. His street was the top, then there was a round block of houses and then another road that led down to the lake. Just a bunch of houses tucked into the side of a mountain.
Behind his house was the brook. The older kids that nicknamed all these places weren’t the most creative people. The names weren’t ever questioned. they just were. The brook, the big hill, the cliff, the cave, the block and then there was Gully’s Hill. That was the road that went down towards the lake. Then there was a whole road that went around the lake, but there’s no real relevance of it to this story.
The brook behind Jason’s house started high in the Ramapo mountains. the boys tried to find the beginning of it a few times, but the hike always never seemed to end, so they had to turn around. This brook is what fed the lake all year round. God help the fish from what these boys had poured into the brook over the years. It wasn’t until Fred had seen an episode of Davy and Goliath that they had stopped pouring paint into the brook. It was an episode where Davy pour red paint into a well to make it look like strawberry pop. Hence, poisoning the farmer’s drinking water. Why Davy wasn’t in juvy, no one will ever know. But those were different times.
From Jason’s house it was just over a mile of bubbling and babbling brook. At its widest was twenty feet or so and at some points only six foot wide. It was nearly impossible for the young to find the source of the River or even make it all the way to the lake. The obstacles would become too great. The area behind Fred’s house, though was unimaginable for a boys exploration. Islands and trees to swing on forts to build. Hours of pure imagination.
During the summer months, the gaggle of boys would spend hours on the tiny islands I the brook playing pirate. They would jump from rock to rock, effortlessly Maneuvering between the the large mossy patches. Exploring towards Jason’s house meant traveling through very thick patches of trees and sticker bushes. There were lots of sticker bushes. They seemed to be natures way of telling little boys to stay away. But little boys have a way of finding their way around everything. Closer to towards Jason’s house the embankment would get steep and there were no trails to follow along side the brook. Just a lot of sticker bushes.
These sticker bushes were like the stems of roses but grew like vines and into the shape of tumbleweed. They were everywhere.
The islands were all gone too by Jason’s house. No rocks to skip onto either. This was also were it got deep. Deep enough to swim in in some parts. They all tried it at one point or another, but that end of the brook was never a real popular one.
Heading the other towards to the lake, the brook took some big turns and came to its widest point. The waterfall. A majestic ten foot drop made up a extremely large boulder and big rocks all around. The water didn’t gush over the side like Niagra Falls but rather made a lot of little ones.
This would have been the favorite place to play if it weren’t for the old man and the old woman that lived in the house right on top of it. A little slice of heaven for the home owner, but a lot of slice of hell if he caught you out there playing.
The boys just wanted to see their boats float all the way to the lake. The man would come out and yell.
“You kids get out of there or I’ll call the cops. ” he would say.
For some reason they all knew to hide their faces. They had probably learned that from the Darby’s. They would teach the kids on the block all sorts of handy tricks. Put toilet paper on the seat of public bathrooms. Things like that.
The old man by the waterfall was not a man to be trifles with. One time he came out with a shotgun and fired it in the air.
“Get the hell off my land.”
It took a long time before the boys came near there. Of course that had to. They had never finished the quest to make it all the way to the lake.
You have never seen a quieter bunch of boys than the day they tried that one. They weren’t even sure if it was that
man’s land. There were other houses all around. All the while silently signing Mission Impossible.
It just so happened that his was the house that everyone feared on Halloween. His was the house with apples stuffed with razor blades. His wife was definitely a witch and no one ever survived a trip to his house. Even to get the man’s front porch there was a maze of shrubbery that was six feet high. If you got lost going to his porch there was no telling were you would end up.
The tale of the old man and the waterfall lasted for years. Even when the boys of the street walked around the block, they would only look at his house from the corners of their eyes.
Next Chapter –
Mord and Trod were in a hurry. The were very late for the last installation of the device. The had the last piece. The most important piece. The Lasting Crystal. It was not made and it is very doubtful that it was ever meant to be found. Quite by accident (as these things go), a spaceship ran aground on a drifting planet. It wasn’t really a planet. It was more the size of meteor. This planetoid was just drifting around at the furthest edge of the Last galaxy. The Last Galaxy was four galaxies away from Earth’s galaxy and two galaxies away from Mord and Trod’s galaxy. Earth’s galaxy was three galaxies away from Mord and Trod’s galaxy, but all of this change depending the greater winds.
These winds seemed to push galaxies around every thousand years, so given this year, Earth galaxy was on the opposite end of Mord and Trod’s galaxy. This made them a galaxy away form being home. Although it was forbidden to travel through Earth’s galaxy, Mord and Trod thought they could sneak through.
“We’re not going to get away with this,” said Mord.
“I know. But what are we to do, King Rick wants the Lasting Crystal in this century,” said Trod.
He continued, “Besides, there is no communicating on this side of the galaxy. We can call for help nearer to Earth’s sun.”
“We can’t it risk it,” said Mord.
“Well, we have to. If we could ask to the Lasting Crystal, we’d be able to repair the damage ourselves.” said Trod.
“Of all the species in the universe, we are the ones that can’t draw out the knowledge from this thing.” said Mord. “I don’t know what makes King Rick think that he can see into it.”
“He knows that he can’t see into it. Or at least I don’t think he does. He is the same as us right? Just a little taller, stronger and better looking than you,” said Trod.
“Better looking than you, that is,” said Mord. “This sort of power can’t be left floating around in the universe for some evil to find. Just imagine if you had all knowing power.”
“Yeah, but this thing has been floating around for millenniums. It might as well have floated around for a few more if hadn’t happened upon it.” said Trod.
“On second thought,” he went on, “maybe we were supposed to find it.”
“I think. You know what I think?”
“I think you may be right. It was also when we found it is when the galaxy winds shifted.”
“Also our last communication with our King.”
By the time that Jason was coherent enough to speak, he wasn’t able to get a word in about what happened. The Richard and Louis kept telling him how sorry they were. “Hey man. I didn’t mean to throw it that hard at you. Sorry.” Said RichArd. “We were just fooling around.” Said Louis. “I’m okay guys. I think I am. I left something, though. From where I came from. I knew something too.” Said Jason. “What did you leave dear?” Asked mrs Darby. “Did you forget you sled?” “No, I didn’t have a sled.” Said Jason. “I think I was adding something. No I was playing with someone. I think they got lost. Todd. Todd got lost. ” Peggy’s heart dropped. Todd was Doris’ son. All the boys perked up. Todd was one of the family. Even Mr D groaned. “Son,” he said. “Where were you two playing that he got lost?”
There were only a few places that even entered any of their minds. The boys, including Mr Darby, we just thinking the woods behind the houses. They had probably just got split up and couldn’t see each other because of all the snow. Mrs Darby’s mind was seeing a young boy falling through the ice down at the lake. He heart was racing. “The lake. Did you two play at the lake? You know you shouldn’t go down there.” “No,” said Jason. And almost too calmly, “we were up at the cliff.” By the time the word ‘cliff’ registered in the boys’ mind, Peggy pushed past them and ran up the steps towards the kitchen. She wasn’t sure of what she should do, but she knew she had to be near the phone.
“Oh my god. Lou!” She screamed. “Did he fall off the cliff?” Said Thomas. “I-I I’m not sure. We both saw something. He went to go get it and starting slipping. I went to get a stick but I couldn’t find one and.” Mr Darby cut Jason off. “Peg, call the rescue squad. Boys get the ropes out of the garage. I’ll get dressed.” Said mr Darby. By the time he was dressed I jeans, some boots and his big parka, the boys put together a bunch of rescue supplies. They even had their dog Lady at the ready. They always had a rescue dog with the. On the television shows so why not. They just needed a little barrel to put around her neck. By the time they were ready to head out the door, Peggy had phoned the rescue squad. “They are heading out. You boys be careful. ” Peggy said. The. In almost hysterics.,”don’t you go all fall off that cliff. Do you hear me? Ill beat your asses ” Threats of brutal violence towards another family meant that you loved them. There is a difference between that and the real threat. The real threat is one where the recipient can actually see a death aura or plume of smoke from around the givers head. The swear words actually bite when they leave the givers mouth. There is also a heavy or sometimes solid blunt object I said givers hand. Depending on the degree of trouble that one is in. A long wooden spoon would go with the lowest form of punishment. From there it would take an immediate up turn towards a long metal spoon or a rolling pin. More realistically, the object was what which ever was closest. The Darby boys and the rest of the children on Wildwood Terrace always wished silently for the wooden spoon. Most of them had built up a tolerance to good whack from that and figured out ways to protect their bodies for the blows the really stung. Almost every one of them had a tale about the time their mom gave the balsa wood spoon. Oh, how they had to try hold back the laughter for when it would break when it hit them. Laughter was not a good thing because their mothers would fume And go straight to the metL spoon. The metal spoons left long lasting welts that stung for the same amount of time.
The Darby men led a charge down the driveway with their dog lady just happy to be outside. Jason stayed inside with Mrs Darby. She was clearly shaken and told him that she would call his mother in just a moment. She put on a pot of coffee and went to the phone trying to hide her tears. She had to call Todd’s mother and tell her the news. “Oh God, please be alright.” Should she call Jason’s mother first? I’m sure she isn’t worried yet but maybe she should get that out of the way first. “What’s your telephone number, Jason?” She asked. He had nothing but a blank stare this whole time until she asked for his phone number. Jason’s brain flipped a switch. He leaned all the back on the staircase that he was still sitting on and just started spewing numbers. More numbers than any telephone could possibly have. He started reciting equations and formulas. Square roots and trigonometry. All the while just staring At the ceiling. “Jesus, what the hell is going on today?” She screamed this whilst staring at the ceiling herself. Peggy through her arms in the air shaking them. Then she headed towards the bathroom, grabbed a wash cloth and rinsed until cold water in the bathroom sink. With the cloth just slightly dripping, she went to Jason on the stairs and patted his forehead with the wet cloth. “Are you okay? Everything will be alright. Your just in shock.” She led the babbling mathematician boy to a couch in their downstairs family room. He seemed fine except for his devils speak. She had recently watched the Exorcist and was weary of any crazy talk. “You’ll be fine here until your mother comes. Let’s take off your boots so you can stay awhile.” She looked out the first floor window and saw that it started to snow again. It was snowing hard. Making sure jAson was comfortable she then Headed back upstairs. Peggy poured herself a cup of coffee and reached for the telephone. The rotary dial never seemed so slow. She almost wanted for no one to pick up. “hello.” Said a vibrant voice at the other end. In less than a minute, that vibrant voice was screaming. Peggy dropped her coffee and Jason suddenly became silent. By that time, the Darby men were about to climb the steep driveway that led to the Ho Chi Min trail that led to the cliff. By that time a swift brown fox was noticing the delightful smell of breakfast for her babies.
By the time that Doris received the phone call that her son was possibly dead, her husband was fifty miles away. He was knee deep and cussing in the snow. He was driving a tractor trailer towards Manhattan.
“Just feeding my babies and trying not to run over any idiots.”
He would get up every morning at four o’clock for work. This was long before, the rest of the house creeped towards daylight. Once in a while he would wake the house cussing loudly at the dog. Apparently he tripped over Smokey. He thought she was a filthy animal and shouldn’t be allowed on the house.
“Hot danged dog. Get you out argh. Little scotch son of a bee grandson. Ricksen fracken. I aught to take you with and drop you off at the side of the road.” He would say just loud enough to let his sleeping family know what he had tomgo through with every morning.
Mr. Gerhard’s commute to work each morning was approximately two hours, pending traffic. With the heavy snow the night before, he had given himself three hours to get to work. Once you climbed your way over the mountain, the rest of the drive wasn’t that bad. Just long. If you could make it over the mountain. Most people didn’t even bother, but Tony’s Volkswagen beetle somehow had the get go to make over the very steep incline. And even a steeper down cline on the other side. Then another mile or two and you made it to the beginning of the highway. Most likely the road crews would’ve been plowing all through the night.
From there it was a straight shot to new York city, Hoboken, north Bergen or anyone of the founding New Jersey cities. He worked on Secaucus, once a mighty pig farm of a town. Now home to trucking yards and strip joints. He drove a tractor trailer. His company was a go between the shipping docks and the local warehouses. It was a job. It was steady work and it fed his family. It was also a union job, so the benefits would pay for braces in the months to come.
He made it to work in two hours and Twenty-six minutes. The night crew was just finishing up loading the day’s trailers and getting them ready for the drivers.
“Been a crazy night.”
“Can’t believe they made us work in this garbage.”
“I can’t believe they’re gonna make those guys go drive in this. Crazy, if you ask me.”
These are some of things that Tony heard on the way to the office.
“Hey guys! It’s not so bad. Could be worse.” Said Tony.
“Heeey, Toe knee chest nut. Always the bright side. Even on the cloudy day.”
Tony picked up his load sheets. Today he was driving a truck full of macaroni to a warehouse in Brooklyn. “Maude on.” This drive was definitely going to a pain in the rear. The Brooklyn bridge was sure to be mobbed today. Hopefully the plows went through.
He was stuck in traffic leading to the Brooklyn bridge when his boss came on the cb radio.
“Breaker Breaker. Looking for the Bullet. Bullet, you out there.”
“Copy that. This is the Bullet. What’s the info home base.”
“Need you to head on back. You wife called. Your son has been in an accident.”
“Maude on. Ten four”
Which feeling could be worse for a parent? The situation is that your son, your child, your baby is smashed to bits at the bottom of a cliff. The mother, the birther of this child, is home with her other two children depending on the word of friends. She so wants to leave the house and run and rescue her baby at the bottom of the cliff. She can’t. She has to be here for him. The rescue squad has to get him. She can’t climb that cliff. She doesn’t even know where it is. She figured it was just a little thing that boys were talking about. Yet, it was less than a mile from their home. Just a short walk from the house, up the street, past the D’s and up that driveway. Why did she even let him go out so early this morning? If she had waited the older boys would have been outside. They would have told him to stay away from there. He would have just gone sleigh riding and would have been home already drinking hot chocolate and playing boards games.
Dad is fifty miles away and stuck in traffic. He should have used a sick day today. No one would have thought the worse. He was saving his sick days because he wanted to take the family to Walt Disney World in the summer. Two weeks and four sick days would make for a great vacation. He worked so hard, he deserved it. The family would love it and it would be a memory that would last forever. Walt Disney World for christs’ sake. Maude on. Maude on. The traffic was nearly at a stand still. Absolutely helpless to help save his boy. What the hell happened? What sort of accident? How the hell could he get into an accident. No one was up. The plows? Did one of the plows clip him? I’ll kill that Ringwood Municipal group. Maybe he went sleigh riding and banged his head. How bad could that be? He would have to turn around and go home to find out. Maudeon. The lake. Did that little bastard go down to the lake. He knows we told him not to go near that damn place. I’ll kill the little son of a bitch. He would turn that tractor trailer around and drive it right back to Ringwood if he had to. Still that was a few hours. What if he needs my help. I could help him. I could help him if I was there. I was there a few hours ago.
No father feels truly alone than when his child needs his help. He would instinctively jump in front of the bullet, take a punch, lose a limb or wrestle the bear instead of seeing his child in harms way. What brings that instinct seems so natural with a mother but presses to find that in a father.
Going long through life messing things up for all around him and leaving sad trails along the way. Women and liquor and cigars and late nights. Shooting blanks throughout his life. He may have another child out there but the women were gone and long forgotten. He never saw them and never bothered to look. Why would he? That is not the sort of question was goes seeking to for answers. PS did I plant my seed within you and did you give birth to a being that resembles me? Sometimes in life, maybe always in
Life you just have to go with what you know. Women and liquor and cigars and late nights. Til
One day you wake and your life looks a little slower than the day before. The empty bottles say good morning to you and stale smell of cigar coats everything you own like a thick paste. You clothes fresh from the dryer yesterday feel like wax paper today. Uncomfortable in your own skin until you find a way to make the day over with and pour it away. The money doesn’t matter you can barely make it home from the nightclub. You overhead someone pretty young ladies pointing over your way and wondering who the old guy is. Time to buckle up and settle down and settle in. Either die being great at nothing or time the time to teach someone a better way. He never realized the joy that actually was deep I his heart. Never realized pure love until his baby boy was introduced to this world.
“I’m going to do right by you. Teach you everything. Give you what I could never have. Show you what I’ve thrown away. I just hope that you are a better listener thAn I am.”
Tony found an exit that he could turn around on. He swore at more drivers than he ever had in his life. It was the one day not to play games with a tractor trailer. This rig was ready to tear your car a new tailpipe. He had to get home to his son. He also knew that the. Volkswagen beetle would care a heck of a lot better in the snow.
“Come on! Out of the way!”
Strangers have no idea that your son has just fallen off of a cliff. You actually are unsure of what happened yourself. They really don’t even care. They are just heading out I this snow storm for mostly stupid reasons, but it’s their stupid reasons. If it’s for milk or bread or beer
Tony pulled in the next service station and called his wife.
She reached for the phone that she threw. It didn’t go far it was on a long spiraled cord that only stretched about ten feet. It actually nearly clocked her on the head as it sprang back from the incredible amount of momentum it had just received. It might too if she hadn’t fallen on her knees. Her two younger sons were watching television in the living room when the scream sent their cereal spoons sailing.
As she grabbed the phone to speak with her friend Peggy, the morning came rushing back to her. It was just three hours or four hours ago that Todd was still here. Safe and warm. And alive.
She heard the pattering of feet up and down the hallway. Todd was always the first one up and if the the weatherman was correct, we should have gotten another five to six inches of snow on the ground overnight. She knew it wouldn’t be long before he came to wake her up. He was most likely looking for the sun to peek its head over the mountain and onto the little shelf over the lake. It was a nice small ranch style home that they had bought four years ago.
It was still dark when Doris heard tony get up for work.
“Is it snowing out?” Said Doris, still half asleep
“six inches or so last night. The weatherman said more later this morning.” Said tony
“You should stay home. You can’t go to work in this. It’s too dangerous. Can’t you call I sick?” She said.
He said, “I can’t use up my sick days if you want to take thAt extra week at Sea World. Go back to sleep. I’ll be fine. It’s the other jackasses I have to watch for. Besides, if I show up and they shut down, I get extra hours. “
He continued,”I’ll try not to be late.”
He kissed her on the forehead and headed out the door. When she would get up, his empty bowl for his daily breakfSt of Wheat Germ would be in the sink. His coffee would be instant on the weekdays. Saturday morning was when he broke out the percolator and brewed himself a real cup. He would boil a pot of wAter on the stove and get his Thermos ready with three scoops of Nescafé coffee. He said it was fine to take with him to work.
She heard the front door of the house close and began to quickly fall back asleep. Minutes later she was only slightly awakes by the sound of the Volkswagen beetle starting. It had a very unique sound. She has thought that it sounded like It ran on bubbles. Blub blub blub blub. The dog could hear that sound from miles away and would go run to its bed so she wouldn’t get a whack.
She heard the blub blub back out of the driveway and disappear as it head down the street to the corner and the up the hill to Skyline Drive. If he makes it over the mountain, she thought to someone else, he’ll be fine. The. She quickly drifted off to sleep as she knew that her boys would be up with the sun to go play outside.
What felt like minutes of blissful sleep was soon disturbed by the rustle of bedsheets. What makes a mother stir at the slightest noise? Generations of mothers never get a good night sleep. Always listening for their babies crying for food or failing out of their cradles or flying off of cliffs. Doris could pinpoint a sound in the home to the neared four feet. Be it the dog sniffing around the kitchen for a missed scrap of food or the boys getting up for an early morning pee. They would really have to go for that one because she knew, especially Todd was afraid of the dark.
Todd, it seemed, was not afraid of the dark at all this morning. It was still in the pitch black category of night. Technically it was morning, because his father had only left but a half hour or so before. Doris figured that Tony woke up Todd on his way out to work. Tony, Todd, Thom and Ted. She loved the names. She felt it meant something. NO one else felt that way and had wearisome explaining to do through out their lives. Mama was happy, so mouths were shut.
She heard bed covers drawn and the rustle of repositioning on Todd’s full size mattress. His head board rest at the corner of the window in his room. His room faced the front of the house. Both of the boys rooms did. She could tell he was kneeling on that bed peering into the darknness. She could sense Todd holding the shade out to peek his head under neath and if he did hold it just right.
Flip flip flip flip flip. Doris smiled to herself and heard a faint “Aaaa.”
The retractable shade had lost its grip and went sailing up into it’s Christmas paper roll.
That side of the house filled with a bright hue of white.
The moon only peeked through the nights cloud for only moments at a time. The snow wasn’t finished yet. The first wave, which was a big one but not big enough to stop a Tony from going to work, had passed. The storm system that was coming down from Canada seemed as it would never end. The green blips and formations on the weather detectors had shown a seeming extra long line of snow clouds that came all the way from the USSR. The weatherman on channel eleven had lined up all of his felt clouds a cross the map of America. Little boys watched with glee. Old men watched with feelings of dread. In the middle of the next night creeping into the wee hours of the morning wAs a young boy named Todd making a ruckus. His mother laughed her way back to sleep as the vinyl shade flip flip flipped back up into its roll. Todd had not as of yet mastered the slow pull to release the latch and then to gently let it just up to where one needed to see. He had completely miscalculated the whole workings of the apparatus. Be it from being just past the waking point or be it from being overly excited, that shade let go made noises that, as his grandma Rose would say, would wake the dead. He frozen in the darkness of the room. He became as silent and still as if his existence was never truly a being. The speed of light had other plans for showing off his existence. It said out loud. There he is! Right there. Magnificent! The moon making its appearance between the short break in the snow clouds, shone a center stage spotlight on Todd. Tonight’s starring act and about to make you hold your breath. The one. The only. Able to fall great distances straight down the side of a sheer rock formation. (Drum roll) Todd. Melodrama. The sun reflecting into the moon from the other side of the world was so bright that Todd had to squint his eyes for a moment. The light cast a great shadow a cross his bedroom floor and into the hallway and into his mothers room. A giant foreshadow of the days events. Looming darkness spreading deep in the gerhard homestead and onto the crotchet blanket that grandma rose had made a few years after the wedding. Doris caught the shadow out of the corner of her eye and thought about her first born boy as she drifted.
