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Trevor Bonas

When Rowan died it was sad not only because I lost a brother but also because my family lost our sled. He had been sturdy, aerodynamic with his flatter-than-usual head, and being a real live person could do two-way communication in motion.

His body lay grey and rigid in the foyer next to our puddling boots. The rest of us debated in the living room over the next steps. Buying a whole new sled was ridiculous. We hated to see Rowan go. My dad came up with the brilliant idea to taxidermise Rowan. He would never be like he was before but my dad reassured us he could, with some greasy elbows and the lonely angst of a taxidermist, give his corpse a lifelike glow. “And,” pop pop said, “hell, he’ll probably look better. Get ridda his acne.” We laughed.

“Buff it right out!” he added unnecessarily, trying to make sure no drop of comedic juices went to waste. “We’ll throw it in. No extra cost.” But this comedic wringing is often counterintuitive, and all this joke runoff fails to meet the heights of the first gusty deluge: underwhelms. We forced chuckles anyway, having hearts, instead of sitting in stoney silence without eyes that knew where to look.

In the meantime we rode Rowan as he was and kept him outside leaned against the house for preservation when not in use. I was eleven: you can imagine how embarrassing it was to be sledded to school on a dead person while everyone else in traffic either rode a living person (usually a family member) or, if they could afford it, genuine wooden sleds. They noticed. People notice. I saw faces at the perimeter of my vision and when I looked over: other families suspended in a blur: eyes on the road. But some of the kids stared brazenly. I had seen families riding corpses before. My parents wouldn’t look. They acted like their eyes and these people were magnets with like poles. I had pestered them into an answer and the answer (out of hearing distance and volume) was that they were much too needy to afford a sled, and much too lonely to be able to know anyone willing to be their sled and that it was rude to look. I remember being grateful my brother was healthy and alive. My other brother Ashfuckler called out to the family “Hey. Hey.” And when they looked up glumly, “Your sled is dead! Don’t'cha know?” And my parents wrestled with him to get him to shut up and stop embarrassing our entire family.

Now we were that family. We deployed our psychic shields and pretended Rowan was still alive beneath us. But it was obvious we cared, the foundations fragile, the veneer thin, my parents sitting unnaturally stiff on Rowan’s shoulders. Hot ears in cold morning air.

School was interrupted right in the middle of the day so the school could watch Jack Danger Slick sled in the Olympics. It was quite the ego massage to see the other sledders. We were supposed to believe that Jack Danger Slick’s competition had trained and trained and trained to even get the chance to compete at this level. And they all sucked big fat asshole. I was embarrassed for them. It was a really easy run and Jack Danger Slick cruised through it, past the finishing line, and, the camera following him, into a bar, before the other racers were even halfway down the hill. The way he moved looked supernatural compared to the other meandering blobs, compared to people who hadn’t grown up in a place like Sledville, who hadn’t Tobogganed the vaginal canal, the First Hill into this world. He made them look like blind-deaf-mute-limbless-comatose toddlers who were dead. I learned that our town was rather unique after our family finally got a tv and we watched a movie on him. Everything was normal until the characters needed to go somewhere else and got in a car and drove. “Dad. What is that thing?” I asked. “That’s a car,” he answered. Baffling. Everywhere else isn’t like Sledville. The closest would be like in Winnipeg where as soon as a child is born it’s dropped into a skate and thrown onto a rink, and the babies who can’t skate fall out of the boot and onto the ice, where they’re left to get sucked into the zamboni later, more by accident than as a punishment, as the babies who can’t skate aren’t really thought of as living things. Or like Santa Monica where everyone surfs through the flooded streets, carving perfect waves. Tobogganing is Sledville. The town began when a group of labourers noticed a smooth mountain region nearby was Snowy all year round, and that it was possible at any time of the year, after work, to hike briefly up the hill, Toboggan, and camp the night. They were coming up so often after a while it just became more convenient to build cabins. Their families followed and all of a sudden there was a town up in these mountains, every person a sweetheart for Tobogganing. We never knew what work our founders did initially, it is a question for the scholars. Our main exports are snowballs and world-class Tobogganers.

After school while waiting in line for the chairlift home Franky Smits was behind me in line and when he saw me he said “Hey guys it’s @! Hey @, nice sled.”

Franky and his friends stood around grinning.

“Thank you,” saideth I.

“Rowan feeling okay? Looked kinda stiff.” Another grinned. I struggled to come up with anything sharp to say back.

