It was so hot this afternoon Lafferty felt as if a burlap sack had been pulled over his head as soon as he climbed out of the ice truck. He could hardly breathe. Immediately he chipped off a chunk of ice and pressed it against the back of his neck while the camp counselor decided where he wanted him to put the block of ice he had ordered. Most customers ordered 25-pound blocks, which were easily handled with a pair of tongs, but the counselor ordered a 300-pound block so Lafferty would have to use a pushcart.
“I guess the best place to put it,” the counselor said finally, “is beside the horseshoe pit.”
Lafferty nodded and slipped on his leather gloves.
“Put it as close to the edge of the slope as you can.”
“You going to have the boys sculpt something out of it?” he asked because the only other time he delivered such an enormous block was to a hotel where an ice sculpture was created for a wedding reception.
He grinned. “I’m afraid no one around here is clever enough for that.”
Lafferty lowered the truck lift then, straining, tipped the enormous block of ice onto the pushcart and started toward the horseshoe pit.
“You know, I’ve never seen ice that clear,” the counselor remarked, trailing half a step behind the deliveryman.
Breathing heavily, his forehead shining with sweat, Lafferty explained that a small pump was used to circulate the water while it froze in order to keep any impurities out of it.
“It’s like looking through a looking glass.”
In another minute, Lafferty reached the horseshoe pit and, as instructed, set the block of ice almost on the edge of the steep grassy slope under the shade of an oak tree. “You sure this is where you want it?” he asked before he slid the cart out from under the ice.
“Yes, sir. This’ll do just fine.”
He then pulled the cart away and leaned it against his hip. “So, tell me, what’re you going to do with it?”
“Ride it,” he answered, grinning again. “Not me, but the kids are going to take turns riding it down the slope like a sled.”
“You don’t say.”
“It’s a treat we had for the kids a few years ago, and we decided to do it again.”
“This is a first,” Lafferty chuckled. “I’ve delivered a lot of ice but never for that purpose.”
A few minutes later, a couple dozen boys had gathered around the vault-sized block of ice now draped with a wool blanket. Even though he had three more deliveries to make this afternoon, Lafferty stayed around to watch the youngsters slide down the steep slope. Two would ride the block at the same time, their heels dug into the ice, squalling with excitement until they spilled onto the grass. Then the counselor would haul the block back up the slope in his pickup truck and two more boys would mount it.
Lafferty, watching enviously, almost wished the counselor would invite him to go for a ride. He was reminded of the many afternoons when he and his daughter hurtled down the icy slopes in their neighborhood on the rickety old wooden sled he had as a kid. She could not have been more than three or four, so small she could easily fit in his lap. But unlike these boys she seldom uttered a word, as if too frighten to speak, so that what he remembered most clearly about their rides together was the sound of the metal blades hissing across the ice. Even now, as he watched the boys ride in the blistering heat, he could hear the sound of blades on the ice. It was a sound he wondered if she heard that awful night when a driver lost control of his car on some black ice and slid into her as she was crossing the street.
Suddenly his eyes grew moist and, turning away, he knew it wasn’t only sweat trickling down his face.