Three Stories for a Snowy Day

Cafe table in the snow. Richmond, VA

The blog for the snowy end of an incredible month is three very short stories by authors who want to remain anonymous for the time being. To honor their wishes, I have arranged the stories like a musical offering.

Ground Conditions

            Guilt and shame are not the same at all. Bright blue light comes through the windows from an early morning snow and you look out at it. You’re in the dark house looking out at it, watching it cover everything. That’s guilt. Somebody switches on all the lights in the house and a crowd in the street sees you staring out the window. That’s shame.

            You do something, you want to leave the lights off. The favorable court of your mind will find a hundred ways to let you off. I call it à la carte rationality. You let the lights come on; you can forget about explaining how what you did was justified. Saying under the circumstances won’t matter outside the court of your mind where you can take turns pleading, prosecuting, judging, and voting for acquittal under the circumstances, given it was a snowy day when it happened, for instance.

            Saying it happened rather than you made it happen is acceptable in à la carte reasoning. Nothing has a fixed price. You get to choose.

            Weather is different. The ground conditions set the rules. Light snow in the morning with a thin warm layer a hundred feet above the ground, then the snow turns to sleet pellets ricocheting off the roof of the lean-to in the woods. With a thick warm layer, the snow melts but the rain freezes on the ground. It glazes the roof, the pipe lying inches from the body; it even glazes the fingers, and fissures of the face.

            Someone coming upon the scene by the woodpile may think it’s obvious what happened, but that’s because the ground conditions have glazed over everything. Under the circumstances, anyone would understand—anyone who had to listen to the old man ranting so much about your whole generation dragging his patriot dreams to hell that he hit his head on the pipe you were holding.

                                                                                                —Andante 

Shh. Don’t tell

            The sun leapt out at me today. It warmed my skin as I lay on a railing, legs dangling like a child. Seagulls teeming the joint. Down by the river where you can still share a rare but secret smile with a maskless stranger. Shh. Don’t tell.

            My feet held a rhythm and had a step in it. I used to dance on the street where I was from.  Riding my bike with no hands. The night air leaving me breathless with hope. That little flame in your belly. The Aurora Borealis trailing me like a persistent nerd in the schoolyard.  Holding my babies with locked eyes and love eternal, milk spilling from my breasts. Hot chocolate and wagons, little bodies draped over mine, snow in their boots and shrieks of laughter. Intense conversations for hours. Fires and music.

            What happened to us? To our hands interlocking, the whispers of sweet consolation. The warmth, the love, the pain, the giddy apprehension? Bangles jangling in the green grass and brown skin beading with dew. Hot days in lakes so cold, your pelvis burned and then the warmth of sun kissed wood? Children running, matted hair,  tattooed and sunburnt. Hope and love growing distant. Longing to be held. Longing for your touch. For a cold day in a warm bed, naked and free. I am mute. My words and body hold no power. They are used against me.

             A man paused briefly enough to take a photo of the sunset. Roaring engines and sirens punctuate the air and murderous tension lies bloated, thick in it. A young woman cackles garishly. A stark contrast to her youth and beauty.

             My little girl, all blue eyes and heart, cupping my face with her grubby little hands  “You need to listen Mummy.” The flowers poured out this summer, knocking heads in the breeze. The church bells clanged all day long but suddenly stopped. Did you notice?

                                                                                                —Vivace 

It needs something

            Drifting across the sky at sunset over the domestic temple of the Daily Tongue were three clouds like three scratches made by some girl trying to hang onto the day before she dropped below the horizon.

            Mimi packed her bag, locked the door, and walked down the stairwell to the parking lot. So much for the day’s dilemmas in the outrage industry. What she did had always been needed. Some paleolithic stringer had been tasked to rub the stones daily. After years of wear, the tiny abrasions inevitably made a polish. Maybe she had admired her reflection before the rock was launched at a hyena, or its human equivalent. Maybe her peers had praised her life’s work.

            Impatience didn’t help, whether you were rubbing a rock, waiting for a microwaved dinner, trying to fire up opinion by rubbing sticks—or to make a story stick by setting a fire. Maybe slackers, like the skateboarders in the parking lot, had the right idea, but  Mimi had never tried to pretend that nothing mattered.           

            Then the daydream again: Something on the roof looked into the office rooms. Perched like a grotesque wearing high-heels, she throws hot water through the windows, scratches “Ha!” on the perfect penthouse panes of the media empire. Maybe too much pepper brought it on. But who could eat this so-called empanada as it is?  Who was watching? She added more pepper.                            

                                                                                                            —Con móto 

AND NOW A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR:

ON FEBRUARY 15, 2021 MY NEW BOOK OF POEMS, PUSHBACK, WILL BE RELEASED BY ATMOSPHERE PRESS.

HERE IS A REVIEW IN PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY BOOK LIFE:

https://booklife.com/project/pushback-52779

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