Jamie crept down the basement stairs and out the back door. Bundled together by a heavy winter coat, mittens, a scarf, and a pair of boots, his eyes peered through the slits of a navy blue ski cap. It was probably ten degrees, less with the wind chill.
He tried not to slip on the snow-covered hill. It was difficult not to run; the hill was so steep. Snow gathered in drifts some taller than him. The bare skeletons of trees shielded themselves as if cowering before a blow. The pond had to be frozen solid.
He had been watching winter’s progress from the dining room window while listening to a litany of reasons he should stay away from the water. Kids died by the thousands each year from falling through the ice, or worse yet, they ended of vegetables in hospitals somewhere. His mother loved to fill his head full of her nightmares. Jamie fantasized about zipping to the bottom of the hill on a sled.
Every step crunched as he waded through patches of untouched snow. He stumbled down the hill, landing on his butt, the snow a dramatic cushion as he crashed through the icy crust to the forgiving powder. He sat there long enough to let the cold creep into the seat of his pants. Then he pushed himself to his feet and twirled in place. He was in a giant mixing bowl, his Grandma’s house looming at the top edge, staring down at him with diamond-shaped eyes. He had to complete his mission before anyone spotted him.
The pond was frosty shades of marbled grey. He took a small stone and skipped it across the surface. The twick of the bouncing pebble echoed in his ears, as it skidded across the ice. Jamie circled the frozen disc a couple of times, surveying the cracks. Scanning the stones and debris along the brim of the pond, he removed his mittens and stuffed them in to the side pockets of his stiff coat. Then, he selected a rock about the size of his seven year old head and dropped it on a sturdy looking spot. The boulder landed with a thunk and barely chipped the ice. Jamie stepped confidently on to the frozen pond.
Glancing over his shoulder, he checked his perimeter. Not a soul in sight. He looked at his feet, planted firmly on the ice. He noticed the air bubbles, frozen in time. Bending over, he picked up the rock. Again, he dropped it. Chthunk! He took another step forward, reaching down for the rock. He did this three more times before realizing he was standing in the middle of the pond. Only the naked trees and the buildings for his grandparents’ farm watched his progress. He felt like he was in the bottom of a well, peering up through the small opening. He picked up his stone and dropped it again.
A sliver of water appeared to his right and shot out about two feet away from him. Holding his breath, he steadied himself, waiting. Water gurgled through the spider-webbed crack. He looked up at the house where he could be eating cookies and watching cartoons with his brat sister. He thought about the blue gills he caught in the summer and how he didn’t want to join them in the pond on this cold day.
Feathers of panic tickled him from within, and he fought the urge to run with a slow deep breath.
Stepping backwards, he reached for his rock. Turning to his left, he hurled the rock at the ice. Chthunk! Jamie inched forward repeating the process until he crossed the pond. He stabbed the cold air with a fierce fist, drunk with success.
The wind whipped around him, picking up swirling ghosts of snow. The trees along the wooded edge of the field began to sway, and a soft moaning filled his ears. The place had come to life, and he was no longer welcome.
Jamie scaled the mountain back to the house. He knew the kitchen would be warm as his mom and Grandma had been baking cookies all morning. A mug of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows would hit the spot. It was difficult to retrace his tracks as the wind had begun to wipe the slate clean. He turned to survey the pond. A jagged cut now split the surface. He had walked on water. He laughed and darted past his dad smoking a cigarette by the basement door.