The Thrill of Hill

The only way to really know your limits is to break them. That, or be broken by them.


It was the biggest hill I'd ever been at the top of. I'd been at the top of some mountains before, but those aren't hills. They're mountains. The difference between a mountain and a hill is quite substantial. We're not talking about going from a midsize SUV to a full scale SUV here. It's not going from a large popcorn at the movie theater to an extra large popcorn. And it's certainly not going from Kraft Jet-Puffed Miniature Marshmallows to Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows. No sir. This is so much more of a difference from one size to the next. It's not even going from stepdad to dad. That is an entirely different scale of size measured in trust, respect, and how willing to play catch with you I am. And you'll never be my real dad! In short, going from a hill to a mountain is like going from no mountain to a mountain, because mountains are gigantic and hills are not.

But this was the biggest hill, and, since I am the smallest man in the world, it was kind of like a mountain for me. I think it suffices to say this was no ordinary hill:

It was Old Man Farley's Hill.

The hill behind Old Man Farley's house. On Fifth Street. You know, out behind the old elementary school?

No, not that one. That's the one room schoolhouse. That's too old.

No, not that one, either. That's a middle school.

Uh, I think that's technically a daycare. Plus it's in the basement of a church, so it's not really a school.

Yeah, really. I know. No, St. Mark's is the church itself. I totally get what you mean, though--there are a lot of schools with religious names that aren't that religious. Well, not as religious as a school in a church, anyway.

What's that? No, that's Pith Street, at the other end of town. I'm not sure, but I know the Piths were the first manufacturing family in town.

Believe it or not it was an old textile factory. I think you'd be hard pressed to tell most abandoned old factories apart. Unless it's like a lumber mill or something super specialized, they all look pretty similar.

Yes, it is on Jefferson Street, too! But you're talking about the opposite end of town.

Haha no worries, I do stupid stuff like that all of the time. Of course it would be uphill from the downhill part of town.

Exactly! At the top of the hill at the intersection of Jefferson and Fifth.

Uh huh, that's the hill.

Hmm... I don't think that's right, sorry. That's not really a hill so much as a high plateau. Also, that's not nearly as high up as Old Man Farley's Hill. I thought we were all good?

No, I'm not calling you an idiot. I'm just saying that that other one certainly isn't a hill, by definition.

Come on, please don't blow this out of proportion. Of course I know what a hill is.

I didn't call you a moron. Don't put those words in my mouth.

Wow, very mature. I haven't been called that in a long time.

Yes, I know her. No, really? I'm sorry, I had no idea she felt that way.

It's totally all right. I get weird about stuff sometimes, too.

Really? Two for five dollars? That's a great deal. I'd love to go after this.

No. I just don't trust Venmo. Same reason I don't use online banking. I can give you cash.

It's not outdated money, that's absurd. I don't even know what you mean, I don't think each individual dollar has to be backed by an equal amount of gold. That's definitely not how that works.

It's still physical money. Hackers can't reach through my computer and take my actual money.

I'm not saying he wasn't a great president. I'm just saying he's certainly partly to blame for the crash in 2008.

It went both ways. Republicans and Democrats were doing the exact same thing fiscally in that twenty year period, which is why it inflated so out of control then burst.

Thank you, that's very kind. I studied it for a while my senior year of college.

That's a good question. It's hard to know how drastically it would change if they started getting paid, but there is no doubt that schools and the NCAA itself are raking in unbelievable amounts off of them.

That's funny, it is about as close to gold as it comes.

Did he really? Wow, I knew he was good at basketball, but I had no idea he was good enough to go to Duke.

That is a funny coincidence! Old Man Farley did study at Duke, too.

I don't think they knew that when they bought the house from Old Man Farley. It does go to show how similar certain people are and how it attracts them to similar places.

If it bothers you that much we can call it Reddington's Hill. I just call it Old Man Farley's Hill because when I was hanging out around there Old Man Farley owned it.

I agree that it's important to be thorough in being on the same page. You're all set then? Great.

Old Man Farley's--I mean Reddington's Hill was the biggest hill of them all. Many kids tried to make it all the way to the top, but none ever made it. Rodney Mattus said he made it three quarters of the way up one time, but Rodney is a liar, so he definitely didn't. Where kids fail, though, adults succeed. Especially adults as small as myself.

After a fourteen hour trek--yes, fourteen hours, now you actually appreciate the magnitude of the hill--which I admit would have been half hour tops in a car, but doing stuff in cars or helicopters absolutely defeats the purpose of the human spirit, I finally was there. I looked down at the bottom. It was so far down, all the way to the bottom of the hill. Wow, I thought, looking down. The bottom is the opposite of the top. I zipped the top of my jacket up to protect my neck, tucked my sleeves into my mittens, and put on my goggles.

It was time to sled down. I set down my metal saucer and closed my eyes for a moment, thinking. This was the moment I'd trained for, the moment I thought about every night before I went to bed and every morning after I woke up. I'd sat cross-legged on one of those half exercise balls for five minutes every day for a month. My muscles were ready. I opened my eyes. The sun reflected off of the metal saucer, extra shiny from the oil I'd put on it that morning for extra speed. I put my hands on my hips and rotated to stretch my back, then bent over and touched my toes to stretch my legs. I got down in a crouch, grabbed the saucer from both sides, and sat down cross-legged--just like I'd been training to do like I just said I'd been training to do. I just want to get the point across that I was really really prepared for my saucer trip down Reddington's Hill. I lowered my head a little to be more aerodynamic, put my hands in the snow beside me, and pushed off.

In the blink of an eye, I shot down the hill, faster than a bullet. I have no conscious memory of the journey because the speed made me legally dead until I stopped moving. Before I knew it, I was just sitting there on a flat, several miles away from the mountain. I turned around to look back at the hill. All of the snow in my path was melted. The exposed ground was on fire, all of it. After a moment, a loud crack rushed by me, so loud I had to cover my ears.

I had not only broken the sound barrier, I'd also broken the flammability barrier.

I rolled back my sleeve and looked at my GPS watch. My maximum speed was forty eight miles per hour.

Yes, forty eight miles per hour.

I got up, hardly able to believe the incredible feat. My legs were sore, but not too sore. Thank God for all of those cross-legged five minute training sessions. I took off my goggles and tossed them on the ground. The plastic lenses were deformed from being wind whipped and partially melted. Also, my jacket and pants and shoes were completely disintegrated. All that remained was my red jumpsuit, just like from "The Royal Tenenbaums." I picked up my sled and walked off.

I tried holding back my tears for a bit, but it was no use. I cried. I cried sweet tears for the limits of all humanity. Tears of pride, tears of joy, tears of wonder. Tears of speed. I might be the smallest man in the world, but I can still cry some big old tears.


It was the fastest any man had ever gone before me and the fastest anyone has gone since. It was the fastest any man has gone ever. Many have tried to break my speed record, in planes, trains, rockets, and even time machines, but none have gone faster than I did. One man received some press for a time for saying he went forty nine miles per hour, but officials proved he did not. It was just Rodney Mattus, who is still a huge liar.

I never thought I would hold the record for the fastest anyone has ever gone in the history of mankind, but I guess that's because I never fully believed in myself.

We doubt ourselves and in turn never even try to do any of the incredible things we dream of doing. It's a shame. However, when we believe in ourselves, all of our dreams--no matter how farfetched or seemingly insurmountable--have a shot at coming true.

Tonight, I dream of flying.

Tomorrow, I fly.