Those were days of freedom, when mothers didn't know where their children were or what they got up to and didn't care, before video games and stranger danger closed down the wide world to us. Breathing was like snorting pin needles, and the sharp cold seeped into our layers of clothes, but we were impervious, playing out on the ocean ice, oblivious to the threat that the ground beneath us could calve away from shore and float off into the gulf stream.
We constructed opposing forts, stocked with slushy snowballs, and the building and stocking took up the bulk of our time--the war between us was an afterthought. Being pelted in the face with ice wasn't nearly as fun as the anticipation and planning. All our brinkmanship took place in a bay between the suspension bridge and the railyard; a forgotten and undeveloped scab of beach flanked by scraggly trees suffering from too many summers of acid rain and carbon monoxide.
As winter wore on and began to fade, the ice became more waterlogged and spider-veined. Our pantlegs were soaked through by the time we got home to slurp of victory hot chocolates. The days out got cloudier and grimmer with the warmth and we knew the battlefield would be gone soon.
And one day, one of us punched through the soft ice. There were screams and arm waving, and we ran to him, sliding on our knees, with red cheeks, and pulled him out. We laid him on his back and we all laughed, and death wasn't on our young minds. A boot was lost to the sea that slapped the underside of the ice. We walked home, with our friend leaning on our shoulders and hopping on one foot. Our casualty in the war. And we knew that it was over and never to be had again.