I knew he was in trouble. Kindergartners don’t know how to control things. Frankie’s Ice Glider hit a large knot in the ground fifteen feet from the bottom of Sled Hill. His little body bounced up. His head hit the ground first and his knit hat went flying. His left side came down, and he tumbled over his feet like he was doing hand springs without his hands. He finally stopped, back-to-snow, not moving at all.
“Frankie!” I screamed. I looked back at the car. Mr. Phillip was checking the final score of the game — he didn’t see what happened. I thought about getting him for help, but we were new fosters. Not many people were willing to take in two brothers, and we were hoping for a longer placement, maybe a full year of school. Even though he and his wife didn’t have any kids, he was always telling us quiet down!… stop rough-housing!, so I thought maybe he was already getting tired of us. Maybe he took us sledding just to get us out of the house.
I rushed down the hill, half skidding, falling on my knees next to Frankie’s limp body. I sniffed the chilly wetness in my nose as I looked him over. “Frankie! You okay?” His eyes were open, looking at the sky. He had pink scrape marks on his cheek, legs open and arms straight off to his sides, but he turned his head to look at me.
“Mom’s never coming back. Is she, Robby?” His voice was quiet but strong. Turning back to the sky, he didn’t blink as the snowflakes fell to his bare forehead.
“She’s really sick.” Our code word for Mom’s drug abuse. “But you like Mr. And Mrs. Phillip, right?”
He didn’t answer. Concussion? Then I noticed that he was missing his right boot.
“Do you think if I like, stay here, I’ll get all covered in snow? Then I’d just be a bump of white.”
“I don’t know, Frankie. Maybe. But I’d miss you. We need to stick together. Y’know?” I put his hat back on his head, but when I tried to pull his boot back on his foot, he cried out. Twisted or broken, I decided; either way we needed Mr. Phillip’s help. My heart raced. I looked back up the hill.
“I don’t want to get no one in trouble, Robby. Just stay here with me.”
“Trouble? We didn’t do nothing wrong.”
“What if they don’t believe I crashed my sled? The case worker could take us away again, Robby.”
Then I realized — Frankie was scared that he had to go to the hospital, that child services might investigate the Phillips. My eyes burned and I laid down next to him, looking into the sky. I had to squint as the snowflakes reached my face. Each flake looked like it knew exactly why it existed and where it was going. I loosened my scarf and felt the snow fall on my neck. I got goose bumps and shivered.
“Do you see that giant one, Robby?” Frankie pointed over to his right. “Some of ‘em connect together, and get more and more snowflakes when they come down.”
I turned my head to look at him, and touched his shoulder. Tears were streaming down my temple. “I’m going to get Mr. Phillip. It’ll be fine. I promise.”
I found Mr. Phillip with his eyes closed but his head was bobbing to the music on the commercial. I opened the car door, and told him Frankie took a bad spill. Mr. Phillip’s eyebrows went up and his mouth opened then closed again. I was relieved he wasn’t angry. You never know with adults. He started to get up, but I held up my hands.
“It’s his ankle. Hurts too much to get the boot back on. It’d be better if you call an ambulance and have them come here, to see how he fell.”
“Y’know, better so that they know how he got hurt.” I looked down at my boots, tapping the snow underneath into slush. “The state pays for all the medical stuff.” He nodded, took out his cell phone and dialed.
We waited for the ambulance down by Frankie. Mr. Phillip thought the ankle looked broken, but said everything would be okay. Then he came up with this idea to catch the snowflakes in our mouths. I said that no two were alike. Mr. Phillip showed us how to make the perfect snowball, and even made a few for Frankie to throw at us. Mr. Phillip took one in the stomach, cranked his arms all around, and did an expert stunt-man fall. We were laughing so hard we didn’t even notice the ambulance had arrived until the rescue guys were all the way down the hill.
Mary Baader Kaley has an M.A. in Counseling, and enjoys writing short fiction and poetry of various genres. Her work can be found in Salome Magaine, The Shine Journal, and in an upcoming issue of Stymie Magazine and Powder Burn Flash.