I held my breath and ran. Or at least I tried to run. It was like a dream, where your legs are in mud and the more desperately you try to go faster, the slower you end up moving.
I couldn’t get any traction on the icy hill in my rubber snow boots, but I stumbled and sprinted as quickly as I could to try and catch Charlie before he sailed over the cliff.
It hadn’t snowed for a couple of weeks, it had been sunny, and our favorite toboggan run had been glazed into a crispy field of ice. It would be impossible for Charlie to climb to the top of the run, so we stopped at the middle bump and I pushed him off the smaller hill.
And then he started to drift to the right. Towards the cliff, a nearly 4 foot drop from the schoolyard to the parking lot, a steep drop off a retaining wall. Usually the boys wear helmets when we sled, today they weren’t, and so I sprinted. Stumbling, and falling across the ice that caused Charlie to go faster and me to go slower.
I didn’t make it.
Charlie sailed head first off the drop smacking on to the pavement below.
The kids had gone over jumps in the past. I have a great picture of Zacharie at this same hill doing what he calls “the flying squirrel” (top).
But this wasn’t a jump. It was a drop. Charlie went straight over the edge and I heard the thud. I heard the stony skid of his slide on the pavement. Then there was the eternal silence, and finally, just as I stumbled over the edge to reach him, his cry.
Our fun afternoon of ‘bogganing had taken a sudden turn, but if we were in many cities across North America it’s a turn that would have broken the law. Because lawyers.