Will loved to skate. Whenever he couldn’t be found by family or friends, they always knew to check down by the small pond. If it was cold out, and it was cold out nine months out of they year, then he could often be found ice skating around the pond. Just going round and round, not doing much of anything. Sometimes he would do some fancy jumps, sometimes he would bring his harmonica and play as he went round and round. Mostly, he just stared at the sky and let his mind wander. Round and round.
Will often wondered how people in other states lived. How is it that those people in Florida looked so happy being on the beach? There was no way you could ice skate on a beach. He saw pictures on TV of people rollerblading down boardwalks, but it just wasn’t the same. He had tried roller skating at the local roller rink once. He just didn’t like it. The wheels grated against the ground and there wasn’t any fluidity to it. You had to keep pushing yourself against the skates. Ice skates, on the other hand, were like gliding on clouds. They seemed to want to propel you along on the ice. Maybe it was the fresh, cold wind in his face. Maybe it was always being outdoors. Whatever it was, Will preferred to ice skate.
He started his day just like any other person, although he preferred a more strict routine. He would get up at a specific time and take a shower. He usually ate a small breakfast: an egg and some toast. Maybe some juice or coffee. His mom would often fix a large lunch for everyone so he didn’t want to overdo it. Ice skating on an overly-full stomach never felt right. Then, he’d put on his scarf and hat, tie up his shoes and shove on his winter coat. With his ice skates thrown over his shoulder, he’d bound through the snow, making snowballs and throwing them at no one in particular. The thought of ice skating always made him happy. Sometimes he’d stop and make a snowman or fall to the ground to make snow angels. You’d think he was nine, the way he acted, instead of his proper age of 24. You’d think he would be out with his friends, getting into trouble. Maybe he should be out with some girl getting into trouble. His parents often asked him about these things.. why wasn’t he interested in any girls? Did he like boys instead? “No,” he’d always reply, “I just like to skate.”
He did well in school and held down a part time job. He never had any desire to go to college. He was happy being a sack boy at the local market store. All of the regulars there knew him by his hobby more so than his name. “Hey, ice skater” “It’s the skate boy!” “Going skating today?” They’d always have a million and one comments or questions for him about ice skating. He was always happy to oblige them with answers. One might think this would upset the boss, but he was glad that the locals were building up a good relationship with his staff. He even took up a collection to help buy Will a new pair of skates that year.
Today wasn’t any different than the rest, except perhaps a little colder. Will had showered, ate breakfast, and was getting ready for a day filled with ice skating. He’d had the same skates for what seemed like forever now. They pinched his toes, but he never minded. His toes usually went numb from the cold this year anyways. But today was special. Today he opened his present from “All your friends at the market”. A new pair of skates! The skates glistened bright white and were lined with special fabric that would keep his feet warm. A thrill overcame him as he thought about how much longer he could stay on the ice.. how he could be more concerned about actually skating instead of his cold feet.
He threw his skates over his shoulder and headed for the pond. It was frozen over, as it was most of the year. It was colder this year, so he grabbed his ear muffs on the way out. The old wooden dock leading out to the pond had long since decayed and fallen to pieces. All that was left were posts sticking up that Will liked to skate between. In the summertime, his brothers would come down here to fish but in the colder months, Will would chase the little fish around with his skates. It always amazed him how they could still swim under there.
Will plomped onto the snow and took off his boots. He breathed in a lung full of cold, fresh air and and smiled up at the sun. He exhaled and watched his breath almost turn to ice in the air. It was a good day for skating. Everyday was a good day for skating, but some more so than others. He didn’t like the days it rained when he had to come in from skating early, only to face his parents anger at him catching a cold. Today though, he could skate and skate for hours in the sunshine.. and with his new, warm skates. He slipped the new skates onto his feet and laced them up. They felt like a dream. He wiggled his toes around and found he had plenty of room.
“Woohoo!” he yelled, to no one in particular. He was happy and didn’t need to share it with anyone. It was good enough just to be happy. He stood up and pushed off onto the pond. The skates slid across the ice so smooth, Will thought he might be moving faster than usual. He smiled at this thought and bent over to pick up more speed. He pretended he was a speed skater and flew around the ice in a circular path, round and round. He stood up and opened his arms, smiling and laughing. The skates were awesome. The pond was pure ice this year, with no residual snow hanging around and this just made Will glide on it with little to no effort.
Will didn’t get home until late that night and his parents were worried sick. They knew where he was, they knew it was no good to try to drag him off that pond, but they still worried. They still hollered and nagged at him when he came in the door, well past Midnight. He ignored them and headed for the kitchen, making up some hot chocolate before he headed to bed. He sat in the LaZboy in the living room, his new skates in his lap. He had wiped them down with his scarf after skating. He was going to take good care of these skates. He sat there and stroked them while he drank his hot cocoa.. it was like he was still out there, the air blowing past him..
The next morning, Will was up even earlier than usual. He woke up and headed straight for the pond. Breakfast could wait. His mother had to trunch down to the pond to yell at him, he was late for work. Will didn’t want to go.. he told his mother that he had gotten the day off. This just made her more angry and she headed back for the house. Will was out skating late again, round and round. He discovered that the skates worked even better for fancy jumps and he had taken to doing them more often now.
He finally came back home around two in the morning, scarfed down some leftovers in the fridge and then went to bed. He slept in his new skates, they had become one. The next day led to the same thing. After a week or so of it, the market called. The boss was worried about Will, he hadn’t shown up to work all week. His mother was livid. She knew that when Will was ice skating, he became incoherent to reality, but she had hoped he’d grow out of it. More than hoped, she had expected him to grow up. He obviously hadn’t. She tramped through the snow down to the pond, cursing with each step. When she got there.. Will was no where to be found. His scarf was beside the pond and there was a well worn ring around it.. as though he’d been skating.. but no Will.
She began to call out his name, convinced he was off playing in the snow somewhere. Thirty minutes passed. She was getting worried now and her throat was sore from yelling his name. She ran back to the house and called her husband at work. He told her not to worry, Will was out in the woods playing and they’d look for him when he got home. She called everyone she could think of asking, “have you seen Will today?” No one had. No one had seen him all week.
They didn’t find Will that night. They searched for hours and eventually called the police. The search dogs couldn’t find him. They kept circling the pond and the police assumed it was because that’s where he last was, circling the pond himself. They thought any other traces of him had long since vanished. All that was left was his scarf, lying by the side of the frozen over pond. People searched all winter long. They put up fliers, made pleas on TV, and even held fundraisers. Nothing. No word from Will or anyone who might have taken him.
It wasn’t until the pond thawed that they finally found Will, or what was left of him. The fish had gorged themselves on his flesh and he was just a skeleton dressed in clothing, wearing ice skates. He had fallen through the ice into the pond. He had worn a deep groove into the outer rim of the pond and caused the whole thing to flip, just like you see on the cartoons. As soon as the whole thing flipped over, it started to freeze over again. He hadn’t thought to try and break the ice with his skates – taking them off wasn’t something that would have ever crossed his mind. His mother was beside herself with grief. His father had the pond filled and the skates mysteriously vanished. The brothers stopped talking about their fishing stories. The whole town was filled with grief over losing their ice skater. And guilt. Guilt that if they hadn’t bought him new skates. .
This story is © Chelsea Roush. Any unauthorized reproduction or redistribution is prohibited.