Although he was only in the second grade, the boy was showing incredible promise. He certainly had impeccably neat hand writing and was a whiz at math. The boy could add faster than his father. He father was also could at math and liked to use an abacus when he did the bills. She suspected that was so he could have more alone time. Regardless, he showed Todd how to use it but he teacher didn’t want him to get confused with something they were calling new math. His teacher said that they were to be a new progressive school. Students here would be far ahead of everyone in the area. How lucky they were to have chosen this area to live in. She never questioned it and was pleased with his results. In the first grade they even considered him to skip a few grades because of his intellect, but fearing social inadequacies, they kept him were he was.
When the moonlight finished the quick burn of his retinas his eyes focused in on what he believed to be the most beautiful site in the world. A land of all white. Pure unadulterated white. Everywhere he looked and everything that he saw. The lawn, the trees, even his mother’s car was completely covered. It just looked like a giant snow bump. The mailbox was a big snow stick. Everything was untouched except.
Dad. He thought. Dad was first out there. He could see very clearly now that his eyes had adjusted. The focus was whites and shades of grey and a few hues of blue. absolutely no greens or brown. This was a perfect winter picture. He could trace the steps that his father took not too much earlier. His eyes tracked they one by one. The foot steps first emerged from the stairway. He couldn’t see the stairway as that would be physically impossible. They followed along where the sidewalk would be. The sidewalk sort of made a forty five degree angle to the driveway. The footsteps followed it near perfect. Nearly straight on towards his volkswagon beetle, that was still cream colored under the snow. There were heaps of snow all around where the beetle once was. It must have taken him forever to warm the car up. Funny, he hadn’t heard a thing just the faint blub blub blub going up the street. Todd never heard any scraping of the windows, so they must not have been frozen. He saw the tires tracks backing out of the driveway, go right then straight down the street.
No plows had been down his street and he prayed that they would never come. This was a complete contradiction to what the parents were thinking. He began thinking of snow angels. It was the perfect snow for snow angels. He would make the perfect ones too. He would also make them go all across his front yard, making them hold hands. Then he daydreamed that they would all get up all fly up to heaven taking him with them for a visit. Then he would wreck the whole thing and build a giant snowman. Just the head would take half of the snow in his yard. He would have to build the body with the snow from the neighbor’s yards. He was sure the kids on the block would be up and ready to help by that time.
And snow forts. Yes, he would build the perfect igloo. His fingers involuntary crossed hoping for perfect packing snow. If it was too cold, for some reason it was no good for nothing except sleigh riding. He would do that too. Man, I have a busy day ahead of me. Now to go outside.
The dreams of wants and wishes only took up a short time in his young mind, but he had it all worked out. All for except the going outside part. He knew he could go outside, but getting out there when it was still dark was another issue.
This was about the time that Doris heard the covers of Todd’s bed slide to the end of his bed. This was when mom senses began to kick into overdrive. She felt the size six feet make ever an so soft touch down with the shag carpeted floor of his room. His body was holding on to the very last of contact with bed, knowing was trying not to let the bedsprings creak in the slightest. This feat was impossible as the bed was handed down from ancient time from a grandmother or an aunt or very likely someone related. The springs were old but still firm and still ‘fine for a boy’ until you can afford a new one. Ah but they creaked and she was curious as to how well he could pull this off. At the same time she was slightly annoyed that he had woken her up again and was about to sneak in her room to fully bring her out of an rem’s she had left. Creak. Creak. Just two creaks and the wobbly balancing act as if he were on tightrope. Anything with a line became a tightrope for that boy. Ever since he saw that crazy stuntman walking on that wire between the Twin Towers.
He had many obstacles to get by. Everything creaked in that house. The beds, the floors, the doors and even the people. It was always unclear as to why he creeping around his own room. A swift tilt in the planet of his room or a fast walk would most likely produce less creaks.
The Swiftly Tilting Planet
She could hear Todd tip toe across his room. Well, she actually couldn’t hear him. He was getting quite good at this sneaking around thing. She would make a mental note to pay more attention to details. It would also make it easier for the next two boys.
That had put a semi shag carpet down in his room. It was one she had actually bought new with his wedding money. Hell, it wasn’t long after they were married that Todd was born. It was an odd area rug. Lots of shapes and circles but all were confined to their own little squares on the rug. There was a lot to look at and when he was a toddler, he would trace the lines all morning long. Now, in his mind he thought of it as a tight rope. He was following the lines of the orange and brown area rug thinking it was the quietest path to his door. If he made it to the door without being told to go to bed, then he figured things would fine.
He tip toed across the hallway and stepped into his mother room. Doris was ready. Although tired from the daily life of chasing three boys around, she planned on giving him a little fright. She would think of it as a lesson. She could feel him peering into the darkness of her room. It was on the backside of the house and she liked to keep it dark and cozy. He was looking hard with moon shot eyes trying to see where his mother’s head was. Of course it was at the top of the bed, but which way was she facing. Reaching out ever so gently, while standing on the tippiest of toes, his hand found the crochet covers.
“Go back to bed.” She said.
His heart dropped to the bottom of a frozen with fear body. If he knew the words, he might have screamed an obscenity. She got him good. It was worse than the time he scared his brothers going down into the basement. He didn’t scream. He just froze.
“Go. Back. To. Bed.” She said a little more earnestly. “Its way too early.”
“But it snowed again last night.” Said Todd
“I know it snowed last night. Go back to bed. It will still be there when we all wake up.”
“Can I put on my snow suit? You and be ready when it’s time to get up.”
He huffed and puffed and headed back into his room. No longer was he mindful of any little noises that might disturb one awake. No longer did he tight rope across his room. She did hear the creaking of the wood floors beneath the crazy area rug and a big ‘huff’ and a big flop into his bed.
Round one, mom.
She didn’t know how it happened. She didn’t remember even going back to sleep. Her boy creeping around the house radar never went off a second time. Her eyes reopened and she saw the beginning of a new day flooding into Todd’s room, through the hallway and touching the entrance to her bedroom.
Through that light was a looming shadow. It stretched all the way across her covers. It was the shadow of a giant man. What? Who? Then she remembered where she was and what also lived under her roof.
“Mom.” A voice whispered. The figure didn’t move out of the entrance.
“It’s morning.” The voice said again. This time it was recognizable as Todd’s.
“Turn on the light.” said Doris.
The second grader turned on the light. It took a long moment for her to adjust her eyes. She rubbed them with balled up fists. Slowly appearing in her clearing vision was Todd. From head to toe, ready for the snow. Blue and red knit snow hat, new down blue snow jacket that he got for Christmas that she was sure would be ruined before New Year’s Eve, a blue a green scarf that was his bothers, his snow pants and his new snow boots. She could even see a set of wool socks peeking over the top of boots.
“Did you remember long underwear and long john’s?” said Doris.
“Yes and my flannel shirt and dungarees.” Said Todd.
“Mom, can I go outside?” he went on with a slight sound of practiced whimpered he inherited from the dog.
“You need to wait for me to get up and make you some breakfast.” She said.
“I’ve not even hungry. I had a glass of milk and a pop tart.” He said.
She could imagine the mess even from these two simple things. Then again, it was Todd. He probably finished, threw his trash away and washed his glass.
“I’ll tell you what. You can go outside.”
He shuffled in his snow pants and made some swishing sounds.
The snow pants swishing came to an instant halt.
“If, you first go dig a trail for Smokey.”
If he wanted to outside so badly, he wouldn’t even bicker at the thought of this. She certainly didn’t want to do it. Every snow storm all the dog owners on the block would dig little trails for their dog to be able to go to the bathroom. It consisted of a path down the steps to an opening big enough for the dog to be able to turn around at least. The depth and architecture of these handy little port a potties depended upon the digger and the amount of sympathy they had for their dog. She had seen some of the neighbors only go out the door and let the dog do its business on the deck. Another neighbor practically dug out the whole back yard. Todd, on the other hand was big into privacy. His trail would be down the steps (and he would clear of all of the steps) down towards the shed, hang a right turn to a nice big round circle. When the dog went to go, she couldn’t be seen from the house. This of course depending upon how deep the snow was.
She figured that by the time Todd had finished making this path that she would be up. Her tea kettle would be making hot water and his two brothers would be getting up and begging to go out themselves. He had already calculated what she was going to ask her. He was such a good boy.
“Ok, but can I call someone to come out so that they are ready to come out when I done. Can I?” he said.
“No you can not. It’s is way too early. When I get up and you are making a path for Smokey, I’ll call Mrs. Henry and see if Pete is awake.” She said.
“Ok. Ok. Can I start now?” he said.
“Yes.” She said.
The street of Wildwood Terrace was loaded with families. New families or rather mostly young families filled nearly every home. The odd thing was that ninety percent of the children on this block were boys. Testosterone all over the place all year long. So, she had an idea that most houses on this street would be up at any time now. Then again, Christmas was only two days. A lot of them might stay in to play with their toys until so given the task of shoveling their driveways. Todd would also have to get on that, but she would let him play for awhile before then. It would have to be done before their father got home, so maybe after lunch. Thom and Ted could start it. She’ll have to bribe them with fifty cents each, but it would get done. Todd knew that some chores were just to be able to live here. That was from his father. God help Todd’s kids.
While Todd was outside shoveling away the little dog trail, she made her tea. The tea kettle whistled, she poured it into her favorite mug and dunked the lipton tea bag into five times. She liked it so light that it was hardly tea. It was tan water. No milk. No sugar. She leaned against the kitchen sink taking the warm mug into both hands and took a sip. See watched Todd as he threw snow over his shoulder. He was actually getting the job done faster than she expected. ‘Oh, well.’ She thought and sat down at the kitchen table.
Suddenly she felt odd. Something was wrong. Nothing was wrong but something felt wrong. The was snow on the ground. There was no school. There is a living room full of toys. There is an empty tea cup. She actually had time to finish a whole cup of tea before being poked or prodded for something like breakfast or chocolate milk or anything. Even the dog hadn’t bothered her. She peered over by the refridgerator and saw Smokey just lying there sleeping. Then she walked down to the boys room and they were still sleeping too.
“What time is it?” she wondering aloud.
It was almost seven o’clock. Doris walked to the living room and pulled the drapes aside. What a beautiful winter wonderland. She began to think of Johnny Mathis singing. Not a soul in sight. It was very curious indeed. If Todd hadn’t woken her up she could still be sleeping with the rest of the world. Well, bless his soul. Looks like he’ll be the only one playing out there for a while. Maybe she should call Lorraine and see if Peter is up. Then she thought the better of it. She’ll just let him play in the front yard making snow angels until someone else came outside. That boy loved to make snow angels. She hoped the real angels were always watching over him.
Then the phone rang.
It gave her a little start. He stomach dropped a little remembering that her Tony was out there.
‘Crazy fool. I pray that he is alright.’ She thought. This time in her head.
“hello.” Doris said.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Gerard.” Said the female voiced caller.
“Yes, it is. Can I help you?” said Doris.
“Hi. This is Justine Centers. Jason’s mom. I am so sorry to call you this early, but Jason was begging me. You know how boys are. Is Todd awake?” Said Justine.
“Why yes he is. He is actually already outside shoveling the dog trail.” She said with a little polite laughter.
“Dog trail?” asked Mrs Centers.
They obviously didn’t have a dog. Doris explained it to her and they chatted for a while. Neither of them seemed to have anyone else to talk to being that the whole world was asleep.
A little while later Doris heard the stamping of feet.
“Oh let me go Justine. It was nice talking to you. Yes, send him this way. They can both play outside together. I’ll just have Todd in for lunch, then he has to shovel the driveway.”
Doris looked at the snow covered boy and then looked at the snow all over the floor in the kitchen. Before she had a chance to moan or complain, Todd was already sweeping the frozen sky water back out to whence it came from.
“All done.” He declared triumphantly. “Smokey. Come her girl. Go outside.”
Smokey came running and almost dashed outside. She halted for a moment taking in the strange white world that she was being forced into and then gingerly stepped outside.
“Good news.” Said mom.
“What.” Said Todd
“Your friend Jason is coming over to play with you. But outside only. Jason is your friend from school right?’
“He isn’t in my class, but we take the same bus.” Said Todd. “ok. When is he coming down?”
Jason was coming down the hill from Oakwood Drive to Wildwood Terrace. It was a fifteen minute walk in the sun. Who knew how long in the snow.
“I’ll just wait out front and make snow angels.”
What a Strange Beautiful Strange World
eco·sys·tem noun \-ˌsis-təm\ : everything that exists in a particular environment eco·sys·tem
Jason couldn’t find Todd when he reached his house. Now he wasn’t sure if he went the right way. He had never been over to Todd’s house before, but had seen him walk this way to the bus stop a million times. He really wasn’t even paying attention to where he was going. Just the long walk down the steep hill from his house was nothing but white. Everywhere he looked was white. He was hypnotized and blinded by it at the same time. He felt as if he were in another world. A space alien who landed on a different strange new world. The multi layers of clothes were his spacesuit. There no sign of life anywhere he looked.
All the windows in the homes were dark save for the faint glow of a television set beaming into the souls of the young inhabitants of the village. Their mother aliens were most likely preparing their alien breakfasts of Fruity Pebbles and orange milk. Maybe they ate snow for their breakfast and no human was supposed to walk on their food. This thought made him sneak down the hill of a road called Oakwood Drive and hide behind bushes and trees the whole way his journey. Anyone looking out a window would have seen a young gone mad. He would have to be put out of misery.
The only sign of life that left any evidence of an existence of another being were tires tracks going up the hill. Only one space vehicle had traveled on this road recently. He could see were the road turn and increased his vertical height that the space vehicle had skid and swiped the side of bush that was the entrance to a driveway. It was the only half green thing on the road. The only thing that wasn’t white.
The tires made a thick line across the street where it had skid. It seemed to then resume control because he hadn’t noticed any crashed space vehicles or skid marked snow in front of his house. He continued downward. He knew that most of this homes didn’t have kids in them. The other street had all the kids. Maybe no one wanted to live on a big hill. He didn’t mind. He had a giant rock behind his house that led to the deepest part of the brook. He often climbed that rock in the summer and sat at stared at the water and dreamed. Sometimes he brought his fishing pole back their but it seemed that everything was a snag. He couldn’t figure it out. There had to be a dozen or so of his hooks done there. Hence he never swam in there. Once in awhile he would see some of the boys from the other street playing back there, but it was never for long. He always thought it was because they stepped on his hooks.
As he neared Wildwood Terrace, he came upon the house with the big wooden fence. He always walked on the other side of the street when he came to this house because a monster or something lived back there. Sometimes he could see the nose of the great black beast, but mostly he could hear snorts and barks. That dog wanted to eat little boys bad. In his trance he second guessed his courage. Actually he had forgotten all about it. At the top of each post on the wooden fence that wrapped all the way around the back yard of the black house was snow. A six inch perfect pile of rectangular snow. He so wanted to just knock them off. Just to jump up and touch tap the off one by one.
As he was walking over he remembered the great black beast lived there. He had to be inside in this snow, he thought to himself so no one else could hear. Jason sauntered over the fence leaving nothing to a guess to which way he had gone. There was a perfect reenactment of his whole pathway from his house to this point. Little boy foot prints deep in the snow. Slide marks. Slip trails. Heaps of snow from shaken hanging branches so low to street from the weight of the snow.
He hastened his step a bit as running is never a good option in as many layers of clothing that he on. Swish swish swish went the polyester blend snow pants that never stayed water proof long enough for a second grader. Swish swish jump. He smacked his hand high to just touch the top of the fencing and with the momentum of his body and the incoordination of a second grader he fell flat against the fence.
“Oof.” That was the sound he made. It admitted failure. It allowed humiliation. It also woke the sleeping giant.
“Hey. Get off my fence.” A voice yelled from the other side.
No barking. No barking was good. Although, this might be worse. Without brushing himself off, Jason make the quick decision as not to think about his situation and just run. He hightailed it along the fence which now seemed a hundred miles long.
Swish swish swish as fast as his layers would allow. His heart began to race even faster when he realized that in order to get where he was going he would have to cut through the front yard of the black house. Even in his little brain of mush he knew that this would not be a good idea. The person that owned the voice that lived in the black house with the black dog may bite worse than the black dog. So, he made a quick left towards the bus stop.
The bus stop wasn’t a bus stop per se, it was the end of the road. The ‘T’ at the end of Wildwood Terrace. The bus stop was just where all the kids on the block gathered to wait for their school buses. It was also where the storm pipe opened up and made a little stream that led to the brook. Facing the bus stop from Wildwood Terrace, a person in a car could only make a left. The other way had two Do Not Enter signs. They were both covered in snow. In the summer time the kids would call it suicide run to even ride their bikes the wrong way on the street. It led up another hill, although a smaller one in perspective to everything around. But, it had a steep incline and make a sharp right at the same time. Visibility was not an option at this point. Whizzing down that hill on your bike was nothing but chance. It wasn’t a heavily driven road, though. It was the back side of the block. Coincidently protected by this hill and deadly curve was the crazy old man’s house that would shoot at you down at the brook that ran along the back side of his house.
Jason ran towards the bus stop hid behind a big rock. When they built this little ecosystem of a neighborhood on the side of the mountain, they place the left over boulders at the bus stop in case anyone decided against stopping at the end of Wildwood Terrace. Watching through the slits in the fence and throwing snowballs at the same time, Pete stared in amazed that this kid was out so early. Pete had only just begun the getting dressed routine. Right now he was only dressed partly. Partly to be warm enough, but mostly to dig a dog trail. His father made a temporary one that only led three feet onto their deck which led off the kitchen that was on the second floor.
He had to dig his trail all the way to the trees in his back yard. He would definitely be quick about it. One, he wasn’t fully dressed. Two, he was hungry. He wasn’t promised a nice hot breakfast only after he finished. So, taking aim at the kid that lived up the hill was just a bonus that warmed his blood. There was no way the kid could hid from him and he chuckled to himself that he had scared the pants off of him. Peter had a great throwing arm, but in his haste his missed both throws. He wasn’t going to go after him because he would get in trouble. He would be finished soon enough though and they would definitely meet again. After breakfast, he would call his friend Todd and they would go around the block causing all sorts of mischief. With that thought, he began to hurry with the digging of the dog trail.
“I’ll find you.” Pete yelled over the fence. ‘Later.’ He snickered to himself. He would track that boy like Daniel Boone on the Wonderful World of Disney. He actually wouldn’t try and hurt the kid, it was just good fun. When there’s snow, there’s war.
Jason waited hiding behind one of the big rocks at the bus stop until he felt the coast way clear. His back was against the rock facing into the woods that led to the brook. There were no trails in this part of the woods to get there. It was actually a very creepy section of the block. These woods said, Stay Away. Fallen trees, thick brush, lots of vines that were impossible to swing on and the most dense area of pricker bushes that anyone had ever seen. Just get to the brook from this way was to definitely get some bumps and lots of scratches. The only way in was from behind Fred’s house. His dad was crazy too. Maybe because his mom was even crazier. She wouldn’t shoot you, but she would yell at you in German. Besides, there were lots of car parts back there and it just seemed dangerous. You could go the way of the little stream that fed the brook, but more than half the time the boys would go that way one of them would sink a foot. The quickest way and surest way with only a slight obstacle of easier to navigate pricker bushes was down the driveway of the green house. No one lived there for years. It was a secluded place and was in heavy rotation in games of man hunt.
One year and without warning, a group of the boys set out for another adventure down at the brook. They were ready for quick adventure. Get right into the pirating of the mighty brook. They took the easy stroll down the long narrow gravel driveway to get there. Both sides of the driveway were lined with tall shrubs that went all the way down it. Strolling and skipping and happy like they were on the yellow brick road, a quick new reality set in. Peering at them from the end of the driveway, solid black and beige and with no ears were two mighty Doberman pinchers. Four hearts dropped on the ground and were left as decoys when they turned and ran as fast as they could. Someone had moved into the house without telling them. The dogs barked and they ran faster. The days of exploring the brook were getting numbered. It seemed as though no one wanted them back there.
Jason became mesmerized at how peaceful the woods seemed. The haunting appearance this place in the summer was not made heavenly by all the snow. Peaceful, but still very uninviting. At least to this young explorer. Jason packed up his wits in his headed out up Wildwood Terrace.
He looked up the long road. It was a lot more appealing than the view behind him. A beautiful winter wonderland await in front of him. He quickly forgot about the boy behind the fence of the black house with the black dog who tried to beam him with snowballs and followed the tire tracks that led straight up the street. By doing this he was subconsciously leading anyone off his trail. He was invisible.
How many snow angels does one man need?
Jason headed up Wildwood Terrace, the street of snow. Everywhere he looked was truly a vision to behold. He saw all of this before though, but only in pictures. All the Christmas cards his family received this year all had pictures like this. Well, not all of them. Some had snowmen and snow women. A few with Santa Claus and his reindeer. They got lots of cards this year from all sort of relatives he didn’t remember or flat out didn’t know. One cards from an aunt that his mother said was very sick sent a card just to him. It had a picture of a snow angel on it. Well, it was a picture, a drawing of a little boy making a snow angel in his front yard. He would think of the picture, a drawing on that card a lot, especially when he was going to sleep. He didn’t know why. Maybe because there was five dollars in the card or maybe because he had never made a snow angel before. His little brother did it all the time, but he didn’t want to get snow down his neck like the one time that he fell down and that happened.