“Fuck off,” thus spoke me.

“Ha!” this was Franky, “You and your family not only had had to enlist one of your siblings to serve as a toboggan and mode of transportation for the family, not to mention serve as a familial status symbol as any sled does, when you guys couldn’t afford a real sled, but then he died! Then you used him as a sled anyways! Hahaha!”

“Let’s hit the hills.”

Yes. I said the words.

“…,” Franky said.

The words spoken in these hills since the beginning. The words that forever tie adversaries. The words I will regret the rest of the waking dream we call life.

No more grins. One of the kids drenched his trousers and wept—he went unacknowledged.

“Hnnnnngggg... Hungggghhh,” Franky said.

It should have been satisfying to see him like that, but really, how could I? We both knew how these things turn out.

When my parents learned what I had done my mother broke down, screaming and howling more than crying, and my dad went right away to our sofa chair by the window and rocked back and forth looking out the window and stroking his hand going “There, there.”

“But I can win,” I said.

My mother kept howling and my dad kept going “There, there.”

When my father was feeling better he got around to fitting Rowan so he wouldn’t decompose for a long time. He and Billy skinned Rowan in the garage and fitted the skin over a vaguely human-shaped wood form, but with some additions, my dad made the front of the form curve up, so Rowan’s head would be propped up, with his arms straight back elevated at his sides, with his mouth sewn shut from the inside, for added snowstreaming. Rowan looked like he was playing charades and was pantomiming “canoe.” My dad blushed his cheeks to put a little life back in him and replaced his cloudy eyes with sparkling glass ones, but the only glass eyes he could get at the time were slightly larger than Rowan’s old ones, so his eyes bulged out a bit and he looked surprised.

My dad and I went over the route decided by the Sledville council. Top of the peak, snaking down through River run (blue), briefly into Main Slope (green), divert down Witches’ Coven (black diamond), around the back of the ice cream parlour, down the steps of Sledville High School, through the sled wash, and back onto the last part of the Main Slope (green), the last bit of Sledville till the sled highway, where the finish line would be. We scouted and I did a test run. It went fine. Before we went in that day my dad stopped me, crouched down and brought his face to mine, a face full of beautiful mountain ranges, saddles, and dark valleys borne of the stress of being an involucrulinguist: “@, my boy, I’m not mad at you. I wish you hadn’t said it, but I’m not mad. You can do this. I’ve seen you ride, the run’s easy. And even if you don’t we’ll figure it out, okay? Alright? Okay. We love you so much. So much. You have no idea.” He weakly smiled and hugged me.

The day of the race I wore my favourite parka and scarf, which had many tiny pictures of wooden sleds on it. One-by-one I said goodbye to my family members. I shook Billy’s hand, he gave me a stern look and smoked his pipe. Tom grinned and said something witty I don’t remember. Ashfuckler said “Bury that shithead.”

My father sadly nodded and said some heartwarming things, mentioned taxes. My mother kissed my cheek and squished me with a hug. Rowan looked surprised but said nothing.

I looked back at my family. Should I lose I would miss them. I would miss my brothers’ shenanigans. I took in all the details of that scene like ink off a stamp onto my mind. “I will remember this moment,” I thunked: Billy’s dancing moustache, Tom’s spinning hat, Ashfucklers’s embodiment of corporeal existence, my dad’s twitchy complexion, my mom’s long arms, and the image deposited right in there.

“Goodbye everyone,” I said. “I love you all.”

We three—me, Franky, and a ref—were the only ones at the top of the hill. Franky and I sat on our sleds motionless.

The ref told the rules and outcomes, which Franky and I already knew by heart.

Franky said “Take one last look, @, at our quaint town. It’ll be your last chance.”

“No, you do that.”

“But I won’t be losing.”

“Yes you will.”

“Factually incorrect, bud.”

“I hope you did a refresher in nutsack chortling because you’re going to be doing a lot of it.”

“Was that a homophobic remark?”

“What? No.”

“So what if I wanted to chortle balls. You make that comment as if to chortle balls is a bad thing.”

“Uh-no, I—.”

“So you’re saying that anyone who chortles balls is less than. How ignorant. I really do hate you and hope you lose but what you just said promotes a culture of fear and shame and ignorance and shames people for who they are and what they enjoy sexually.”


“You have a lot of reflecting to do, bud.”

“Hey can we go?”

“How’s that, boy?”

“I mean of all times you want to show your underlying ignorance you chose, now, at such an important moment?”

