Flash: Sledding

Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

The drive out to the sledding hill hadn’t taken very long. When I had been the one in the child seat, it always took forever, but today we arrived in a blink of an eye. My twins, Annie and Zeke, turned four during the summer. Last year, the bump from an old trunk in our backyard satisfied them but not this year.

This year they graduated to Dannon Hill. Our township had been using it for over a hundred years. When the Dannon family could no longer maintain the liability and were going to sell it to developers, people raised the money and bought it from them to be a park. The township wouldn’t touch it when the association tried to give it to them, since it didn’t want the liability in our sue-happy culture.

Some really weird legal wangling arranged for the park to own itself. Sure you can sue the park, but all you would get is its assets … which is the park and a small endowment to keep it mowed. Then you get the liability because there was no stopping this being a sledding hill.

The kids and I have picnicked here often during the warm months, the local playground near our small millhouse was more paved than grass. They have run and tumbled down the gentle part of the hill dozens of times and helped with the cleanup during the fall, earning them the right to grown-up kid sled.

Last night they barely slept because of the snow.

“Is it wet enough?” they asked. “Powdery enough?” “Deep enough?” “Where are our sleds?” “Do we need better gloves?” The questions didn’t stop. My boyfriend, their father, went back to his apartment after the first hour. I got another three hours of it before I put them to bed with their outfits for tomorrow, now today, already laid out.

“Don’t unbuckle until the car is parked.” I said as I searched the street for a spot. The twins’ hands immediately left the straps they had started reaching for when I had slowed down. They knew I had no issue pulling away again if they broke that rule. I established the punishment early, as soon as they figured out how to unclick the belts on their own. The screaming matches for those two weeks were worth every moment of peace and sanity I have now. With two of them, I must be firm.

Cops directed traffic down a side street across from the sledding hill, and I slipped into the bank’s parking lot. They were closed for the storm.

“The engine is off and the key is out.” I announced, and my two Houdinis were out of the car before I had tucked my purse under the seat, pocketing only my wallet and keys. “Do not go to the back of the car until I am there.” I shouted as they closed the doors.

They waited impatiently, touching the bumper either side until I joined them in the back after checking for other cars coming in the parking lot. “It’s slippery because of the ice. I want you to keep a hand on the car until we are ready to start walking.”

“It’s not slippery at all.” Annie, my adventurer, rubbed her feet back and forth on the cleared pavement showing me.

“It’s slippery for the cars. See where the pavement is wet out there.” I pointed to the shiny black asphalt. “It’s cold enough for water to become ice.”

“Like the fridge?” Zeke asked.

“Yes.” I opened up the back and pulled out the two plastic sleds, one long pink with a Steven Universe star in the center and one star-spangled blue and shaped like Captain America’s shield. Zeke grabbed the Steven Universe, and Annie took the star-spangled one which she declared was a Wonder Woman sled the first time she saw it. “Cars can slip on ice just like we do, and when they do, they slide into other cars and people so we got to be really careful today crossing the road.” I put out my hands, and they each took one.

Sherrill was pressuring me to have another kid, but I only got two hands and he refuses to get married.

I don’t know.

I love him, most of the time. I love them always. But I just can’t do this alone. Him dropping by for dinner and an hour playtime isn’t enough.

I pushed him from my mind and joined the crowd gathering at the curb waiting for the cop to wave us across.

Once across safely, I ushered my kids to the gentler side of the hill. The high schoolers gathered with near the steep drop, which then went up a little, sending them flying to crash on the second part of the downslope until ending in a ditch at the bottom that unseated all but the most determined before continuing on flat ground for another forty feet and ending in old growth trees. I made it to the treeline only twice during my teenage years; the hill had been more ice than snow at the time. The teenage side had already matted down the fresh snow to a slick surface.

The young kid side of the hill had a slighter incline, and most of the really young kids didn’t have the weight to get through the flattening of the hill before the second downslope without an adult on the sled with them.

“Mom, ride with me,” Zeke begged as we got close to the area. As we arranged his long sled into place, Annie bellyflopped on her round one and pushed with her feet until she got enough speed. I got on the sled, holding the nylon ropes and digging my boots in while Zeke got between my legs.

“Are you ready?”

He looked up at me with total trust. “Yes.”

“We are going to go all the way to the bottom with me on the sled, is that okay? It’s going to be a long way back up and you are going to have to pull the sled.” I knew I would give in a pull the sled some, but I had gone over all the hill etiquette last year at home and throughout the summer. Mommy only carries the food was one of the rules.

“I’m ready.”

“Okay.” I pulled my feet into the sled and started pushing with my hands. My little man did the same. Soon we got up enough speed to move. The flat area slowed us down but my weight carried us through it and down the next slope. We bounced a bit in the ditch, but this side of the hill the ditch was less than a foot deep and nearly three feet wide. The high school side, the ditch ran as deep as four feet in places.