He was thinking about that snow angel after that narrow escape from the snow ball flying out of the yard of the black house. Thinking while walking that is. He passed the black house on the corner and knew that Todd’s house was one or two more up from there. His mother had given him the directions.
“Go to the bottom of the hill and make a right. A right hand turn. Show me your right hand. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. If you turn left you’ll head right into the creek.” Jason’s mother had said. They both laughed about him falling in the creek.
“The go two more houses past the black house. There’s a red house then it’s Todd’s house. Okay?” she said.
“Okay.” He said. She squeezed his cheeks with one hand.
“Now. Here are the rules.”
Jason sighed, but knew he had to look his mother right in the eyes or this would take forever. He knew this from experience and from a little tip from dad.
“You can play until it’s time for lunch. When he has to go in, you come home. Okay?” she said.
“Okay.” Said Jason in a deep breath.
“You do not go to the creek. I do not want you falling in and.”
“It’s called the brook. That’s what everyone calls it.” Jason said, interrupting his mother.
“The creek. The brook. Whatever. It will get you wet and give you hypothermia. With that said, you do not even think. Not one thought about going down by the lake. You don’t know how thick that ice is. If I find out you were even thinking about going down to the lake, your father will punish you good. Do you understand?” she said.
“What did I say?”
“Don’t go to the lake.”
“Don’t go to the creek. I mean brook.” He said in complete compliance.
“Good.” She said feeling satisfied. Little boys always listened to their mothers.
“Now go have fun in the snow.” She pulled his red and white striped scarf down to reveal his cheeks. She gave a big kiss and off he went.
Jason suddenly had the feeling he was being watched. Being that everything was so white, not all vision was crystal clear. He turned around thinking that the boy from the black house was sneaking up on him. He stopped in the middle of the street and looked everywhere. Maybe he was hiding behind the great big willow tree. All covered in snow, it reminded him of a Christmas Grimace from McDonald’s. A giant one though. Nothing. He looked for any sign of tracks in the snow. When he spun around, it was only then that he realized the trail he himself had blazed.
No tracks no people, no nothing. Ha, he thought. Maybe it was Todd. He looked in the direction of what was supposed to be Todd’s house and didn’t see anyone in the yard. His mom said he would be in the front yard. Maybe he had to go inside for a minute. Yet, he still had the eerie feeling that he was being watched. He scanned everywhere in the hues of white and more white. Then, he looked at the red house. In the second floor window, he swore that he could see a pair of eyes looking at him through the curtains. Not a head in the curtains, but it was like the curtains had eyes. Big red curtains just like the big red house. A shiver started at his toes and shook him slightly all the way to the back of his neck. He could even feel the hair on his head rise as much as they could being buried by all sorts of knitting.
He sort of shook it off and ran to where Todd’s driveway was supposed to be. He actually just followed the car tire tracks right into the driveway. So, it was his Dad that went to work. He thought. Then he brought things a little into focus when gazed across Todd’s front yard.
Snow angels. Everywhere. Lots of them. At least twenty of so. Snow angels holding hands. Snow angels with their heads touching each other. Snow angels in circles. It was amazing. Jason’s eye got big and mouth wide with amazement. He drank it all in and thought of the picture on the card that he got form his aunt. He wondered if there was money in any of them. He imagined the little boy on the card making all of these angels. He became lost in second grade wonderment. Then he saw angel beginning to fly. It was on the other side of the house, closer to the red house. He temporarily forgot about the eyes in the curtain. He kept staring the angel flying in the snow. The snow angel wasn’t flying up, just flying right there, still in the yard.
Jason ran up the driveway and towards where he thought the sidewalk should be. He didn’t even think of trying to run through the lines and circles of snow angels strewn about through the yard. He ran up the sidewalk, subconsciously stepping in the footprints that were already there and to the steps leading up to the front door of Todd’s house. He climbed the steps and began to turn around when a thump came and startled him.
Todd’s mom was knocking on the glass of the storm door.
“Hi. Are you Jason?” she said.
“Yes, Mrs. Gerard.” He said. “Is Todd h-h-home?” He was stilla bit shaken. It had so far been a very adventurous morning.
“He is right there. Making snow angels. Now go have fun.” She said.
It was Todd flapping his arms in the snow angel making another perfect one. Jason laughed and carefully made his way towards him. He certainly didn’t even think of wanting to step in one of these angels.
“Hey.” Jason said.
“Hey.” Said Todd. “You ever make a snow angel?”
‘No, the snow always goes down my back.”
“Oh. Okay. Want to go sleigh riding?”
“Yeah. I forgot my sleigh, though. I was thinking we could just build a fort or something.” Said Jason.
“Well, okay, but maybe later. I don’t want to ruin my snow angels. We can go to the hill anyway and take turns.” Said Todd. Then, “We can build a secret fort there too and load it with snow balls.”
Jason smiled. “Sounds good.”
Todd carefully lifted himself out of the final snow angel for that day and walked towards the sidewalk. He grabbed his sleigh from the side of the house and yelled. “Bye mom.”
He and Jason walked to the end of the driveway to where the beginning of his dad’s journey started. They both silently followed the tires tracks with their eyes. Out the driveway, into the street and down the street. To the corner and then left up the hill. Perfectly straight down the road. Jason didn’t mention the all the swerving his dad had done on the next street. About how he smacked all the snow off of the bush. They just remained silent for a moment.
Then Jason remembered the eyes in the curtains. “Todd, have you ever seen the eyes in the curtain?”
“Yes. We’ve all seen them. They watch to see if we cross into that yard.”
“What happens if you do? Are they real eyes?” said Jason.
“Yes. They are real eyes.” Said Todd. He started to look at the red house but then quickly averted his eyes. “Try to not even look at the red house. The eyes are always there.”
“What happens if you go into their yard?” Jason asked impatiently.
“Mrs. Steed comes out the front door and yells really loud. Let’s just go.”
Todd turned back one more time to marvel at all his snow angels. There had to be at least twenty of them. With his tiny body of a second grader, it was like an army of baby snow angels ready to save the world. Or at least little boys about to go sleigh riding. Todd whacked the snow off of the top of his mailbox and they began their trek up the blank street. Nothing but white.
Only a half hour later or so, Todd’s two younger brothers were finally ready for their reign of terror on Wildwood Terrace. It didn’t take them but mere moments to decide upon their first order of business. Stomp out every single snow angel that their big brother had made. It wasn’t out of spite. It wasn’t for the satisfaction of seeing Todd’s face when he got home. It was just because they were there. Mom was about to stop them, then just shrugged, thought otherwise and decided another cup of tea would be nice.
To have watched them utterly destroy twenty or so perfect little bodied snow angels was a spectacle to see. They kicked at the wings, slid through the heads and jumped on the feet. They rolled and punched and scooped and threw the angels everywhere. This pristine front yard with the twenty or so snow angels was now t easily the noticeable yard on the block. It looked as if a snow bomb went off. They laughed the whole time. Running back and forth, now throwing snow balls at each other. The middle brother, Thom, ventured too far into the next door neighbor’s yard. He didn’t see the eyes in the curtain. He nearly jumped a mile when he heard the scream.
“Get out of my yard Gerard!” screamed Mrs. Steed.
Both boys ran in terror to their side of the yard. It would only be a couple more years until they stopped respecting the eyes in the curtain. But for now, mom would come out and protect them.
“Shut your mouth Marie!”
Walking Up the Street with Too Many Clothes On
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Jason and Todd. Todd and Jason. Two brothers of the Skyline Lakes area in the sleepy mountain town of Ringwood, New Jersey. Population was thirty five thousand or so people of all mixes and inter mixes dating all the way to the revolutionary war. Once a great town of iron and little water mills, was now home to every facet of income. Ringwood Manor and Skyline manor were rumored to once have both been visited by George Washington. Ringwood became a summer home for the richest of the rich back I the day. All the wealthiest had a manor named for them or at least a lake. There were three major sections of Ringwood and for a small town it sure covered a lot of square miles. This was mainly due to the attachment of state parks and even a nunnery.
The three major areas of town were Skyline Lakes, Erskine Lakes and Cupsaw Lake. Actually one could call them the lesser areas of town. Where you lived gave a social status that was only learned by the caring of it later in life. Ringwood also had an area called Stonetown. They didn’t have a lake, so later they pooled their money and built one that was bigger than all the other lakes combined. The. There was the mine area. The original part of town. It was where the people who had lakes and manors named after them made all their money. The endless iron mines of Ringwood. In these parts were true
Appalachians. Blood of all who fought and stayed and loved and left. Blood of brother and sister and cousin and uncle. A place that parents horrified their children with. If you are bad, we will have to take you to the mine area. Mines to children were visions of open wells and fanged people who lived there.
All in all it was a beautiful little mountain town. Fresh air and lost people trying to make a better life than what they had. That story continues today.
In nineteen hundred and seventy five, keeping up with the Jones meant bigger board games and sleeker sleds. Jason got a real nice Flexible Flyer from Santa Claus this year. It was a big boy model, which meant it was taller than Jason standing up. His dad beamed proudly announcing that he spoke to Santa and he had a feeling this was the year that Jason was going to grow tall. His mother had a strange forced smile that agreed with her husband. It was all fine to Jason. This just meant he could definitely go faster than anyone ever before. He couldn’t wait to try it out. His dad had promised to take home to Shepard
S Lake on Saturday, but the boy was just itching fly like never before.
He would sit on the Flexible Flyer for hours on Christmas day, zoom zooming by the fireplace lost deep in pure imagination. His mother kept pre warning him that he need be very careful with that long sled.
“Remember, that sleigh was made for boys bigger than you, so you have to be extra careful going down those hills.” She said.
There were two hills at Shepard’s Lake. One was fairly safe. It was open and wide, with very few trees to crack your skull open with. It had a few steep areas, but she felt fairly confident that Jason could handle it. Oh course with his father riding with him. She didn’t tell him that part. The other hill was on the other side of the lake and it was a straight down wild ride. Last year, when she and her husband took the boys for a nice day of sleighing and hot chocolate in a thermos, she watched as children of all ages challenged the death defying drop.
Just another side of a hill on top of a mountain that led to a lake, this wide slanted plateau had every obstacle known to the sleighing world. Bumps big enough for ramps, giant boulders for guards rails and where there was nothing to guard the side a nice ten foot drop into the gravel drainage ditch. The bottom was also blocked with boulders so no one could drive their cars up the hill in the summer. So, one speeding at thirty miles an hour down this death hill would have to really put their boots in the snow to stop. She witnessed not one but three failed attempts at this. One attempt failed so badly that she could hear the cracking of his legs from fifty yards away upwind. And there was so much blood. Jason’s father hugged her close and covered Jason’s gaping eyes. Thank God, she thought, he really had no idea what was happening. They had to call an ambulance to come take him away on a stretcher.
Now, Jason’s father was promising to take Jason back there. Well, he wouldn’t be going on that hill.
But that hill was what Jason very much had in mind. He had the big boy Flyer and he was sure he could handle it. He would practice putting his feet out while sitting on the sled in front of the Christmas tree. He never said it aloud, so his mother had no idea. He would not be like the boy that had to be taken away on the stretcher. He would be ready. He would be able to stop. He needed a practice hill. A real practice hill. He would never be allowed to sleigh ride down his street. It was perfect. Steep and full of turns. The only problem was that you could never see the cars. Even he was wise enough not to do that. He never even dared ask his mother to do that. He had seen some boys try it back it November during Thanksgiving break, but the snow wasn’t deep enough. Besides, even then it looked crazy.
There was one hill, though. It was down the street and up Wildwood Terrace. He had never been on it, but heard it talked about on the bus. That kid Todd and Pete and Fred were talking about it. He sometimes sat next to Todd on this bus and seemed okay. Maybe he would show him where it was. He needed a plan. It was only the day after Christmas, so he knew he couldn’t go there today.
“Mom, when is it going to snow again?” Jason asked his mother.
“I think it’s supposed to snow tonight. When your father gets home, I’ll ask him to turn on the news and we’ll watch the weatherman.”
When his father did arrive at home at five forty five. The same time every day, unless there was an accident. He said he couldn’t believe there was an accident every third Thursday of month that made him two hours late for supper.
They ate supper and watched the news. Not only did the weatherman say there was going to be snow, but lots and lots of it. So much snow that his father said he was going to use a sick day and stay home.
Jason was antsy. He didn’t know how to ask or if he should ask. But he did ask.
“Mom, can I go sled riding on the hill down the block tomorrow?” asked Jason.
“What big hill?” she returned the question. Dad raised his eyebrows.
“That one up Wildwood?” he joined in with another question.
“Yes.” Said Jason, ending the circle of never ending questions.
He continued quickly, so they could ask any more of him. “I can go with my friend Todd. He lives right by there. I can go in the morning before anyone else and practice using my new sled.”
His father frowned. Not a disappointed frown, but still a little sad. He so wanted the boy’s first memory on the sleigh to be one with him. There was no way he wanted to stop the boy’s adventurous spirit, though. He moved his mouth hoping the correct words would just come out.
“Absolutely not.” Jason’s mother said. Relief was too mild of a word to describe the look on his father’s face. He did seem happier than he was than ever.
“mom.” Wailed Jason. “Why not?”
“You are not going to take that sled on a strange hill and bang it all up before you and your father can take it on Saturday.” She said.
“But mom, I’ll be super careful. I need to practice.”
She almost faltered. She almost gave in. She then had the perfect answer. “That sled is too big for that hill. I know exactly which hill you are talking about now and it is way too small for that sled.”
That sunk in. He hadn’t thought about that. She could be right. This sled was the biggest and fastest sled that flexible Flyer ever made. He might go too fast for the hill. Or the hill just wasn’t big enough for this sleigh.
Jason’s dad looked like he was going to say something that would help this thought process. Dad would know the best. He looked at his dad opening his mouth again is slow motion. Words were coming out. They would say that the hill is big enough. He would say that he should practice before they went to Shepard’s Lake. He would. He hoped.
“Your mother is right Jason. That sled is just too big for that hill.”
Jason thought he saw a hand reach out of his mother’s eye and give a high to a hand that came out of his father’s eye. Instead of reacting to that strange little vision, his actions were from the utter disappointment.
“Ok.” But then. “Well, can I still go over Todd’s early in the morning. Maybe we can just look at it.” He had nearly perfected puppy dog eyes and sympathy to get something else when he didn’t get what he really wanted.
“Alright. I’ll call his mom in the morning.” His mother said.
“First thing?” he asked.
“Why first thing?” she returned with another question.
“At least I can be first to walk in the snow.”
What the Butler Knew
Todd and Jason began to trot off and up the street layered in elegant ice crystals. Not all that is beautiful is lost on the young. Every glance was a pleasure. Everything seemed so right. Even for a second grader.
“Wait!” Said Todd.
“What is it my good man?” Proclaimed Jason.
“I forgot my snow sliding device.” Replayed Todd.
“My goodness dear fellow. I just don’t know where your mind is these days. One could surmise that you left your brain back there with the snow angels.” Said Jason.
They heartily laughed and Todd ran back to his house. Swish. Swish. Swish. The undeniable sound of snow pants.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back.” Todd said as he swished.
Jason was left in the middle of the road or the Terrace as the street had aptly named it.
Gazing in wonderment at the clean pure and untouched world of white he was about to embark on. No one. Not one soul had walked in this snow yet. They were the absolute first. The first people to explore this new land. A fresh coat of paint will make any room look new. He was happy for the moment and began to think of the snow angels.
“Hey! Check it out.” Said Todd.
Todd reemerged from the long line of shrubbery that divided his driveway from the property next door. Behind him he was pulling a sleigh on a long white piece of rope. First Todd then appeared the sleigh. A brand new shiny Flexible Flyer built for a big kid. The fastest model they make. The one Santa told dad that only he was brave enough for. Only a mighty boy such as he could take such a beast. This sleigh would make men from boys. He would be the first to take this shrew.
“Isn’t it great? I got it for Christmas. It’s the fastest one that they make. ” Said Todd.
“I cannot wait to test this baby out.” He continued. “Saturday, me and my dad are going to Shepard’s Lake. I’m definitely going to ride it down Suicide Hill.”
Jason’s heart dropped and his mind swirled with confusion. He wanted to scream out, but, but, but!
You can’t do that. My mom. And my dad said the hill was big enough for this awesome big boy sleigh. There was just not enough hill. Not enough hill. They said so.
“They said so.” Said Jason.
“What?” asked Todd.
“Nothing.” Said Jason. Then extremely casually and almost plaid, “I got the same sled for Christmas. I just didn’t think this hill was big enough for it. That’s why I left mine home.”
“Why wouldn’t a hill be big enough for the sled? If the hill is at least twice as long as the sled, I say that you can ride it.” Said a confident Todd with second grade math. Well, at least half a year of it anyway.
“I dunno. This just a big sled, that’s all.” Said Jason.
“Well, you can still try mine on this hill. Are you going to Shepard’s Lake?” asked Todd
Jason was suddenly reinvigorated. “Yes! My dad is going to take us on Saturday. I will probably see you there.”
“yeah. Hey we can race down Suicide Hill. We both have the same sleds, so it’ll be close.” Said Todd.
“Why do they call it Suicide Hill?” asked Jason.
“I dunno. I think because it’s really steep. I mean like, straight down. I think somebody forgot to stop once too and they smashed their sled up or something like that.” Said Todd.
Jason thought about it for a minute. Contemplated that suicide meant steep hill or smashing something up and said, “You are on.”
“Alright.” Said Todd. “Let’s go.”
They continued their walk to the big hill at the end of the block. It wasn’t the end, rather a bend or curve in the block. To get to this hill you had to walk between two houses. This was a slight gulley between the two. On one side was a one foot high stone wall and lots of shrubberies and the other was just a hilly of a yard. In the summer time they never cut their grass and there were toys and lawn mowers and things. The next house was the Darby’s, but they were higher on a hill. Now, though, with all the snow, the yard looked as beautiful and peaceful as all the rest.
It was so quiet on the street it was almost eerie. No one was out. Todd couldn’t believe it. There were kids he would play with from time to time in almost every single house on this block. A few lights were on in rooms assumed to be bedrooms or living rooms or kitchens. The boys guessed that everyone just slept late.
“I can’t believe that no one is awake yet.” Said Jason. “Doesn’t anyone like the snow?”
“I know. It is weird, but look on the bright side. We get to explore everywhere first.” Said Todd.
They were indeed the first to arrive at the big hill. Todd tugged the big boy Flexible Flyer all the way up to the top. At the top of this hill was the main road through town. Skyline Drive. Also at the top was a covered entrance to the drainage system for this part of the mountain. When they old enough and had a little more strength in those tiny muscles, they would be able to explore the underworld of a small part of town on the side of a mountain. For now, though, they realized the benefits of not being first on the big hill.
The snow was not packed. The rails went right to the ground and screeched on Todd’s first try.
“Ah, man.” Said Todd. Then he remembered what he had to do.
One time when he went on a family vacation to his cousin’s house in New York State, they all went sleigh riding. There were about twenty or so cousins, aunts, uncles and moms and dads. The snow was a lot like this. He remembered that they all had to form a chain and walk up and down the giant hill for what seemed like a hundred times. His second cousin’s dad told him that they had to pack the snow if they were to go really fast. He remembered how longed they walked up and down. Up and down. They were so tired after walking up and down so much, everyone took a break. They all went inside for a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. When they were down, they all went back outside. They all lined up across the top of the giant hill. It wasn’t too steep, but it was really long. Toboggans, Flexible Flyers, skis and garbage bags were all lined up with the family on them. One, two, three!
Everyone pushed off and sleighs and skiers and toboggans and garbage baggers all went flying down the hill. Fast, everyone went fast. It was Todd’s favorite snow time memory.
Todd explained to Jason what needed to be done. Neither one of them was particularly excited about the thought of doing this, but they had to practice for Suicide Hill. So, they began to walk up and down the hill.
“Hey Todd.” Said Jason.
“Yea.” Said Todd.
“Is your mom going to let you go down Suicide Hill?” Jason asked.
“Sure.” Todd said. He didn’t even think of that. “Well, I guess. Are you allowed?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t say anything. But it’s really high up. I remember seeing it in the summertime.”
“I don’t really remember how high it was. I went swimming there a couple time. I don’t think we went up there.”
Then Todd had a remarkably unwise thought.
“Hey, have you ever seen the cliff? That’s really high. Probably as high as Suicide Hill.” Said Todd.
“I don’t know if we should sleigh ride straight down off of a cliff.” Said Jason.
Todd laughed. “No, we can’t sleigh ride off of it. We’ll smash into the rocks and there’s houses at the bottom too.”
“Well, what then.” Said Jason.
“We could just go up there and look how high it is. We can leave the sled here. You know we will take a break from packing the snow. Then we’ll come back.”
“I guess.” Said Jason. He wasn’t convinced that it entirely a good idea. “It’s not by the lake is it? I am not allowed by the lake.”
“No. It’s not by the lake. But you can see the whole lake from up there. It’ll be awesome!”
You’ve Got to Hide Your Sleigh Away
“Let’s go to the cliff. “
The idea was definitely Todd’s. To him the idea seemed so brilliant. He would all the world. King of all that he could see. Mountains built high and high. Everywhere around him had a higher ground and he lived where the Hughes point was. To be able to see the world from the top of the cliff was an exhuberating thought. Wow and wonderment.
The sun would cast its beam down upon him and cast a great shadow across the valley. Maybe he could even make a bunny rabbit on the frozen lake. The lake was a good idea too. A quick talk with Jason about that one had foregone conclusions. There were strictly forbidden from entering the realm of the frozen lands for fear the ice monster still lurked in the deep waters. Even through the four foot thick ice that was covering with another layer of insulating snow, the creature could smell its prey. It could crash through the ice with a single smash, taking all that was around hi. To the deepest part of the lake.