“The race. Can we start?”

“An ugly start to the race.”

“Yeah I already done said you guys can get started.”

At that we shuffled violently off of the crest. It was on.

We sped in pair, Franky yelling things over the howl of the wind we pierced. Onto the main run, as outlined before. Our toboggans scraped. I looked over and it was clear Franky was moving ever so slightly ahead on the slope. I gripped Rowan’s buff shoulders and put my face into his great head of hair.

Am I a homophobe?

We entered Witches’ Coven and I came too fast, galuphing halfway down the run, salumping into one of the jumps. Rowan said “crack!” beneath me.

Franky gained on me, that piece of shit.

When we neared the back of the ice cream parlour Franky slammed into the side of me, entangling Rowan’s arm in his sled. Together we veered off at a combined force angle, through the glass doors of the mall, Franky began punching me in the head, that piece of shit; I punched back. We crashed through a couple displays and went through a window and into the snow, both of us thrown off.

Do I have the ability to do the self-reflection and self-questioning required to grow as a person, to challenge my harmful attitudes?

I dug myself out of the snow to see Franky running to where our sled hybrid was. I caught up to him and tackled him. He threw me off and I hit my head on a parked sled. Franky picked up his and my sled together and said “Smell ya later, chump!” before running off and jumping on our joint sled. I got up and chased after him, still dazed. I jumped and grabbed his ankles as he gained speed, getting dragged behind in the snow. He screamed. I crawled my way up his body. We went into an intersection and barely missed a sled-freighter. I got onto Rowan and we detached on our separate sleds. Franky sped away. Rowan’s head peeled back and began flapping around rigorously in my face like my dead brother was trying to bite me, which I swatted back.

A still whiteness surrounded me. It was soundless except for the rhythmic thwumping of my brother’s head in the wind. I was headed downhill, therefore in the direction of the finish line.

“Take me there, Rowan,” I said. He nodded many times. I clung to my big brother’s back.

Out of the white came slowly a crowd. I lost velocity. I looked around for Franky, back up the hill, then spotted him in the crowd, standing there with hot cocoa, grinning. When he saw that I saw him he couldn’t control himself and jumped up and down raining boiling cocoa on himself and everyone around him, who shrieked and collapsed while he went on jumping, steaming and red. “Yahoo!” his dad went, jogging up, who grabbed Franky by the ankle and swung him around his head before throwing him to another man, Franky’s uncle, who deftly caught Franky by the ankle and did the same in reverse. The mayor walked up to me on my sled, a perfectly spherical snowball in hand, frowning. He wound up as much as he could and I closed my eyes, a shiny optimistic something sinking and disappearing inside the very depths of my person. The mayor’s snowball hit me in the face, breaking my nose, knocking my front teeth into my dangly thing. I gagged and then puked all over myself, my favorite scarf, slopping my digestive juices on Rowan’s mangled body. The rest of the crowd took that as the signal and procured their snowballs from jacket pockets and holsters. If I wanted to survive I had to run. If and only if I survived I would be granted exile. I ran as fast as my ten year old legs could. Every part of my body was blasted with snowballs, shattering bones. I kept running, or hobbling, covered in blood and vomit, the crowd swarming. In the onslaught I caught a glimpse of my mother, sobbing, throwing snowballs from a sling with great form and Ashfuckler loading an automatic repeating snowball launcher. At some point I entered the darkness of the forest and collapsed.

I lay there for two days. Due to material equivalence I was granted exile therefore I survived. My defeat existed in time, forever, unchangeable. Whatever happens, I will have always been a failure. I would never return to school, never talk to my friends or family again. A test of my worth had arrived and receiving the results my people had deemed me unworthy, and for a good objective reason. Exile seemed to be an act of condescending pity. I had no one to blame except myself. I probably would have died but the shame was so extreme it aged me forty-one years, which thankfully healed my broken bones, but fucked up my glands, meaning I could only grow a chinstrap, which I learned later.

When I had the energy I wandered the forest like a spirit. I eventually found my way to Skiville, on the other side of the mountain, where I felt I had the best chance of fitting in and making a new life.

I took up being a ski waxer and due to a lack of skill naturally migrated to where all the worst businesses in Skiville went due to extremely cheap rent: Discount Alley. Frankly I was lucky to get a spot. The last vendor sold artisanal martini olives and the market for that kind of trade had just skyrocketed so they peaced out to a better locale.

