Snow In Summer

The Word: Snow

The crags glistened in the afternoon light, eight pm–in these northern latitudes it was barely tinted in pink. Snow deep, the glacier fields under the silent passage of a sunset balloon, the retired sipping champagne and waiting for the show. Beneath them, elk with their white rumps emerged from the stands of aspen into the bright green velveteen baize of the ranch. The wind ruffled their snowy heads. Patricia touched Will’s fringe of hair that needed a cut, under his cap. All those snowy heads.

The glaciers gleamed on this, the longest day of the year. After the fiery liftoff, an uncanny silence. She could see an elk buck, in the trees, his antlers still swathed in velvet, the others, does, and a calf trailing the mother in the open. How silent. Like a dream. Like the afterlife, perhaps, all visuals, insubstantial. No sound. A balloon pilot instead of Charon, and these peaks, and Elysium behind the mountains.

How this all must look to the mountains. These jagged monsters. Still pointy, unregenerate. Unworn. Still angry at the striation of the glaciers which had ground their flanks. They looked like fangs. And yet she had seen the climbers that morning in the hotel, readying for their climb. They would work their way up these furious peaks, would cling to the granite, would chop their way up those shining glaciers. Then fly down their yellow ropes, back to safety, a hot tub, a glass of bourbon, a joint, a laughter, a lover’s embrace. They had tempted death and been spared.

The laughter after the brief encounter with death–the willed encounter.

The savor, the tingle in the teeth and in the groin. But the encounter that they faced, she and Will and the rest of the snowy heads in this champagne basket, was certain. There would be no glass of bourbon, no joint, no laughter awaiting them afterwards, no soak in the hot tub. Death did not have to be sought in the teeth of mountains. It was all around, silent as this balloon, and waiting for all of them at the end of the trip.

Glen, the balloon pilot, filled their flutes, telling a story about champagne and ballooning, but Patricia could not take her eyes off the mountains. Soon, her balloon would run up onto those teeth, or Will’s. A bad wind, and the fragile silk would tear, and all the heat and life would run out.

They had to take the hot tub, the bourbon, the joint, the laughter, first. The buck’s new velvet antlers, the silent rise, the gathering blush of evening–courage now was life and not death. Tempting life.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: WASH

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4 Responses to “Snow In Summer”

  1. Thank you for the lovely gift you’ve given us in this blog. I just discovered it, and have spent the last two days going back and reading all the stories. I am sorry that I’ll now have to wait a week before the next one.

    Here’s my story from the prompt “snow”.

    The Gloves

    He sat in his pickup truck, outside a large concrete building that was the combination courthouse and jail for the small county. It was cold, the December night sharp like glass shards, piercing the black skin of the sky into a million bleeding points of light. Even in the cab of the truck, his breath billowed like smoke, and his bare fingertips were stiff and numb. Still, he did not turn on the engine or the heater, nor did he make any motion toward getting out and entering the building. He merely sat still, looking at his hands in their fingerless wool gloves, which he could see quite clearly in the light of the neon sign of the liquor store across the street. His daughter had knit him the gloves for his birthday several years ago, and he’d worn them everyday in the winter, proud to say, in his deliberate quiet way, “my daughter made these,” when anyone chanced to ask.
    “See, they’re beer gloves,” she’d said, laughter in her voice, as she pointed out the seed stitching in the palm of each glove, to provide traction while opening the twist-off caps of the longneck Bud Lights he favored. And while he hadn’t once used them for that purpose, there not being much opportunity for sitting and drinking beers during a long day in the woods marking trees, or hauling timber, he still appreciated the quirky, but heartfelt intention.
    Now, as he watched his daughter finally exit the building, coming up from the dark stairwell that led to the basement lobby of the jail, he slowly removed the gloves and stuffed them in the glovebox. She paused at the top of the stairwell, looking around intently, until her eyes locked onto the faded blue pickup. Her body sagged a little with relief and she hurried across the street and clambered into the passenger seat, knocking a half-frozen plastic bottle of water out of the truck and into a patch of dirty gutter snow.
    “Leave it,” he grunted, and started the pickup. So she slammed the door shut without a word, and he pulled away from the curb, knowing as he did so how difficult it was for her to just leave the trash lying there, how completely it went against her nature. It wasn’t something he would normally do, either, but he couldn’t help the urge to trample on her high-minded environmentalist ideas a bit, especially as she was in no position to argue with him. She knew it, too, and turned away in silence to stare out the window, her long brown hair covering her face.
    In fact, he was disgusted with her, and that was the plain truth. This is what he had worked so hard for the past twenty years, crawling through brush in hundred-degree heat, and climbing up impossibly steep grades in the dead of winter. His countless injuries, including the torn knee, which had caused nerve damage so bad that his quality of life was still impacted by the pain five years later, and for what? Instead of taking the tremendous gift she’d been given, she’d used her fancy college education to spit in his face. What would he say to his buddies when they read about it in the papers? His daughter, arrested for assaulting a logger who had come to mark the huge old-growth redwood she had been living in (and he used “living” in the loosest sense of the word) for the past 4 months. A tree she had named “Alma” or some such nonsense.
    He turned his head and looked at the reflection of his daughter’s face in the passenger window, glowing softly green in the dash lights. He could see that she was crying. Suddenly he remembered her as a tiny girl, her hair in soft curls all about her round little face, squatting over a trillium flower hidden amongst the ferns, and squealing with delight. He placed his hand on her shoulder, and without looking at her said, “there’s a pair of gloves in the glovebox. Why don’t you go ahead and put ‘em on. Your hands’ll freeze in this cold.”

