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Stephen. V. RameyJune, 29 2015

“I’m going over to Ted’s house,” Scott shouted on his way out the door. The screen slapped behind him, and he was into the yard, onto the graveled drive, turning toward the main road. He’d waited until Mom was opening the oven door, leaning down to retrieve that apple pie, padded gloves turning her fingers into goofily rounded hands.

The truth was like that, he thought. It was like a padded mattress, layers of cushion protecting the springs that actually made it work. As long as you didn’t tear the padding you could sink down into layer after layer of half-truths, half-lies, things left unsaid or said with just the right words and be perfectly comfortable with yourself.

He patted his coat pocket, the fishing line coiled down in it, the hook so carefully inserted into the outer lining so as not to stick him when he ran. He was going to Ted’s house... after. But first he was going to—

“Whoa there boy.” Dad stood from beside the tractor. “Where’s the fire?”

Drat, Scott thought. He’d spent so much effort defeating Mom that he forgot Dad was out here working. The tractor was skimmed with ice, the plow a yellow metal wedge attached to its front. Scott imagined gravel scraping, snow piling away, powerless against that clever design.

“I asked you a question,” Dad said.

Scott blew steam from his mouth to emphasize his out-of-breath state. “I’m going over to Ted’s house.”

“Got your chores done?”

“Yes, sir.” That was true. Whether he had cleaned his room well enough for Mom’s inspection was another question.

“Do your homework?”

“Don’t have any.” He’d left his books in his locker.

Dad wiped the back a gloved hand across his brow. Scott’s gaze went to a tear in one of the fingers, a jagged hole. His Dad was bleeding, but didn’t even notice. The cold must be numbing him.

“I’m kind of in a hurry,” Scott said with a glance back at the house. Mom would show up at the door any moment and his whole plan would come apart.

“I guess it’s okay if your Mom says so.” Dad’s eyebrow lifted. “You did ask her, right?”

“She didn’t say no,” Scott said.

“Did she say yes?”

“Sure she did,” Scott said firmly. She said yes, I could have a piece of pie if I cleaned my room.

“Well, go on then,” Dad said with a playful shove.

“Thanks!” Scott started toward the road.

“You boys stay off the ice,” Dad said. “It’s too early in the season.”

Scott walked faster.

“Did you hear me?” Dad’s voice was stern now.

Scott waved. “Sure, I heard you, Dad. Loud and clear.”

His father turned back to his work. The kitchen screen door pushed open, Mom’s fingers curled around its edge, bright against tarnished metal.

Scott ran for all he was worth.

#

The lake had been frozen over for three days, long enough to support two boys. Scott half-walked, half-skated to its center, feet scattering the skim of snow in sparkling bursts to reveal milky, mottled ice.

He gazed across the white expanse. Leafless trees marked the lake shore. There was no sign of Ted or anyone else.

“Fuck,” Scott muttered, relishing the sound of his voice grating the silence. His hand curled around the fishing line in his pocket, useless without a hole in the ice. Ted was supposed to bring the chisel and hammer.

He saw footsteps in the white leading from the opposite shore. Ted had been here, then. Probably forgot the chisel and had to go back.

“Ted!” He rubbed his hands briskly and dug the hook from the coat fabric with fingers he could barely feel. The cold was sinking in. How long would he have to wait?

“Ted!” His voice echoed. A few strides ahead, some of the snow had been cleared. That must be where Ted meant to chip the hole. He walked to the clearing, pressing the rounded end of the hook into flesh that dented white. He thought about the gloves wadded in his other pocket, but they were kid gloves, fingerless, padded. He wouldn’t be caught dead...

A crackling sound.

Frowning, he looked down. A boy's face stared blankly from beneath ice as clear as glass. “Ted?” gushed and evaporated.
Adrenalin fired, Scott's leg moved back, but it was too late.

And, as his feet slid out, as his butt landed on ice that sagged and squirmed rather than slamming hard, as water oozed up colder than anything, sopping his pants, pulling him down, he realized that lies have layers too.

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