You Want to Build a Snowman

A recent Writer’s Arena prompt was about Snowmen.  This is what that prompt suggested to me.

In his back yard, Thomas rolled the snowball.

The night before, a Friday night, his dreams had been fever vivid, leaving him sweat slicked and breathless. Sitting up in his bed he had noted unusual brightness outside his window and, heedless of soaked pillows and clamy sheets, he had padded across the toy strewn floor to peer out at a white blanketed world.

The moment he registered the crisp crystal sparkle of new snow, he’d known what he wanted to do more than anything else in the world.

He hadn’t slept a wink for the rest of the night.

Breakfast had been…dutiful. Thomas wanted very much to be out in the snow but didn’t want to deal with his mother’s implacable slow, steady ways. For her part, Mother was pleased to see her normally energetic child settle into something like patience. He ate his cereal, drag some juice and asked, politely, if he could play in the snow.

“Wrap up warm, and stay near the house” she said. Thomas knew that her injunction to wrap up needed to be taken seriously so he found wellingtons and a hat, gloves, a scarf and his coat. Mother watched him put them on and smiled at his diligence.

“Good boy” she said, but Thomas was already through the back door and into the yard. She watched the small, determined figure as he began the process of creating a snowman and smiled, because what else should a small boy be doing the morning after a fall of snow?

Around the back yard, Thomas rolled the snowball. It was half his height now and he stopped frequently to pat the surface smooth and round. The gloves were not helpful in this work so he’d pocketed them and the heat of his hands raised just a hint of steam in the icy air but was perfect for working and shaping the ball. The heat wasn’t just in his hands. As he worked, Thomas could feel his thoughts become hotter, full of lights and words. But not words. Sounds that had shapes, that suggested and insinuated themselves from the breath fog in front of him and behind it all the insistent whisper that had been there since his dream the night before. He rolled the ball around the yard once more and then, the ground largely denuded of snow, he made his way to the side gate only to be defeated by the latch which was too high up for him to reach. He slipped his gloves back on and ran to the back door.

“Mom! I ran out of snow for my snowman!”

She came to the back door drying her hands on a hand towel and smiled down at him.

“Well goodness, Tommy, look at the great job you did clearing up so much of the snow!”

Patronise me some more, thought Thomas. Or something that thought in his voice.

“I need to finish the snowman, mom, can I take it out front? I promise to stay in the front yard!”

Thomas could feel her ticking boxes in her mental checklist. He was still wearing all his warm things. He had come to ask. He would be visible from the study. He wouldn’t leave the yard. She smiled.

“Sure! Do you need any help?”

“Yeah please. Can you unlatch the side gate?”

And she did, with a smile and a quick kiss on his forehead. If she noticed how warm he was, she didn’t react to it. Thomas rolled the ball through the gate and into the front yard.

Soon, the ball was big. Big enough that Thomas needed to start a second one. This one would be smaller, for the middle. He diligently rolled the snowball around the bushes in the front yard, careful to stick to the lawn, his progress marked by a widening swath of green that stood out against the white of the world. As he rolled, Thomas spotted a mail carrier at the end of the street. He’d seen the mail carrier before, an older man who sometimes came to the house and spoke briefly with mother. As the pressure and heat inside his head grew, the soundshapes sussurating sibilant suggestions about size and smoothness, it occurred to Thomas that the mail carrier might be useful. He rolled the ball faster, started a second one, rolled them both together.

The cold made his knee hurt. Not enough to stay him from his rounds, the Postal Service had been very clear about that, but enough that he wished he was home and preferably in front of a fire with a coffee and a book. Dan carried the mail because he’d exchanged one uniform for another, out of a desire to remain useful and also because he wanted people to be pleased to see him. There was less of that, these days. There were less letters. The world moved on and Dan, contemplating what he might do instead, caught sight of the kid making balls of snow. He smiled. There weren’t many kids outside today. The lure of computer games, or TV. It was nice to see someone playing in the snow. He picked up his pace a little.

Thomas stood looking at the three rough spheres of snow and frowned. He wanted his expression right for when the mail carrier came. He wanted to look like a defeated six year old. It should have been easy but he found himself unable to remember what to do with his lips. The mail carrier clumped to a halt beside him.

“Hey, son, are you trying to build a snowman?”

Thomas looked up at the adult’s face and nodded. As luck would have it, the adult had his back to the sun so Thomas could squint with complete authenticity and not worry too much about the dull glow he was sure was emenating from behind his eyes.

“uh-huh,” he said “and I made the body and the head but I’m too little to put them together.”

The mail carrier looked around.
“Is your Dad home?”
Thomas shook his head.
“Well then how about your Mom?”
“Mommy said she needs to tuh-take care of my suh-sister” said Thomas, deliberately tripping over his words and staring resolutely at the mail carrier’s feet.
“Well I guess I can help out a little,” the man said and he set aside his mail bag and hefted the snowballs into place.