  2. Snow looks like a warm woolen cap on a summer mountain carpeted in shaggy green. At its foot, Jackson Hole in June. Lost beneath the dazzling perch, I search for moose on roads crammed with camera carrying tourists in the early dawn, and again, under a glistening moon.

    When what to my blood shot eyes should appear but a young shedding specimen, casually slurping greenish pond goo. He seems practiced at ignoring the human pack of wild eyed seekers madly running from their rental cars abandoned and strewn like bumper cars gone berzerk. Undaunted, I push my way forward, my camera phone held above this flock too rude to move. Whiz, snap, pop, click; the moose slurps and lowers his moosely butt to pee as the crowd is wowed, inexplicably. My cell phone now displays interior and exterior shots of the critter that I captured one summer day beneath a pearly beacon of Wyoming white.

    Alas, the moose does not merely represent some childish cartoon memory of Bullwinkle and his flying companion friend. It is personal. As a rather large, awkward grade school child, I was given the nickname of ‘moose’ by cruel boys who taunted and teased, mercilessly. And one named, Clayton Weisenbaum, would wait for me to return each day from lunch, and then, “hey mooooooose, I’m gonna get you after school.” He was a rather small boy with a large dark mole in his silvery blond hair. I could easily have clobbered him with one massive downward blow. If only I had, but no. Instead, I cowered, and escaped school each afternoon in meteoric fashion; sprinting as I flew the whole mile plus one block home.

    Remembering the Jackson Hole moose, oblivious to the maddening herd whilst slurping contentedly on brackish goo…. Makes me long for reliving those frightening days of yesteryear. If only I had waited for Clayton, hiding in the honeysuckle bushes after school. Readying to pounce on the sniveling spawn from hell marked for evil by his dark hairy birth mark, pushing him face down in the dirt, to sit contentedly upon the little mean nerd. Smiling, I would have warned him that every day I would be on top, a vision of white, while he drooled and groveled begging for mercy from his dirt crusted hell below.

  3. Well I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to actually post this, but it is kind of a cool way of communication, so here we go:

    A week before I cheated on him, the first love of my life was right there, right in front of me on a hot Hawaiian beach tracing the words “will you marry me” into the sand. We were in front of some schmancy resort hotel where people fancier than us ate macadamia crusted surf and turfs. Fireworks burst out over the ocean. We were still so fresh, so unembarrassed with our leis. My love’s face flashed pink, and green, and blue, and then the show was over and all that was left was his smile peeking out of a fresh darkness. All I could smell was gardenias. It was so wrong. I said “yes” naturally.

    The second love of my life was a kind of a new-fangled cowboy who smelled like leather and pine. His face was perpetually all a-stubble. He was a dude of his word. His hands were big and dirty all of the time because he was building me things all of the time: the log house on the slight hill that overlooked the lake, the boat on that lake where we spent our nights rocking, knocking our dreams against each other underneath the starlight. I cradled our baby boy in my arms and my love said that all we needed was the moon and we’d have everything.

    It took him four years, hours and hours at a time in the garage to build the rocket ship. He devoted himself to it wholly. Our son learned to walk without leaning on his dad. The only words our child knew were the words I taught him. The only embraces I got were little, clumsy, grubby ones. When we finally got up there, the three of us together in a line, the whole gorgeous churning blue world in front of us, I kicked my feet around in the moon dust and my son cried and said he missed the dandelions.

    Dear third love of my life, this is for you.

    We met on the 13th of January at the Hotel De Glace.

    I brought my son and all our suitcases and you brought your daughter and your warmest coats.

    We were both done with love. That’s why we came to that place. To believe that there could be beauty without the pretense of permanence. At the end of the season, the hotel would melt and that was fine.

    Your brown eyes had that kind of smolder that I knew certainly wouldn’t last forever, but you looked lost, so I bought you a blue drink in cup carved out of ice and we sat in ice chairs at the ice bar while the kids went down the ice slide.

    God, there was so much to discover. I ran my gloved hand down every surface. Roses chipped into the walls. The smooth glide of an angel’s upward curving wings. Ice blocks stacked on top of each other exactly like almost-invisible bricks.

    Your wife left you for a sad addiction. Your voice crackled. Your daughter really wanted to go to Disney World. We tried to dance, but we were wearing too many clothes, and kept bumping each other in not-sexy ways, so we took the kids outside to enjoy the flurries.

