Every winter the lake freezes.

Sometimes, it happens during a snowstorm. In that case, snow is in the water as it freezes, and the ice forms milky white. And of course, the lake is covered like the rest of the world, so you have to go to work with a shovel to even see the surface. If the lake freezes while the wind is blowing, there are frothy ripples on the surface where waves had been, with the occaisional whitecap frozen in time. But if the lake freezes when the night is still, the ice becomes an unbelievable glass surface, that both mirrors the sky above and reveals the stilled waterworld beneath.

If you go out on the lake, whether boldly on skates or with shaky balance without, you find yourself upon the Frozen Planet. I found the Frozen Planet the same season Charlie got in a fight at McNulty's, the bar in town I thought only people Grandma called "hoodlums" went to.

I had heard him come home one night and woke up. It was past two and I knew something was going on because he turned all the lights on. I downstairs and into the kitchen where I found him standing over the sink, holding a washcloth over his face. I asked him what was the matter. "Nothing. Get outta here." Charlie removed the cloth from his face enough to spit into the sink. I saw that it was stained with blood.

I'm gonna go get Dad," I said, and started to leave.

"No!" And Charlie cursed at me. "Just get upstairs." I protested and he came towards me, grabbing hold of my shoulder. He smelled of sweat and beer and he seemed to be using my shoulder for balance. His hand was icy cold. "Just shut up and go upstairs." Tears filling my eyes I did, scooping up Boo on the way up. I held her in bed, listening to her purr over the sounds of Charlie downstairs.

The Frozen Planet's terrain is very flat. If you take a rock from shore, or a bit of ice, and roll it out like you would a bowling ball, it goes on and on and on. You can hear it long after you can see it, its souns of roack against ice varying with distance and speed. Sound is in general of interest on the Frozen Planet, as the flat emptiness of the sky hovering over the flat emptiness of the lake are separated only by the layer of cold and dry, still air.

The next day Charlie didn't come with the rest of us to the lake. Peter and Charlie cut holes in the ice and lurked over them, drawing out a glistening, shivering fish now and then. Bundled in wool and I laced up my skates and skated away from them, carefully noticing where holes had been cut yeaterday and avoiding the resulting pits in the otherwise smooth ice. I had never seen it so glassy.

On the Frozen Planet there are two of everything. Looking down, I saw another me, and we spun and skipped in tandem. If I tried to look to closely at her world, kneeling and putting my face to the ice, she vanished, and I saw instead a world of mud and frozen weeds, landcapes in lakebottom. And my face became numbly wet.

When we got home that night I heard Dad and Charlie have a big fight. Peter and I were upstairs, and came down only when it was shouted up that dinner was ready, after the storm had subsided. Charlie never said anything to me, although the next day he brought me a bag of caramels. He told Peter, who asked about his inflamed face, that he had skiied into a tree.

As day leaves the Frozen Planet it undergoes a magical process. The tempereature drops, and the ice expands, filling the air with its eerie cracking bellow. That haunted noise and any others bounce in repetitious echoes around you as you stand beneath an orange-pink sky, which colors take over the flatness of the ice as well. The wind starts to blow, and you realize that you must race darkness to the shore.