The snow falls thick and heavy from a
sky made up in soft sheets of grey. Beatrice putters about her
kitchen, watching the flakes soundlessly fall. She pauses to look out the window. William Harris trudges
behind his prancing dog Trudi, who wears a red jacket with shiny
sequins. Although she cannot see them today, Beatrice knows that
Trudi's nails are painted red: William's wife gives the dog a
manicure every Sunday after church.
The tea kettle whistles and she turns
off the gas. She studies her assortment of teas, decides upon a good,
strong Earl Grey. She sets the bag in her mug and pours water on top.
Outside, the roads are silent and still. “Snow day today, I'll
bet,” she tells the cat, who sits at her feet, tail curled around
his toes. She sits at the kitchen table with her tea and watches the
birds gather at her feeders: goldfinch and sparrows. A few
A cardinal flies up, clutches tiny feet
around a branch. “A male,” she tells the cat. “Bright red
color. The female dresses more conservatively. You could almost
accuse her of being drab,” she adds, then immediately regrets it.
After the children left, her husband had told Beatrice she was drab.
He'd told her he wanted someone flashier; someone who liked to get
dressed up and go dancing on a Friday night. She stares again at the
cardinal and she wonders whether it is just humans whose females
adorn so lavishly.
The neighbor children have gathered
outside. The oldest one picks up a bit of snow and forms it into a
ball. He sets it down and pushes it along the ground. It grows so
quickly that soon enough it's two feet high and takes three of them
to move it, the ball rolling up a white carpet of snow,
leaving a patch of muddied grass behind. The youngest one—too small
to be of much use—runs along this path of green while the others rub at the
snowball with mittened hands until it is smooth and clean.
“Soup weather,” Beatrice says. She
rummages through her freezer until she finds the packet of oxtails
she got on sale last spring. She sets them on the counter and begins
slicing onions. These, she browns in a little oil, adding the meat,
turning it carefully with tongs, jumping back occasionally to avoid
the angry splatter. The cat circles her legs, its tail in a question
She sees the snowman is complete. Three
balls, neatly stacked. The children have set a sombrero upon his
gigantic head. Beatrice smiles and fills her stock pot with water.
She cuts parsnips and turnips, carrots too, carefully sliding them
off the cutting board and into the water. The windows have begun to
steam over; here and there a drop of water drips down the glass.
She looks at the pot. Once again, she
has cooked for too many.
Beatrice spends the rest of the day in
silence, thinking about her children who never seem to have the time
to call ever since their dad died.
They blame her. For his death. This she
That day, just after lunch, she'd
dressed in red. She'd slipped into black heels, laughing at herself
and lecturing, too. What was a woman her age doing dressing this way?
Her husband had nodded off in his easy chair, his chin touching his
chest. She would surprise him with this outfit. She would tell him
she wanted to go dancing.
But when she touched his arm, he
remained still. “He didn't even have the courtesy to wake up,”
she told the cat now, “didn't even take the time to tell me how
beautiful I looked before he checked out.”
The kids arrived soon after the
ambulance. They'd accused her of having an affair; of sneaking around
on their father while he was at work.
She didn't bother correcting them.
His girlfriend showed up at the
She wore a red dress and cried with
abandon. She was six months pregnant.
Beatrice shakes her head to clear it of
old memories. No point in thinking about that now.
She eats her dinner in silence. Too
early. But what else to do when one is alone?
She retires, tucking herself in and falling asleep to canned laugher on the television.
She dreams of snowmen.
She blinks awake and slips her feet
into her slippers. She walks to the window; parts the lace curtains
and peers outside. “He's missing something,” she tells the cat.
She ties on her robe and heads to the coat closet; pulls the wicker
basket from the top shelf. She digs through mismatched mittens and
old hats until she finds the red scarf she's looking for. “Stay
here, Cat.” She steps out into the snow, crosses the street and
wraps the red scarf around the snowman's neck. “Thought you might
be chilly.” She pats him on his cold and rounded shoulder.
“Looks good,” someone says behind
her and for a moment Beatrice believe the snowman is speaking to her;
believes that the red scarf has magically brought him to life. She
“William! You startled me!” There's
a man behind her; an older man; and Beatrice regrets her robe and
“Beatrice, this is my father,”
William gestures to the man. “David.”
David extends his hand. His face, she
notices, is ruddy.
At noon, she heats up yesterday's soup;
sets out a bowl. The doorbell rings. “Now who could that be?” she
asks the cat. She opens the door. David stands on the stoop, a single
red rose in his hand.
The temperatures rise that afternoon.
The snowman lowers his head to his chest, begins melting away. But Beatrice and David
don't notice, so engrossed are they in conversation.
Labels: flash fiction, scriptic.org