Zeke hadn’t made any noise on the way down, and his hands stayed on mine as I pulled the ropes back and forth. At the bottom, I used my feet to bring us to a gentle stop and got off to look at his face. He had a grin ear to ear.



I handed him the rope to pull the plastic glider up the hill and trudged behind him, keeping an eye out for my daughter in her bright red winter coat. I finally found her scooting on her bottom to get to the second half of the hill. Getting off the sled means going to the side and walking to the top again.

Two more long trips down and up the hill, and my cautious kid was ready to attempt it on his own. Without my weight, he only made it halfway, but Annie soon convinced him to ride double on his sled and they made it all the way down. I remained on the top staring, keeping the gloved hands in the parka instead of nibbling on my nails.

“They’re fine,” a male voice said beside me.

I glanced sideways to see one of the first-grade parents standing beside me.

“I hope so.” I pulled out a hand and offered it. “Crystal.”


After shaking hands, we both went back to staring at the children sledding down the hill and trudging up the hill, and laughing while doing both. Zeke was going down the hill with two other kids on his sled, and Annie had hooked up with her best friend of the month to double-team the hill.

“Which ones are yours?” I asked.

“The girl in the green jacket with the Brave Disney Princess is Aubrey, and her older brother from my first marriage is somewhere in that mess of teens. Jennie stayed home today.”


“My fourteen year old. I can’t figure her out.”

“She’s a teen. You’re not going to.”

He shrugged and sounded a little pained. “Last night she was all for this and this morning she refused to go, yelling and crying.”

“Did she start her period?” I asked.

“Fuck.” Randall looked off into the distance. “Maybe. It’s so unpredictable. I thought those things came every four weeks like clockwork, but hers are all over the place.”

“They usually are to start with.” I explained. “Has your wife helped you with it?”

“I’m twice-divorced, and since David’s and Jennie’s mom died last year, our relationship isn’t the greatest. I got a lot of time to make up for.” He did the eyes on Aubrey and check of the teen hill before continuing. “Two months of summer and one weekend a month isn’t enough.”

I nodded. “So what you might want to do with Jennie is see if she is pad only or can use tampons. That likely is the problem today. If she’s pad only, she probably was worried about leakage. First days can be very heavy. The combo of a tampon and pad would have worked well for today.”

“Thanks, I think.” Randall smiled at me. “Now I got to figure out how to talk to her about it.”

“Is Aubrey a weekend-only kid?” I probed, because after talking menstrual cycle, pretty much everything is open, and talking to him kept the panic at bay. My babies were sledding.

“No, I got joint custody. Me and Cindy didn’t work out, but we are still friends. We usually alternate months, but Cindy just had a new baby so I’m keeping Aubrey for a few months. Having her underfoot helps with the older two.” Randall glanced my way, and I noticed he had a gray-hazel eye color. “You got twins. That can’t be easy.”

“They are a handful, that’s for sure. It would be easier if they were friends with each other, but they are such different personalities.” I bit my lip as I eyeballed Annie figuring out how to spin the shield while going down the hill. Zeke had stayed at the bottom of the hill after his last run and was making snow angels with a group there. “Great kids though.”

“All we got to do is not screw it up.”


A different type of scream went up on the teen side. I raced, slip-slide over as quickly as I could. I heard Randall crashing along behind me. Several taller bodies were gathered around one of the random trees on the slope. The ones the teens try to get close enough to touch.

“Let me through, I’m a nurse.” I said shoving the well-padded bodies aside. “Nurse, coming through.” I saw Randall’s glove move one of the teens aside. A boy lay crumpled on the ground, his leg driven into the tree at a very wrong angle, blood coming out from heavy jeans with a bit of white bone visible. Not something I usually see working at a general practitioner’s office checking weight and height, but I was trained for this. I pointed to Randall, “Get the officer and have him call an ambulance. Tell them compound fracture of the leg, unknown other injuries. Will need to transport person up the hill once the legs is stabilized. Got it?”

“Is David going to be okay?”

Of course, it was his kid. Story of my life when shit hits the fan. “He’s going to need surgery and stabilization. The sooner the better. You taking picture with your cell phone, call 911 now! And you,” I point to another kid who wasn’t freaking out. “Get the officer. Move!” I unzip my parka, tossing it aside. The nylon gloves won’t stop the blood long, but they are better than nothing.

Seeing the same gray-hazel eyes as his dad open, I change my voice. “Hey David, my name is Crystal Hughes. I’m a nurse. How are you doing?”

He made a low moaning sound. I saw his lips try to form words.