Last summer they townspeople had drained the lake. Todd thought it was to search for the Skyline Lake monster. He got to see how deep it went. He was always curious as to where not only the monster went to hide, but where all the fish went. He guessed they all jumped over the dam to the lower lake. There was an upper and lower for everything in this town. You were never higher or lower than anything else. You could always find something to climb up to and something to descend into. Trouble was always afoot.
“What are we going to do with your sled?” Asked Jason.
“hmm, I guess we will have to find a place to hide it. I don’t want to bring it up there it lets go.” Said Todd.
“That would be awesome though to watch.” He continued.
They both chuckled heartily and agreed that they should find something to let slide off the cliff.
Todd picked a random spot on the side of the big hill. On either side were woods. They walked about ten feet into the woods and found a spot by a tree and a big rock. Todd looked around making sure he took mental photographs of the surrounding area. Then the two of them piled on the snow. They piled it high, thus no one would ever find it. Not ever in a million years.
What neither of them realized was the very obvious trail they had left. Two steps of footprints drudging through the snow, big trees with low hanging snow covered branches now snapped clean and then the huge packed pile of snow.
“Hmm, didn’t think of that.” Said todd. “It kind of looks like a snow fort.”
“Or buried bodies.” Said Jason.
I don’t think this is going to work. Said Todd.
I agree. Said Jason. He did agree. It was very obvious that someone had walked to this spot and buried something large. Although, you couldn’t exactly tell what it was, anyone would know that something was hidden there. With the amount of kids on this street, they both quickly realized that this wasn’t a great idea.
I really don’t think this is going to work. Said Jason.
They laughed again and Todd started to dig into the hand packed snow.
Geez, we really packed it. Said todd.
He scraped through the snow until he found the yellow plastic type rope that his dad tied on there. Todd pulled and yanked until the sleigh was free to ride the open mountains once again.
I think I know where we can hide it. Said Todd.
Everywhere is a hiding place when you are small. Being able to crouch down or curl yourself into a little ball. Place a leaf over a rock and magically it will disappear if that’s what you want it do. Stand still behind a tree and you become one with it.
They walk out of the woods and back onto the big hill. Jason turn and led the way back on the path between the two houses and along the rock wall. Todd dragged his sleigh right along behind them and began to think of gingerbread men for some reason. He always loved to look at them, but wasn’t really sure if he liked to eat them or not. They tasted a little weird. His dad said that they were a grown up cookie.
But why do they make them into little people. Asked Todd.
So you can eat them like Godzilla. Said his dad.
He never quite understood what that meant but he thought of it every time he had one. He would always eat the head last because they were still smiling. He didn’t know what that meant either, but he still did it.
Back onto Wildwood Terrace, Todd glanced to right and up the hill that led to the Darby’s house. He could see the lights on and knew his friends were getting up. The Darbys were all older than him, but they were his friends. They wouldn’t hit him with too many snowballs. There families would go on big picnics together up at Bear Mountain State Park. All the big kids would play football and little kids, such as himself would play manhunt in the forest. He was very good at hiding. Very good at disappearing when he wanted to. Not for any particular reason, he was just good it.
He looked up the steep driveway and was glad he didn’t have to shovel it.
Imagine if you had to shovel that driveway. Jason said. It was if he were reading Todd’s mind.
I was just going to say that. Said Todd. He continued. I would slide all the way down after every shovel. Hey, did you have to shovel before you left this morning? I had to just shovel my walk and the dog trail.
What’s a dog trail? Asked Jason.
Don’t you have a dog? Said Todd returning with a question.
No. My brother is allergic. We have some fish. Said Jason.
Allergic? Asked Todd. What’s that mean?
He gets all sick and can’t breathe around dogs. Said Jason. Mom says he might grow out of it.
Todd thought that was weird. He couldn’t fathom having that problem. How could you get sick just being around a dog.
Jason interrupted his deep thought. What’s a dog trail?
Oh, said Todd. It’s just a path you have to dig in your back yard so that your dog can go to the bathroom. I like to make a big trail around the yard for my dog.
Well, that explains the kids in his back yard at the black house with the black dog. Jason thought. That kid might be done soon and start looking to throw more snowballs at him. He’ll probably never find us, though.
Anyone could find either of the boys if they were looking in the least possible way. Trails of tiny footprints would lead them form their homes to the big hill to where they stood right now.
Right now they were standing at the foot of the big driveway that would lead them to the Ho Chi Min trail that would lead them to the cliff. They looked up the hill. The people who lived at the top of the driveway hadn’t left their home yet today. I guess they didn’t go to work today. That hit Todd suddenly. He hadn’t noticed any tire tracks coming out of any driveway the whole way here. He had read a lot of Hardy Boys mysteries and he was always looking for clues. Why was his dad the only one that went to work today.
Did your dad go to work today? Asked Todd.
No, he said he was going to call in a sick day. Said Jason.
I wonder why my dad didn’t call in sick today. Everybody else’s dad did. Said Todd.
Maybe he didn’t have any sick days left over. Said Jason.
Well, the dad in this house must have called in sick today too. He would ask his dad when he got home. Maybe he would just ask his mom when he went in later for hot chocolate and some lunch. He loved hot chocolate. Hopefully when he got home later his mom would let him have extra marshmallows in his hot chocolate. He wondering if she was enjoying all the snow angels he had made in the front yard. That seemed like hours ago.
Are we going to bring the sled up there? Asked Jason.
Yeah. We can just drag it to the top at leave it near the beginning of the trail that leads to the cliff. Said Todd.
There’s another trail at the top of this hill? Asked Jason.
This driveway was even steeper than the Darby’s driveway. It almost seemed to go straight up. You really had to walk at an angle to make it to the top. It was a lot longer too. Todd and Jason both thought of having to shovel it and shrugged. Whew.
When they first started up the driveway, everything seemed fine. One foot in front of the other, but soon they were slipping like crazy. Apparently there was a lot of ice on the driveway. What the didn’t realize was the ground was a lot colder off of the main road and beneath the six or so inches of freshly fallen snow was a thin compact layer of ice coating the ground. The hard plastic on the bottom of their with the little paw print traction in no way helped the matter at all. They were truly struggling to get up this driveway. Todd was having an even harder time keeping a hold onto the sled with the yellow rope.
In his shed in his backyard his dad had a giant roll of this yellow plastic rope. He didn’t know where it came from, but he did it in other dad’s garages and shed. He loved to watch his dad when he would cut off a piece of this rope. His dad would have to burn the ends so the rope didn’t fray. Todd was not allowed to try it. Todd also couldn’t figure out how to tie a knot with it. The rope was hard and unforgiving and very hard to bend. His dad was able to tie very tight knots through the holes of his Flexible Flyer in order to give him some rope to pull it with. Then his mom made his dad go out of the front porch to seal the knot with flames. He remembered her sighing and saying something about why he couldn’t do it the normal way.
Normal way. What normal way. This is better. It will last forever this way. His dad said as he flicked this thin that he called a bic.
The rope was on there for sure. The knots were melted together, so he didn’t ever have to worry about losing his sled. That is unless he let go of the rope. With his thickly gloved hand it was an easy thing for him to do. He slipped and fell on the steep driveway and when he went to catch himself, the sled escaped his grip. His hands hardly saved him, because they slipped too and his face fell into the snow.
Pfft. Pfft. That was sound he made spitting out the snow. He then turned his head to see where the sled went. Jason caught it with his legs and fell onto the sled. He then went for a short ride to the bottom of the driveway. They both starting laughing at the comedy of the situation. Without a second thought, they started heading back up the driveway. This time they climbed up the edges of the driveway. There was more of a gravel surface for them to get traction on.
Although they still slipped a little here and there, their quest to the top of the big driveway was complete. There they face the house at the top of the big driveway. A late sixties small two story home, just nestled into another side of the mountain. White with blue shutters, the place said house, just like in the story books. Fortunately for Todd and Jason, they had no idea of how much this house did not have a happy ending. For the story in it that is.
Truth be known, it was only two night before the big snow. Three days before Jason and Todd struggled to get up its narrow and steep driveway. It was on Christmas Eve that the dad of this house lost his mind. Lost his mind and killed his wife and infant son. Then he walked into the garage and ran a hose from the tailpipe of his car into the driver’s side window. A late sixties Chevy with a big block engine. It had enough power to make it over the mountain in any weather situation.
The morning of Christmas Eve, the man went to work like he always did. He worked at Willowbrook Mall. He was a security guard there for the arcade. Didn’t seem like much, but it paid well. Well enough to buy this storybook home on the top of a hill nestled into the side of a mountain. His wife’s dad died a few years back and left her a little money. Just enough to put the down payment on this house. She was also working in the mall. That’s how they met. She worked at Woolworths’ five and dime. Her dad was the General Manager there and that’s how she got the job. They met at one of the restaurants over a beer and the rest was history. They had a decent marriage and things were along fine until the baby. They didn’t realize how expensive the damn boy was to raise. He would eat and eat. Even at one year old. Eating all the time.
That day, there were cuts backs at the video arcade. The man lost his job. He was so very sad. It was Christmas Eve after all. He drove home slowly trying to think of something to say to his wife that would make it seems alright. His powerful late sixties Chevy made it over Skyline Drive with ease. He began to think about snow tires. He wished he had put them on last weekend as there was to be a big snow this weekend. The weather man had said so. People lived and died by what the weather man told them.
He knew the tires were in the garage. He hoped that they were still in good shape. His mind was really not on the shape of his snow tires. Yet, still he must think with a little bit of clarity. Even in these troubled times. The good jack was still next to the tires. At least he hoped. The good jack was a wedding gift from one of his buddies. He remembered his wife really not understanding the thoughtfulness of the gift. He convinced her that it was very practical and would save him a lot of time switching out tires when the seasons changed. More time for good loving, he would tell. He didn’t think she was really convinced. She thought all his friends were idiots anyway.
She never would have married a video arcade security guard, but in him she saw potential. He was also a writer. He would write her the sweetest love poems, of the like she had never read before. When she told him how much she loved his writing, he told her that he was working on a book. He even let her read a little of it.
“Just a little,” he said. “I’m not that comfortable with it yet.”
She read the little bit and thought it was absolutely the Bill’s Hand. When he would go to sleep after working for hours on the next great American novel, she would sneak and read it. Amazing, she thought. This truly was a great piece of literature. He was so brilliant though, that he never really thought anything of it. He would just write to get the stories out of his head, he said. They were truly the most romantic things she had ever read. Truly he would be the most brilliant love story writer of all time. Maybe they would make a movie about one of his stories one time. She could see Clark Gable starring in it.
Secretly, while he was out guarding the quarters and scouring the aisles looking for any signs of trouble, she was busy on her own. She did have their child to take care of. Boy, this boy sure did love to eat. The kid would eat anything and everything. He could gum through a steak like he had a set of knives. They were worried what would happen when he actually got his first tooth. The grocery bill was skyrocketing. Other than that, he was a good kid. He showed promise of being as talented as his father. They were both determined to make sure that this boy was going to go to college. To one of them writing schools. Something with a great education.
“Maybe he can be a great chef.” They both said at one time or another. That boy loved to eat.
His wife had a great idea. For months prior to this day of the morning of Christmas Eve, she had been putting together his stories and mailing them out to publishers. Random House, Clearing House, Scholastic and all the other big ones. She saw on Johnny Carson how one of her favorite authors got his deal. He said his put his story together, put a nice letter on the front and mailed it to all the big publishing houses. Nine months later, his baby got published. Literally.
She wanted to talk to him about doing that, because he was there when that episode was one. He said he didn’t think that he was good enough. No one would ever want to read any of his stories.
“But I love them.” She said.
“That’s just because you love me.” He said.
She did love him for the most part, but really did think his stories were top notch. She herself was an avid reader. She would go to the Ringwood Public Library once a week to get a new book. One time she caught jr trying to eat a book. From then on, the boy had to stay in the car while she looked for a new book. She always remembered to crack the windows, especially in the summer time.
Out of desperation one day, she hatched her plan. She knew that her baby was going to eat them out of house and home. Both of them. So, she knew they were going to need extra income. She couldn’t take her job back at Woolworths because they had no one to watch the baby. They also feared the boy would eat the babysitter. So that was that. She began to write letters by hand to all the publishers in New York City. She got the addresses from the library also. She also had to secretly photocopy his stories. She really didn’t want him to know what she was doing. Sometimes he came home from the arcade in a rage.
“Those darn kids!” he would scream. Then he would go to fix himself a sandwich and Jr had already eaten everything in the pantry.
“That darn kid!” He would scream again. Then he would go upstairs, lock himself in the bedroom and write beautiful love stories for hours.
She had no idea what he would do if he found out that she was doing this. So she photocopied and wrote letters all summer long. Each day she would walk carefully down their driveway to check the mail. She had a run down the driveway one time, but lost her balance and took a long tumble. She scraped her knees and bumped her head. She really hated that driveway. She really loathed the coming of the winter and that driveway. For some technical reason I can’t explain, it froze like a sheet of ice. Most days, they would have to park the car at the bottom of the driveway and try to manage their way back up. She would have to stock the garage with food, for fear of being trapped for weeks. She then had to padlock the garage so that Jr couldn’t get in there and eat everything in one day.
Each day in the fall, she would walk carefully down the driveway to the mailbox. The mailman came just about the same time every day. She would even walk with Jr down the hill. The climb back would make him so tired that he would sleep until the next day. Those were the nights she and her husband were able to eat a meal in peace. It seemed like all her hard was not going to pay off. She had even given up hope and stopped mailing his stories out to publishers.
Maybe her husband was right. Maybe she did only love these stories because she loved him. Maybe the stories weren’t that good. She didn’t know what was right anymore. Until one day, she got a letter from Publishing Clearing House. It was the day before Christmas Eve. What a grand gift! She thought aloud and swung a giggling hungry baby around in circles. I shall tell him on Christmas Day. What a glorious gift.
She read the letter over and over again.
We certainly loved your book. We would like to publish all your works and make you very rich.
She almost couldn’t wait to tell him even though Christmas was only a day or two away. Maybe she would tell him on Christmas Eve. She could put a note in his stocking. Yes, that was the perfect way to do it. So that’s what she did. That morning when he left for work, she fed the baby, hid the rest of the food and then put the letter in his stocking. She even made the house all nice in reds and greens and lots of nice candles.
When he got to work that, things began as normal. There was no one there because the mall wasn’t open yet, but he had to get ready. The mall was going to filled with last minute shoppers. And these moms in reindeer sweaters and fuzzy boots would be shopping with furor. These moms also would want their children to see what they were getting at the last minute, so there was only one place that they could go. To the arcade.
He did his normal pre opening routine. Checked the bathrooms, flicked on all the lights switches, then powered up the games. The place came alive. All the beeps and whistles and electronics hues of yellows and red, made him boyish with excitement. He walked around the places and made sure all the games were on. His favorite was Skee Ball, but the new fascination was with all these electronic games. He didn’t see a future in them, but the kids sure pumped a lot of quarters in them. This place a gold mine.
The actual police report of what happened that morning mysteriously disappeared from all newspapers and few witnesses actually survived. From one bystander, who wanted to remain nameless said it was a pure horror. Pure horror. A mom dropped off a group of kids at the front door. He remembered seeing her hand them each a five dollar bill. That was a lot of money for kids their age. There had to be about fifteen or twenty of them. So, them all walk into the arcade. I get curious, because I haven’t seen that kind of dough in quite a while. I follow them in. Now, what happened next took place in the matter of minutes. No one had time to react. The women didn’t even have time to scream. I didn’t have time to rebutton my trousers. For some reason the change machine was down. The kids then went to the manager demanding quarters. There must have been some sort of miscommunication going on, because no one had any quarters.
The kids weren’t happy. Not happy at all. They start screaming and tearing up the place. Knocking over the parlor games was the least it. I ran to down but not before I see one of the kids smashing into the change machine. Suddenly, there quarters everywhere. I knew that I was better off getting out of there. Suddenly, I hear shots. Six shots, I tell you. Then six more. Then six more. The guy in there killed every one of those kids. He had to reload and shoot more. Twice he reloads.
Everything goes quiet after that. Then, like a thunder cloud from Zeus himself, I hear a great big, You’re Fired! Moments later, a security guard walks out with his head hung low. He walks to his car and just drive off.
Yes, that was the last that they saw of the Willowbrook Mall arcade security guard. He walked to the far side of the parking lot and jumped I to his late sixties model Chevy. He always parked far out so he could get a clear vision of the entire mall. He would soak it in and get the vibe of the mall.
The drive home didn’t take long, although it was still an hour away. It normally took him two hours to get home from work but since today he was leaving early for being fired from his job because he shot twelve or so teenagers and rush hour wasn’t for another few hours, he made great time. The whole way home he worried about what his wife would think. Fired on Christmas Eve. It would be weeks before he could find another job, let alone a security job. It weighed heavily on his mind.
“If only those kids weren’t in such a hurry, they would have gotten their stupid quarters.” He shouted out loud. He banged his palms on the steering wheel. He noticed the powder residue on his gun hand. “Now I have wash that off.”
During the hour it took him to drive up route 46 and then over to route 23 then around the circle and into Pompton Lakes the towards Ringwood Ave he had nothing but terrible thoughts. Where would he go? What would he do now? How would he feed his garbage disposal son?
If the car ride home were a little longer, maybe if there was traffic or if it wasn’t Christmas time, he might hAve had time to sort through it. But when he got home and saw there was no food in the house, he just lost it. Without a word he went and shot his wife and his baby. He then knew the only thing left was to the gun on him. Without hesitation he put the gun up under his chin and pulled the trigger. Click. Click. His gun was empty. He reached into his pocket for more bullets. There were none left. They were all in the bodies and brains of twelve or teenagers.
“Damn kids!” He yelled and went to the garage. He ripped the dryer exhaust hose from its holders and duct taped it to his exhaust pipe of his late sixties Chevy vehicle. He then put it into the window of the back seat and sealed it shut. The he sat I the front seat and cranked the engine. The car was still warm and he had a half a tank of gas. Turning on some sweet early seventies music on the am dial, the carbon filled exhaust lulled him to sleep.
When the two young big driveway climbers looked into the windows of the house at the top, they had no idea of the three bodies that lay inside. They were more concerned about making themselves invisible as they passed. You never wanted to been crossing through someone’s yard that you didn’t know. That was considered trespassing. He knew the term well from crossing into the Steed’s yard from time to time. The eyes in the curtains would flutter like a trapped bird, then the window would fly open and then it would begin. The tirade of obscenities accompanied with the word ‘trespasser’ and something about suing. All the boys from the block learned most of the curse words not found in the dictionary from Mrs. Steed. Todd could never figure it out. He would go to their house at least once a year on Halloween. Indisguise, he would get to see the candy that they gave out. He dared never collect for unicef there. Besides, it was his brothers that she was really after. Todd was just better at sneaking across the lawn without being seen.
It was a game to him. Outwit the eyes in the curtain. You would have to walk out to the mailbox and pretend you were getting the mail. Then sort of walk towards the red house on an angle, towards the big tree. The big tree was the imaginary line that divided the properties. It wasn’t exact, because Todd would have to mow all the way around it. It was weird how line changed when it was necessary.
Crouching low and whispering was the key today. The snow should help with the invisibility. It was impossible to be seen from the house when climbing the driveway because the driveway made a sharp right and then back aways to the house. Once you did make it to the top, you were out in the open. It didn’t matter which season it was, you were huffing and puffing from that steep climb. Still, you had to into invisibility mode. It was more of just a reflex, because the people of the house never said anything. Todd had come up here in the summer and when he appeared from the Ho Chi Min trail he wasn’t thinking and nearly ran right into the man of the house. He said hi before Todd and his friend had a chance to run. It made them strangely uncomfortable to not be scrammed out of there. Still, it was always better to be safe than sorry. His dad taught him that, but he was never sure which one of two he was doing.
The property line of the home had a wall around it. Actually it was just an area carved into the side of this part of the mountain. It was a really neat little hide away and you could go to the cliff every night if you wanted. If it just weren’t for the steep driveway they would have to climb every day. From the big driveway there was a little path that you had to half walk and half climb. It was easy enough, but Todd had the sled with him. He wasn’t sure if he should just leave it in their yard. He just couldn’t risk it being taken away. That would be big trouble at home. So, he dragged it up the rocky path. When you got to the top of their property wall, you were in plain sight, but it didn’t matter because you weren’t on the property. Technically, you made it. You were then free to go one of two ways. The little path became a trail. One way, which was left, went to the Ho Chi Min trail and the other went to the cave.
“Maybe we should just go to the cave. We can see a lot from there.” Said Jason.
“Well, we can get to the cave from the cliff. There’s another trail over there, you know.” Said Todd.
“Yeah, I know.” Said Jason.
He didn’t know. He had only been up here once before and wasn’t sure which way to go right now. Neither one of them could see any trails at all. Everything was covered in snow. Just for them to turn around and take in the view from where there stood was breathtaking in itself. They could see all the way down the big hill and the whole back of the block. There were about ten or so homes on the back of the block. It was just the extension of Oakwood Drive.
Todd wasn’t even sure where the secret entrance to the Ho Chi Min trail was. He did in the summer. He knew it was around a bush and a tree, but everything was a wall of white. He had a general idea and he figured they could just make a trail. It wasn’t far at all and you would come to the great wide opening that was the cliff soon enough. He made a guess as to where the Ho Chi Min trail began and pushed through with Jason following. They both got a blast of snow from snapped limbs and shaken bushes.
