kip_w (kip_w) wrote,
kip_w
kip_w

it's pixel-stained technopeasant day!

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After inquiring in a plaintive tone, I was told that I might tag along for this momentous day; a day full of momentum. I'm passing along a story I wrote during the winter season just past. It's short enough that I have hopes someone will read it, so to make it easier to do so, I'm appending it to this post instead of posting a link.

SNOW WIDOW

It was a beautiful wedding. If Walt Disney had made a movie about it, it would have been full of singing clouds and dancing bunnies. But this one didn't end in a happy honeymoon, or with the happy couple standing together in the sunset. It ended with just the bride crying icicles over a frozen puddle, and I made it my business to find out why.

My name is Frost. Jack Frost.

Maybe you've heard of me. I don't have an office or a big ad in the phone book, but I get around. I write my name on your window in a script that was old when cuneiform was the coming thing. I nip your nose when you're going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house, and sometimes I bust your basement pipes just to keep you on your toes. Cold is my business.



That day, I was just taking it easy. Early November in Michigan was a little too warm for me that week to do much more than check the cool sides of houses and try to persuade some icicles to cling to the eaves. I was working with a couple of promising little glassy spikes when I happened to clap eyes on the widow. She was your usual standard-issue snow person, with one or two childish touches to indicate her distaff nature -- a slightly hourglasslike figure, a big empty purse that looked like something Mommy got rid of two years ago, and a ragged length of white muslin that was probably intended to suggest a wedding dress, trailing out behind her. Nobody looking at her red plastic smile -- Lego blocks, on closer examination -- would have thought she had a care in the world.

But I could tell. Below the bits of stone that were her eyes, a fresh little rim of ice suggested she'd been crying. Maybe she was still crying. It was a subtle effect. I asked one of the icicles what the story was.

"Yesterday morning, that black hat on the ground stood on top of her husband," said the largest and most important of the three. "The little girl who lives in the house plays by herself a lot, and she made both snow people, right there, and had a wedding for them. That hat is what's left of the groom," he said, directing my attention to a black hat on a wet piece of dark cloth on the ground.

"It was a beautiful ceremony," put in a smaller icicle, dripping slightly with emotion, or possibly just melting in the heat, which was threatening to approach 40F. "The little girl -- she's about six -- she stood there with a book, and made up a little speech, trying to sound like a preacher. I think it was a cook book. Anyway, she pronounced them Snowman and Snowwife and said he could kiss the bride." The icicle sighed a little, as if trying to keep the drop from falling, but it fell anyway.

"After a while," the larger icicle continued, "She went inside to watch TV or something, and the snowman and his wife gave their real vows to each other.

"'I'll be your husband, I'll stand by your side, I'll take you for my frozen bride.' the icicle quoted, in a deep voice.

"'I'll be your bride, I'll make you whole, and hold you always in my snowy soul.' he said, in a higher voice.

"Then they both said, 'Our life is short; Our arms don't move; But we'll embrace with our souls' love.'"

"Very nice," I said, touched. "Anything else?"

"Yeah," said the third icicle, "He seemed to bend to her just a little, which kind of surprised us, and real quiet, he said, 'Will you love me in December, as you do in November?' It was sweet."

"And then what?" I said. I didn't mind sweet, but I was looking for a punch line.

"Not much. He was melted by the end of the day. And she was still there, all alone," said the big icicle. "Seems kind of odd to me."

--

It seemed odd to me too. I've been around, I've seen a lot, but I didn't know what to make of it. Her grief seemed real, and she struck me as the innocent type -- but I've been wrong before. I wasn't doing anything better just then. I decided to ask around a little. It wasn't easy. Most of the birds who had any sense were off South somewhere, stretching out on sunny islands or eating taco crumbs off of sidewalks in places with names that sound like California missions. I talked to the trees, but they pretended not to listen. Most of them bear me a sort of grudge for the fact that water freezes and leaves fall off. I soon gave up on those saps and looked around at ground level, where the action is.

On a hunch, I checked around near the mess of stalks and stakes that passed for a vegetable garden in the warmer months and found -- aha! -- a rabbit hole. "Hey," I said. Nothing; Brer Rabbit was out like a spent match. I tried a little louder. Still nix, so I put out a frosty finger and drew little circles on one of those big hind feet and the bunny jerked awake.

"Hey!" he said. Very original, I thought. "What's the idea?"

"I'm just looking for somebody who saw the grand nuptials here yesterday, lucky feet, and I thought maybe you were on the ground for it."

"Hah. I was in the ground, just like when you came around bothering me." He wrinkled his little brown nose at the air. "It's not even solstice yet. I shouldn't be up now." He yawned and lay back down. I got the hint and left him to dream of lettuce.

I tried drifting upward and putting some questions to the clouds. I might as well have saved my breath. It's like they say, you never talk to the same cloud twice. Statistically, there should have been some clump of cloud in all that that was still on speaking terms with itself, but you try finding it. The gooniest fugue-state rubber-room schizo was Ward Cleaver next to those wispy vapors. I was starting to feel a little nutty myself by the time I declared victory and got the hell out of there.

