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  • While the others raced fast fast faster fast fast faster down the dark curling snake of river,
    I lagged. I listened.



    Speed was not the thing.
    Distance had nothing to do with it.
    You had to listen hard. Look. Pay attention.
    Slow-skate.
  • Beyond the shouts and laughter and boy-noise chasing my brothers and their hurtling pack, beyond the smack of puck against stick, beyond the spit and spark and hiss of bonfires non-skating parents tended along the bank so we could stop for a spot of warmth and cocoa during the ten-mile skate,

    even beyond the slice of my own blade edges against black ice, there it was--

    a back-and-forthing between the wind's shushing through the soft arms of the swaying pines and the river's deep sharp soundings cracking and stretching--

    calling calling calling
  • Siren songs drawing me to the edge where

    I could fall in. Before I knew it.

    I made patterns with my blades, flowers and spirals to thwart
    the image rising from the inky flow beneath my feet

    of Ophelia floating and singing down the stream in the Millais painting.

    What if it had been a black-ice day when she had walked into the water? Finding a gap in the reeds--that one there--slipping under the rigid blanket, singing notes of ice?
  • Beneath my white skates, my shiny blades, just there, mere inches away, in the dark. Under the clear, smooth ice.
    A leaf, a fish, and the edges of something sinister.


    And then a commotion, a shouting and a crowd of skaters burst from around the bend bunching and swirling around a tight knot of something--someone had fallen in! Someone had fallen in! My heart stopped. My skates stopped. The wind stopped. The bubbles and leaves floating and ice cracking stopped. The singing stopped.

    There was our old doctor gliding by on his ancient skates, trailed by the clutch of boysboysboys, laughing and slapping each other and the ice with their hockey sticks and snatching stocking caps from the girls' heads, back up river towards home, red-and-black blanket draped around his shoulders, smile snagged on his face, icicles snapping in his beard, watercress tucked in his watch cap crown.

    He'd broken through, eight miles up, as he neared the edge between fresh and sea water, where the watercress grew wild. He'd broken through.
    And here he was triumphant like the king of something, pied piper, Old Man Winter.

    They waved me along with them--no skating alone--pulled me on, broke through. I sprinted behind them--what choice did I have--chased by sudden fear--where had it been lurking--my blades making clean cuts in the smooth black ice, away from the mournful sounds of water and wind, away from the lovely lonely edges back into the wild warm shouts of home.
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