It was gonna be a good day to ride, chumming around with Keith and Tommy. It was really just Keith and me who were good friends, but Tommy had the best truck for doing ice donuts in deserted parking lots. So even though he was a square, we let him come along for transportation reasons.
We weren’t supposed to end up grave digging that day, heaving against that frozen ground listening to the cold steel beats of a fine shovel blade and the thud, thud, thud of the dead earth.
No, what we were supposed to be doing was sliding down hills, snow cruising to catch Belinda Hudson’s eye, throwing a few choice snowballs at our enemies. And we did some of that, I’ll tell you right now, and it was good until we headed to Keith’s house. His mom had demanded he check in with her to see if he was needed to watch his little sister, Gina. He also lived next door to Belinda which gave us a good excuse to impress.
“Let’s make it quick,” I winked at Keith. He knew the signal, head to the house and figure out a way to ditch Tommy.
“Yeah, it won’t take long,” Keith said.
Tommy turned a sharp right and we went ice gliding down Pine Street. We were winter renegades, three rock ‘n roll warriors released from the gates of hell. We were gonna check in, and if Keith wasn’t needed for childcare, we were gonna figure out a way to ditch Tommy, then go smoke some weed. There we were driving to Keith’s place, turning into his long driveway, the house anxiously peeking at us like some sort of psychic abode, but we were oblivious. We were laughing, sliding and snow lively.
Gina was bounding down the front steps licking snow off her mittens and her little dog Rascal was right behind her. For some dumb reason, Rascal broke out and came running. Straight at us. Tommy hit the brakes, we were sliding through another dimension. Rascal was sliding too. It was all murder in slow motion. The frozen fear melting into our faces, the look on Rascal’s dog face when he realized he couldn’t stop either. Slide, slide, Gina’s excruciating scream, a slight bump on the tire, Keith’s mom running out the front door. Belinda coming out of her house. All of them clawing air and bawling.
We didn’t even have to ditch Tommy after that, he couldn’t wait to get out of there. So Keith and I wrapped Rascal in a towel and put him in a box. Belinda was wiping Gina’s tears and refused to even look at me. Keith got out of babysitting but was grounded for the rest of high school or until somebody ran him over. Whichever came first. We headed out to the farm to resting place for wayward pets.
The sly winter sun had appeared for a last hurrah and to melt the snow off the roads just in time to go back to school tomorrow and had also pushed us further into a somber mood. A perfect buzz kill. We left Mary Jane in the plastic bag where she belonged and headed back into town. If there was a lesson for that day we could carve it into an ice memorial: Life can be a glorious ride, but snow days can veer into frozen disaster when you are driving too fast on thin ice navigating the fine line between life and death.