Back in the day, we lived in a little neighborhood of cottages clustered around a lake. It was a summer community, a silver lake, an inviting place to come to escape the hot summer sun. But we lived there year-round, even when the lake was white with ice, its black inhospitable depths lurking below. We weren’t alone. Several families braved the winters in that summer place, not because they wanted to look out at the cold and unfriendly landscape, but because that was what life was, a four-room year-round place.
One winter day, around dusk, a knock came at the door. It was the mother of a 10-year-old neighborhood boy, asking, “Is Joey here? He hasn’t come home.” The words were like a stop sign, stopping the heart, stopping time, stopping all thoughts of dinner. She went from one door to another, asking the same question at every house where Joey had a friend. None of these few wintertime residents answered, “Sure, he’s here. Come in, get warm, have a cup of tea.”
At one house, however, one of Joey’s friends said they’d played together that day. "I said bye to Joey a while ago, and came home. Joey prob’ly beat me, though, ‘cause he took a shortcut.” Joey lived on the farthest edge of this almost empty summer community, and the long walk home in the near dark must have been scary. So he’d taken a shortcut.
The next day, we heard the news. Joey’s shortcut through the dusky light had turned into a shortcut through his life. The gaping hole in the ice atop the tarnished silver lake told the story of a small boy’s failed attempt to outrun the dark.
It was strange, but somehow summers on that sparkling silver lake in the small summer community were never warm again.