Tim sat in his father’s hospital room. The old building overlooked the frozen lake in the middle of the barony, crowded with skaters surrounded by their admirers. Tim’s dad was restless and still sore from his operation. Though just ten years old, Tim already felt the burden of responsibility.

His father would never walk again.

Tim worried about the future. How would he help his dad? What would they do to get by? He stared at the athletes circling the ice and dreamed of glory. And riches.

And skating.

Long ago, a jewel—more valuable than the wealth of the greatest baron—had been revealed during a thaw. The jewel captured the attention of the entire community. But the ice around it was thin. Everyone knew it could not support the weight of even a small girl. The jewel was so beautiful, the prize so salivatory, however, people began skating out onto the ice to see if anyone could even get close.

Ice skaters ventured year-round onto the lake. Great crowds gathered, cheering the skaters as they whirled and circled and edged their way ever-closer to the thin ice at the center where the jewel lay exposed. When the ice crackled, the crowd would roar.

But no one got close to the jewel.

Over the years, ice skating became the dominant pastime in the barony. Visitors rented skates and children learned to move over the frozen water with grace and ease. The people became connoisseurs of skill and speed, watching as the best of the skaters ventured to the thin edge of the ice before turning back from runs ever more dangerous.

Tim grew up watching the skaters. He couldn’t skate, but his desperation made him blurt out nonetheless. “I’m going to be a skater.”

Tim’s voice trembled as he spoke. It was a shake and a whisper, a breath of hope.

His father awoke. “Why a skater?”

Tim blanched. “People love the skaters.”

Tim’s father frowned. “Is there so little in your heart?”


“Is fame what you want?” his father asked. “Adoration?”

“I want to make you well,” Tim cried. “I need medicine, and medicine costs money. The fame I get from skating will get me what I need to save you.”

His father relaxed. “I will be fine,” he chuckled, “whether I get the medicine or not. But you, my son—you must aim higher.”

“What is better than skating?” Tim asked.

“The skaters have long since forgotten why they’re there.” Tim blushed. He had forgotten, too. “Don’t waste your time trying to measure up to the crowd. Just go for the jewel.”

Tim felt a surge of energy and raced downstairs and out the front door. He paused at the lakeside, then continued onto the ice, slipping and skidding over the smooth freeze. The crowd booed. They scolded him for wrecking the sport. Several of the skaters whished by and jeered. But Tim kept care-stepping further onto the lake.

As he neared the thin edge of the ice, a great section buckled and he teetered on the precipice of the black water below.

But he did not fall. He did not quit.

Tim grabbed the jewel at the middle of the lake and returned to the shore. The crowd fell silent, then erupted into a thundering cheer. Those who had booed only a moment before now applauded with unrestrained enthusiasm.

He was rich, but—even better—he was brave.


Reflections on this story