Dan smiled to see the glee on the small boy’s face and he picked up his mailbag lighter of heart because of it. He gave the house a quick wave, because Mom was surely watching, and gave the now serious faced little boy an equally serious salute. The boy blinked and then returned it with a crispness that Dan had not expected. Thinking “don’t that beat all” to himself, he returned to his rounds.

“Excellent” said Thomas, when the mail carrier was out of earshot, and he went rooting around for pebbles.

It was easy to assemble the face, a curve of pebbles formed the mouth and two more stood for eyes. It was less easy to find arms but he succeeded. The next part was hard. He pressed his finger to the torso, where it hissed a little and sank into the compacted snow. He moved the finger in a lazy curve and from his mouth, in a voice that seemed to come from very far away and far too close at the same time, he made the sound that the shape delineated. There were others, and as he sank them into the snowball the heat in his head began to receed little by little. With each barbarous utterance, he cooled.

The snowman shook, turned its head, the uneven pebble eyes now luminescing like trapped fireflies.

“What is this?”
The voice was, perhaps unsurprisingly, like stones being dragged over stones. Thomas looked at the snowman.

“It is what you desired. I have created you a body from the most plentiful material I could find.” The heat in his head was not quite gone, it leant him eloquence and not a little irritation. This had been work. This had been effort.

“Fool. There are so many human bodies within moments of where you stand. Why did you not harvest them for your raw materials? Why have you…THIS THING HAS NO LEGS!” the snowman thundered. It flailed twig arms, elbowless, ineffectual. It fixed Thomas with a pair of furious pebbles.

Thomas wrinkled his nose and pushed his wooley hat back on his head.
“Well…I’m six” he said “you chose me, and I’m six. What were you expecting? Lego?”

The snowman shuddered with rage.
“This world is mine!” it snarled “a canvas for my bloody art, an instrument for making screams. I will this day…”

There was a thud. The Snowman fell silent. Thomas looked at the head, which had fallen off and landed face first on the lawn. He reflected that maybe Mailman Dan hadn’t done a very good job of putting it in place. Or hadn’t expected it to take a dose of apoplexy. He wondered what to do about that. Then the front door opened and his mom called him in for a hot drink and some lunch. He ran to the door and hugged her.

“Oh hey,” said Mom, noticing the striken condition of the snowman in the yard “his head fell off! Do you want me to help with that?”

“Nuh-uh, Mom. It wasn’t a very good one anyway” said Thomas, already thinking about cartoons.


[WP] You’re a regular at Starbucks. This time you go, the lady writes “RUN” on your takeaway cup.

I hit Starbucks on my way to work every day.  Same order, roughly the same time, stand in line at the counter for my Venti drip with room.  If I’m awake enough I smile and thank the barista when I hand over my cash.  Today, something is different.

I blink at the cup. I blink at the Barista. She smiles.
“Why does it say ‘run’ on my coffee?” I ask. She smiles again.
“Cardio” she says “it’s always good to invest time in cardio fitness. You know where’s a great place to get started? There’s a park about five minutes walk from here, do the whole outside track and you’ve done a mile. There’s shade, it’s pretty flat…I recommend it!”
“…thanks…” I say and walk away sipping my coffee. I’m basically too out of shape to run a mile, but I can always walk more. I make a mental note to check out the park.

My coffee cup says “Read”. I look at the Barrista. Same one as last time. She’s a brunette, with long hair in a pony tail.
“Any authors in particular?” I ask. She smiles.
“Are you a reader?”
I shake my head. There’s never time. She shrugs.
“Then start with a good newspaper. Cover to cover. You never know what you might turn up!”
Her enthusiasm is infectious and I smile back.
“Thanks,” I say, sipping the coffee, “I’ll do that.”

I stop in for coffee after my run, feeling pretty good, with the intention of sitting outside and leafing through a copy of The Washington Post. My iPod is still reading me The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, which is a lot funnier than I was expecting, and I’m not really paying attention to my coffee order. The take out cup says “Watch” on it. I look up, pull the earbuds out of my ears and smile at the Barista. Her eyes are vivid and green, one eyebrow arches gracefully at me.
“What should I watch?” I ask.
“How do you feel about German Expressionism?” she asks.
“I don’t,” I say “but the way it influenced later directors, from Hitchcock to Burton, that’s pretty cool.”
That earns me a dazzling smile and those eyes iridesce. Then she frowns.
“Oh, darn it. I’m sorry, I’ve got your order wrong. Here, let me fix that for you.”
She reaches for the cup, takes it from my hand and for an electric moment our fingers touch. She fusses behind the counter, hands me a new cup, smiles again.

I look at the cup. It says “Date?”