FLASH FICTION IN THREE PARTS
Featured author, The New Guard BANG! February/March, 2019
Maine 44.8831° N, 68.6719° W: Early March
By now, there’s been a thaw. And night mud that re-freezes under stellar wind. Not yet enough for resurrection, though friends have said for weeks: almost there, almost spring, almost warm.
I’m not like them. I’m sorry to see winter go.
I’m closest to the center at December’s fulcrum, when nothing shifts. The world stops moving. I can tell. Winter solstice holds me between time’s endpoint and imminent surge. A stopwatch in God’s hand reads zero.
There is only suspended cold. Molecules barely vibrate in narrow intra-quantum spaces. Breath arrives arrowed by metallic particles lined up on a knife’s blade. Held clean, without temperature. Not even a drop of liquid. Still.
Messages come through easily.
Ancestors Over a Woodland House: March 15
She’d forgotten how long she’d known us, so we shook a bolt of cloth from up here, beyond the atmospheric turbulence separating us from her. Cloth rolled in sine waves. We twisted it, adding harmonics. Overtones shuddered her kitchen, where she wanted to stay forever.
She thought she was hearing music from a passing car’s open window and mourned because she had no one but the house around her to share it with. Everyone she loved was gone. They were here with us.
We’d watched her when days grew short. She’d brought cedar boughs indoors, as though it were not enough for them to remain where they grew. She’d flung a red ribbon onto cut balsam in a vase. She’d scattered candles inside as though her longing could force astral remnants to come to life again, to travel across a few billion light-years and confine themselves, like her, near her hearth in the woodland house she’d built for refuge.
The house grumbled under ice dams. She attended to its needs, shoveling pathways to doors and windows, to the house’s mouth and eyes. She broke up snow, crusted sleep of a giant’s dream.
Lying in early morning within her house’s cavities, she mistook it for herself. Dawn caught them tossing in sleep together, creaking. When she walked to the mailbox at driveway’s end, she stood back to let her house show off, shedding loud thuds of snow to the ground in February. It grew icicles secretly at night.
Then the house cried cold waters in March, staining interior ceilings over the kitchen sink, dripping. She called the plumber. We shook the cloth again.
We forced her to well tears of renewal. She mistook them for something seeping into the house’s guts.
She thought this movement was the house readying itself for Japanese lilac outside the music room where she planned to practice her rusty violin come April, May, June. She expected the house to grow green hair in summer rains, hair done up in moss for fall.
She expected her house to be patient with children who visited, trampled lawns, and fell so she herself could lean down and offer an apple.
She refused to hear the house say: You’re going to leave me, you know. Here, where I’ll think of you, of how you smelled getting up each day, of how you warmed me with kindling and oils. You shone my windows and kept me ordered and graceful under the trees. You’re going to let other children run and bump against me. It’s terrible to outlive those you love.
Up here, we shook, made more waves to imitate a cello’s melody through darkness. We oscillated tone on either side of her age. We sent more music. Moved a tenor sax behind a great, filled ellipsis. Not too high, an egg of sound.
We hushed the night. She gave up and sang.
Stillwater River: Vernal Equinox
Winter’s passing rips me off. Now nights will not be so distilled and cold. Though I’m glad that, last night, I had to leave the kitchen pellet stove on, damper closed to whistle combustion below as my dog paced another circle on the bedspread, then dropped her rump against my left side.
Soon, she won’t do that. It will be too warm for her, so she’ll sleep on the floor. She’ll be able to smell me well enough, I suppose, from there. I won’t be able to smell her.
Birds will begin waking us any day now. We’ll have no excuse to lie here on the flannel sheets I tumbled dry to capture body heat right up to my skull. Chill won’t sting my cheekbones anymore when the furnace switches off at dawn. I’ll have no excuse to count breaths still channeling easily before it’s time to fling off blanket and comforter and bedspread and get going in the frigid bathroom. Go like crows outside, cawing to displace air that was once settled.
I’ll have to move as my dog and I did yesterday in the wooded boundary between house lots. A brown-grey stream of melting water cut through snow and ricocheted sun around stray gravel.
Returning home, I wiped mud off my dog’s feet. Dreaded opening the appointment book on my desk where today’s marked, “Spring Begins.” Tried to think of the upside: I’d move vigorously now over surfaces freed of retreating ice. Even though there’s a small bone fracture in my foot, obtained God knows where. I’ve been swaddling it in wool socks unsuitable to warmer weather.
Time to wear thinner socks. My foot will hurt. I brace for reliving the end of school years when jonquils and final grades said: You can’t return to this section of time when you were still allowed to be growing up. To overcast months when teachers knew your face under hallway buzzers, when friends circled habits with you or without you, when parents hadn’t started asking about summer plans or next year or life’s remainder. Before growth spurts made your shins ache when you walked over sprouting rhizomes and fescues. Grasses tangled new roots into funky webs while you shot up near flowering bulbs that tipped your world.
No, winter is still my authentic place. Other seasons point to it or away from it. It’s what I’ve always relied on. In it were my people, the things I could return to. Once. More than once. If not now.
I resent it when greenness and expectation invade. I’m afraid new life will wipe out the old. I dare listen only to Bach.
Then the scent of some clod mimics loam. It seduces me, and I consent to try.