From there, Todd recognized the back and forth pathway between trees and up more rocks that was the Ho Chi Min trail. Todd wasn’t sure why it was called the Ho Chi Min trail. His friend Pete would always go on about it. SO with that he figured that he named it. He knew it had something to do with war, but he wasn’t really sure. Pete must have learned about it in school. Todd sure hadn’t or at least he didn’t remember if he had. Pete was a grade above him so that was probably why. He hoped that Jason didn’t ask him about the name of the trail. He could just tell him that it was named a long time ago and no one knows why it was named that. It wasn’t a difficult trail, but it did involve some climbing and in some parts it was very narrow. It wasn’t really a trail for a second grade boy to be dragging a sled. Especially not to the top of a cliff. He wished he would have left it at home.
“This is a pain.” Said todd to Jason about the sled. “But there’s the fireplace and I could leave it there.” He highly doubted that anyone would be up there today. Anyway, the sled wouldn’t be out of their sight. Not for long anyway.
He had his sights set for the Flexible Flyer sleigh. He knew the perfect place to keep it. At the top of the cliff near the outer band, there was a big round boulder that was split in half. It opened up like two palms of a persons hands. Thus at the bottom of this cracked egg like fireplace were the signs of many fires had been burned there. Todd and his friends figured that Indians had burned these fires long ago. Nary a thought to stoned teenagers with a case of Budweiser nips passed into the innocent minds. They thought that they could read ancient writings on the sides of these rocks, but the real treasure for indian cave writings was the actual cave. For now, though, the fireplace would be the perfect place form the sled. He could hide it behind it, but then thought better of that. Once again, there would be footprints and sleigh tracks leading right to the spot. No matter, that was were he would park, that sleigh and then breathe in the incredible winds that skirted over the top of the cliff. He and Jason would soak in the view that lasted forever and dream of being birds. Or something like that. Todd was in a heavy daydream when he heard Jason huffing and puffing extra heavy.
“what’s the matter?” asked Todd.
“Are we there yet?” asked Jason right back at him.
“If you ask one more time, I’ll turn this car right around young man.” Said Todd in a deep man voice.
They both laughed because it was a familiar saying in both of their households. Every trip to anywhere sort of had that scenario to it.
“Anyway, he we are.”
They both stepped through the final clearing, Todd dragging his sled. They were both silent for a long time and stood perfectly still.
“See.” Said Todd. “I told you.”
A Fall with a View
The only thing higher were the trees. The wind had delighted them and bared there brilliant greens for the mighty pines. The oaks and dogwoods had all lost their leaves, so the missing snow made them reveal their age. Tall standing and naked like old men, still proud and noisy. The limbs covered in ice and age, just a resting place for weary flighted travelers. The heavy snow still clung to the west side of the trees. So there they stood guarding the entrance to the cliff, a giant rock uncovered.
The cliff was more than a sight to behold. The many layers of the giant exposure were blindingly to be made to look as one. It was so inviting and so pure, that the boys didn’t even want to make a single step onto it. Todd wished for a moment that he had his camera. His mom would really like to look at it. Jason, for some reason, wished that he had his sleigh. He became longing for his Flexible Flyer that lay pristine beneath his Christmas tree. He wanted to ride this hill. It didn’t seem to be a cliff to him all of a sudden. He wanted to ride the sleigh and stop at the edge.
The cliff was fifty yards of exposed mountain. A giant slab of granite tucked into the Ramapo Mountains. The reward for the adventurer was a grand view of Skyline Lakes and all the homes around. It wasn’t the highest peak by no means. Just the view across the lake proved the mountains went higher still and behind them through the trees and rocks were mountains higher still. It was a glorious age before developers began to run out of land.
The cliff was about fifty square yards by fifty square yards. In the summer, when you could see the actual rock, boys and girls in their teens liked to smash bottles everywhere. Not only did they like to smash bottles on this beautiful slice of nature, but they also spray painted everywhere also. Big bands names like Rush or Pink Floyd or Steely Dan (who everyone knew sucked) or even the Who.
Author’s note: For the second time in as many times I have come to a café to type words, my body has decided to play games with me. As I sit here, I have gas of the epic most proportions. This happened Saturday, also and that place was completely silent. If I get up, it will all go away. If I were home or in my car, my tales wouldn’t even bother to be here. Thank you for sharing. Before I go and in case I forget to tweet this, I want to share about buying coffee. I bought a coffee from Dunkin Donuts. No big deal. My change was twenty cents. No big deal. Two dimes. One was an American dime and the other was a Canadian dime. I noticed this because I notice things and I brought it to the attention of the cashier. I told her about the foreign dime. She didn’t understand. I showed her and told her. I said I would like an American dime, not for any reason save for Nationalism. She said, “but it says ten on it.” Thank you to somebody. I just wanted to use some words here. And boy I have gas.
There really is no place to escape the graffiti or the garbage in this world. Even way up there, so near to the sky, destruction finds a way. When you are not looking, though, nature finds a way to get back at you. Even if you are not the culprit.
Today there was no sign of bad spray paint jobs of bad bands or even the good ones. There was no fear of falling on broken beer bottles. Everything was buried in the snow. Nature even provided a second layer of protection from the gang signs and the broken bottles. A thick sheet of ice covered nearly all the rock that was the cliff. Any steps on the flat plat of the cliff would make the ice unnoticeable as the snow would crunch and provide amble traction for your next step.
Todd and Jason took some steps towards the edge. There weren’t too close yet. They only took a few step on the flat part on the ledge. How marvelous they felt. They could feel the sense of danger, yet never for an instant thought that they were both in real peril.
“I’m going to sled it.” Said Jason.
“Are you crazy? You’ll fall right off the edge. It goes straight down you know.” Said Todd.
“we can stop at the edge. Look. There’s a bunch of bushes that can stop us.” Said Jason.
There were a bunch of bushes right at the edge of the cliff. They were close enough to see but still at least thirty yards away. It was very unclear about the reality of this situation.
“It’ll be like practice for Suicide Hill. You said that you were going down it tomorrow. You need practice.” Said Jason.
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll go first.”
“I just don’t think that it’s a good idea. We should check it put first.” Said Todd. “and besides, you don’t even have your sled. I don’t to lose mine off the side.”
Jason was beginning to get really warm in his multiple layers of polyesters and cotton like materials. He wasn’t sure of the emotion that he was feeling. His face felt flush and his neck was all sweaty. He wasn’t sure if he was mad. He hadn’t felt this way but one time before at his cousin Ralph’s house. They had a brand new pool installed in their backyard and Jason really wanted to go swimming. Ralph’s dad, Jason’s uncle said the water wasn’t ready because of the chlorine. He said that their eyes. Might burn out. There was no way that Jason’s eyes were going to burn out. He had brought his goggles and his swim trunks to the party and he was ready for diving into the deep end. Jason’s heart was set on it from the moment he woke up that morning. Mother had promised. Dad didn’t care because it was his wife’s family. He would just sit back and drink beer and eat corn on the cob.
When Jason’s little heart was set on something, he couldn’t let it go. He was mad, heart broken, jealous, and enraged all at the same time. It wasn’t a feeling he could control, but it also was hard to detect. His face would just be stern and focused, his breathing would become slightly shallow and his fists would lightly clench and unclench. Noticeable to someone directly interacting with Jason, but scarcely would anyone bat an eye.
“I want to go down the hill. I want to use your sleigh.” said Jason.
Todd noticed the tone first and was about to tell Jason that he could put a rubber hose up his nose, when he looked into his eyes. Todd was drawn into his eyes. Deep past the first glance, deep into his soul. It wasn’t evil that he saw. He didn’t even think evil until he thought about it. There was something terribly amiss in Jason’s soul. Not evil, no. It was confusion. He could almost see Jason’s brain trying to make sense of his thoughts, but quickly losing grasp of each one. In his mind, his arms began flailing and reached blinded for anything to grasp onto to and just swapping all good thoughts to the wayside. The boy in his mind was calling out for help. Tears of a lost child inside his mind.
“Ok.” said Todd. He peered deeper into Jason’s eyes.
“Okay?” asked Jason. He was taken back for a moment and then noticed Todd staring at him. “Why are you staring at me?”
“No reason, I just didn’t hear you.” said Todd. “Just let’s do one thing before you go. Let’s just make sure the bushes are strong enough to hold you. I also want to see how far my sled will fall down in case.” He spoke slowly. “Just in case you let go of it.”
There was never a thought about Jason going over the cliff because in the logic that was a second grade logic, the bushes would stop him.
Todd could see a dial in Jason’s mind starting to turn. “It won’t take long. I’ll even do it and you can have the sled ready. You just have to wait for my call.”
“I don’t think I have to wait.” said Jason. “But, ok.” The look in Jason’s eyes didn’t dissipate quickly as it had done the last time. Todd just shook his head and began towards the first drop on the cliff.
The top of the cliff had three levels and somehow I had to learn how to explain it. There was the top of the cliff, a long flat plateau type of area. This is were the fireplace was and the border of trees. Then as one would walk down past the flat area, the cliff took a forty-five degree slant to another flat area. Although, after the very top of the cliff, nothing was actually flat. Every where slanted towards some point of the edge of the cliff. After the second flat area is was a slightly rounded and slightly steeper area that led right up to the edge of the cliff. At the very edge were the bushes and a very narrow area that one could label as a trail and in fact it was. It was called Billy Goat’s Gruff after some fable or story book because it was like a mountain goat’s path that they saw in a National Geographic along with some naked people that confused the poor boys sexuality.
Todd didn’t think twice about actually making it, he just found out rather quickly about the thick layer of ice that was beneath the snow. Slipped backwards right onto his behind.
Where Did All the Snow Angels Go?
There are times in ones life when pure adrenaline is needed to wake up the soul. It is why I encourage my children to go through a haunted house, although I am scared witless also. It is why when someone yells ‘boo’ from around the corner and your heart stops and the. Leaps from your chest. The adrenaline created instantaneously through your blood stream is so powerful, nothing of you is in control anymore. You either jump a mile and most likely you scream. It’s funny to hear yourself scream if you hadn’t heard it in a long while. Guys will discover their inner little girl and be insecure the rest of the day.
When you lose yourself to an adrenaline rush, your body does an amazing thing; it goes into survival mode. Arms will instantly protect the area of potential danger, your knees and thighs will become shields of honor for your most private of areas and your feet will begin to lead you. Where your feet lead you is not always the best place, as can be noted in any horror movie, but they have the best of intentions.
A good, safe scare is the most fun. It is almost a complete flushing of your body’s stored up emotions. Everything that you know or knew at that moment is gone. Quickly scrubbed away and hosed away in your scream, yelp or in more embarrassing situations, out the back end. Most of these will end with hearty laughter save for the latter. Then, you are experiencing undeniable embarrassment and a stinky behind.
It is better than coffee, an energy shot, pea soup or chocolate. It is the train horn when you are falling asleep at the wheel. It’s your good morning sunshine for your soul. Some people can not control themselves when this emotion happens. Some get angry, most laugh, and then there are others that channel this energy into something useful. Some might lift a car off of grandma in an awesome display of strength. Others, well, it depends on the others. Everyone is different in a mix and match sort of way. We all have the basics, but some interpret them differently.
When Todd took his first steps towards the second plateau of the cliff, he felt his feet fly out beneath him. They just shot right out towards the edge of the cliff. For a second, he wasn’t sure if for the mere moment before he had felt something push. It might have been a quick shove. A hurry up and get moving type of shove or an I hate you type of shove or it was just something that was all in his head. The feeling of being pushed was instantly replaced by fear. By adrenaline fueling fear. By a sudden moment of all the confidence that he possessed a moment ago was replaced by hard core uncertainty. He watched his boots with the paw print action traction on the bottom go up above his head in an odd slow motion fashion. Snow sprayed every which way and he lost all depth perception and grasp of his bearings. In that slow motion moment, the cliff became very real to him. It was suddenly a being. A great being that could hurt him. That would hurt him. He was no longer in control. Then he landed on his butt. Hard.
Pain was about to make its way through all the nerve endings in Todd’s body and celebrate loudly in his brain, but the brain blocked everything. The brain needed panic to set in, because that is what it needed to do. Adrenaline was flowing like mad and rational thoughts went and hid behind his left ear. The only thing Todd’s brain knew to do at this moment was to block pain and just let panic take over. Todd went wild eyed for a whole lot of moments trying to find himself in the snow shower he had flung upon himself. Even for a moment, the boy couldn’t figure where was up. He felt like he was at the bottom of his pool for a moment wrapped in layer after layer of constrictive clothing. After his behind made a crash landing, his back rolled and he hit the back of his head. The impact was lessened by the big fuzzy hood, the sweatshirt hood and the knit hat. His scarf most likely held his neck in place through these moments, but it did flap up and catch a scarf full of snow and ever so gently mush it in Todd’s face.
Blinded, battered and bruised, Todd’s body did one more thing. It began to slide. Very slowly. SO slowly, that Todd did not notice at first, but his flailing about trying to get some bearing on his situation was not helping in the least. Jason, meanwhile, was flabbergasted at the whole scene and stumbled backwards and his vertical ability was save only by the fireplace. He watched in slow motion the same as Todd felt it in slow motion. Being his emotions were so balled up in another way for not getting his way, that it took some unraveling of his mind to make himself of any good use.
“Ow how ow.” cried Todd. “That hurts.” His tucked and layered body began to twist around and he was pulling his clothes tighter beneath the outer layer which was his parka. His clothes were all beginning to knot up tighter as he twisted himself around. His arms were twisted, his behind sore but not in the pain it should be and he was temporarily blinded in the snow. He attempted a move to flip himself onto his belly and with one hand, wipe the snow and the scarf from his face. He was only successful in flipping himself over. Somehow, he compacted the snow into his eyes.
“AAA, I can’t see.” Todd yelled. He was truly sensing the panic that his brain sent to him, but was only just starting to realize his situation.
Now, laying on his, belly, he tried get the rest of his body free of the clenching clothes. It was as if the boy were wearing a strait jacket. Shift, wiggle and shift and wiggle. The clothes were starting to feel better, but he also felt himself starting to slide. Instead of grasping for something, he cleared his eyes with everything he had. It was a frustrating thing to do with thick mittens. Thick brand new blue mittens with a red stripe that were lying wrapped beneath the Christmas Tree only days before. It took some work and a lot of dry spitting snow from his mouth.
Clearing his eyes finally, he looked up. He could see Jason walking slowly towards him, shuffling his feet so that they wouldn’t leave this God’s snowy earth. I guess him didn’t want to flip on his butt, Todd thought. What he also saw was a long body drag print in the snow. He was a least ten feet away from Jason now. He was sliding down.
“Hey. You are sliding down. Try and get up.” Said Jason. it finally sunk into him that this was not a good idea at all. Todd was sliding down the cliff and he could feel the ice now. He felt it when he slid backwards. He wasn’t reaching full blown panic mode just yet,, as his emotions were still disheveled. He knew that Todd could just get up walk back to him. He was sliding so slow. Certainly he could get up. The only thing that Jason was certain of was that he wasn’t going down there. He had a quick idea.
“Grab onto the sled. I’ll hold the rope.” Said Jason. He had seen a save like this on the Wonderful World of Disney. Davy Crockett had saved his friend this way from a well, a mine shaft and even a man hanging off the side of a cliff. Jason shuffled his feet two steps or so and slid the Flexible Flyer towards Todd. The Flexible Flyer that was made for big kids was only four foot long. With the yellow rope that Todd’s dad tied to it gave it an extra three feet or so. Todd was more than twelve feet away.
“I can’t reach it. Come closer.” Said Todd.
“I can’t. I’ll slip too. Try to stand up.” Said Jason.
Todd was going very slow and steady. He thought that he could stand up. He hadn’t thought of that before. Panic just told him to hold on, we are going for a ride.
This Mountain is High Enough, Thank You
When you become helpless, you become afraid. You just want to shut down and close your eyes and make it all go away. Curl into a ball under your covers, use it as a shield against all that is wrong. You want to be able to cry. You want to scream for your mommy and you want your daddy to reach out a hand and pull you free. You want to hide behind a rock, stand still against a tree, duck under a bush and ride away on a giant horse.
Your hands are tied. Your feet are bound. You can’t scream. Your breath has be taken away from you. You are underwater tied with heavy weights sinking into a bottomless well. You were pushed off a cliff.
The cliff wasn’t the highest cliff ever. Some may not even call it an official cliff. The kids in the area all called the giant hunk of granite that landed here from outer space a million years ago a cliff. It had a large area that were straight down. A good thirty foot drop or so that went into a pile of boulders that then went a few trees and then the houses that lined the opposite side of the street from the lake. A mere scene in a snow globe trapped forever in one boys mind.
It wouldn’t be that hard for someone to fall off this cliff if they were really trying. There did happen to be all sorts of obstacles that blocked your way down. There was the sporadic growth of bushes and a small tree. The small tree just up and decided that it would grow right on the edge of the cliff. The daring adventurer might one time or another hold onto that small tree and stretch him or herself out into the open air. A Tarzan bellow would be sure to follow. King of the jungle. From that small tree towards the north and about ten feet or so was the secret entrance towards the cave. I was another big boulder that at one time, possibly the ice age, settled within a foot of another big boulder with a smooth side. Or rather, a flat side. Between these two rocks was the beginning of a trail that led all the way over to the cave, which was another hundred or so yards away. This pathway was easier to get to in the summer when there wasn’t a thick layer of ice covered by six inches of powdered snow. One really just needed to worry about the broken glass every where.
Now, to the south of the little tree were a few bushes. From there it was all rock until you hit the woods again, but this area way a little different. The view wasn’t so spectacular from this area of the cliff because it was enveloped by tree tops. The mighty oaks in spring and summer would hid all that was below with it’s array of leaves. If you could plan it right, one might be able to jump from the edge of the cliff onto one of these trees. The brilliance of this idea was always thwarted by common sense. If you made it, you would have to wrap your arms around the tree. If you were able to wrap your arms around the tree, you would have to plan a way down the tree. All the limbs of the mighty oaks of New Jersey were at the top. You would have to shimmy your way down thirty feet or so. As the mighty oaks of New Jersey were also with girth in the diameter department, your palms couldn’t grasp one another. It would be a very strenuous and uncomfortable journey to the base of the tree. Granted, this is assuming you successfully maneuvered the ten feet or so jump to the tree.
The area or this part of the cliff was also uncomfortable in the way it was more of a rounded area. It was great for tagging your favorite band name because no one ever stayed there for long. It just wasn’t a comfortable spot.
So, the young lad, hardly a semester in the second grade, barely a taste of the great adventures life has to offer was back up and sliding off of a cliff. He wasn’t to the edge yet, so there was still time for a rescue. He would stop sliding any second now and then he would be able to get up and walk to the side where the woods met the giant boulder that over looked the lake.
Jason’s failed attempt at fantasy flexible flyer rodeo, didn’t altogether discourage Todd. Although, it didn’t make him feel any better. Working through his surges of panic and helplessness, he searching achingly for reason. He was a smart fellow. His grandmother always told him so. A bright young man is he thinks he’d remembered her putting. He’s a smart one, another relative would say. Remembers everything. Straight A student? Don’t doubt it for a moment. His parents agreed with all of these people. He had a feeling that he was smart, from all that was told to him. Nowmhemhad to figure out a way to channel those smarts. A good memory? Todd was trying to think of what he could remember. Something that would get him out of this situation. It reminded him of a Scooby Doo episode. He couldn’t remember which one, but someone was falling somewhere and they needed help. What did they do? There were just too many thoughts to handle at one time. Well, let’s try this.
“Jason.” Said Todd. He called out without looking up. He was trying to hug a big flat surface of ice.
“I’m here.” Jason said. If his face were visible to Todd, it would have shown despair and a touch of cluelessness.
“I need help.” Said Todd. His father taught him to only ask for help when you need. Just see if you can do it yourself first. Sometimes, there’s no one around to help you. He was glad this wasn’t one of those times. He was really beginning to feel like he needed a lot of help.
“go over there in the woods. See if you can find a long branch. A real long one. I’ll try to work my way over to the edge.” Todd said. It wasn’t a bad plan. It probably would be much easier to execute if it were summer. He had no idea where Jason was going to find a long branch. He knew they were out there though. They were everywhere in these woods.
Jason headed around to the edge of the woods. This was where the upper trail was. This also led to the cave. It also had a big boulder a marking point. They always just thought that this is where the Indians put everything. They never realized that a million or so years ago the whole planet was sliding around and sort of settling in with itself.
Todd watched as Jason shuffled his feet all the way over to the edge. As he watched , he readied himself and tried to get into position. He couldn’t actually figure out how to get his body over there. Every extra move he made with his body only resulted in him sliding down. He just couldn’t get that too stop. He tried digging his fingers into the ice below the snow, but his mittens did not produce enough sharp edges or even any heat. The mittens were just getting colder and becoming ice themselves. Trying to slide shuffle sideways, with his knees didn’t help either. He just kept going down. He was beginning to get frantic.
“Jason. Hurry!” he screamed. But Jason was still looking and dredging through the deeper snow on the side of the cliff.
“I’m looking.” Called Jason. He was looking hard. All the things he saw were white. He was snow blind. He began kicking the snow, hoping something would just appear. Looking left and right and up and down, nothing was coming to him. He turned and looked at Todd for a moment.
Watching a kid so desperate was in a way very pathetic. Like a fish that was left out of water. He could stand over it and decide its fate. The boy in the blue knit hat with red stripes, the boy with the blue mittens and the blue puffy coat, the boy with the brown boots
He stared at the helpless, feeble and little boy about to plunge to the bottom of the cliff. What a sight or behold. They would have to take him to the hospital and put him in a full body cast. One leg and one arm would be suspended in the air. He’d seen it plenty of times. Anytime that something went wrong like a car accident, someone falling down the stair or even someone toppling off a mountain from a skiing high jump catastrophe, smash cut to a hospital and they would be in a full body cast. So he could watch the pathetic boy who finally couldn’t do it himself, fly off the side of the mountain. What if he could fly? He doubted it, but he bet that he could fall. He bet that the boy would sail down forever, waving his arms and legs in a frantic mess. Maybe he would even try and run in mid air just like Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny the cartoon.
