Diane Mayr and Lisa L. Leibow

Diane Mayr
“If We Go Any Slower, We’ll Be Going Backwards”
Digital collage

Girls Are Flyers
By Lisa L. Leibow

Inspiration piece

It was so cold, Chapman Pond had frozen over. I headed there with shovels and skates to meet other kids from the neighborhood. We four girls, including Meg Flori, who lived across town, laced up our skates while four boys, the Daves (O’Malley, La Marche, and Brunetti) and Freddie Jacobs, cleared snow from the ice.

“Let’s play boys are Bruins versus girls are Maple Leafs.” Freddie stretched his arms east and west like a scarecrow. “Set up goals there.”

I followed hockey on television and stats in the paper with Dad. “No way,” I said. I didn’t want the girls to be Maple Leafs because the Maple Leafs stunk; they hadn’t won a championship since before I was born. Why did the other girls just sit there in silence? Didn’t they realize the insult? “Flyers, maybe. Or Islanders. Not Maple Leafs.”

“Fine. Girls are Flyers,” said one of the Daves. “I call Bobby Orr.”

“Won’t help us much,” said another Dave. “He’s on the injured list.”

“Pretend I’m last year’s Orr, stupid.”

I said, “Fine with me. If he’s Orr, I’m Bobby Clarke.” I looked at Meg and the other girls. “Who do you want to be?”

“Dorothy Hamill,” said Meg.

“Me too,” said Patty.

“If you two are Dorothys, I’ll be Peggy Fleming,” said Kathleen.

I slapped my own forehead with mittened hand. “They’re not hockey players.”

Meg said, “We know. We don’t care. We just want to twirl on the ice.”


We girls chatted as we practiced Hamill camels. Meg said, “Your dad bought a lot of Girl Scout cookies. I mean a lot.”

I filed this information away. Tagalongs, yum.

“My mom says we’re close to enough money for spring campout.”

“Campout?” I wanted to sleep outside.

“Ruthie, are you a Girl Scout?” Meg asked.

“No.” Girl Scouts might be just the thing I needed—instant friends.

“You should join Girl Scouts,” Meg said. My heartbeat accelerated.

“Yeah, then you can go to the mother-daughter campout with us!” Kathleen said.

I turtled my face into my scarf, wondering about the fat chance these kids hadn’t heard that Mom left Dad and me. I leaned into the embarrassment. I asked, “Can I go without my mother?”

“What? Why?” asked Patty.

“Um…she’s gone for a while.”

“On a trip? Our mom went to Italy once to see her cousins in the old country. She sent me a postcard with a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” said Patty.

“How long is your mom traveling for?” asked Kathy.

“Not really sure.”

“Didn’t she tell you?” asked Meg.

“Have you gotten a postcard?” asked Patty.

I reluctantly admitted, “Don’t think Mom will return by spring. She doesn’t live with us anymore.”

“That’s weird. Why not?”

“I dunno. I guess your mom loves you more than mine loves me.” I laughed but could feel pressure building behind my eyes.

“Come on. You don’t mean that,” said Meg.

I stared at my skate, scraping the ice with the blade’s edge. “From what Dad says, I’m pretty sure she’s gone for good.” I tried to sound casual, but admitting this made my feet itch to run. My toes felt freezing. As I pushed off to skate a lap or two, I wiggled them inside my skates. The blade caught on a divot in the ice. At the instant I floundered out of control, Dave Brunetti rounded the corner. I crashed into him, sending him flying.

He belly-flopped on the ice. “What the heck!” he grunted.

“Sorry.” I offered a hand.

He slapped it away. “Don’t be such a spaz!”

“It was. An accident.” The lump in my throat made my words halt.

“Why are you crying? I’m the one that fell.”

My lip quivered as Dave Brunetti scrambled to his feet. He said, “Gonna cry to your mommy now?”

The others skated in close, forming a circle around us.

Meg said, “Dave,” as if his name were a warning.

“What?” He smirked. “Look at the little baby. She’s gonna cry.” He poked my shoulder. “Go cry to your mom.”

The two other Daves high-fived and one repeated, “Cry to Mommy,” with a laugh. Patty and Kathleen kept their mouths shut and took a few steps back. Meg stepped toward Dave Brunetti. “Shut up, you jerk.”

Anger spun from my gut down my legs, winding up.

“Mind your own beeswax,” Dave Brunetti said to Meg, reaching to grab his hockey stick at the precise moment my tension exploded as a sharp kick, blade gouging his hand. He stared at his hand without saying a word. The flesh erupted like white lava before the blood started. “Jesus! Get out of here, you freak.”

I removed my skates and ran from the pond. Somewhere between the sidewalk and the flagstone path, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to find Meg. I said, “Please, tell him I’m sorry.”

“Are you kidding? That jerk had it coming.”


“Really. He’s always ganging up on someone. Plus, next time you see him, he’ll probably be bragging how his scar makes him look like Jesus.”

“Why on earth would he brag about that?” I covered my eyes, trying to unsee a half-naked Dave Brunetti on a cross. I took a deep breath. “At least I lucked out with you coming to my neighborhood. How come you’re here, anyway?”

As we sat on my front steps, Meg explained, “I only spend weekends with my father. I spend school days at Mom’s house on the other side of town. I’m used to it. My parents have been divorced for ages.”

“Where does your mother live?”

“In a lakefront cottage, right across the shore from Calliope Park. If I look out my bedroom window, I can see Halley’s Comet.”

“I went there last summer, but couldn’t ride Halley’s Comet. Too short,” I said. “What’s your favorite attraction?”

“The Maze of Mirrors in the Fun House. I’ve mastered it.”

A feat that made her fascinating. I asked, “What’s the secret?”

Meg looked stunning. She wore Vaseline on her lips that made them look shiny. Her long, braided hair hung down her back like a plush velvet rope. As she shared the tricks of the maze, she used her hands to emphasize her words. Her smile was wide and infectious; occasionally, she swatted my knee and said, “You know what I mean?”

She explained, “The key to making it through the maze is looking at the floor while keeping your right hand on the wall at all times.”

I said, “It sounds easier than expected. Why aren’t you at your mother’s house today? Today was supposed to be a school day until it snowed.”

“Yup, but it’s Monday.”

“Monday’s a school day.”

“I sleep at Dad’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” she said.

“If you’re still there on Monday morning, technically you live with your dad part of the school week, don’t you?”

Meg laughed and said, “Jeesoman,” a sure sign she liked me. Connecting with Meg in the cold air froze the dread of Dave the bully—at least for a while.


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