The snow crunched beneath Tommy’s boots as he marched towards the park pulling his sled. The sun was just coming up and the air was so cold he had to inhale through his nose so it would not hurt his throat. The snow had a thin layer of ice on it, which made pulling the sled easier. It was a good thing, since the sled was made heavier due to Tommy’s little dog Macy riding on top of it.
Tommy had not wanted to bring Macy, but the dog started barking when it saw Tommy going outside, and Tommy wanted to get away without anyone hearing him. Usually that was not a problem at all. Tommy was a very quiet boy in a very loud family. Combined with the fact that he was the youngest, and small for his age meant that most of the time he felt invisible. Sometimes he could go a whole day without saying a word to anyone and no one even noticed.
But Tommy was much stronger and more ambitious than any of his loud brothers or sisters would have guessed. In the winter, when they were all huddled inside watching T.V. or playing video games, Tommy went to the big hill at Cumming’s Park with his sled whenever he could.
His dream was to accomplish what the big kids at the park said only a few had ever been able to do. The conditions had to be perfect and today was the day. The snow was packed down and icy. Kids had been sledding down the largest hill all week, smoothing the snow and making it as fast as an Olympic luge track. The big kids said if you could go fast enough, you could get all the way down the hill; skid across the small road that ran through the park, and then down another small hill to the lake. They said that five years ago Kevin Dunn had made it all the way to the middle of the lake.
The only way to do it was very early in the morning before the old men volunteers got there. The park was always so packed with kids that the old guys had started a group to direct sled traffic and keep the kids from smashing into each other. And they never, never let anyone ride a sled across the road and down to the lake. The old guys loved saying, “a kid on a sled is no match for a car”. The old guys loved lecturing the kids about the dangers of everything.
But when Tommy got to Cumming’s Park there were no old guys yet and no kids either. Tommy and Macy stood alone at the top of the hill looking over the vast expanse of snow. The hill, then the lightly plowed road, then the smaller hill then the lake.
Tommy gently lifted Macy off the sled and put him to one side telling him to stay. Then Tommy took a running start holding the sled in front of him like a shield. He leapt off his feet and threw himself onto the sled, almost knocking the wind out of himself as he did so.
The speed was amazing. He felt the cold air rushing across his face, and could hear Macy barking excitedly at the top of the hill. Then suddenly, he was at the road, and the sled’s metal runners made a terrible screeching sound as they scraped against the pavement. The sled slowed, but just as he feared it might stop, he was across the road and the sled picked up speed again as it started down the second hill towards the lake.
Then the sled moved with a wonderful smoothness as it began to glide out onto the frozen lake. The town had cleaned all the snow off the lake so that people could ice skate. Further and further, past Kevin Dunn’s record, past the rubber orange cones.
The sled finally stopped and Tommy lay on the sled breathing heavily and feeling exhilarated. Macy had run down the hill and was pacing at the edge of the lake excitedly. It was just then that Tommy saw the first of the spider cracks in the ice begin to appear, and realized too late what the rubber orange cones meant. The old guys placed them wherever the ice got too thin.
From living in that part of Connecticut Tommy actually knew a lot about ice. He knew better than to get off the sled. If he stood up all his weight would be on two feet instead of being spread out, and he would certainly fall through the ice into the freezing cold water. He spread his arms and placed his gloved hands on the ice, and slowly pushed himself backwards. As he did so the spider clacks multiplied, and the ice started to make small splitting sounds. He listened desperately for any sound of the deeper toned sounds indicating a major split in the ice.
It took him almost half an hour, but he was finally able to push himself backwards, past the orange cones, back to the safety of the ground. He sat down in the snow exhausted, while Macy licked his face merrily.
When Tommy and Macy made it back to the house the rest of the family was having pancakes and hot chocolate and Tommy realized he was starving. Tommy’s mother said something about thanking him for taking Macy out for a walk, but Tommy was too tired and hungry to listen.
The rest of that Saturday, Tommy spent huddled on the couch under a big blanket with his brothers and sisters watching T.V. and drinking hot chocolate while Macy slept at their feet. Tommy realized he really didn’t care any more about breaking Kevin Dunn’s record, and that somehow he didn’t seem to be invisible any more.