Slippery Slope

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Stem Christie

Stem Christie – a way to angle the skis while turning which results in movement in the opposite direction.

Kristy didn’t dare move from her perch on the small outcrop of rock inside the ravine. Little Rick’s eyes were locked on hers. When she moved her head down to pull off her glove with her teeth, he cried out. It was a low, guttural cry. His eyes reddened and became even wider with fright. She pulled out her phone and called Brent who was up on the road, 30 feet above them.

He answered by saying, “Survivors?”

“Yes. Brent it’s – it’s a little boy and a woman. The boy is awake, alert. He’s in a car seat and appears uninjured. It looks like the woman is breathing but she hasn’t moved.”

“Can you get to them?”

Kristy assessed the car. It was wedged into the rock ledge but there was no way of knowing how much of its weight was being held by the trees. Beyond the ledge the slope was steep, so there was no telling if the trees were stable. The car would need to be secured.

“No. The car needs braced. The trees are holding it in place right now but I don’t know how long it will last. The windshield and windows facing me are cracked but intact. I don’t dare try to open the doors.”

“OK. I’ll inform dispatch for equipment. Help is about 10 minutes away. I’ll haul you in.”



“No. I can’t leave the little boy,” she smiled at Rick, nodding her head up and down. His eyes shrunk a bit and he popped his thumb into his mouth. “He’s frightened to death.”

“OK. Are you safe where you are?”

“Yes. Brent?”


“There’s something else.”


“This woman. I’ve seen her at the lodge. She has a baby, too. I don’t see the baby but there’s an infant child seat in the front passenger seat. It’s empty.”

“Kristy - you know this woman?”


“Oh my god, Kristy. Okay. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Yes. I’m staying put.”

“Okay. I’ll get back to you in five. Hang in there. Over.”

“Out,” Kristy said into her cell.

She crouched there, holding her line, watching Rick’s little face with his doleful eyes staring at her in the fading sunlight.

It was dusk when the Search and Rescue team secured the car with cables and harnesses and were finally able to get the back driver’s side door open. A decision was quickly made to get the little boy first, although he appeared uninjured. They did not know how he might react if the mother was unresponsive and needed intubation or other medical support. They were also aware of the possibility that a child had been ejected from the car. While the driver’s side windows were cracked, the passenger side ones were completely blown out.

As Mack handed Kristy the boy, little squares of chunky glass fell from the creases in the boy’s jeans. Mack and Kristy looked at each other meaningfully, but said nothing as Mack went straight to work, harnessing Little Rick to Kristy on her main line and then on the belay.

When Kristy yelled, “Up!” the little boy cried out, “Mommy!”

Instinctively, Kristy kissed the boy’s head and cooed, “Mommy’s fine. The firemen are helping her.” He said nothing else and Kristy turned, positioning him between her and the rock wall as they were slowly hauled in.

Kristy emerged with Little Rick from a dark and somber world into a blinding and hectic scene. The lights on the emergency vehicles lit up the night and bounced around the rocks and off the trees. Arms reached out and helped to pull them onto the road and remove them from their harnesses. Little Rick squealed and squeezed Kristy in a death grip and refused to let go. There were two ambulances, three fire trucks, a sheriff’s car, State police, a Search and Rescue vehicle and three tow trucks. It seemed impossible that so many trucks and cars could even fit on the road. Kristy searched the sea of people in official uniforms for Brent. He was suddenly beside them, putting his arm around her and throwing a warmed blanket over her and the child. He hugged her and whisked them to the back of an ambulance. She had been on the side of the mountain in the cold for two hours. Rick whined again briefly and then promptly fell asleep. The poor kid was soaking wet from urine and sweat. He was probably dehydrated and in need of fluids but the emergency medical technicians told them they could wait a few minutes before checking him.

Brent sat opposite the gurney and let out a deep sigh. He lifted Kristy’s chin, which had been cradling Rick’s soft hair, so he could look her in the face. She was crying.

“Oh, kiddo. This is crazy. This is Derrick’s son?”

Kristy looked at him for a long moment and nodded. She again nuzzled her face against the boy’s head. Brent watched her tear drops run and fall.

He tapped her on the shoulder and mouthed the words, “The mom?”

Kristy shook her head and shrugged. Little Rick stirred and looked up at them.

“Hey, little guy.” Kristy smiled and quickly wiped her tears with the back of her hand. Rick looked suspiciously at Brent.

