Sunday 18 June 2023

Ice Breaker by Raine Fielder

After she had buried the body [GJ1] she brushed her hair, then put on her white gown and walked out to the backyard. She looked over to the mound of dirt and smiled. She made her way out on the pier over the lake and looked down at the frozen water. She carefully [GJ2] stepped down onto the hard surface. She walked slow and deliberate, step by step until she was far enough out to see the vast mountains around her. She knew this lake well, knew exactly where the thin spots of ice would be, she stood on one and waited. The weight of her and the warmth of her bare feet would soon do[GJ3]  the work for her. She heard a small cracking sound and then another. There was no going back, she fell through.

Fifty years later, Dakota Slater and his son packed their bags for their first trip to a cabin Dakota had just bought in northern Wisconsin. His son, Elliot had just turned twelve, his mother had left them a few months back because of her drug addiction[GJ4] . Dakota had struggled with the same problem, but he had to take care of Elliot, so he had joined a twelve-step. One of the guys in his group had suggested a winter trip during Dakota's lay-off months and sold him a place really cheap. He worked construction and every winter he had nothing to do and keeping busy was the best way to keep himself sober. Elliot didn't talk much, he'd been through and seen a lot from both of his parents and Dakota was ashamed of it. [GJ5] He drove through the white dusted forest, looking over at Elliot in the passenger seat. Elliot had his hood up over his head and looked down at his phone as he played a video game.

Dakota started to say something but decided against it. He didn't know how to talk to kids, not even his own. He sighed and drove the rest of the way in burdened silence[GJ6] . Lumi, their golden lab in her crate, in the back of the SUV, was asleep. She didn't add much to the conversation. When they finally got to the cabin, Dakota was surprised at how big it was considering the price. It looked like it had two stories and an attic. It had a big front porch and aside from some minor repairs it was in good shape. He got out and Elliot did the same, somehow getting out of the vehicle safely without even glancing up from his phone.

"Help me with the bags," Dakota said. Elliot dropped his phone into his hoodie pocket and did what he was told without complaint. He was a [GJ7] good kid who never disobeyed them or got into trouble and got average grades at school. He had turned out better than most kids with two addicts for parents. Dakota had held down a job at least, for most of Elliot's life. But provider was the only roll Dakota had ever had in his son's life. They never had been close emotionally, that was his mother's part of the deal. Dakota had always been too high to realize how much she had failed to do her part. He couldn't blame her completely though; she had a disease and hadn't been ready to be a parent either. Dakota had emotionally neglected them both until drugs were her only family. So, when she had left a year ago, Dakota woke up and realized he needed to be more than just a financial provider. Elliot needed at least one parent in his life that would be there for him.

They carried the bags inside, and Dakota let Lumi out of her crate to run around. The road they’ve driven up on had no cars on it and even if someone drove up, they’d be going slow since the roads were pretty icy. She never wondered far from Elliot anyway, Dakota [GJ8] tried to play with her in the snow, but she ran inside, Dakota sighed and followed her. She jumped up on the couch where Elliot sat playing on his phone again. Dakota called her but she crawled closer to Elliot and laid her head on his lap. Elliot absentmindedly patted her head and she seemed to smile defiantly at Dakota. He threw his arms at her, since she was the only one paying even a little attention to him. He knew he hadn’t earned much more than these cold shoulders from them, but he was trying.

“What do you want for dinner?” Dakota asked.

“I’m not hungry,” Elliot mumbled without looking up.

“Come on buddy, I’m trying here,” Dakota said.

Elliot rolled his eyes and sighed, “I’ll eat whatever you want.”

Dakota felt tears burn the corners of his eyes as he let out a breath to remove the lump in his throat, “okay, go get [GJ9] unpacked while I figure something out, you can choose any room you want.”

Elliot jumped up obediently and Lumi followed him, they walked up the stairs and disappeared without a word, look or even a ‘screw you’.

“What do I want to cook?” Dakota asked himself, he began the process of making hamburger helper, because it was quick and easy and they hadn’t eaten since the fast food breakfast they had stopped for hours ago on the drive up. He got so wrapped up in cooking that he was startled to see Lumi and Elliot outside the window in the back yard. They were playing in the snow and he watched them and smiled. He hadn’t seen Elliot playing outside since… well he had never seen him play outside. H[GJ10] e turned the stove off and let the meal simmer on the cooling burner and walked over to the double glass doors that led to the back yard.

He walked out, “hey!” he shouted.

Elliot stopped in his tracks and his smile dropped instantly, “I figured she’d want out since she was in the car all day,” he explained nervously.

Dakota tried to chuckle through another lump, “that’s [GJ11] fine, I’m glad you are having fun.” Elliot blushed and didn’t say anything. Dakota had never yelled at Elliot in his life, he had never needed to, but he understood that Elliot had no clue what to expect from a man he didn’t even really know. Dakota watched him as he fidgeted with his jacket zipper, uncomfortable.

“You ever build a snowman?” Dakota asked walking over to him. Elliot shook his head. Just then the smoke alarm started to blare, and Dakota cursed, making Elliot jump. “Oh, it’s just the hamburger helper, let’s go eat and then we can come out and build a snowman okay?”

Elliot nodded reluctantly and went inside. Dakota looked at the sky and hoped it would stay daylight long enough for them to come back out. Dakota gave Lumi some of her dog food and they all ate in mostly silence. Dakota kept checking the window to make sure the sun was still out, then he noticed Elliot doing the same. He felt a joy spark inside knowing Elliot wanted to build a snowman with him. It gave him a little courage to speak, “do you like [GJ12] hamburger helper?”

Elliot looked puzzled for a moment and then shrugged, “it’s food.”

