Warren tied the final square knot, watching Abby's eyes for wincing. He shook the mitten from his hand and mashed the crust of frozen tears from his sister's cheeks. Abby growled under the wool scarf gag tied around her mouth. Warren sat on puffy snow pant calves beside the sled. Waving an outstretched finger, he traced a route down the hill in front of them over a surface dipped in glass by a late January ice storm. Tall, granite sentinels jutted up through the snow.

"Killer Hill, Abby. Today's the day." Warren traced another path down the hill, this time wobbling a flat hand from side to side, upending it in front of one of the rocks. Abby shivered against her baling twine restraints. Warren locked her shoulder in his hand, "Don't bother Ab, besides, you're less likely to get hurt if you're tied down. Trust me. This one time, Travis Slauenwhite got his arm almost ripped out because he was flapping it around. Next thing you know, his sleeve gets caught on a branch and..." He brushed his hand fast down the arm of her snowsuit. She jerked her head from the zipping sound to his grin.

Warren poked the tip of his tongue through a recently vacated front tooth socket as he laughed. Normally, Abby would have giggled at this, but today it meant danger. She fixated back to the bottom of the hill.

Warren slapped her shoulder. Abby wobbled back and forth with the sled. "Aww, don't worry about it so much." He spread his arms out in front of them. "It ain't that bad. I had to do it when I was your age." Abby whipped her head back at him, mumbling. Warren's face flushed and he scowled back at her. "Well, I mean, all the boys I know went through it, and since we ain't gonna get a brother anytime soon, you're what I get."

Warren frumped his body upright, and grabbed the rope on his own sled, which contained a ten-pound bag of potatoes. He aligned it next to Abby's so that their descent path would be the same. "What we'll do is send this one down, and I'll talk you through the best way to make it."

Warren nudged the sled. The weight of the potatoes crushed the few powdery ice crystals under it like a pepper mill. It paused briefly on the edge of no return, then disappeared from sight for the first few meters. Abby sat forward in her sled.

"At the top is where you get your speed. Don't worry about that too much your first time."

The sled came into view further down, heading straight for the first of the granite stanchions. The drifted snow against the bottom of the rock forced the sled to turn left, just glancing the craggy surface.

"We call that one Fluffy, cause it looks pretty mean coming at you, but really, if you just lean a little to the left, you can't hit it."

The sled shuddered over a series of short bumps. "That's the Rumble Strip. Don't open your mouth going over though. Carl Williams bit the tip of his tongue off right there. Tongues bleed." Abby winced, but she nodded.

The grade leveled causing the sled to lose speed. It washed up against a low rock and paused briefly, but the potatoes continued forward. Abby slumped over in unison.

"You see, you don't want to do that."

Abby shot upright as the rear of the sled pivoted on the fulcrum formed between the potatoes and rock. The sled now pointed backwards down the hill. This swing caused the potatoes to shift back to the rear. The hill on this side of the rock plunged to the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill.

"See why it's a bad idea to lean forward against Switcheroo Rock there? You do NOT want to get backwards. I heard that's how old man Tyler got his cleft lip back in the old days."

The sled rocketed down the slope, jumping higher and higher off each successive bump.

"You want to bail out on the fourth one. Dump it. Get your feet out. Whatever you gotta do to stop yourself after the fourth one. Do you understand Abby? Out at the fourth bump."

The girl nodded her head, her gaze fixated on the tiny orange sled as it sped toward creosote-covered railroad ties poking out of the snow. The sled slammed into one of the ties, ejecting the sack of potatoes torpedo-style. It fell into a mushy pile at the bottom of a concrete wall. Seconds later the thud reached their ears at the top of the hill. Abby turned again to her brother. Instead of the rosy puffiness caused by the earlier crying and the cold, her face was pale yellow.

"Aww, c'mon. Just remember to bail out after Digger. That's the fourth bump. Look, everyone's gotta do it. You gotta prove yourself sometimes Ab. I've heard kids get beat up for not taking their run."

The girl twisted her head in all directions around them. Warren looked around with her.

"Well, I'll tell them about it that's all. Besides, don't you feel better that it's just me here? I've done all I can to make it easy on you."

Abby shook her head from side to side. She scowled into his eyes and then pointed her face into the wind blustering up the hill.

Warren's face flushed. "Aww, hell anyways. That's just the way it is then." He pushed the sled forward. Abby hunkered down, lowering her center of gravity in the sled. She shuffled her rear end to get more speed going over the edge.

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