In the Land of Mad Winters
by Erin Pringle
Beyond the rooftops, the night grays where the city’s lights gather. Christmas lights burn the shapes of houses into the dark. Ten houses stand on this street. The gray house’s front door opens, and Aila steps into the porchlight. She walks down the porch stairs and to the red berry tree where she leaned the snow shovel this morning. The berries are red and will be covered in ice soon.
She carries the shovel to the sidewalk. Snow falls icily against her coat and gathers on her hat. Her hat smells like Lorne’s shampoo, mint and musk. The trash bins are still at the curb. She’ll roll them back when she’s done. The groan of the garbage truck awoke them this morning, and Lorne raced to pull the bins down to the street. She must have thrown on Aila’s hat on her way out the door.
Cars are parked up and down the street. The neighborhood’s quiet with everyone returned home for the evening. So it’s only her out here, and the plywood snowman waving from the yard across the street.
She waves back. Why not?
She drops the snow shovel’s blade to the sidewalk and begins walking. It’s the first of many more snows. This morning, when Lorne returned to their bedroom from taking out the trash, she announced it was snowing.
Snowing, Lorne said.
She opened her eyes to see Lorne holding out her arm, leaning forward so she could see the last of the snowflakes melting into the plaid of her coat.
It was true, snow fell outside their bedroom window.
Well, that’s fantastic, she said, and meant it, and Lorne agreed, because it’s early winter, the first snow, with all the promise of a new season. The two looked at each other, then scrambled to wake their child, Peter. They slid and shoved up the hallway, laughing as each tried to get to his bedroom first.
Snowy snow snow is snowing down!
They clambered onto Peter’s bed, patting his sleeping shape through the comforter, kissing his warm cheeks, and pushing back the curtains to fill the room with snowy light.
Peter rolled onto his back and squinted up at them. His hair stuck up. The bee embroidered on his pajamas hid its eyes under the covers.
He stretched his arms up beside his ears, tightening his fists.
Snowing. Sledding. It’s officially winter.
He tipped his head to look out the window. He raised his eyebrows and opened his eyes wide. Then blinked. The snow moved by. He leaned up on an elbow and watched the snow catch against the grass between their house and the neighbor’s. The neighbors’ curtains were open, the same light filling their rooms.
Do you remember snow from last year? Lorne asked him.
He smiled but kept watching the snow.
He fell back to his pillow and nodded in the tentative way that seemed to mean he didn’t remember, but wanted to.
You like the snow? he said.
I like the snow, Snow! Aila said. Do you like the snow, Lorne?
I like the snow, Lorne said. Do you like the snow, Peter?
Yes! he yelled, and threw back his comforter and rolled off the bed, his feet carrying the sound of him into the kitchen. When they got there, he was on tiptoe, turning the kitchen doorknob and pushing open the door.
He bent forward. He clasped his hands. He giggled. He looked up at them. They nodded. He started to step outside, raising his bare foot into the cold air.
Then the day moved quickly, as it does when dark falls early, and so ended before she could take him sledding.
That’s okay, Aila thinks. The weatherman expects more snow tomorrow, and temperatures to drop through the week, into single digits as soon as next weekend. Once winter starts, it really does. And it’s beautiful, isn’t it? Bare trees stretching into the dark. Snow covering all the gray left at the end of autumn.