Then, Fate tossed me a bone. The back door of the house opened and the cat came out and stood on the back steps, wrinkling its nose in disapproval of the air. I was on it like six points on a snowflake. "Here, kitty, kitty," I said sociably.

It looked at me like I wasn't dinner. "What," it said (I could call it she, but the vet might get technical on me) "Do you want?"

"I understand you're tight with the little girl inside," I said coolly.

"More the other way around," the cat said, looking through me at something fascinating on the fence. "She drags me from room to room and tries to get me to take part in her sad little fantasies. Tragic, really, in a boring sort of way."

"Like weddings?" I asked. "Maybe yesterday you were a bridesmaid or usher or something for a happy snow couple?"

The cat gave a critical eye to the back of its right forepaw and licked it a bit to show that as long as there was anything else for it to look at, I was second on the list of interesting things. "Ah, no. Yesterday, I was safely ensconced behind a large piece of furniture, and the little angel didn't find me at all. I did, however, observe her from the safety of that second-floor window. She labored out here for a good forty-five minutes, during which time she didn't pick me up or try to dress me once. It was heavenly. I soaked in bright sun the whole time."

"Did you see anything after that? Specifically, did you see anybody do anything to the groom, here?"

"Hm. Doesn't cut much of a figure now, does he? No, after that, the dear little urchin came inside, and I turned my attention to avoiding hers. And now..." The cat's eyes flicked at mine for a fraction of a second, then turned toward the door it had just come out of. "I hate to seem rude, but I've been out here just about long enough. Feel free to come inside if you want to talk more." it added, rudely, before meowing at the door, which was shortly opened by the tired-looking lady of the house, measuring cup in hand, who told the cat to shut up and freeze or come inside and shut up. It chose the latter, minus the shutting up part. The door closed.

"Well," I said to myself. "Still no light on the matter. Just a lot of negative information. Seems nobody was here but just the little girl and the happy couple. Hmm." I decided to venture out of the shade and interview the widow.

"Mrs. Snowman."

"Jack Frost?"

"Very good. Yeah, it's me, chilly trickster and window artiste, come to offer my condolences. I wonder, if you could tell me..."

But she wasn't listening. She was talking to herself in a low, distracted voice, as if I was an interruption that had already gone away. "... miss you so ... never thought it would be that short ..."

"Mrs. Snowman, did you see any..."

"...It wasn't her fault. She didn't know. She's just a little girl..."

"Was there anybody... what?" I felt a small chill, if that's possible. "The little girl?"

She stifled another sigh and seemed to focus on me again. "Yes, the little girl. She didn't know any better. How can I feel angry at her? She made me, she made my beloved, and then she killed him, and left me here to mourn."

I was starting to see something forming, but it was still vague. If only it hadn't been so warm, my thoughts would have been clearer; I'd have had my edge. "How did she kill him, Mrs. Snowman?" For a moment, I had a mental flash of the description the icicle had given me: "He seemed to bend to her..." How could he do that? He was a snowman!

She sighed again, and I sensed her gaze had gone from me to the black hat and cloth on the ground and the small melted patch we both knew was under them. It came to me a moment before she spoke again. Of course! It was elementary...

"She dressed us, you see. I'm the bride, so I wore white. Some old sheet she rescued from the trash. It's my bridal train. But my husband. He had to have black, and she brought out that hat -- heaven knows where she found that thing, but on him it looked good -- and that black cloth. She might as well have put him on a yule log."

...physics! White reflects the sunlight, black soaks it up. And it was borderline warm. And sunny -- the cat had been basking in it. I looked up and saw the cat at the second floor window, watching me like I was the movie of the week, stretched for maximum exposure to the sun that, even now, was warming what looked like about an acre of belly. The snow widow was talking again...

"I don't want to live without him. Mr. Frost, is there anything you can do? I know you can make it colder, but ... can you ... can you make it ... warmer?"

I thought of the forecast. The trend was supposed to be to get colder and stay colder for the next few weeks -- an eternity for a grieving widow. This was outside of my line, but something about her made me want to help her.

"I'll see what I can do," I heard myself say.

"Oh, thank you!"

I didn't stick around. I floated -- went up, upward, pausing only to frost the window in front of the damn cat. I went up, past sullen oaks and birches, back to the bedlam of cloud-cuckoo land. There was no talking to them, of course, but I had other ways of my own. Apply some cold here, borrow a little wind there... I persuaded a hole to open up in the clouds, and kept it open. I didn't look down to see what it was doing to the nice lady below me, but I kept it open until the sky started to get dark. Then I went back down to the yard.

She was pretty much gone. I heard or imagined hearing her say, "Thanks, Frost." Then, I swear she giggled! "It was a good job. Thanks for the honeymoon." I blinked at her and saw that she had melted over onto the remains of her husband. I felt a little heat in my cheek -- damn, I was blushing! I turned away, mumbling something about checking on her tomorrow.

But tonight, I had other things to do, places to visit. Windows to mark, puddles to glaze, power lines to snap. I checked on the icicles, who seemed secure enough in their shady spot, but life is uncertain.

Keep cool, guys, I thought as I started off on my rounds. A warm heart can do you in.
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