Monday 24 Oct 2016

Dead Man's Hill
AJ Robinson

¬†That name conjures up quite the image, doesnít it? You know youíre not talking about some simple, easy slope, a small hill, easily traversed. Well, when youíre eight, you reach a certain developmental plateau Ė you think you are SO mature and grown up. You want to achieve something great. For my friends and me, we had two challenges to overcome: sledding down Dead Manís Hill, and touching a girlís slip.

Jonathan was the first of our brave troupe to do the latter. He touched Stephanieís slip. She brought it to school in her lunchbox. H took it out, next to the monkey bars, and touched it. We were all very impressed, until we learned that heíd paid her fifty cents!

His dishonor lasted a whole month.

As for me, I managed to touch a slip belonging to Maria. I wonít give her last name, as I donít want to embarrass her or for her to punch me in the eye. One day, sitting down to lunch, I sat next to her and t reached under the table. I pretended to have an itch that I was trying to scratch it. She was wearing one of those big fluffy dresses that were popular in the early 70s. Her slip was easily accessible, and I managed to brush my fingertips across the very edge of it for about a tenth of a second. Oh, what a thrill, I had.

I digress, back to the hill. When winter came, we took our sleds to Menotamy Rocks Park, and sought out a challenge worthy of our manhood. The basic sled path was boring; a straight shot down a gentle slope. Nothing much to that was there. A little further into the park, near the playground, was a dogleg that was a little steeper. We easily mastered that within a few weeks.

Then you faced Dead Manís Hill.

Its name, Dead Manís Hill, fit well. The slope was about eighty degrees! The hill had trees and boulders all over it, and Iím not talking saplings and little stones. No, these were massive trees and giant stones. Then, at the bottom, there was a flat area about ten feet across, and then the ground dropped off into the pond!

Now you know why we called it Dead Manís Hill.

This we considered a worthy challenge. Up the hill we went. As we trudged up the steep slope, it was rather slow and seemed that the further we went the lower our courage dropped. I suggested that perhaps we should try going down the hill from a lower point, as it was our first attempt. I was amazed at how quickly all the boys agreed!

We spread out across the slope, got our sleds into position and took our places on them. I decided NOT to push off Ė as the slope had a lot of stuff in the way. Once again, I was amazed how everyone else did the same. Now, given the steepness of the slope, I expected us to go quite fast. It didnít work out that way Ė the hill had a deep layer of snow, and it was on top of thick leaves and twigs. As a result, we didnít, we couldnít, go very fast.

Still, we were excited Ė I could feel my heart pounding, my blood surging, and my adrenaline erupting! Down the slope we went, it actually took quite a while to reach the bottom, and then we all threw out our hands and feet to stop us, lest we tumble into the pond.

It took us all of about two seconds to come to a stop.

Jumping to our feet, we let out a collective roar of triumph. Someone suggested going again, from higher up, but we decided that this was enough, for today. After all, we were cold, and my mom had hot chocolate waiting for us. We dragged our sleds over to my house, got our drinks and sat around the cellar playroom regaling each other with tales of our triumph. I did notice that the height up the slope and the speed at which as went down the hill seemed to increase with each telling, but hey, who was I to question the recollections of my friends?

Yes, this was a great achievement for a small boy and his friends.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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