“Aaaaaaa. Hurry, please. I’m sliding faster.” Said Todd.
But this wasn’t a cartoon. When he falls, he won’t automatically be in the hospital in a body cast. He wouldn’t be visiting him with one leg and one arm elevated in the air. No machines that made noises. Pingy type noises.He’ll be hurt at the bottom of the cliff with all of his bones broken. Maybe his snow suit would pad him, but Jason wasn’t truly sure of anything right now. He must find something to help Todd. There had to be something in this entire world that could help the poor boy. There had to be something nearby. All these woods, all summer long with the big sticks and vines used to sword play and Tarzan play, not a one poking its head through the deep snow.
Just as Jason looked at the snow, wondering about the snow and how the snow was not a good thing right now, it began to snow again. A few flakes passed by his eyes. He stared deeply into the sky and took a slow long sniff. His dad taught him that when there was a certain smell in the air, it meant you were going to get snow. He sniffed and smelled it. It had a strong smell of snow. It wasn’t so much of a smell as it was a feeling through your nose that went through your body. He could definitely smell it. More snow came, not falling too hard but it just felt like it was about to really snow hard. Instinctively and unconsciously, Jason stuck his tongue out and caught some flakes.
There must be something by the cave that would help. He thought to himself. He didn’t want to think aloud for fear it would make Todd nervous. He didn’t look back towards Todd, he looked up at the sky once more and headed towards the cave. The last that Todd saw of Jason was a green scarf trailing a green parka going behind a big rock covered in snow.
Then, suddenly, for the first time in his entire life, he was all alone. Not a one of a person to save him on this big blue marble. No mommy to wipe his nose and give him some hot chocolate. No daddy to tell him to bring the wood. No brothers to get in the way of his great ideas that would one day save the world. No Smokey to lick his face when he came home. Not a one of a person to save him. Jason was his last hope and he disappeared behind the big rock. The big rock that was the entrance to the pathway to the cave. He was now a small blue marble in sea of white. A desert of snow.
Maybe God would save him. Maybe his angel. Maybe a snow angel. Todd made a look towards where he was headed. If there was a chance of a better place to be sliding, he pretty much picked the exact wrong place. The space between the small tree and the big rock that hid the secret trail to the cave. That must be where Jason was going. He would hold on the rock and pass a big stick towards him or something. Or something. He knew that he had to be able to shift over that way a little nit. It just seemed, though, that the ice on the snow was so slick that it had nothing to grasp onto.
Todd began to make a snow angel. His angels would save him. Slowly at first, he began making giant moving X’s, trying for anything to make him move a little to the north. He would have taken a little move to the south too. He would get to the little tree. To his surprise and not at all to his dismay, he began to alter his course. His snow angel was saving him. He was actually get towards the rock the led to the secret entrance to the cave. It was like he was flat flying across a wall. Gliding so smoothly across the snow covered cliff. He suddenly thought of Charlie flying in the Fizzy Lifting Drink maker Machine. He wasn’t about to burp and it wouldn’t even be close to be able to save him. He turned again to look to see his progress.
According to quick and genius calculations, the distance to the rock that led to the secret entrance to the cave, the distance to the edge of the cliff and relative speed at to which was become more rapid, he concluded that this was a no go. He was not going to make it to the rock that led to the secret entrance to the cave. He was going way too fast. And just when I was making progress, he thought to himself, because he would never have the time to actually say them. There was no Jason going out from behind the rock that led to the trail to the cave. He was frantic in his little mind. Options were becoming a rare commodity. He looked quickly to the south and saw the little tree.
The little tree that in the summer would hold him as he peered over the side. The little tree that filled them all with wonderment of how it decided to grow right there. They even tried to pull it out a few times, just because it was there and they were boys. That tree, it was decided, would never go anywhere. Defeated, they love the tree and honored it and then believed it was planted by the same Indians the made the fireplace and lived in the cave. This same little tree that could have saved the small barely in second grade boy was just out of reach. Todd would have to snow angel his way back towards it. It was clearly the only choice. He would slide and hang onto the tree. He could just wait there until Jason went and got some ropes. They would have to call his dad home from work to come save him.
The snow was really beginning to fall at this time as Todd made his moving X’s of snow angels towards the little tree. It was so close. He was beginning to feel better about everything. The snow in his eyes was okay right now. He was working hard towards his goal and he would achieve it. Everyone would be so proud of how he save himself. He took a glance upwards along the incline of the giant granite stone. A wavy line of little boy stretched long and eerie. In the middle he noticed one perfect snow angel.
He smiled and felt his feet no longer touching anything. His arms stretch out as far as it could go to grab the little tree. He legs were hanging down now. Last chance. The fingers tips of his mittens touched the little tree. The little tree was covered in snow and frozen with ice just as the rest of the cliff. His little blue mitten wanted so bad to grab the little tree. His mitten was the last thing that he saw before falling off the cliff.
Save the Boy, Spare the Rod
When the walkie talkie started crackling, Jean was watching the kid behind the counter putting whipped cream on her Pumpkin Spice Latte. It was something new that Super Scooper, the local ice cream joint, was featuring. Pumpkin was her favorite pie, so she figured why not. The kid said it was a like a flavored hot chocolate made with coffee. Sounded like a win win to her.
“What are they going to come up with next, huh?” Jean said as she handed the kid behind the counter a five dollar bill.
“Breaker oh nine. Breaker oh nine. This is Skyline Station Please respond.” Said a voice in the walkie talkie.
“Hal, can you respond to that while I get our coffees?” said Jean.
“Got it.” Said Hal. “Go ahead Skyline Station. This is Unit thirty four. Go ahead.”
“We have a missing boy. Last where about was the north end of Skyline Lakes. It’s possible he fell off the cliff behind the homes there.” Said the voice.
“Pablo,” said Hal. “DO you have an ID on the boy? Any description?”
Pablo was the dispatcher for the Ringwood Emergency Department. He had been employed there for twenty years or so. He pretty much knew everyone in town. Twenty years or so ago, he had been on the First responder team. He got a call to save a boy who had fallen into one of the old steel mines. This was back before they had them all blocked off. Pretty much anyone could walk into them. Some of the mines went back as far as two miles or so and branched out like a spider web. The maps to the mines were all destroyed in the early sixties in the great fires that nearly wiped out this entire area.
Pablo knew the mines well, though. He had been in and out of them since he was a kid. He had been lost so many times, they say he knew every crack and crevice. So, when the call came in to rescue a kid lost in there, they sent the only man they knew that could do the job. When Pablo reached the site, he found the kid’s trail almost immediately.
“This isn’t good.” Said Pablo. “All the evidence that I have gathered here show that the kid went down Milligan’s mine.”
Someone gasped. “Not Milligan’s mine.” That person said aloud.
“Yeah, Milligan’s mine.” Said Pablo. “Now here’s what we have to do.”
Pablo laid out the rescue plan for Milligan’s Mine. Milligan’s Mine was the longest mine tunnel in the whole area, but it only branched out two ways. The left tunnel was impossible to get through since the earthquake that blocked it off with a pile of rubble.
“If that kid made it through the left tunnel, may the Lord have mercy on his soul. But, there’s no way that he could made it that way. There’s no way through, I tell you.” Said Pablo pointing his finger in the air. “We’re going to the right tunnel. Team ready.”
They went into Milligan’s Mine, the whole group of six. They stuck together and each held a light with a giant brick of a battery. When they got to the fork in the tunnel, Pablo noticed a small hole dug through the rubble in the left tunnel.
“No way. It’s not possible. It’s not possible I tell you.” Said Pablo. “I’m going in alone. I am the only one that can survive in there. I’ve got the guts and the know how.”
He tied a mile long rope around his waist and handed it to his partner.
“Now, when you feel two quick tugs you start pulling with all your might. It mean we are in trouble. Don’t come after us, because then you’ll be dead too. Do you hear me? Do you understand what I said? You will die too.”
“Er, I have heard everything you said Pablo.” Said his partner. “You know I have your back.”
Pablo’s partner was used to his over dramatizing everything. It was very interesting to him because he was a writer and secretly was using Pablo as a character. It was about this diverse group of character that go into outer space and meet new life forms.
“I know you do. You are the best partner I have ever had.” Said Pablo. He looked his partner in the eyes. “You will have to take care of everything in my life if I don’t come back. DO you hear me?”
“You are coming back Pablo. Nothing will stop you from rescuing that boy. You are the best that there ever was. I have never had a better partner. I…”
His partner was cut off by another member of the search party. “Pablo, there is little time. You had better get going.” He was privy to these little rescue pep talks. They could go on for twenty minutes or so if someone didn’t put a stop to them. It flabbergasted any new comers to this type of situation, but since Pablo always saved the day, everyone let them continue.
“Right.” Said Pablo. “I’m off. All my gear and shoes and glasses are ready. Here I go. Into the hole in the rubble. With only my wits and superior knowledge I go. I could be the only other human that has been in that side of the mine in twenty or so years.”
And off he went into the small hole in the rubble that blocked the left side of Milligan’s Mine. He pushed his gear through the small opening and then he himself went in, feet first. He shimmied himself backwards until he was in up to his shoulders. He gave a final glance among the rescue party and they all held their breath for a moment. They knew what was coming. More monologue.
“Team, remember. Two quick tugs and you pull as hard and fast as you can. There’s true danger beyond this rubble. I think that I had put it to rest twenty or so years ago, but you know how true danger is. It always finds a way to come back and bite you. Well, today it is biting a little boy. Hopefully, not literally, but it might be. The danger back here is, well, just plain ugly. Oh, if I give one long pull, that means keep up the slack in the rope. It means that I have found the boy and we are both on our way home. Wish me luck. You are the best team that anyone could ever ask for.” Said Pablo and then shimmied the rest of the way into the hole in the rubble. The glow from his lantern was the last thing that they saw of him for a while.
It was almost a half hour and Pablo’s partner was still feeding rope through the hole in the rubble, when he heard something. Faintly, but surely, there was a scream. The scream echoed through the left side of mine and sent chills not only up Pablo’s partners back, but in each member of the search party. The all shivered with a new kind of fear.
“What was that?” said one of the members of the search party.
“That did not even sound human” said another member.
“What do we do?” Said still another.
“We wait and do as we were told.” Said Pablo’s partner.
There were more screams and more chills up their backs. Still they waited. They knew if they didn’t follow Pablo’s orders exactly, his plan would be messed up. Messed up bad. That was a mistake that Pablo’s partner would never make again. He still had the scar to remind him of that.
Suddenly, with plenty of warning from the horrifying screams, the rope was pulled. One quick tug, then another. Two quick tugs. Never before had Pablo given two quick tugs. More chills ran up spines. Pablo’s partner was almost at a loss for what to do.
“Shouldn’t you be pulling the rope.” Said a member of the search party.
“Yes. Yes.” Said Pablo’s partner. His hands were trembling as he grasped firmly on the rope. He began to pull, first wanting to get the slack out of the rope. Before he even gave two quick pulls, the rope pulled away from him.
This action brought him quickly into the rescue mode that Pablo had trained him for. He grabbed back at the rope with all his might and pulled. The rope was beginning to pull away from him. He knew it wasn’t Pablo. Something was pulling Pablo.
“I need help” Pablo’s partner yelled. “Quickly!”
The rest of the rescue team all quickly assembled and took hold of the rope. “Ready!” Pablo’s partner yelled.
“Ready.” They all replied.
“When I say, we pull with all our might and as quickly as possible. Something has a hold onto Pablo. If I knew Pablo and I think that I do, he also has the little boy. So, something has that little boy and Pablo has that little boy or it is the other way around. Either way, we have got to pull. Pull as a team.” Said Pablo’s partner. “Pull!”
They all pulled as hard they could in perfect unison. Pablo’s rope pulling in unison classes sure came in handy. They were at a stand still for a moment. What ever it was on the other side pulling Pablo and the little boy was strong.
“What the heck could that be?” Said one of the members of the party.
“No time for talk. Pull!” Said another member of the party.
This time they gained some ground. The rope pulled towards them. The tug of war was now in their favor. Hand over hand, they pulled. A few times the rope pulled back, but they quickly managed to get their footing back. Something was still screaming as they pulled. They wondered how far had Pablo ventured into that tunnel. Then they heard him. Faintly at first but still it was full of bravery. It was Pablo.
“Back. Back you beast. Stand back you foul beast. This shall not be the last of your pain. Take that. And this.” Said Pablo from beyond the small hole in the rubble.
Suddenly and this time unexpected the rope just gave away. All the members of the party went flailing backwards. Safety hard hats and shoes and glasses all went flying every where. Most of them tumbled but a few just landed on their behind. No a sound was heard anywhere.
After a few long moments had passed and the dust settled over the lenses of the big bulky battery lenses, they all stared in wonderment at the small hole in the rubble. Everything was very silent. No screams, no yells or even whimpers. Pablo’s partner was the first to act. He was the closest to the small hole in the rubble, so he crawled on all fours to see if he could indeed see any thing.
Very silent and wide eyed, he slowly lifted the heavy lantern towards the hole. He followed the lantern with his head. Just as he was getting ready to put his head inside the small hole in the rubble, an arm shot through.
Pablo’s partner jumped back and screamed. The whole rescue party made some sort of exclamatory of some kind, filling Milligan’s Mine with all sorts of strange sounds and echoes. Though, due to his top notch training in unpredictable circumstances, Pablo’s partner quickly rebounded and did what he had to do. He reached out and grabbed around the forearm of the arm that poked out of the small hole in the rubble. The hand that was attached to the arm that poked out of the small hole in the rubble grasped back.
Pablo’s partner pulled. The dust began to rise once again. “Someone give me another hand.” Pablo’s partner called out. They all jumped up and towards the hand and gave extra hands to pull that hand from the small hole in the rubble. With the force they gave in that first would have ripped the arm from the socket of any normal man. This wasn’t any normal man’s arm. It was Pablo’s arm and it was attached to the rest of his body. They all pulled the arm out of the small hole in the rubble and it was followed by Pablo’s head, his other arm and the rest of his body. Attached to the hand of the other arm was the small boy who was lost. Both he and Pablo were unconscious.
Pablo’s partner quickly took the lead and began shouting out orders.
A few days later Pablo got a visit in the hospital from his partner and the little boy. Pablo was bandaged from head to toe with one arm and one leg up in the air. His left leg was missing and was bandaged. He saw the two and tried to smile from beneath the bandages. His partner looked a little solemn but tried a smile himself to save face for the little boy.
“This fella here what’s to say something to you Pablo.” said his partner. “Go ahead buddy.”
“I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life. I just know that beast would have eaten me if you hadn’t come along.” said the little boy.
Pablo replied with a tear in his eye, “I’m just glad you are okay, young man. Now go out and give your mother a hug and always do what she tells you to do. Always be brave and remember.” He paused.
“Yes mister.” said the little boy.
“No good deed goes unpunished.” said Pablo.
Pablo’s partner took the young boy and lightly pushed him in the direction of his waiting mother. She stood there, eyes filled with tears and whispered thank you to Pablo and walked away down the hall of the hospital.
“What happened in there man.” Said Pablo’s partner. “I mean something bit your leg off. I mean I heard the screams. What the hell was that thing?”
“My friend let me tell you something and I want you to listen good. Do you hear me? Listen good. What happened in that tunnel was between me and my God. The tunnel has been sealed off forever and what ever you may think was in there isn’t anymore. Even if it is it still won’t exist in your world. Do you want to know why? Because you can just forget about it. That’s why. I lost my leg and that boy is still alive. DO you understand what I am saying.”
“What actually, this time, I have no clue buddy.” Said his partner. “I’m your partner man. You can tell me anything.”
Pablo’s eyes went to back of his head and he began mumbling. Pablo’s partner smacked him on the cheek. “You there man? Nurse! Someone get a doctor in here!”
“I have seen hell. I have seen hell.” Said Pablo drifting away after the doctor rushed in and get him a shot of something that was in doctor coat.
After that day went and passed and the years piled on, Pablo never spoke about what happened and the little boy disappeared. Pablo never went back out on the rescue squad because of his missing leg. He became the dispatcher for the Ringwood Rescue Squad. He always had a special place in his heart for the children in trouble. As for Milligan’s Mine, it has been completely sealed off, but they say if you listen very closely in the middle of April you can hear screaming coming up from the ground.
“Hal, yeah. Listen. I need you to remain calm. It’s your nephew. He fell off the cliff.”
The two search parties began their own quests. One fully stocked with rescue equipment and with first and second grade aid. They also had the back up of Ringwood’s finest.Unfortunately due to the inclement weather, Ringwood’s finest was busy with a car crash in Erskine Lakes. The poor troubled folks were at home when the snow began, safe and cozy. No worries in the world. The food was stocked from Christmas.
Alas, they needed to go to Grand Union and make sure that they had more bread and milk. The essentials for any modern disaster. What you stock in your pantry all depends on your age and where your are in life. These mildly responsible people took charge and called in sick to work. Boss, there is no way I can make it today. I am so sick. No worries, says the boss. We have to shut down the office due to the blizzard. You stay safe and stay indoors. But we need bread and milk. Actually the only three people that went to work that day was the bread man, the milk man and Tony Blast.
Responsible and process oriented people often forget small details. Their whole day or their whole life can be planned out, but they will forget to sharpen the pencil to write it all down. Sometimes they forget snow tires. Today was that day. The day they thought they could still make it to the Grand Union grocery store in six inches or so of snow and rising was when they realized the snow tires. Sometimes you feel like the hero and can just swoop in and save the day. Later on, over hot chocolate or maybe some apple mulling spices or even these new fangled Pumpkin Spice lattes everyone is so over the top about, you sit give a big whew, and then turn on the tv and get all snuggled in.
Sometimes it all works out. One might even say that most times things actually do work out. Today didn’t seem to be the day for luck to survive. Even luck was snowed in that day. So, while the rescue team of Hal and Jean cruised at the fastest but safest speed to Skyline Lake, Ringwood’s finest had to help dig the well to do couple out of the ditch. In a small town, in a copper communication generation, there are only so many resources to go around. The weatherman should have to notify you of when to get bread and milk.
“Today weather forecast is that it will be fine AND dandy outside today. Highs in the perfect range for you to go to the super market of your own choice and buy bread and milk. That’s right folks. Today is a bread and milk day. So go out right now. Want to know why, do you? Tomorrow is a blizzard. A big old blizzard. Expect six to ten or so inches of snow in your are. Or even a few feet or so of the white slippery stuff. Remember, new state law requires that when I tell you to go out and get bread and milk, you just have to. This has been a public service announcement from the former really fat weather man.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, Jean. My vehicle got stuck trying to get these victims out of the ditch. Godspeed.” said the fine officer at the scene.
“Dispatch, come in.” said Jean over the cb radio.
“Go ahead Rescue one.” said Pablo. He was sitting at his desk sipping this new fangled drink called pumpkin spice latte. His nub and his knee began to itch.
“Check all available area towns for emergency back up. We are going to need help on this one.” said Jean. Her voice was scratchy on the cb radio. Hal didn’t look like he could talk right now. It was his sister’s son that was out they right now. He would have to find the body and explain. He would have the memory of the boy’s frozen face in the snow.
“Roger that, Emergency One. Copy on to all surrounding areas.” said Pablo.
Pablo did what he did best, and that was to rally the troops. Ever since the incident in Milligan’s Mine and a few short years in rehab, Pablo has manned that emergency call center more than anyone in town. He was able to get two extra squads of emergency personnel heading towards the scene. Though, when living in the mountains and everything becomes a small and windy road, things move in slow motion.
On the other side on the hill on the side of the mountain that was part of the Ramapo Mountain range. were the Darby’s. They were all geared up and loaded for stock. Mrs. Darby even packed a few sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate while they were gearing up.
“Just in case he is hungry when you get him. The hot chocolate will warm his tummy. Make sure he’s okay boys. Doris need her boy back.” said Mrs. Darby. Instincts were a lot more prominent of families in the seventies. When all you had was each other and the weather man telling you when it was okay to go outside.
The Darby boys had on their snow pants and boots and parkas and long underwear and shoes and Thomas had his glasses. Lady was all collared up and ready to bark at anything she could find. Mr. Darby threw the small knap sack of food over his shoulder and each of the boys carried something that would help. Louis had the ropes. They were four different types of ropes and all of different lengths. One was a plastic yellow rope. Richard brought two the sleds from the garage. His thinking was that he might need to use them as a stretcher. He brought two of them just because he might need them.
“Good thinking, son.” Said his dad.
Thomas brought a hockey stick. Richard was about to say something smart assed to Thomas, when Thomas swung around with the hockey stick almost slicing off Richard’s nose.
“I am not allowed to use the bb gun, but it is possible we will need a weapon.” said Thomas. No one wielded hockey stick like him. Be it on the rink or defended his little brother from neighborhood bullies.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” said Richard.
All geared and clothed and with weapons, the boys left for the cliff. In their minds, they knew that they would come back men. The big driveway was actually only three house away. They could get to the cliff from behind their house, but the trail was non existent and the woods were too thick. This way the only way. When the arrived at the bottom of the big driveway, they could the traces that the boys had left earlier that morning even though they were now being covered with freshly fallen snow. They could see that they had fallen and slid back down the hill. It was actually a good sign for them. Now they knew which way to go. Louis took the lead and Mr. Darby followed from the rear.
Still it was a slippery path that they had to follow up to the house. In the boys minds were the same thoughts. They suddenly were not of saving their neighbor from certain death. Not of tying ropes around trees and rappelling down the side of the cliff, nor of strap the young lad to a stretcher and safely escorting him to the hospital. It certainly was not likely that it was fending the boys body off from Grizzly Bears and wolves, swing the hockey stick as a skilled swordsman. It was the thought of having to have to shovel this driveway. It was steeper than theirs and by a lot. The driveway felt like it was straight up and down. It also never ended. Having to crack a shovel through the ice a scoop it towards the side without slipping. It was just a nightmare. They would have to beg their dad to just park at the bottom through out the winter.
