Running across the ice

img_6438When it was still dark I walked to the lake to see if the moon was out and reflecting on the surface now that it was frozen. Even the edges along the shore were frozen, sealed shut. It hadn’t frozen like that since 1991, someone said. It wasn’t making the queer, ice-shifting sounds anymore, it all went quiet. Now that it was frozen you could throw things on it, and I thought about running across. It was such a bad idea but it was all sealed shut and it seemed like you could. It was such a bad idea it had to be considered, it was right there.

And we drove out onto the lake when I was living near Erie, PA for college. That lake froze over so hard you could drive a bus right across it and not have to worry about a thing.

It was me and Dave and his friend Sean, who worked at the local hospital and stole pills and gave them to us in his car like we were lab rats, a few oranges, some purples…he said the names but they were hard to spell and pronounce, mysterious, like Greek names for plants.

When we drove out onto the lake I could only see a part of Sean’s face from the back seat, a swath angled down from the mirror, glowing. I didn’t like his face, I thought it looked evil. He was a ballet dancer once but now looked chunky; he had a nasally voice I didn’t like and a beard I’ll call fey.

Even though it was freezing cold we rolled the windows down and Sean turned off the headlights; we stuck out our heads and screamed, and once our eyes got used to the dark everything turned a soft blue.

Sean stopped the car and killed the engine but it made me and Dave nervous, all the heat and weight of us sitting there but Sean argued, no—and then we heard a sound like a pop, the dry crack of a rope snapping and imagined the car shifted—and Sean fumbled for his keys, he turned on the lights, and we got right out of there.

It was the last time I rode in Sean’s car. That night, we left Dave on the sofa on the front porch of the fraternity house and it was really cold, and we worried he might die. Chris and I thought we should get him inside but there was no furniture, we moved it all out so we could slam dance but then we got tired and no one came to the party and we just sat around nodding, not saying anything.

The woman who lived on the lake looked like she was in her 60s but really fit, wearing make-up and workout clothes. She asked how long I’d been there looking at the moon, asked if I’d seen it when it was dark, showed me a picture of it on her phone. She said her husband grew up on the lake and one time in the ’70s, they drove a VW bug right across it—and I said no way, that sounds crazy, I don’t believe it.

Categories: Fiction

Tags: , , ,

33 replies

  1. i would have been freaking out but i know how it would be easy to be lured in.


  2. Oh no. Driving on ice. So vivid. So cold. So-oooo risky. That really plumbed the depths of some well hidden anxiety. Thank you for raising that one on a Monday morning, Bill! Love the photo too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, you better be sure that ice is damn thick if you’re going for a run on it … 🙂 Bristol harbour ices over sometimes and you can stand and watch the swans trail after the ferry boats, gratefully following in the path of broken ice.
    They used to hold ice fairs on the Thames as late as the early nineteenth century, towards the end of the Little Ice Age. All those stalls and hawkers and traders, jugglers and tumblers and singers … Now that must have been a sight

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope you don’t take unidentified pills anymore, Bill. Listening to the litany of side effects in the drug commercials gives me the heebie jeebies.

    Nice run of wintertime posts you got going here … ❄️


  5. Crazy all right.
    They ice fish around here, which seems like a terrible way to spend an afternoon. But then, regular fishing does too.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This was an especially visual and clear post . I like the bit about the driver’s face looking evil and how you gave the woman at the lake the pleasure of a shocking revelation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kristen, thanks. I experimented with lying on this one (but was honest about how I tagged it, “flash fiction”). About all of it is true except one key scene. Playing around with what it takes to story tell beyond memoir, why not? Glad you liked that vignette from the back seat though, that’s pretty much true, but behind the veil of +20 years of time and frayed memory.


      • It read like a short short story, how you tied it all together (I missed the tag, oops.) I hope you’ll play around some more, as this was really strong. I hear you on the 20+ year memories. There’s something liberating in getting to bend what we couldn’t then.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a cool way you put it, on the bending. Doesn’t work for my joints but maybe for reality, yes.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. My only experience of driving on ice was when lived in Saskatchewan, on Lake Diefenbaker. There were ice fishing shacks all over, which suggested it was perfectly safe, but it still felt dangerous.


  8. Did you take that pic? Ice always freaked me out. Ice cracks. It’s unpredictable. It’ll offer support and then withdraw it. Just like people.


  9. Think I read somewhere that ice needs to be 4″ thick before it’s safe for general use. I never had much call for going out on the ice, even back in Minnesota. I tried ice fishing once (no hut to warm up in) and about got frostbite.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nicely written. I live in Rochester and cruise thru Erie regularly. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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