One dreary winter day in a tiny Midwestern town, dear little Jon sat looking out of his living room window. He had no school, no siblings and the only other person in the house was his mother, who was busy doing chores. So when Jon heard the name of his school called on the list of schools closed for a snow day, he was not pleased.
His house was too quiet. Besides the sounds of his mother’s footsteps in some other room, Jon could hear nothing. Snow must make things quiet, he thought. He considered watching TV, but he couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes away from the snow. Instead he began kicking the couch just to make sure he wasn’t deaf.
“Don’t do that,” his mother said walking past the couch.
Jon sighed. He was very bored and very lonely. That’s how it was being and only child sometimes and he could never really get used to it. He needed a friend to play with and did not like that his school was closed.
“Why don’t you go outside, dear? Build a snowman?” Jon’s mother peered through the doorway from the kitchen and pointed to his coat and boots. Jon looked towards the front door and then nodded at his mother. “Okay,” he said hopping off the couch.
After getting into his winter gear, Jon ventured out into the cold and snow. Before he could even start the snowman he noticed something near his feet. He studied it further and decided it was the footprint of a goose. Normally he would have preferred a cat or deer, but under the circumstances the goose would do just fine. He happily skipped alongside the footprints and followed them away.
It excited Jon that the goose was taking him so far away from his house. He only looked back once just to make sure he wasn’t lost. All he could see was the red front door, because he was too far away to see where the house ended and the snow began. He smiled and continued on his journey.
The goose prints went all the way through his front yard to the wall of trees that were the beginning of the wetlands. During the summer this was one of his favorite places to play. There would always be other kids there running through trees or splashing around in the water. Once he built a fort out of sticks and leaves and mud with some of friends. It collapsed after two minutes. But it was fun, Jon thought admiring his own footprints in the snow.
Jon would’ve have never come to the wetlands in the cold and was grateful that the goose was bringing him there. He was curious to see how the place transformed in the winter. It didn’t even look familiar. Where there had been bushes were indistinguishable mounds of snow. Where there had been trees were large and tall snow covered logs and dormant branches. And the beautiful, clear, green and blue pond was a sheet of white ice.
The wetlands looked dead to Jon. Nothing moved and everything was silent. He wondered why the goose would want to be there, but the tracks kept going right through the trees and over the pond.
Jon continued his journey even though he didn’t really want to anymore. But he decided that it would be better than sitting alone in his house.
At the edge of the pond, or the place where the snow was a little higher than ice, Jon stopped to make sure he wouldn’t slip. He took two cautious steps without falling and then kept going without a second thought.
It never occurred to poor little Jon that the pond wasn’t completely frozen or that the ice wasn’t thick enough to support him. So when the ice cracked the first time to his right, Jon was surprised, but it didn’t stop him. When it began to crack in front of him he paused. Suddenly he was afraid. If he moved at all he would crack the rest of the ice and sink. Why did I even come out here? He was too scared to remember the goose tracks.
“Mom!” called Jon automatically, but he knew she couldn’t hear him.
Before he could think of what to do, the ice under his feet split. Jon lost his balance and fell onto the slab of ice on his right. He tried to grasp at something, moving his arms quickly, but he couldn’t stop himself from falling completely into the freezing water.
After struggling for a few seconds to keep his head above the surface, Jon managed to stop himself from panicking. He turned himself around to find the closest point to the shore. After a minute he couldn’t feel his arms or legs, so he could barely do a doggy paddle.
Jon made it to land gasping and shivering and on all fours. It felt as if the water on his face was freezing instantly and it began to burn. The first time he tried to get to his feet he fell back down immediately. So before he tried the second time he took so deep breathes and got up more slowly.
He stumbled through the trees. He was worn out, but didn’t want to stop and spend any more time in the freezing cold than he had to. Eventually he could see the red door across his front yard so he tried to move a little faster.
Before he could make it to the door, Jon slipped and fell right on his back. He began to breathe heavily. Now he was hurt and cold and tired and he wanted to cry. He just lay there and wondered when his mom would come looking for him. She has to come get me. It’s getting dark, he thought as he closed his eyes. He remembered how warm his bed had been that morning, but how much he had wanted to get out of it and get to school. As he lay in front of his house, he wished he had just stayed in and watched TV.
After about ten minutes, dear Jon was getting too cold to wait any longer. He was angry with his mother for not coming to find him, but he needed to get warm. He opened the door, slammed it loudly, and stomped his feet to shake off the snow. The noise should have made his mother come to the door or at the very least yell at him to quiet down, but she said nothing.
Jon removed his gloves, coat, scarf, and boots and dropped them where he had entered the house. He went in search of his mother looking in every room with an exasperated expression.
He found his mother in the kitchen, absentmindedly washing a dish. She was holding up a plate with one hand and wiping it in a circular motion with a wet dish towel with the other. She wasn’t looking at the plate though. She was gazing out at the backyard, apparently daydreaming.
“Mom!” he said quietly, but firmly.
She jumped a little and turned to look at him. She smiled. “Hi, dear,” she said pleasantly.
“Mom, I was gone for a very long time,” Jon said walking to the sink.
Jon’s mother was still rubbing the plate and she returned her gaze outside. “I wasn’t worried. I knew you were having fun.”
Jon was stunned. His mother hadn’t even thought to come looking for him. He left the kitchen furiously vowing never to leave her alone on a snow day ever again.
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