Winded, they all made it to the top. Dad said, “Let’s take a moment. I need to take a breath.”
As they regrouped their thoughts and energy, they all seemed to gravitate their stares towards the house that sat at the top of the big driveway. It was very quiet looking. It just felt quiet. It seemed like someone was home, because lights were on in two different rooms. The Christmas tree in the big window seemed off. The lights were on, but was it tilted over? It was had to tell through all the snow coming down. It was falling harder now.
“First time the weather man has been right all month. It had to be today.” said Mr. Darby. He was always cussing at the news, especially the weather man since he had to work outside most of the time.
He kept staring at the house. The strangest feeling was coursing through him and he felt like he should go knock on the door. The strangest feeling was coming from the garage. He started taking a step towards it when Thomas grabbed his father’s hand.
“We should start back towards the cliff. You don’t need to go there, Dad.”
That seemed to snap all of them out of the hypnotic stare. Now the focus was getting up the trail. Once again they could see that it was even easy for two little kids, save for these big ones. But up they went and struggle they did. Just to get up the embankment to the part that led to the two trails was a steep slippery nightmare. They were holding hands pulling each other up. Lady had no problem and was running into the woods chasing after something.
“Lady!’ Richard yelled. “Get back here.”
“Let her go.” Said Mr. Darby. “Which way do we go?”
Mr. Darby had never been to the cliff. Dad’s had other important things to do beside exploring silly little rocks in the middle of the woods. Sometimes cliffs can be the rose of life. Thomas and Richard knew the way well as they liked to come up here in the summer. Louis had only been up there a few times, but those times were with the girls that lived round the block. He was one of the guys that broke bottles up there trying to impress the ladies.
“This way.” Said Richard. “It’s a little rough, so watch out dad.”
“Just let’s go.” Mr Darby said.
Richard chose the Ho Chi Min trail. It was the most direct route, but with the snow falling as hard as it was, it was a lot more difficult than normal. They were on the trail for more than ten seconds or so when Louis whipped a tree branch loaded with snow into Thomas’ face. There was so much snow on that branch that it also went into the faces and down the necks of the others also.
“I’m going to beat the crap out of you.” said one of them with extremely angry overtones.
“Sorry. Accident. I was trying to get it out of the way.” Said Louis. He was very smart and always had mastered the look of pure innocence. It helped him out of many a sticky situation. It also helped him in bringing the lovely ladies up here for a quiet moonlight smooch under the stars.
With more struggles and pushes and new cuss words the boys made their way out of the clearing and onto the top of the cliff. There they all stood next to the fireplace. A crew armed and ready to rescue the kid from down the street.
Four men stood at the top of the cliff staring at a path in the snow. The frozen rain from the sky was coming down at near blizzard pace but the marks were undeniable. Though the skies were cloudy and would be all day, the few footprints and slide tracks were still clearly visible. A forensic tracker could easily tell which way the culprit went on this one.
In their heads, the imaginations were running wild. Still, due to the similarities I genetic make up, their imaginations were almost similar.
They all looked upon the footsteps that started at this fireplace place looking rock. They walked to the area only a few feet or so out. There also was a second set of footprints walking in the same direction. Were they that other kid’s? Did he push Todd? It seemed strange but then the second set of tracks are seen moving towards the north into the woods over there. Did he push him and then run?
“It looks like that kid pushed him. Doesn’t it?” Said Thomas.
“Yeah. And then he ran into the woods to watch.” Said Richard.
“Don’t be stupid. He was probably trying to find something to help him with.” Said mr Darby.
That made sense to the boys, although quietly, none of them actually believed it now that the thought was there. Sometimes a negative can overpower the truth so much that you become one with the lie.
Following their eyes further down the side of the cliff, they could see where the boy was shuffling g to get to the side. They did see a big stick near the side of the woods. Change of heart for the murderer? One of them thought it. Maybe two or so?
It became obvious near the edge of the cliff that the boy was heading towards the rock over to the north side. It looked frantic and pathetic. It filled them with a sadness seeing the struggles of a loved one. They could see that even he knew it was hopeless to try and make it to the side, so he changed course and tried to hang onto that tree. They could see where a mitten print slid across the bark of that tree. Oddly, it the middle of it all, they all thought that they could see the outline of a snow angel.
It was perfect in every way. Big glorious wings, sweeping and flowing robes and, was that a halo? It must have been the desperate boy flopping over trying to grab for anything. How he flipped himself back not one of them could figure out. But it was a perfect angel. It had to be the wind or a clump of snow from a tree that had flung itself over here somehow. Very unlikely, but when you are grasping for something to make you feel sure, sometime you lie. Even to yourself.
“She sure didn’t save him today?” Said the youngest boy, Richard.
“Who?” Replied Mr Darby.
“It looks like his guardian angel missed.”
They all knew it was wrong, but they all laughed for a moment. Quickly they brought themselves together.
“How slippery can that be?” Asked Thomas a loud.
His actions answered before any else had the opportunity. He took a step forward and his leg shot out right I front of him. The momentum sweep up his other foot and he landed straight on his rear end. He began to slide down the ill fated path almost immediately. His brothers and father went wide eyed, but Louis was quick to the draw. He threw out one of his ropes and Thomas caught hold almost instinctively. Louis and his dad held onto the rock the others called the fireplace and pulled him straight up.
“That is not the way to go.” Said Thomas along with a weak laugh. He continued, “man, that solid ice. My butt is killing me. I can see how he shot right off.”
“There’s nothing but big rocks and boulder at the bottom of the cliff. Maybe he’s still hanging onto a tree or something.” Said Richard. He had explored this area the most and knew it fairly well. More than any of them either way.
They all yelled his name. In the heavy down pour of snow their voices fell dead the moment they left their mouths. It was as if they were just yelling if their heads were wrapped in a bunch of quilts.
“We are going to have to figure something out. It is no telling how long before the rescue squad gets here. Richard, is there a safe way around to the bottom of the cliff? Said Mr Darby.
They came to the conclusion that it looked like the safest way was to follow the way Jason was going. He never mentioned that he fell while he was up here, but then again, he was pretty much out of it.
Carefully, they shuffled their feet along the same path that Jason had followed. It was quickly disappearing with the freshly falling snow, nut they made it to the rock that led to the path that led to the cave. Although you couldn’t see the cave from there, Richard pointed it out.
“There’s a small cave that way. Do you think it’s possible he walked over there.” he said.
“How is he going to walk over there if he just fell off the cliff and is probably dead.” said Thomas.
They all had thought it, but none dared speak it aloud. That was the language of the Taboo. Taboo was the things that you never were allowed to say to anyone or the things you weren’t allowed to do. That’s what their dad would say anyway. It pretty much fell into the category of anything that got them into trouble. Anyway, there it was. Now it was a prominent thought in their heads. It suddenly became real. The kid from down the street was dead somewhere at the bottom of the cliff. They were about to find him. It excited and horrified Richard at the same time. He didn’t know if he could face it, seeing his friend lying there with a dead face. He wished he hadn’t come now. Maybe they should have waited for the rescue squad, but the man on the phone told his mother it might be awhile due to the weather. The man was talking so loud he could almost hear every word. The man said he would come and get the boy himself, but he only had one leg. He said that that would not normally stop him, but he also had no means of transportation and the Police Station was all the way across town. He said he could feel the pain and sorrow that they were going through and that one time he had rescued a boy from a cave or something like that. He man seemed to want for to keep on talking, but Richard’s mom cut him short. She say something to the effect the she was sorry and had to call the boys mother to her know what was going on. He said that he completely understood and that if he were put back in to that situation he would. That’s when his mom made an abrupt good bye and hung up. Once mom said something, you better do it or she was going to do it and that only would make it worse.
Mr. Darby could see the emotion in Richard’s face even in the blizzard. “How far away in this cave?” he asked.
“It’s just up behind those trees.” Said Richard.
“Is there anything that you slip down into or slide and fall from?” Asked Mr. Darby.
“No sir,” said Richard, “It’s pretty much a straight shot from beyond those trees. It wouldn’t take me long at all to check it out.”
“You go then, boy,” said Mr. Darby, “Now listen, I want you to hollar when you get there. Hollar when fall. Hollar if you see anything. You understand, boy?”
“Yes sir.” Said Richard. And off he went. Richard had one of the loudest yells that anyone on Wildwood Terrace had ever heard. He could get all the dogs on the street barking if he put his mind to it. He also gave a mean headlock. Most of the little kids were afraid of him.
“Let me take the sled.” Said Thomas. “You might need your hands free.” Thomas took the sled from Richard and caught an approving glance from his father.
What they hadn’t thought of was that Richard was the one that knew his way around this over grown rock. He was the one that hiked and climbed and peed on all the trees back here. With the snow falling as hard as it was they found out quickly the cliff was not at all a child’s game to be played. All three of them walked right into a very deep area of snow and not only fell in waist high, but also got tangled in pricker bushes. Through curses and struggles, Louis heard the faint sound of a siren.
“Listen.” said Louis. “They are coming.”
Hal and Jean or Jean and Hal, depending on how many words you are trying to eat up before time runs out, arrived in the general vicinity or the cliff. There was no way to exactly pinpoint where the boy was on the cliff, so they had to just pick a spot. To cover this area they probably could have used three or four more emergency techs, but seeing them wasn’t likely for another half an hour or so. It was up to them to find and hopefully save this boy.
In front of the houses was the road, but behind them was the cliff. The picked the house in the middle of the cliff and began the cliff back there. The owner’s of the cliff came out all disheveled and began to ask what was wrong. All the people they knew were home.
Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone
To walk in the snow doesn’t necessarily always require at set amount of skill. Although, one would do well to mind his step, especially when you don’t know what you are stepping into. Or on to. Whichever the case may be and, granted, one May not know which case it is until they are directly upon said situation. May be an open manhole cover you mistake for a silly little puddle that would stop no man in this rain or it could happen that you are strolling around on what you think to be an ordinary beach. Thus this ordinary beach is actually a desert in the jungle and you just stepped on quick sand. One might also walk into a certain situation of an emotional kind. It could be the sobbing mother over the loss of her child that just fell off of a cliff. It could be a lovers quarrel that somehow how you were not party to this time but still you don’t look so innocent. Anything could happen when one walks out of their front door, as in stepping I to a bag of dog poo that the neighborhood kid set out at your doorstep.
Stepping g into high piles of leaves freshly raked in your front yard. Innocent and lovely, captivating and inviting and you take a fast running leap into the pile with a smile of glee spread across your face. What your brothers were counting on was exactly what you did. Your fresh breath of air, your sweet enjoyment of life and your smell of the roses landed you right into a bunch of sticks set up like spikes within the leaves. It was all done in good fun. No one, especially those whom. Ever think a plan through to the end, would have thought of how close those spikes came to killing you dead. One spear in the back, one in the leg and the one that went right through your cheek. The one in the back need just stitches, the one In the leg was fine after the Indian medicine and a bandaid, but they one mother nearly tore your head off for was the one in the face. You could have got it I his eye and he would be blind and you would have to walk around with hi everywhere. And you are so lucky you didn’t knock out any teeth. It really seemed funny while there were doing it. Lesson learned that dAy.
In the case of the mighty blizzard of the early seventies, there was only guessing. Hal and jean had never been in this area behind these houses. There was likely about fifty yards or so of land between the cliff and the homes. Most of that land was an uphill climb and nearly all of it was rocky. Big boulders, smaller ones and loose rocks. The man of the house that they went through their yard told them to be very careful. It wasn’t too safe in the summer, but it certainly made for nice scenery.
“Did you see anything?” Said Jean as Hal trudged ahead blindly.
“Not a thing.” Said the man. “Did you see anything dear?”
“Not a thing.” She said. “But I see a fox out there from time to time. But don’t worry. That thing is so skittish, that it will run off T the slightest sound.”
That is unless it is hungry.
“Let me out on some pants and see what I can do to help. Dear, give our neighbors a ring and tell them what happened. We don’t want a poor oh dying just days after Christmas.”
Hal lost his footing a few times and even banged knee hard enough to rip his emergency pants and draw some blood. The rocks were all askew. Nothing was forming a path nor any way that made it easy to explore. He tried to look up towards the top of the cliff to see if he could find any evidence of where the boy might have fallen. It was just snowing way too hard to try and just look up. Snowflakes were blasting his eyes and face. Even when he cupped his hands like faux binoculars, he was almost of no use. The face of the cliff was not sheer, but full of small ledges. He gathered that it was impossible to grasp on to any one of them because everything was covered ice. The ice was now covered in seven to eight or so inches of snow making it a blind and deadly walk for any one not being to careful.
He was able to make out a small tree up there. It was t that it was so high it was just the snow made it so difficult to see. He focused more on that spot and thought was starting to make out some markings. Any snow that Todd would have pushed off the. Lift with him he fell would most definitely be covered again with more snow. Ah, but not as much snow. He quickly came to surmise that that had to be where he fell. It wasn’t that it was such a big area, it was all the misshapen rocks and boulders that you had to climb around to search. So a point of zero would be the best place to head to. He double checked his sea legs and headed directly that way.
Let it be there. He thought in his head. There can’t be much time left.
With his arms held out like a tight rope walker, Hal fancied himself a funny walk towards his ground zero.
The way the boulders were situated it was if a tone time there was one huge gigantic mountain of a boulder that was smashed somehow. All it’s bits and pieces were scattered all over this area. They were giant fragments taller than a man and some a big a car. There was lots a jagged edges but just as many smooth ones. Although there were lots of places to grab on to, the foot and hand holds most times led to a another boulder you had to climb over and around.
Hal thought he heard sniffing g sounds like there was a dog up around here somewhere. It was hard to tell if maybe the sound was just I his head. This many layers of blankets of snow was very quiet and muffling. Sound dropped, it did not carry.
Hal wished that he did have his dogs with him. Two beautiful and wonderfully trained hunting dogs were at his house right now being of no good use to him. They would have found this boy in a heart beat. Especially the female. She had a good sniffing snout. He would have to start bringing her with him when he was on duty.
Then he saw the paw prints. He knew almost immediately what they were from. He had hunted there kind before. He knew that they were skittish little fellows, but when they were hungry, they could tear you up to pieces. With food scarce in the winter and this snow, the elusive brown fox was hungry and out looking for food. Now Hal really wished that he had his dogs with him and his shot gun. He hurried his pace for worry of what he really didn’t want to find.
When three forces come together in the universe at the same time it makes a triad. An indistinguishable power that can either be binding if the powers are all positive or completely deflective if the powers are negative. If two of the powers are positive, the negative is blasted away, thus disrupting the triad. Which is actually nothing. It when Hal climbed up the final boulder he first saw the blood soaked snow. And he heart sank. Then he came eye to eye with the elusive brown fox. And his heart filled with grief. Then his heart filled with rage.
The elusive brown fox, for a moment, was going to defend its prize. It’s dinner and breakfast and possibly lunch for she and her pups. This only lasted a moment. Nature sent a beast that had not one once of fear for her at this moment. This beast had fire in its eyes that melted Ll the snow in its path. This beast had hands that were ready to claw and rip her head off. This beast wanted her prey. All her work and struggle and being ever so elusive to get here, failed at the very end.
“Git the hell out of there! I’ll rip your damn head off, fox!” Said Hal. He was screaming so fast and violently the dictionary never credited him for new cuss words.
The fox jumped straight up startled and confused. It looked as if she were going to run back home, but the third in the triad of power came rushing at the elusive brown fox. Lady, the beagle belonging to the Darby’s came rushing at the fox with almost terrifying barks. It was there first time that Lady had been used for such a purpose and she did not fail to produce.
Ruff. Ruff. Ruff. Lady laid into that fox, barking like a wild dog.
The fox was completely bewildered, spinning itself around like it was chasing it’s own tail. It was actually trying gather its own wits.
Be cunning. Be elusive. Be sly. Be gone. The fox took off. She was forced to run in the opposite direction than the small cave that housed her pups. At the moment, though, she had to worry more about herself. Beside the pups were far off and safe buried beneath piles of snow that would block their scent from any predator. That’s was her way of thinking anyway. She was very familiar with the layout of this land and knew exactly where she could go. It was just a whole mess more slippery than she was normally used to. As a crazy dog barked this insane yelping noise, she lost her foot hold a few times before gaining a safe distance between the other pieces of the triad.
“Lady. Come here.” Yelled Mr Darby. Lady stopped immediately and waited for her masters to catch up.
Hal saw the crew of a man and two boys slide through the woods trying to get where he was. He waved his hands high. He knew that they were here to help. He could see the gear they were carrying. Even through the snow, it was easier to see straight ahead. A sled, some rope and a hockey stick. He could have used that hockey stick a moment ago. He would have bashed that fox’s head in.
Hal turned around and called to Jean. “Bring the kit.” He started to choke up with tears. “And the stretcher. I-i-i-t’s bad.”
“Heard you.” Said Jean. She could hear in his voice that she should not reply with anything else. Please don’t be dead. Please God.
By this time the Darby’s had all but reached the place where Hal was. In that spot there was room for all of them without any one having to slipped down a rock or fall in a crack. They all just looked at the blood soaked rock and in that moment, they all knew he was alright for some reason.
When Todd had fallen off the cliff he fell backward. His body apparently had enough momentum to flip himself all the way around to an upright position. The rock he landed on was another one of those giant boulders, but was split in two. Without even having to step back to look at it all the image was undeniable. It looked as though Todd was in the middle of a massive snow angel, just cradled between the two rocks like they were arms holding him close. It was very peaceful to see.
The moment passed when they heard Jean huffing behind them. Somehow, she didn’t miss a beat climbing up through those rocks. Ten or so of the surrounding neighbors were right behind her. For a long moment they all caught a glimpse of the boy caught by a snow angel.
Todd had smashed head very hard on something on his way down. It could have been when he flipped himself, but there was a lot of blood. He was covered in snow, too. It was the angle that he was at that kept the snow off of his face. How long he was there, one could guess at almost two hours or so. It was believed that not only the way he landed was a factor in saving him, but the cold helped coagulate the blood coming from his head.
“He’s breathing.” said Jean. She passed everyone. The became a little dazed and shocked at what they were seeing.
“He has a lot of frostbite.” Said Jean. “We have to be extra careful not to shake him on the way down. He’s so frozen he might break.”
