“Well, here it is,” says Frankie.
“Wow,” says Ivy, “that’s a lot of trees.”
“It’s getting dark,” says Jimmy. “I hate winter, except for this, of course.”
They stand for a moment, looking down. Ivy crouches and runs her mitten over the surface. “It’s covered with ice,” she says.
Frankie joins her. “It sure is. It wasn’t like this yesterday. It took me all of Sunday to make it,” Frankie says.
“So, who’s trying it out first?” asks Jimmy.
A moment of silence, and then Ivy says, “oh, what the hell, I’ll go.”
“Good idea,” says Jimmy, “you’re the lightest.”
Frankie shakes his head. “No, mom will kill me if I kill you. I should try it first.”
“What about the creek?’ asks Ivy.
“It’s flat at the bottom, at least for a ways,” says Frankie, “you’ll slow down before you get there. You know, just put out your feet and stop the sled.”
“That’s a lot of trees,” says Jimmy.
“The run goes between them all,” says Frankie, “and I banked all the corners. Should be fine.”
“Did you try it out yet? Like when you finished it?” asks Jimmy.
“Ran out of time,” says Frankie.
The three of them stare at the sled run for a moment.
Jimmy looks over the edge of the hill. “It sure is steep.”
“That’s the idea, you go downhill. That’s called sledding,” says Frankie, irritably.
“Ivy should go first,” says Jimmy, “she’s got the littlest amount of gravity.”
“Jimmy, why don’t you try it instead of just bitching about it,” says Frankie.
“I am 11,” says Jimmy, “maybe I am getting too old for this.”
“Oh, what the hell,” says Ivy, and flings herself on her sled, disappearing down the run.
“Ivy!” yells Frankie. “Oh shit.”
They both lean over the hill.
“Can’t see her in those trees, but man, she was really moving,” says Jimmy.
“Oh shit,” Frankie repeats, and then turns on Jimmy, “you should’ve gone down first!”
“It’s your little sister.” Jimmy says. “You need to control her.”
They both listen. There’s a muffled yell and then a splash.
“Oh, no,” says Frankie.
“That’s the end of her,” says Jimmy.
Frankie scrambles down the hill and Jimmy follows, cautiously sliding down the sled run without a sled.
Frankie breaks out of the trees and stumbles through the snow towards the creek, which is flowing strong.
Jimmy joins him a second later.
Frankie looks up and down the creek.
“Here’s her tracks,” says Jimmy, “goes straight into the drink.”
“Oh shit,” says Frankie.
“You should jump in and try to save her. She probably got pulled under by the undertow or something,” says Jimmy. The creek hisses and gurgles along the bank. Small chunks of ice swirl in the current.
Frankie drops to his knees and peers into the water.
Jimmy joins Frankie. “She was a nice kid.”
“Boo!” shouts Ivy, jumping out from behind a tree, just up the bank. Water drips from her clothes.
The boys stare at her for a second.
“Where is your sled?” says Frankie, loudly.
Ivy shrugs. “I lost my cap and a mitten. Mom is going to kill me if I lose another mitten.”
“What happened?” says Jimmy.
Ivy’s teeth are chattering. “I went into the creek and then started floating away I guess, but I got to the bank and got out,” says Ivy.
“You are all wet,” says Frankie.
“I know,” says Ivy. “Do you see my mitten?”
“Too dark,” says Jimmy. “It’s gone.”
“Someone is supposed to hug me,” says Ivy, “or I’ll freeze.”
The boys glance at each other. “You’ll be fine,” says Frankie, “but we should probably go home.”
“Not without my mitten. Or my cap.”
“We can use one of the sleds up there,” says Jimmy, nodding at the hill. “It’s plastic. It’ll float. Ivy can just sit in it and drift until she finds her mitten and the cap and maybe the sled.”
“I don’t want to,” says Ivy.
Frankie sighs, unzips his jacket. He hands it to Ivy. She slips it on and it goes almost to her knees.
“You have a Care Bear sweatshirt!” says Jimmy, laughing.
“It was all I could find,” says Frankie.
“Who’s got a Care Bear sweatshirt?” laughs Jimmy.
“I stuck out my feet just like you said,” says Ivy, “I couldn’t stop. But that was really fun. I might go again.”
“No,” says Frankie sternly, “you are not. We are going home.”
“I’m not going anywhere without my mitten.” Ivy crosses her arms with her big, floppy sleeves.
“Here, take mine.” Jimmy hands his mittens to Ivy. “Your mom will never know the difference. They are fleece lined. See? My hands are super warm. You’ll never need another pair of mittens.”
Ivy reconsiders. “Yes, if you pull me home on the sled.”
Frankie rolls his eyes. “Whatever,” he says.
“And I get to go down the run again,” says Ivy.
“Maybe later,” says Frankie. “There’ll be other winters.”