Slip Sliding Away

February 17, 2014

This morning an ice storm hit the country. My front green concrete porch was glazed with black ice. My up-sloping driveway was as slick and curved and steep as the Sochi luge run. Clifton Terrace road was a ski jump. (Yes, I’m Olympic themed this day.) Schools were once again closed. This has been ‘the winter of our discontent.’

I needed to get out. At ten a.m. I put on my winter outerware and stepped onto the porch. I couldn’t move—even the welcome mat was stiff with ice. So I jumped down onto the gravel bed and planted my boots in the snow, for traction. I cross country-booted my way to the garage and climbed into the car. I backed out, felt good enough to drive forward and made my way slowly up to the main road. All was well.

Route 3 was melting shush. I did some shopping, walked at the Alton mall and drove home. The event began here.

I turned into my 60-yard-driveway and saw that the newspaper had arrived late. It had been thrown onto the driveway and slid down to the bottom. I eased the car down, stopped, pulled the emergency brake, shifted to neutral and exited the car. I was facing down on a 65 degree hill. I was on gleaming ice. My life flashed before my eyes. I was going to involuntarily slide to my death.

Several seconds elapsed. The car began to slide without me, the sheer weight of it succumbing to gravity. It glided sideways for 15 feet and settled over the newspaper. It could have slid off the road and down the hill to the tree stumps.

All this I thought—as my body began its descent, me now a snowboarder, actually a boot boarder, actually an idiot, sliding down, down to the car, now crashing into the car and falling, thinking of my two surgeries, my right shoulder and my left arm with its Frankenstein scar and relocated ulnar nerve. I lay on the ice . . . and nothing happened. I was okay.

I used the car for leverage, pulled myself up and skied-snow boarded-boot boarded-slid on down the road to the pine tree, grabbed a bottom branch and ended my career with a tree hug. I got back to the porch, back to the door, back inside.

An hour later I was at my desk, swilling hot tomato soup and looking through the south window at the winter wonderland. That was when I heard violent skidding of tires, coming east from Clifton Terrace, from the long driveway below me. That was when a large man in overalls and a Cardinals ballcap and a flannel shirt bootslid down east to west, down the icy driveway and crashed into the woods. He righted himself, looked up towards toward his vehicle then up towards his house.

He unzipped and peed into the woods, possibly thinking of his options. Then a rusted old red Ford truck appeared from the east, sliding down the steep hill, the man hastily zipping up and facing his approaching, driverless pickup: No, No! He fell forward onto his front, into his pee, into the path of the truck. And waited.

The truck slid down, down . . . and settled, its owner, his hands over his head, under its bumper. I gave him a 9.8. I was the Short Dance program, following this convolution of Olympic metaphor, and he was the free skate. Scooooooooooooooooooooore!

There is a moral to this story. Something about men, perhaps. There is no wrong answer. I look forward to reading yours.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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