All This For Me
It was two days before the boy who fell off the cliff even tried to open his eyes. A tear stained mother sat idly by while a choked up dad looked for a machine that sold coffee. He’d been saving face, had thought he was being the strong one. He was the strong shoulder to cry into, he was the stern voice that kept telling the boy to wake up and he was the one that fed the other two boys that were just confused about the whole thing. He fed them more fast food than they could have ever hoped for. The food was exactly what they wanted at whatever time that they wanted it. Dad said he did not have the time to cook with all the trips back and forth to the hospital. There was a McDonalds on the way and there was a new place called Wendy’s. The boys liked going there because they could get a chocolate shake as a drink. It was a technicality but they milked it for all it was worth. It was extra money at McDonalds and that was taboo. How food became taboo? They never questioned it. It was a as needed as you go taboo policy. They kept their mouths shut in case in filter over to their Wendy’s shake. It wasn’t even called a shake. That was the beauty of the whole deal. You could pick your kids meal, which was either a hamburger, a cheeseburger or some misshapen chicken nuggets. The nuggets were good, but they didn’t have the addictive qualities as a McNugget. The one brother always ordered the same thing as he was a picky eater. The could never even go to Burger King because the boy refused to eat their because of the smell. It was the char grills that they used. He didn’t put the smells of that and a back yard bar b que until he was a little older. By that time it was never a place that anyone chose. It was the same way with Dairy Queen. But, it you chose Dairy Queen, you got to get ice cream afterwards. Same type of smell, but with an ice crew reward. Todd was always on to this scheme, but he liked both of them so it was a win win for him. He would trade an ice cream cone for a paper crown hat any day. Burger King always had the worst toys. Wendy’s did too, but they had the shake. Technically the shake was called a frosty and it listed in the beverage section of the menu board. “See. It says that’s it a drink.” “It’s not a drink. It’s an ice cream.” “Please! It says so. ” “Okay. But we were going to stop at Carvel on the way home. I guess we won’t have to now.” Now that was a dilemma. Carvel was the best place around besides the big ice cream place. But there was always the chance that you were being baited. On the other hand, if dad really wanted carvel, you would end up with two ice creams that night. It was a very rare occasion. The boys knew it could happen, especially with dad not thinking clearly. They were beginning to like this whole hospital thing. Secretly they both did feel guilty for thinking that way. It wasn’t fair that their brother would t walk up. Beside they did miss there mom. Although dad forgot about bath time because he had all these other things to take care of, they were beginning to recognize their own smell. Their mother did to and had a word with dad between her tears. The two brothers knew that their mother had to wait for their eldest brother. The dumb one that fell off of the cliff. They would talk in low whispers about how they never would have fallen off. They could have made it all the way to the edge and back. It would be no problem. Heck, they could have even taken the sleigh off the cliff and landed with both feet on the ground. One would do a back flip, the other would be on one foot and twirling. They would make each laugh and had a whole arsenal of jokes at the ready for when their big brother would wake up. They knew he was going to wake up. Dad had said so. When he woke he would have to go right back to school. The Christmas vacation would be over. Todd still had toys that he had not even played with. They tried once or twice but dad got so mad he threw all the toys in Todd’s room and barricaded it with a verbal wall. “If I catch either one of you even thinking of going in there, I’ll break your nose.” That was good enough for them. Beside, with all the shuffling of them back and forth to the hospital and to relatives houses, there was no time. Mom was there when Todd opened his eye. He could only open one eye and couldn’t understand why the world was dark on the other. His mother started crying and hugging and calling nurses and her husband. Her baby was alive. The where and why of how and when he got there was a very fuzzy to him. He really didn’t remember anything and the doctor told her it would probably be best if it wasn’t discussed right away. Remembering the trauma with a head injury could give him permanent memory loss. The doctor said he was no physiologist, but that sounded like a reasonable thing. Everyone agreed because none of them had fallen off of a cliff before and frankly, didn’t know anyone that had. They also couldn’t argue about head trauma. It was clearly visible. The whole left side of Todd’s face was swollen. His nose was broken and the doctor said he had a fracture on his skull. It was right across the middle of the forehead. He might have a bit of a Frankenstein scar for a while, but he will grow out of it. Eventually. His fingers and toes were loosely bandaged. He had very nearly lost a digit or too, if it weren’t for the bravery of the Ringwood rescue squad and all the great neighbors. He had such severe frostbite that his fingers and toes were black when they brought him in. His cheeks and nose were also frostbitten but not as bad. One of the great things about mothers of the seventies was that they knew how to wrap their children for the current weather. The whole left side of his smashed against on of the boulder, not hard enough to crush his face, but good enough to close his eyes and bust his nose. The doctor said they wouldn’t be able to check that eye out until the swelling went down. That could be as long as a week. So there he lay, all bruised and battered. He somehow didn’t break any arms or legs, so he wasn’t wrapped from head to toe in mummy bandages. He had no limbs elevated. Although, the nurses did crank the bed up at his feet every once in awhile to do something with the blood flow. His head was all wrapped up though in sort of a mummy fashion. A big patch covered his left eye. It was driving him crazy not to be able to open it. He would constantly try to open it beneath the patch but it was like it was glued shut. Plus he had this thing in his arm and it was tied down tight to the bed. That drove him more crazy than the eye patch. He could move that arm at all. There is nothing wrong with it he would tell the nurses over and over again. The told him back, over and over again that he wouldn’t be able to live without it. That settled him down for a while. It was feeding him and giving him drink. That part was very cool. He always wondered what he was eating. Some of the nurse told him it was pizza. One said it was McDonalds. Another said it was a steak. “A steak? I’m not big enough to have steak yet. Dad said when I was ten, I could have one. Right now I can only eat hamburgers.” said Todd. “Yes, I like cheese on them and pickles and ketchup.” “No I don’t like onions. They make you cry. I’ve seen them make my mom cry when she makes dinner. They are the saddest vegetable.” They told him that the feeding tube was only temporary. Just a few days and then he could eat regular food. They would bring it up on a tray and he could watch television while he ate. That seemed like a great idea to him, but the hospital only had three channels. He had thirteen at home. every time he wanted to change the channel he would have to call the nurse in. That game only played well for a few times. After that he was stuck watching shows that his grandmother liked to watch. She called them her stories. When she would visit, they would watch them together and she would explain to him what was going on. Who was married to who and that person killed the other person’s aunt. Stuff like that. The shows didn’t seem so bad when she was around. After the second day of him being awake, they told him that he had been asleep for three days, he began to get a whole bunch of visitors. Hal and Jean were among the firsts to visit, then some of the neighbors that lived in the houses below the cliff. He had no idea who they where and why they were there, but they brought him candy so bring it on, he thought. The Darby’s all came together. Mrs. Darby had a tear in her eyes and pinched his visible cheek and him that he gave her such a scare. Being that they hadn’t told Todd what had actually happened for fear of permanent brain trauma, they just told him that he was in a terrible car accident. He accepted that as to be true, but never fully came to terms with it. He was told not to ask questions about it because his brain would start to hurt. But he thought about it at night. How did I get in a car? Who was driving the car? Did I steal the car? Were my parents driving? Maybe it was the Darbys that were driving. He just couldn’t remember at all. So he lay there in the hospital bed at Chilton Memorial Hospital with one arm closed and one arm tied tightly to the bed. He would get sponge baths and they made him feel strangely uncomfortable when that lady nurse rubbed that warm sponge all over his body. He would get special feelings and then turn red. The nurse would giggle and put his night gown back on. He wanted to get out of bed so badly, but when he raised his head too high he would actually get dizzy. At night he would feel so lonely and sometimes cry not understanding what really was going on, so he tried reading. It was really hard to get used to. He had never read with one eye before and his head hurt anyway, so it really didn’t work out well.
A Nice Price
When one gives a gift from the heart, it truly tells about one’s self. Even a crappy gift reveals the inner most workings of an individual. From a sweater to a toaster or a board game to a quilt, these comparisons don’t mean a thing but the gifts sure do.
A lover gives flowers when in love. A distressed lover gives flowers to rekindle love or to say I am sorry I slept with your sister. A box of chocolates or a some fine jewelry, like a ring or some ear rings or even a nice bracelet. These are either wonderful gifts from the heart or burdensome gifts from the wallet.
Presents for babies are usually necessities for the parent. Clothing is from the heart. That shirt says something cute that represents me. That bib says something that will make everyone think of me when they look at it. That is, if they even get to that bib. Every auntie and uncle has their own version of how great I am bib. The car seat is from the heart and it is a very practical gift. Same with a super stroller, equipped with cup holder and a baby wipe holder.
Homemade gifts are truly from the heart and not necessarily always from the poor. A knitted sweater and its due diligence of love is truly from the heart. A crocheted blanket is not only from the heart but remains a legacy to be passed down from generation to generation. As long as the clothes washer allows. Cookies and candies are sweet from the heart. From the bakery or candied maker, these items are hand picked to show off the expertise in deliciousness possessed by the gift giver. It also reveals what the gift giver enjoys in a candy or a cookie. Or even a cake of the cup kind. Games can reveal something about the giver’s past. Something that they loved as a child, something that brings warm memories or just something that they never opened.
There is also the gift of books and music. A book is something that can reveal one’s self. If it is for a college or high school student, it might a set of encyclopedias or the latest and greatest version of Webster’s Dictionary. This year’s model include that latest trend word and some minor corrections that were never caught in the last fifty or so years. It could be a how to book. How to live your life. How to fix a car. How to raise a goat or a baby, which ever one you have. It could be the latest in a series or a New York Times best seller from a guy you just won NanoWriMo for the first time in his life. The poor guy had a dream his whole life to write a book, but time and excuses always seemed to prevail in his life. When the NanoWriMo experiment came into his life, he thought that it would be a valid challenge. It would be something to get his behind into gear and tell the world his story. He initially gave up on day one. Not an idea in his head. He just couldn’t let the words fall out of his head and onto the page. He was sad but grasped onto a single fiber of hope. Then a year went by way too fast and the man realized how old he was getting and realized that people were dying around him. No one wanted to tell his tell. No one really cares anymore about the common man struggling to make the world a better place for his children. The man got busy! He completed the NanoWriMo experiment and his book flew to the top of the New York Times best seller list and stayed there longer than Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album stayed on the Billboard charts. Then, everyone loved him and they understood him. Then, suddenly, the world was a better place. Just like that.
You could give a book like that or give music. Depending on the giver, the choice of music matters. It also depends upon what age your have reached in life, but it always matters. If the giver is your mother or your father, it shows they care. They usually give you something that they think that you like. In your mind you wonder, do we live in the same house? Just because I sing to it on the radio does not mean I want the record. It is also possible your friends can make that mistake too. Music is personal at some levels and shared at so many others. Your friend know you because you frequent the same record shops together and point and stare and make wanting noises.
Some people give what they like. Then that means it is what you like. Because doesn’t everybody just like the hits. The new sound is what is hip daddy. Todd’s cousin gave him a record record he lie in the hospital bed. When you are on morphine and your body is half pinned down, anything that is something else is welcome. Thank you. That is something that was most likely mumbled out of an iv tubed boy. The latest and greatest album by Shawn Cassidy.
“Isn’t he one of the Hardy Boys?” Todd’s cousin Brian asked.
“Yeah. I think that is him.” Said Todd. “I” He didn’t finish.
“Well, I figured since you liked the books, you like him. Do you have this album already?” Said Brian.
“No, I don’t” Said Todd.
“Well, I think you will love this album. It has do run run on it.” Said Brian.
“Ooo. I love the song.” Chimed mom. “I met her on a Monday and my heart stood still. A do run run A do run run.”
When you are in the hospital and you are strapped to a bed so that you can’t pull your IV out of your arms. When half of your head is bandaged from major concussion and your eye is swollen shut. You but merely a captive audience. To scream and call for the nurse would only make them send you down to the crazy ward. That’s where they scream all the time and Shawn Cassidy plays day and night. And you have to stay awake forever and there is no medicine.
“Yeah. That’s great. Thank you. Mom, can I sleep for awhile.” said Todd. Slick move.
The latest and greatest album by Shawn Cassidy went into the pile of things to sort through when Todd got home. That album would never breath the fresh air of young boy stink because the shrink wrap was never taken off. It would still have the Nice Price sticker on it when he would sell it to the Sound Exchange many years later. Todd made a whole fifty or so cents on it.
“No one is really buying Shawn Cassidy records anymore.” Said the man behind the counter as he hand Todd two wore out quarters.
Todd walked out of the store, hopped on his bike and pedaled hard to the Quick Check with not a care in the world and fifty or so cents burning a hole in his pocket. As he did, the man behind the counter grinned and slapped a three dollars and ninety nine cent stick on that album.
“There’s your nice price.” Said the man and filed the album under the letter ‘S’.
Some years later, lovely young lass would stroll into that same store still manned by the same guy and she would browse. She was a beautiful brown eye brown hair sparkle of condensed energy that played guitar. She didn’t want to always just listen to herself play songs, she needed inspiration. Inspiration comes from life. Today, for her, it would come from another man’s misfortune.
When she found the record album from a beloved artist from her mind swirled with excitement. In her hands was Shawn Cassidy. Unopened, brand spanking new, in the shrink wrap and with the nice price sticker still on it. Inspiration is two parts perspiration and she figured that even coming to store was that.
This is a part of the story that I was very much looking forward to. It is exactly what it is. Todd receives the Shawn Cassidy record as a gift. He poo poos it away and it ends up in his closet for years. One day he does find it and sells it to the local record shop. This story is actually inspired by a local artist for whom he is very fond of. Her music that is. Even though she is easy on the eyes and a flutter for the heart, he really digs her songs. Unknowingly the album that he tossed aside becomes the inspiration for a song on her first album. It, of course is well received by all. Even though their lives hardly intertwine with one another. Her sibling was a friend of Todd’s and they hung but she was just a here and there. A story for another day, but since all my stories are things from my life. I wanted to include this one. Coming to the end of the NanaWriMo, my mind is losing ideas and momentum. I am beginning to think of editing. Though, I mustn’t.
Jason and His Gift
On the fourth day in the hospital and a memory not to found about why he was in there. He still couldn’t figure out the car crash story, which actually wasn’t a story at all. No one would provide any details. They would hush him up and tell him to wait until he felt better. Headaches were plenty but he actually was healing quite quickly. The doctor said is was amazing how quick he was healing. Strong bloodlines in this one, he would say. Even Todd’s eye was healing. He could feel it. Each day when they changed his bandages, they said it was looking better. It still frustrated him to not be able to open it, though. Sometimes, when he was all alone, he would stick his finger under the bandage. It was all crusty under there. Scabs, he thought. Lots of scabs.
Why didn’t they just put Indian medicine on it. That’s what mom puts on everything. That made everything heal quicker. The swelling on his head was going down too. When he first was able to even think about touching his head it was all puffy and had stitches. He guessed from them trying to put his brains back into his skull. Now, that swelling was going down. They even said that this evening, there were going to take the IV out of his arms and he would eat real food. He wondered with delight of what they were going to give to him. She said they might even have ice cream for dessert. That sounded so good.
While amidst of these thought of sugar plums, pizza and ice cream, Jason walked in the door with his father. For a moment they stood inside the doorway making a clear vision of them blurred behind the fluorescent lights. They took a step inside and even with Todd now being able to focus in on them, he didn’t recognize them at all. He just figured that they were there to visit the boy next to him. That poor kids never got any visitors.
The boy next to him never talked, never watched TV and did anything. Todd only tried to talk to him a few times and every time it ended the same way. Nothing to say. He asked the nurse about him but she just put her finger to his lips and shushed him. “We don’t talk about him.” She said.
They sure did not like to talk about much in this hospital. I do not know what happened to me. That kids next to me is a mystery. Maybe I am in a mystery hospital and I need to try and escape. He might have too, if he weren’t strapped down to the bed all the time. But then, that was for his own good.
After a moment or too of just staring at the new comers, Todd began to cry. Gushing tears. Flooding tears. His mom came running up behind the two new people and held him.
“I was afraid of this,” she said. “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Maybe it was too soon.”
“No,” said Todd between blubs of tears, “They can stay.”
All of a sudden he remembered so much. He could see a flip vision of a ton of events that happened. Him and Jason here. He and Jason there. Walking up hills and making a snow trail. Climbing up past the big driveway. Was a fox licking his face? The cliff. He fell off the cliff. He remembered the little tree. He thought about a snow angel. It was too many thought and emotions that came rushing in at him all at once. He realized why he was in so much pain at the same time.
His mother rushed over with a wet wash cloth and started patting his face. “I am okay mom.”
“I know. Just a little too much all at once.” She said.
Jason walked over to the side of Todd’s bed and put his hand on the covers.
“Hey.” Said Jason. “How are you?”
“I fell off the cliff.” Said Todd.
“I know. I am sorry. I tried to find you, but you disappeared.” Said Jason.
“That’s because I fell off the cliff.” Said Todd. They both laughed at that one.
“I saw you go behind the big rock that led to the trail to the cave. That was it. Then I tried to grab the little tree so you could grab me, but then I kept sliding.” Todd continued.
“Do you remember falling?” asked his mother.
“I just remember the little tree. I think there was a coat hanger on it. I think I tried to grab. I don’t know. Everything just went black.” Said Todd. He began to cry a little more.
“When did I get in a car accident?” said Todd.
His mother started to laugh again and she said that she would it explain it later. Right now he had some guest that wanted to see him. She said it was nice that Jason came to see him.
“Did you push me?” said Todd.
“No. I tried to grab the sled from you when you slipped. That’s when I tried to find something to grab you with.” said Jason. It was polished and perfect just like the bad guy in a Hardy Boys book. A little too suspicious.
“We brought you a present.” Jason quickly said to a calculating Todd.
Todd snapped out of his mini trance of detective thoughts and held out his free arm. He saw Jason look at his other arm and told him what it was. “They have to do this to feed me. I am supposed to get dinner tonight. I might even get ice cream.” He looked at his mother in a side glance to see if it was okay. he wasn’t sure if the nurse told her about that. She didn’t even seem to notice. She was talking to the doctor that had just walked in.
The present that Jason brought to him was in a bag. In that bag was something wrapped in red and white pin striped wrapping paper. It was loose and flexible. It felt like clothes. Clothes was a present for bad kids. Or your aunt or grand mother bought you clothes. Clothes were for back to school. Clothes. His mind was screaming. Clothes! But he kept the thoughts to himself. Todd used his one hand to split the scotch tape from the wrapping paper. He had become very proficient using one hand in the past day or so. Even so, it was his right hand and he was a left handed boy. He couldn’t wait to be able to draw and color or anything.
When the wrapping paper came off, what was revealed was a pair of black socks. Black socks that went all the up to the knee. Black sock with yellow stripes at the top near the knee. Why would anyone get someone who is stuck in a hospital bed a pair of black socks? He thoughts racing for a polite answer besides thank you. His mother, who apparently looked like she was about to run off with the doctor, had always taught him to be polite. His dad said that if you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all. Well, he had to say something. It was a gift.
Upon rapid assessment of these black socks he realized that they were more than just black socks. They had a rubber bottom like a sneaker. A black rubber bottom. It was like a sneaker sock, but in this new reality of just surviving a fall off of a giant cliff, he didn’t know what they were. Socks. Black socks with sneakers on the bottom. Time was no longer on his side. The evaluation period was over. He had to say something. A polite thank you would have been fine for a few moments ago, but now further talk was required. Now he would have to say that they were what he always wanted.
Black socks that had sneaker bottoms. “What are they?” That was what came out. He was to confuse for a proper thank you and further praise. The emotion he was feeling wasn’t disguised by a stone cold look of glee. His face even looked confused.
“They are sneaker socks.” Said Jason. His dad looked like Todd should be ecstatic over these things.
“What do you do with them?” He was already in the well. His mother certainly wasn’t going to help him. She was practically sitting on the doctor’s lap. What kind of bizarre world did he wake up into?
“You wear them like slippers, but you can run in them if you have to. You can wear them when you walk around the hospital.” Said Jason.
“Oh.” Said Todd. “I get it. Thank you.” He didn’t get and it was obvious on his face. Why would someone even make something like that. He would definitely try them on though. He had to now.
Jason’s dad was either laughing inside or was mad. Todd couldn’t tell. Either way he told Jason that they had to move along. He had an appointment.
“I’ll see you when I get home. I don’t know if I can play outside for awhile, but maybe you can come over.” Said Todd.
“Okay.” said Jason. Then he and his father walked out the door.
Todd held up the sneaker socks for his mother to look at but she was lost in the doctor’s eyes.
If you ever have the chance to run down a school hallway on just socked feet, pure joy is not the right word. You take all your agility and momentum and then combine it with a strange vision of surfing. You will the. Have yourself a good time that will eat up a good hour half or so off your day. Combine that with a little game of hide and seek or depending g on your age, man hunt, you have given yourself hours of joy.
That the way is was in the children’s ward wing of Chilton memorial hospital. Zoom hour they called. Any kid that was able to stand was allowed to zoom down the hallways. It did not matter what you had as far as an illness went. If you could get vertical, you could zoom. Of course there would be nurses at the ready for the children with vertigo issues or any cases of severe head trauma.
Cancer, broken arms, liver disease or cooties, everyone was out there ready for the hallway zoom. The terminally ill and the bed ridden were either plopped I to wheel chairs or their beds were pushed to the door.
It was a great time for all the children. They really looked forward to it every day. Of course it was during non visiting hours and they really impressed upon the children that it was their little secret. If anyone ever told their parents, none of the children would ever get to play the game ever again.
This had been going for years in the children wing of Chilton Memorial and was always without incident. They believe that child were resilient little people that were very springy in nature. This was a medical term that they themselves coined. Of course there was criteria. This all depended upon the severity of your wounds.
Todd did not meet the criteria the first night. He would never have know it anyway, because the hospital had strict rules against all first nighters. Not a word nor a whisper. Let us keep our little secret. It was also rare for any second nighters to get to participate. They were usually too unwell in whatever wound or illness that brought in with them to participate. Being that Todd had to have a bandage wrapped around his head like a mummy and his fingers were very to close to have been broken off from being frozen, he wasn’t told about it. He was unconscious for the first two days anyway.
The third night he was able to watch all the other children zoom all around the hallways in their slippers and socks. It looked like more fun than anyone with near deadly trauma could ask for. He could not wait for his time to go. The nurse told him that it might be a night or two before he could go because things were still jiggling inside head. He was sad at that but still it was fun to watch. It was better than watching the shows that they had on TV. Todd almost told his mother about the game of zoom, when a nurse suddenly appeared from behind the curtain and gave him the evil eye.
Loose tongues stop all the fun. He felt that more than heard it whispered.
Then, a few night in, after Jason had visited him, it was his night to try zoom. He was geared upo and ready. He was thinking about it all day. He would even wear the new slippers that Jason had given him. They were weird, but that should make them great for this game. Climbing out of his bed like a feeble old man, Todd caught his balance a few times as he shuffled his feet along the bedside. His head was a dizzy mess, but he would still get back in the game. He sat on the visiting chair and struggled a little bit putting on his new slippers sock things that Jason had given him. The best feeling in the world could quite possibly be the feeling of putting on brand new socks. Sliding all the way up past his knees, Todd was like he was gearing up for the greatest battle of his life. Except, there would be no weapons. The hard bottoms were the odd part. Still he knew they were like a sneaker bottom, but being they were also a slipper they had to work the same. At least he thought.
At the hour of zoom he was ready and a few kids were already in motion. The kids with broken arms, malaria, crushed ribs and eaten limbs were all out there. All giggling and laughing. If a kid did whap him or herself against a wall or chair or even out the doors and down the stairs, the nurses would quickly gather them up and give them a shot of something.
“Now, this will make you better for play tomorrow. Go rest.” They would say and then the child would disappear. Sometimes they would be back out the next night, but most nights they were not.
Todd took off running. His legs wound up like road runner in the cartoons. This would be the best slide ever, he thought in his jiggling brain. He ran like the wind down the hall to the jump spot. He leap in the air, twisted his body into the ready position and in stunning slow motion he landed with the grace of a surfer, the determination of a ballet dancer and the veracity of a tiger. Blam. He hit with all the momentum that he had mustard ed. The sneaker sock slipper was not designed for young boys to be zooming around hallways of hospitals late at night. The were designed to keep the feet comfortable while being able to maintain some sort of grip on the planet we were born to walk on. Being that the sneaker sock slippers were brand new, they still had all the factory grip they were designed to have. He stopped dead in his tracks. His feet stopped, but momentum had other plans. Momentum was too great and it was still going.
His feet stopped on a time. It was from his ankles up that kept moving. Todd’s upper body hurled itself then twirl upside down by his feet. He could only half see where he was going, because of the bandage and when he put his hands out to grab a hold of anything going by, then felt nothing but pain. He fell on his behind.
The moral is never run in sneaker slipper socks and expect to slide. This part of the story is killing me. I think it it time for the epilogue. Maybe we will set it twenty years in the future. When Todd has all but moved away, all of his friends are gone. It doesn’t matter because he doesn’t remember many of them, because of brain injuries.
Or we could just end it another way.