The days blended into one another. Whatever began as beauty ended
when hardship began. When the house grew cold they wore all of their
clothes under their thick coats. He crawled on his hands and knees
and broke the branches of trees encased in tubes of ice. Fuck Mother
Nature. He would deprive her of the inevitable. She watched,
huddled with her little boy. She smoked, rubbed her arms and shivered
with expectation or dread. Her sighs sounded like songs no one
listened to anymore. Her little boy hummed. She watched the few who
tried to venture out. Traction was an amazing thing to behold, but
rare. People slid into one another then laughed at themselves and each
other when they really wanted to cry. When he came back into the
house, even his smile was frozen.
They ate cereal out of the box, and drank the juice from canned
peaches, holding it in their mouths before they swallowed. They went
to bed before they had to, let their imaginations run away with them.
He held his breath, forgot what he might have been. When the lights
came back on the house hummed. They went about their routines, called
it normal. They stayed awake all night long, enjoying the warmth and
the light from forty-watt bulbs. The thaw began and forgotten things
began to reveal themselves around the outer bounds of the house: a
rubber clog, a sand bucket and shovel, a rake, and a rusted window
screen, barbecue tongs. The boy squealed, clapped his tiny hands
until they were pink.
She turned to her man, laid a hand on the back of his proud neck. He
rubbed hard at his face with a pulpy hand, the black hair on his
knuckles standing on end as if detecting something he might have
missed. Promises had been made under the influence. Certain
essentials had revealed themselves. The little boy lifted his face to
the weak effort of the sun. He touched his tongue to the window
glass. She closed her eyes and forged a prayer in a language she
barely knew, enunciating every syllable. He said a prayer of his own.
The branches lay scattered and forgotten, their necks twisted, their
short lives wasted. A wind somewhere gathered steam. So much had
the potential to be lost in translation.