Kristy laughed. “No need to worry, Little Rick.” She gave him a squeeze.

“This is Brent. He’s cool.”

“Hey, Rick,” Brent said.

“Hi,” Little Rick responded.

An EMT appeared at the ambulance doors.

“Wow! I see someone’s wide awake now.”

Rick now regarded this man warily. The man noticed and cocked his head at Brent to join him at the doors.

“Hi, I’m Martin. Great work tonight.”

“Thanks, Martin. I’m Brent.”

“How does he seem?” the man asked.

“He’s okay. Shaken up. Maybe a little dehydrated.”

“I don’t want to traumatize him any further, so do you think the two of you can do a cursory exam and get him to drink some water? I’d like to avoid having to give him intravenous fluids if we can.”

“Sure,” Brent said. “Do you have anything for him to eat? Maybe a granola bar or something?”

“Yeah. I have some stuff up front. I’ll go get it.”

“And he’s soaked. Urine, sweat. Are there some patient gowns around?”

“I can do better than that. My son plays pee-wee hockey. I have a spare uniform in my trunk.”

“Thanks, man.”

“No problem.”

Martin left and Brent climbed back into the truck. Rick was still clinging to Kristy but was now looking around. Kristy had given him a bottle of water, and he was drinking thirstily.

“What’s that?” Rick asked, pointing.

“A blood pressure cuff,” Kristy answered.

“Can I see?” he asked.

Brent pulled the cuff off the wall and wrapped it around Rick’s tiny arm. He handed the boy the bulb to squeeze and inflate it. As the boy played with it, there was no inkling of what he had been through that night. Brent looked at Kristy with wonder.

“Hey!” It was Martin back with the clothes and a box of graham crackers. He tossed them to Brent and quickly retreated.

Brent made a big show of taking the red, yellow and white hockey jersey and pants out of the bag.

“Whoa! Look how cool this is. What?” he made a disappointed face. “This is way too small for me! Would you like to try it?”

The boy hesitated only for a second before he jumped off Kristy’s lap and began to strip. Shoes, jacket, shirt, pants, underwear, socks – all was taken off unabashedly and he reached greedily for the uniform. It was plain to see that there was not a scratch on him. Brent and Kristy laughed as he wiggled his way into the pants. As he put on his shirt, a State trooper appeared at the ambulance doors.

“Miss?” he asked.

Brent and Kristy looked at each other and Kristy patted Rick on the head as he pushed it through the shirt.

“I need to talk to the policeman, Rick. I’ll be right back.”

“OK,” Rick said as he began posing for Brent to show off his new duds.

Kristy alit into the cold night air. The policeman was holding a woman’s pocket book. It was one of those designer ones, all soft cloth with cool patterns in bright complementary colors. Something Kristy could never afford to buy for herself.

“I’m Officer Judson, Miss. I understand you were the first respondent to the scene?”

“That’s right. Along with my friend, Brent.” She said tilting her head toward the square of light that streamed from the ambulance. She could hear Brent and Rick laughing about something.

“I know you’ve been through a lot this evening, Miss.”


“Kristy, thanks. I know you’ve been through a lot this evening but we were wondering if you could help us with contacting the victim’s next of kin.”

Kristy’s hand flew to her mouth, “Oh no!” She lowered her voice, “The woman, she’s deceased?”

“No,” the officer said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that. We heard that you know her and we were wondering if you wouldn’t mind calling her ICE number. We thought it would be best for someone who knows her to reach out with the information.”

Officer Judson reached into the bag and pulled out the woman’s phone.

Kristy shook her head, “I don’t really know her. I just saw her at the lodge the other day.” She looked at the officer for a sign of anything else. “Do you have any information about the baby?”

The officer grimaced, “Nothing. The mother has just been brought up but we haven’t been able to get a response from her.” He handed Kristy a driver’s license.

In the dim light she could just make out the woman’s name: Jessica Sanders. Kristy stared at the photo and started shaking her head, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can.”

Just then in the distance, faint, and then growing, were screams, “My baby! Rachel, my baby! Rick, Rick!”

Kristy glanced back fearfully to the ambulance hoping that the sound of the motor and the heater inside were enough to drown out the woman’s cries.

She turned back to the officer and put out her hand to take the phone.

THANKS FOR READING! next chapter 9-25

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