The pond was thawing as winter retreated. Portions of the icy surface held puddles that shone in the sunlight. Overnight temperatures barely restored the frozen surface each passing day. Winter was losing its hold as the days grew warmer and longer. The ice made noise as it expanded and contracted. Loud pops and snapping sounds echoed through the empty woods at the shoreline.
The boy walked and slid across the open space. He was alone this afternoon. No brothers to tease him or sister to tag along and pester him with endless questions. He smiled to himself as he advanced towards the upper end of the pond where it moved into the trees and became swampy. He wanted to explore that area while he could. During the summer there was no way through it.
A sound like a gunshot came from the center of the pond. The sudden outburst startled the boy and made him stop in his tracks. He was nowhere near the source but felt the jolt move through the ice under his feet as the sound rebounded around him. He waited almost a full minute before convincing himself it was simply a harmless expansion event far away from him and nowhere near his intended path.
He shuffled his boots through the thin standing water on the ice and continued upstream. He looked down into the dark ice under his feet as he went. He carefully watched for signs of cracking. Portions of the ice were almost clear and held trapped bubbles that helped him estimate the thickness. Other sections were cloudy white with no way to tell how strong it might be. He moved along where he thought best, sliding his feet instead of lifting them.
Another dark patch ahead. He moved towards it slowly and wished for X-ray vision once again. That would be cool. His mind offered diversionary thoughts to consider for a moment. What he would see through. How he would use that superpower to help people. What he might learn.
“Crack! Crash! Splash!” went the ice.
“Boo-Doop!” went his boot as it plunged beneath the surface.
In an instant, he was up to his thigh with one leg under the water. His other leg surged him upwards as he lunged away from the sudden hole. It happened so fast, he never felt the water.
He backed away from the hole towards stronger ice he had recently crossed and slowed his terrified breathing. He knew he had been lucky. If the ice collapsed under his left leg, he would have gone in over his waist or even deeper. Definitely time to get off the pond.
He turned towards home and made careful but rapid progress off the ice. He scrambled up the shoreline and broke into a stiff run. His right leg grew colder as the water seeped into his pant leg and reached his skin. He had to reach home before long.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given someone that you failed to take yourself?