Conscious, responsive, I check off the list in the back of my head. No gushing from the wound, only seepage. That is going to take some metal to get it all back the way it should be. I listen to the kid on the phone with 911 try to explain things why I continue the assessment. The eyes have gone pinpoint, merciful shock reducing pain and blood loss, dangerous shock dropping body temperature. “Randall, help Dietrich tell the 911 operator what is happening. Direct any questions you don’t understand to me.”

“David, I need you to stay still for now. The ambulance is on the way, and they will be able to tie everything down so nothing gets damaged further before they move you. I know it hurts.” I pressed my hand into his right hand. “Here, hold onto me. Your dad’s here and an ambulance is on the way.” His hand gripped mine tight.

“I am Officer Daniel Bailey,” cut through the chatter around us.

“I’m Crystal Hughes, a nurse.” I said, not moving my eyes from monitoring my patient. His lips were going white and his skin had sweat forming. Come on ambulance. “Get a path clear from the street to here for the ambulance crew.”

The officer gave politer orders than I had been using on the teens, directing them to get a good walkway. Some of them hand shovels, and he had them clearing the excess ice away. “Anyone here parked on the street above?” he shouted. Those he grabbed to get a parking spot opened up.

“Come on David, you can squeeze harder than that.” I teased. He redoubled the bone-crunching grip as multi-colored lights flashed above.

“I’m Juan Ramos, a Paramedic.” The next words the EMT said were the most blessed words in existence. “I have the scene.”

“I am Crystal Hughes, a nurse. You have the scene. Patient is responsive, but nonverbal. His name is David. Shock, compound fracture of the lower left leg, looks like both fibula and tibia, blood loss. Unknown other injuries. I have not done any stabilization, patient is as found. Parent is present and may know blood type.” I switch my voice, as I continue to stare into David’s eyes. “David, Juan is going to take care of you, but I am going to stay until you are loaded onto the ambulance. Your dad will follow you to the hospital with Aubrey, okay? Let go and squeeze once if that is okay.”

My stomach loosened as he did so. Responsive makes such a difference, especially for the next bit. “Juan and his team are about to move your leg and strap it onto a board. It will hurt. Squeeze me twice when you are ready.” The sweat grew, but David squeezed my hand twice. “He’s ready.” I stated in my nurse paperwork voice.

I watched one kid collapse into the snow when David started moaning and the blood flow redoubled. The teen moved within moments. I made a mental note to look them over later.

Straps quickly locked the leg into a fixed position, then Juan’s team slapped on the first of the bandages. I hadn’t dared press the bloody wound for fear of doing more damage than help; if it had been bleeding more profusely, my parka would have been shoved at it, but the trickle hadn’t been enough to risk shoving those shattered bones anywhere near the major veins. Next, they rolled his body and slipped the body board under him.

The three members of the squad each took a handle and carefully carried him up the hill. I paralleled them, telling David what was happening. Once they slid him into the ambulance which Officer Bailey and the driver had been guarding, Juan took Randall’s information, let him know which hospital David would be transported to, and got final signatures needed to work on a minor. Bleeding minor in shock gave us a lot of leeway, but not free reign. Randall could have stopped us at any time.

I waited for the ambulance to pull out and returned to where I had tossed my parka. The teen who fainted was taking some ribbing from her friends, but my checking her out ended that teasing. I watched Randall collect the green coated Aubrey and I waved as he left. I noticed my gloves had red splatter and removed them. I tucked them into the parka to be thrown out later.

The young portion of the hill had cleared out. Ambulances did that to an area, getting rid of those with children to guard and gathering the thrill chasers. My two were standing with Betts’ mom, Annie playing with her best friend while waiting and Zeke just looking worried. He takes after me so much it hurts.

“Thank you for looking after them.” I said to Betts’ mom. Someday I will need to learn her name but not today. As the adrenaline dropped from my system, I felt the after-action shivers start.

De nada.” She pushed her thick black hair over her shoulder. “What you do, it’s important.”

Gracias.” I looked at my children. So precious. That could have been them wrapped around a tree, may be them one day. I want to wrap them in cotton. “So, what’s next kids?”

“Ice Cream!” declared Annie.

I fake a laugh. “Aren’t you cold enough?”

“It’s never too cold for ice cream,” Zeke explained.

“Would you and Betts like to join us? I’m paying.” Judging by how much Betts ate at my house during the summer, I knew money was tight. I could see her hesitating. “Por favor, I’m really tired and could use the help. If you have the time.”

Si. I have time. They be tired after eating.”

“Naptime.” I gave her the secret smile between adults who understood just what that mean. In my case, times two.

“No, no naptime time.” Annie stomped her foot. “Ice Cream!”

Giving her the look, I said, “Please.”

“Please, can we go out for ice cream?”

“Yes. And Betts and Betts’ mom are coming with us. Now get your sleds, we will hold hands when we get to the road.”

(words 3162, first published 4/17/2022)