My customers came miserable and left miserable and I made enough money for daily smokies and the odd hot cocoa, but not enough for a place to stay so I built a snow fort next to my stall and slept there.

There was a business who took customers’ noses and wouldn’t give them back unless he was paid. Behind my stall was a dentist’s office that made me really confused since I heard sounds of construction coming from it. To my right was a pastry chef. I bit into one of her muffins and revealed an interior marbled with baking soda and I tried one of her croissants and it broke apart like ash and was carried away in the wind.

“How was it?” she eagerly asked.

“Oh yeah, good. Really good, thanks.”

“You really think so?! I must be getting better at it. Maybe soon I’ll be able to move out of this shithole,” and she looked longingly into the distance.

In fact she did a lot of that, especially when she was preparing the pastries.

To my left was an artist who had all his paintings out on display on easels.

“Hey, there, I’m Scrub Scargo, what’s your name?”


“Sorry, how’s that pronounced?”


“That’s a very unique name, how’s it spelled?”


I looked over his work. He either painted the portraits of very unfortunately disfigured people or he had a lot of room for improvement. “What do you think?”

“Hmmm, you know, there’s something about them, you can see they’re suffering inside, you can see the pain.”

“Really? Hmmm. I hadn’t noticed that. They’re portraits of supermodel lottery winners. But you know, maybe you’re on to something deep, there.”

There was nothing else I could say. As I was looking at them I was forgetting what they looked like. It was incredible. It was like my brain took in the information from the painting and said “Can’t use this,” and threw the image into the garbage. I stopped at one of his paintings and said “I’m going to be honest with you.”

His expression froze.

“What about if you put some stuff in there that was kind of, I don’t know, ‘unique,’ like some distinctive, yeah that’s the word, some distinctive mountains in there.”

“There are mountains in there.”

“I knew that. But how ‘bout some distinctive ones. Or like a house or something.”

“There is a house. Right there.” He pointed: I followed his arm all the way down to the end of his pointy finger and to where his pointy finger was pointing and what I saw was an echo of everything around the painting, Scrub’s hand, the snow, the frame, spinning and multiplying forever; the painting was hostile to observation, a black hole. Then boredom overcame me and my vision was filled with a montage of myself, grizzled and bearded, sledding slopes of varying inclines.

That night I lay all cozy in my fort, my belly full of hot chocolate.

“Hey. Hey @, you awake?” I heard from the direction of Scrub’s fort.


“Can I share a secret with you?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“The only reason I’m down here in this crappy place is because my art is underappreciated. One day, when I’m dead, and in the ground, rotting? My paintings are gonna sell for big bucks. I’m going to be like Henri Matisse. Like how he never sold a single painting his entire life? And he was bullied by the jocks in high school? And became super famous when he jumped head first into a wood chipper? That’s gonna be me, @, just wait and see.”

I said: “I hope so, Scrub.”

I tried to learn how to ski in my free time. It wasn’t that difficult. The trick, I found, was to treat each ski-attached foot as a person on a sled and make sure these two sledders stayed close together and went in the same direction. I mastered doing the pizza and french fry. I eventually could ride up and down the hill. I could do spins, touch my skis midair, ride backwards, do grinds, swap my skis midair, and other sick shit, but none of it mattered: it was still obvious I hadn’t been skiing from birth. So, still, I was an outcast, and glumly shredded.

One day Scrub jumped into a wood chipper head first and made a lot of red snow and a professional thumb twiddler took his stall. The thumb twiddler could really twiddle.

For the longest time I thought of my face as an awful curse of ugliness but one day I realized it was a blessing, I could return home, no one would recognize me. I could reinvent myself and live again in Sledville. And so I did.

One day I saw Franky Smits, red, bald, and peeling, with his family. They laughed and smiled and hugged and shared a sentimental moment in the midday sparkling snow.

“Huh,” I thought.

My new life was good, integrating under an assumed identity had gone better than usual. For the first time in my life I had real, big boy life goals like doing martial arts in space to save the president before being double crossed by my own commander who I then have to go rogue in order to take down and finally clear my own name. I got to see my family from time to time, from afar. I had gotten what I deserved for my failure. Those are the rules, if you lose the race then you die or leave. I read “it” and wept.

Yet I didn’t stay away.

I returned and chose to lie everyday to everyone I had known my entire eleven years of life and I hadn’t even felt bad about it for a second.

Yet something in me itched.

“…,” I said.

