The Many Ways of Collapsing on Icy Pavements

Submitted into Contest #128 in response to: Start your story with someone making a cup of tea — either for themself or for someone else.... view prompt

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Friendship Teens & Young Adult Funny

David Vallejo woke up and checked the time on his phone. 6:43 am. January 1. He got up from the couch where he was sleeping and went over to his friend Pavel, who was resting on an air mattress on the floor.

“You up?” he whispered to Pavel.

Pavel responded with a sound that only vaguely resembled human speech.

“Do you think I should start cooking breakfast for everyone?” David said.

Pavel gave a response identical to the previous one.

“Understood. I’ll go do that.” David said and then he went into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator with no particular culinary plan in mind. He scanned the interior and saw a carton of eggs, but soon his mind and therefore his eyes naturally wandered over to the counter. There was resting a small cardboard box of green tea bags, ready for brewing. He knew that Pavel was a tea fanatic and decided he would prepare some for his friend. But when he walked over to grab the box, it felt unusually light. David opened the flap to look inside and saw of course that it was totally empty.

He contemplated his next course of action. He and Pavel were two of the slightly more than half a dozen people at the house of Patricio O’Higgins. David appeared to be the only person awake, which was not surprising given that they had all stayed up well past 2 am to welcome the new year. The fact that David had in fact woken up already was what needed explanation. He surmised it had something to do with the fact that he normally got up around this time for school, but the exact cause was neither here nor there.

About 50% of the people there had driven themselves, and he had not. He walked there from his own house. This particular collection of facts together meant that if he were to go to the store to buy some tea for Pavel and whoever else wanted it, he would have to: A. Wait for someone else to wake up first, B. Actively wake up at least one such individual, or C. Walk over there.

There was a store easily within walking distance, but there was a slight inconvenience in the form of a thin layer of ice covering the world that had appeared between David walking over there yesterday afternoon and the present moment. As he peered through one of the windows of the O’Higgins family home he could see the faint glimmer of sunlight reflecting off the glistening frosted sidewalks and streets. A strong argument for staying inside.

The arguments for venturing out being of course, that David was: A. Bored waiting alone in silence and B. Did not want to disturb his sleeping friends. So, he decided to put on his coat and quietly step out of the house. The driveway was relatively clear but when he placed his right foot on the sidewalk and then lifted his left, the right foot moved or more precisely slid across the surface without any input from his brain so commanding it. There was a fraction of a second of slight panic before he managed to put his left foot down on stable ground. He then took, two very small steps forward.

The coefficient of friction on that sidewalk was indistinguishable from that of a skating rink. David turned his head and looked at Patricio’s house. It wasn’t too late to turn around and he wondered if he should do so. No, he concluded. He decided he would do something nice for his friends and acquire that tea, rather than sitting in the seductive comfort inside. He pressed forward with more tiny steps, and as he did so, the fear slowly evaporated. His gait gradually approached a normal pace and speed. The involuntary sliding of his feet started to amuse him, rather than panic him. He even gave his body a playful push, just to encourage a little…

David came tumbling down to the pavement below. He collapsed like France in 1940. It happened so quickly he didn’t even realize it until his elbow and pelvis hit the hard icy sidewalk. “Fuck!” he said, expressing the deep anger he felt in that moment towards the universe, but which of course should have been directed at himself. He stood back up with great deliberateness to avoid a repeat of the humiliation. He looked forward. As far as his eyes could see, all the sidewalk was covered in that same, thin, indestructible and deadly layer of gleaming ice. The grass beside the sidewalk however was covered in hard snow, the kind that collapsed with a satisfying crunch beneath one’s feet into harmless powder.

David concluded the safer and smarter strategy would be to walk through the grass, which was not nearly as slippery. As he continued on his way through the snow-covered vegetation, the mental and physical pain quickly subsided. He said a quick prayer, thanking God for the resilience of his still young body and felt at peace amidst the cold winter air. He noticed after a block or two that this section of sidewalk was only partially covered in ice. There were clearly discernible gaps in the skating rink surface where the sun had melted it away. David felt there was something vaguely cowardly about taking the ultra safe route through the crunchy snow (which was also probably slower), so he stepped back onto the sidewalk and continued walking. At first he kept his eyes pointed firmly at the ground. He was being very deliberate to only place his foot down on those parts of the sidewalk that were not reflecting the rays of the morning sun. But as he went further on, there was less and less ice visible in his path. He adjusted the angle of his head slightly to see the path in front of him and to his delight, it appeared totally clear.

David was lulled into a sense of safety and assumed a normal walking pace for several minutes. But his carefree tranquility was unjustified. He came upon another patch of ice and his foot slid involuntarily once again. This time his collapse was like that of the Roman Empire. It happened so slowly and gradually that he was fully aware of each stage as it was happening. As he flailed his arms through the air, vainly in search of something stable to grab, he felt the most powerful panic imaginable. Analyzing the situation rationally, the damage would be trivial. But the lower, more instinctive parts of his brain knew that he was falling. And they didn’t know if he was falling 5 feet down or 5000 feet down. He was petrified. And then…

His body hit the cold pavement. But this time, he felt no particular pain. Sure, there was maybe a slight tickle, but nothing like the body slam he had experienced the first time. Without any pain filling up his brain’s attention, David could now appreciate the humor of his situation. Laying on the ground still, he giggled. A rhetorical question appeared in his head. Isn’t life a beautiful thing? It is indeed he told himself. And then he stood up.

He scanned the sidewalk in front of him. It was icy, but only moderately so. Not like the skating rink conditions he had encountered earlier. He knew he might regret this decision in five minutes (or less) but he continued along his previous route anyway. And he was quite happy about it. It felt like a minor adventure to him. And isn’t life after all, supposed to be an adventure?

But as could have been easily predicted, he encountered more ice underfoot rather quickly. His foot slid on the hard watery surface. His arms flailed. His mind went into full panic mode. This time, he collapsed like the Soviet Union in late 1941. In other words, he didn’t collapse at all. He came within a hair of collapsing, but just barely avoided it by some strange combination of miracles. He regained his balance just in time and stood there in stunned satisfaction. And he continued walking toward his destination.

The same thing happened again after a few minutes. Another near miss, except this time, he didn’t even panic, he just laughed. He laughed all the way to the grocery store, feeling absolutely invincible. He got the small box of tea he wanted and headed for the checkout lane. At that moment he realized he had just spent almost an hour getting over there, and would now have to re-walk the same route backwards. Or would he?

In the checkout lane he noticed that the back of the head in front of him looked familiar.

“Patricio?” David said.

His friend turned around and responded with a shocked expression “David, what are you doing here?”

“I’m picking up some tea.” David said and held up the box he was buying “What are you doing here?”

“I’m picking up food for breakfast. I only had three eggs in the fridge.” Patricio said “How did you get over here?”

“I walked.” David said.

“Of course.” Patricio said. They walked out of the store together and headed in the direction of Patricio’s car.

David warned his friend “Be careful. It’s icy out here.”

“I’ll be fine.” Patricio said, about 15 seconds before he slipped and collapsed like Constantinople in 1453. David suppressed his urge to laugh and offered a hand to his best friend.

January 10, 2022 18:51

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1 comment

K.D. Walter
03:37 Jan 14, 2022

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