John always brought extra buckets on our river trips. Never mind the well, he always insisted on bringing back what he called God’s liquid vision.
As the temperature began to cool, our yearning for visiting the now ice-platted stream dampened, but John still insisted on going. In some ways, I couldn’t blame him. The auburn light was perfect, tackling the slushy, crystalline frost with more luminosity than the finest old-world silverware. And there you were, faced with the sight of you, parted on a whited riverbank, and those eyes – a true looking-glass.
Once Sunday Service came around, the Village did as we always did, but the damp sight of John’s wet, brown overcoat sent the congregation into gossip.
“How could his mother let him out in such a thing?”
“That boy will surely get sick, how utterly irresponsible!”
“I always knew he was a strange one, too unfortunate of a life with that mother…”
Numb to the lingering eyes and quick lips, John sat there. Slightly shivering, but always his intent, slightly serious self. It wasn’t until the parish began our departure, that he collapsed. Out like a heavy stone on a guilty witch, his skin twinkled ice blue.
“I knew this would happen!”
“Someone get him some blankets before the cold sets in!”
“We ought to know better here! Children do not just end up dripping wet and victims of exhaustion…”
I hoped he would get better, but for all I knew he might be truly frozen. Maybe I should have done something, but what would everyone else think? I – Abigal Binx – lend aid to the peculiar, sopping boy? I couldn’t dare think of the accusations then:
“A strange girl she is too…”
“We best investigate this matter more seriously.”
A crowd had gathered in the morrow. On the river trail, they went, murmuring about the troubled John boy and his imprudent mother. I walked with them – worried but reserved.
A few gasps were unleashed and crosses signed.
There he was, frozen under the ice, enveloped in backscattered self-portraits. His eyes, like mine, still looking at his crystal-clear self.