Jack Danger Slick had recently returned from the Olympics. I asked him if I could buy him a hot chocolate and he said yes and that “Most people are intimidated by my fame, including my own family. I actually have zero friends.”

We small talked and then at some point I took out a crossword and two pens.

“Hey, want to do a crossword together?” I asked Jack Danger Slick.

“I’m good, not really my thing.”

“Ok, more fun for me!”

I filled in some of the squares and muttered curse words while I did it.

“What’s wrong?” Jack Danger Slick asked.

“It’s just… I love crosswords but I have such a hard time doing them, my writing’s awful, I really hate talking about it. Some letters are swapped like l’s and o’s or  i’s and u’s and I can’t do m’s, they just don’t show up.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that.”

We went back to talking about sleds for a while and then he said “Hey, about your writing problem, stop me if you’ve already tried this. You could go ahead and write an o whenever you want to write an l and vice versa and do the same for i’s and u’s. So you could, if you wanted to write ‘lots of urologists’ instead try to write ‘olts lf irlolgusts’ and it would come out right. And for m’s you could put two n’s really close together like ‘nn’.”

“Wow, thank you! Why hadn’t I thought of that. I’ll write that down.”

I wrote on a napkin: “Tl wrute nlraooy try wrutung the lpplsute oetter lf what U want. Exapoe: flr ‘ults lf irlolgusts’ try wrutung ‘lots of urologists.’ Aosl wrute twl n’s colse tlgether ouke nn lf U want an.”

“It’s no use, I’m broken,” I said.

I tried squinting my eyes really hard to make myself cry.

“Hey, there, bud, chin up. There’s nothing we can’t learn to cope with.”

I’m a freak.”

“Oh, @. You’re not a freak and you’re not alone feeling that way, everyone has their own things they deal with, you just can’t see it so easily.”

“Yeah? What about you? You’re perfect, the world champion Tobogganer, it’s impossible that you struggle with anything.”

“I actually have lots of problems.”


“Yeah, I’m human, and like all humans I struggle with some things and make mistakes.”

“Like what?”

Jack Danger Slick took a deep breath: “Alright, this is actually really hard for me to talk about, I’m working through it right now with my therapist. Please don’t tell anyone.”

“I won’t.”

“I’m really, really insecure about my wrinkly knuckles.”

“Wrinkly… knuckles? Like this?” I showed him my knuckles.

“Ew, gross,” he said and looked away.

“Sorry,” I said and hid my hands.

“My wrinkly knuckles make me feel so old. I wear gloves as much as possible. Moisturizer helps but not much.”

“That makes sense, I can see why you’d feel that way.

“I hate to bring this up but I actually overheard Franky Smits talking about your wrinkly knuckles. He said ‘What looks older and grosser, a mummy or Jeanne Calment of France, the person with the longest documented and verified human lifespan? Wrong! Jack Danger Slick’s knuckles.’ Another one he said was a joke about naked mole-rats but I can’t remember how it goes.”

Jack Danger Slick pushed away his pumpkin pie with disgust. His face twisted and scrunched. His hands began to shake and closed into white-wrinkly-knuckled fists.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’ll make him pay,” Jack Danger Slick said and abruptly left.

Jack Danger Slick challenged Franky Smits that afternoon. Franky Smits’ family had to restrain him to keep him from sprinting out of town.

A few days later they raced. It went about as you would expect. Jack Danger Slick spent most of the race airborne and later, when his finishing time was calculated, it was found that he had technically teleported down the mountain. Franky Smits arrived ten minutes after, it was obvious he had been crying the entire way down. The people of Sledville were waiting for him. The eleven-year-old screamed and ran, dribbling tears and snot. It did not go the way I had expected: Franky Smits hadn’t even trudged five steps in the snow before the onslaught began. I saw people dual wielding snowballs; doing throws: out of backflips, behind their backs, with their eyes closed, while wall running, between their legs, while dancing, that curve around multiple obstacles; I saw one person operating a spinning wheel snowball launcher on a bipod and another person feeding the launcher snowballs; mothers helping their babies throw snowballs; the elderly in squads spinning slings; teenagers packing their snowballs with gravel; the entirety of my family happily throwing snowballs. Franky Smits was demolished. Pets jumped into the mess that was left of him and fought over his still-warm flesh. The people of Sledville stopped where they were and sang a hymn in unison. My legs gave out. I spotted Jack Danger Slick among the crowd singing with a slight smile. I felt sick.

⬡ ⬡ ⬡

Trevor Bonas is a computer science student from Canada.