    A light storm fell all around the four of us. It settled into our hair, melted into our faces. Your daughter tried to catch it on her tongue. My son thought that was a great idea, and heavy horse hoofs pounded past us, carrying a brand new bride and groom from the ice chapel to their ice room. I whispered in your ear. In her furs, the bride looked exactly like the snow queen and we agreed that her new husband looked exactly like one lucky bastard.

  4. stephen Says:

    The Word of the Day: Brick

    The arena had its own pulse, from the stomp of the dancers and the loud music as it pumped through the massive speakers. One young man stood alone at the edge of the dance floor, watching everyone move. As his eyes scanned the place over, he locked sight with the slender figure of young woman who just entered the arena. She was tall, almost six feet, with blond hair at the base of her skull that stood out like a white flash of lightning against the darkness around her. Her pale skin was smooth and mostly naked except for a black tank top and torn dark blue jeans that came half-way down the thighs of her long, slim legs. She was more slender than any woman he had seen and although she couldn’t be more than twenty, she had a mature composure about her face that was both severe and attractive at the same time. As she took in the area around her, she, too, locked eyes with the young man and stared at him for a long time. Eventually she walked over to him, swiftly slipping through the crowds of dancers like silk. It had already begun to rain hard and by the time she stood in front of him she was soaked. Her hair was now a slightly darker shade of blond, like golden honey. He noticed her features were even, earthy but her mouth was full and sensual, completely out of place with the rest of her cold, sharp face. She finally spoke in a low throaty voice he could barely here over the thrush of the rain and music: “Want to dance?” He only nodded in the positive response. She twirled around, facing towards the crowd and threw out her arm and hand to him. He took the large hand, noticing the long, slender and pale fingers that enclosed over his hand. She danced perfectly, meeting right with the music, which had a fast tempo but still gave a dash of smooth sensuality. As she danced, he noticed she was barefoot, her feet a white shock on the wet brick floor. She was graceful, yet sexy, the way she moved her hips like the way water moves through a narrow river. She let him touch her as he pleased. He first grabbed hold of her shoulders, then he slowly moved down her slim body—now slippery with fresh rain and clothes that clung to her like a second skin—to her hips, feeling the toned muscle against the fragile bones. She whipped her head back, her hair—now in thin, wet strands—accidentally hit his face, giving off a strange scent, something natural: pitch and resin. An intoxicating smell. She slipped into the contours of his body and asked: “Want to go upstairs?” “Sure,” he replied. He was helpless to her. He couldn’t say no to anything she asked. They snaked out of the crowd to a door that led up to a long, narrow staircase. Before they reached the fifth stair, she forced her face to his, taking hold of his mouth with hers. They continued to walk up the stairs but did not stop. Her palms smothered the sides of his face, her fingers splayed out like a fan. He took hold of her hips and, in response; she jumped on his body, wrapping her legs around his hips. Her lean, elegant body pressed close to his. Her small breasts crushed his chest. He walked them both up the stairs, his hands holding her bottom. It wasn’t much of an exercise, whatever weight she had was in the hidden strength of her muscles. As they reached the top of the staircase, his mouth moved about to the corner of her mouth, down her jaw and worshipped the pale, long column of her lovely throat. He kissed the hollow of her collarbone then dragged the tip of his tongue about her bare sternum. On the second floor and off the stairs, she unwrapped her legs about his waist and pulled at his collar of his damp shirt, dragging him to a door. Before she could open the door, he tugged at the straps of her tank top, lightly throwing her against the wall. He went, once again, to kiss her mouth—now somewhat more fierce—and brushed the hem of her tight black top. She forced his hands away and slipped out of his arms. Now she pushed him against the wall, putting her hands against the wall on other sides of his head. In a moment of spontaneity, she brought her leg up and slammed her foot against the wall, the length of her naked leg exposed to him. He traced the skin with the tips of his fingers. Without much convincing, he forced her away from him, took her hand and opened the door. Conveniently, a mattress sat in the middle of the small space. They did not pay any attention. She pushed him onto the bed, pulled the tank top off her body and over head and threw it to the ground, jumping on him before he had completely fallen. She had his waist in-between her knees, the heels of her feet against her buttocks. She dropped her face to his, kissing him hard, leaving a bruise. She, once again, brought her leg up to his face; her bottom flexed taut right above his groin. He groaned in an agonizing pleasure. She lifted her upper body away from him but he just followed her, even though he was stretching his lower back the wrong way. Suddenly, she unlocked her lips with his, jumped to her feet and walked out the door, slamming it shut hard. He sat for a moment in shock, then scrambled to his feet and raced to the door. Opening it, he flew out the door and looked earnestly around the corridor. Empty. He looked down the staircase. Empty. He raced down the stairs, opened the door to the arena but could not find her in the crowd. She could be anywhere. He spent the rest of the night looking around for her, asking people if they had seen a tall blond girl recently. They all said they hadn’t seen anyone like that all night. Eventually, he gave up. She was gone. Vanished into thin air. Had she even been there? It all seemed so unimaginable, like a dream. He walked out of the arena, disappointed and unsatisfied.

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