My friend Mark Kaufman over at Days of Wonder, explained the Law of Inverse Trouble to me at a convention once. It goes like this:
The older a kid gets, the less frequently trouble happens, but the bigger the trouble is.
An infant, for example, gets into trouble all the time, but these are mostly easy things to fix. A teenager doesn’t get into trouble all that often, but the fallout from those troubles can include things like unwanted pregnancies and smashed cars or worse.
So, here’s a story about a five-year-old who gets into a trouble a little less frequently but a little more spectacularly.
Last night, I got Pat, Nick, and Ken ready for their swimming lessons. Ann had gone ahead with Helen to pick up Marty and a friend from Kids Fun and Drama and planned to meet us at the Y. (Yeah, we spend a lot of time at the Y.)
As I’m gathering up the boy’s stuff, Pat and Nick charge out the door. A moment later, I follow with Ken—who won’t be swimming that night so he can keep his stitches dry—and spy Pat and Nick playing in the snowbank near the street. I call them over to the car, but Pat can’t come.
I walk over to see why.
While walking along the snowbank, Pat’s foot went through the deep, crusty snow, and his one leg is buried to the hip. He’s stuck. I think that’s strange but don’t give it too much thought.
I put my hands under Pat’s arms and pick him up. His foot comes free, minus his boot. I set him down so I can retrieve his boot, but when I touch it, it falls away into the hole, far beyond my reach.
Pat had stepped into the storm sewer. His boot is now in it. Grumbling a bit, I pick Pat up and carry him back to the house. He cries over the loss of his boot and because I’m upset that he might have fallen through himself.
We find a dry pair of shoes and put him in those as I console him. Then I put him and the boys in the minivan and tell them to buckle in while I see what I can do about that boot.
I shine a flashlight down through the hole and spy the boot floating there in a half-full storm sewer, like a lonely beer can cradled in a bucket of half-melted ice. I might be able to get it, so—despite the fact that I should already be on the road to the Y—I decide to give it a try.
I retrieve a shovel and an ice scraper from the garage and the fireplace tongs from inside the house. I set to with the shovel and clear the snow from around the sewer hole. I sigh in relief as I see that the hole is too narrow for Pat to have fallen through. However, this also means I probably can’t reach the boot.
I dig a bit more and find that the sewer hole is framed in iron, and above it there’s a wide semicircle of metal in which a manhole cover sits. I clear it all off and then use the tongs to hoist the lid off the hole.
The boot’s down there, but still out of reach. It’s now dark enough I can’t see it, even with the manhole cover off, so I nestle the flashlight in the bordering snow, angling it down toward the boot. Then I take the long-handled ice scraper (imagine a hoe with a flat blade) and try to fish it out.
I can’t quite snag it, but I do get it closer. I get down on my knees, brace one hand against the manhole’s edge, then reach down with the tongs and snag the boot. It comes up soaking wet and icy cold. I realize then that I can’t feel my fingers any more.
I tuck the boot under my arm, replace the manhole cover, and haul all the tools back to the garage. As I return to the car, I hold up the boot like a trophy, and I can hear Pat’s cheer through the closed doors.
We’re a few minutes late for the swimming lessons, but that was so worth it.