Dakota chuckled, “well that’s one way to look at it, but you know you can tell me if you don’t like something, or if you do, that way I can cook things you like more often.”

Elliot looked at him like the concept was completely foreign to him. Dakota cleared his throat and waited on a response but there was none, just a look of skeptical contemplation. [GJ13] 

“I’m finished Dakota,” Elliot said a while later, Dakota winced, he hated that Elliot hadn’t called him ‘dad’ or [GJ14] anything like it since he was a toddler. He blamed himself so he didn’t correct it and instead just nodded. There was still some daylight left so they bundled up [GJ15] and went outside.

He showed Elliot how to make the parts of a snowman, starting with the largest ball first. Their snowman still didn’t have a face, Dakota wasn’t sure if they had anything to use as its mouth nose and eyes. Elliot didn’t seem to care, he was fascinated.

“It is so much easier than I thought it would be,” he said, then he looked around, “where is Lumi[GJ16] ?”

Dakota looked around and didn’t see her anywhere, they started calling out her name and looking for her. Dakota spotted her on the lake, digging into a spot on the ice.

“LUMI! Stop it, get back here!” Dakota shouted. Before he knew it, Elliot was running out onto the ice to get her. Dakota hadn’t tested it yet to see if it was steady, plus it was probably slick, he started out after Elliot. Elliot slipped and slid but made his way to the dog without falling down. He grabbed her collar and then looked down at the ice and screamed[GJ17] .

Dakota didn’t see anything wrong but ran towards them faster anyway on instinct, he got to them and Elliot was still screaming. Dakota looked around and saw nothing but Lumi was barking alongside his screams.

“What is it?” Dakota grabbed his shoulders and knelt down to him.

“A woman, under the ice,” Elliot sobbed, Dakota [GJ18] had never saw him like this.

“That’s impossible, we would have seen someone go under,” he said.

“You don’t believe me?” Elliot scoffed.

“I do, I just think it was probably something that looked like a woman, maybe a couple fish [GJ19] swimming close together… I hope there’s fish that big in here, we’ll catch them,” he ruffled [GJ20] Elliot’s dark hair a little trying to lighten the mood. But the boy still looked terrified and Lumi wasn’t satisfied with the explanation either. Dakota had to carry her back to the house and Elliot sulked behind him. Dakota didn’t know how to make him feel better without lying to him about reality, so he just didn’t mention it again. Elliot played his games and Dakota spent the rest of the night getting everything ready for ice fishing the next day. At least they had seen how thick the ice was already.

The next morning Dakota got Elliot up early, before dawn[GJ21]  and they set out onto the lake. Elliot wanted to bring Lumi but Dakota said it was too risky considering how she had behaved the night before, he didn’t [GJ22] want her running off chasing any wild animals. It was just another thing to make Elliot unhappy with him but he had to set some rules.

An hour later and the sun hadn’t come up yet, in fact it started to get darker.

“Must be a storm coming,” Dakota mused.[GJ23]  Elliot sat with his chin in his hand and sighed. [GJ24] 

“Help me pack up,” Dakota said getting up and starting to load their things into a bag and tacklebox. He was busy so he didn’t notice when Elliot started following a figure under the ice. By the time he turned around he couldn’t see him anywhere.

“Elliot!” he shouted; a tight feeling he’d never had before gripped his entire body.

“Help,” he heard, then a loud crack almost like a gunshot, then a splash. Dakota knew the sound instantly; Elliot had gone through a thin spot in the ice. He took off into the dark without knowing where to even begin to look. He ran around until he saw the hole and didn’t think twice before he dove under. He saw Elliot floating and then a woman came up and grabbed Elliot’s ankle and began to pull him further under[GJ25] . Dakota grabbed his waist and pulled him out of her grasp. He swam up toward the hole and finally made it out. He shook Elliot until he finally coughed up some icy water and woke up.

“I should have believed you,” Dakota said.

“That’s okay, thanks for saving me, dad,” Elliot said[GJ26] .




 [GJ1]Great opening. This grabs out interest straight away.

 [GJ2]Can you show this?

 [GJ3]I note that you have used non-standard formatting for this. I suggest you double space and indent new paragraphs without an extra line between paragraphs.

 [GJ4]This is a run-on sentence. It needs splitting up or different punctuation.

 [GJ5]This sentence also needs splitting up.

 [GJ6]What dies that mean exactly? Would it be an idea to show some inner monologue here?

 [GJ7]Paragraph break here?

 [GJ8]Another run on.

 [GJ9]Throat. “Okay, go get

 [GJ10]A lovely poignant moment.

 [GJ11]another lump. “That’s

 [GJ12]speak.  “Do you like  [GJ12]…” Unless you are using a tag word like “said” or “ask” there must be a full stop here.


 [GJ13]What does this look like?

 [GJ14]Dad. It is a proper noun here so should start with upper case.

 [GJ15]Would some more detail be effective here?

 [GJ16]You use dialogue well.  Think a little about the balance between dialogue, description, inner monologue and action.

 [GJ17]Nice drama and tension here.

 [GJ18]. needed here

 [GJ19]A couple of fish?

 [GJ20]Them.” He ruffled

 [GJ21]Comma needed here.

 [GJ22]; here

 [GJ23]Not a good tag word. Could you avoid a tag word altogether here by having some body language?

 [GJ24]This ought to be on a new line.

 [GJ25]Lovely drama here.

 [GJ26]The ending is a little abrupt. However a good story. Nicely drawn characters and a good sense of time and place. 


About the author

Raine has been writing poetry since the seventh grade and fell in love with a guitarist. She has had several articles published by Vocal. In addition, she has run a blog, written several poems song lyrics, short stories, and seven books. Writing has been her passion her whole life.

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