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After the Thaw

Story by Freda Love Smith (Read author interview) September 24, 2013

art by Carrie Wells

We were well stocked with cans of soup, packs of batteries, jugs of distilled water, boxes of matches, rolls of wool socks, stacks of blankets. Flashlights. Candles. Powdered milk.

In fact, the days leading up to the storm had been busy and bright. The run to the store, the teasing arguments.

“Snowpocalypse,” he said.

“Snow way,” I said.

“Snowmaggedon,” he said.

“I don’t think snow,” I said.

And we laughed, my husband and I, despite the depth of our disagreement. His sad way of believing whatever people say; my way of believing nothing.

Then, like they all predicted, the snow fell, a plummeting told-you-so. Buried alive, with not even an argument left between us.

On day three, Christopher came over. I stood on our front porch, stranded, surveying. Impossibly it began again to snow, no logic, no fairness, just fresh flakes and plenty of them. I didn’t see Christopher until he came near, aqua blue eyes, tall on his skis, in the grubby fleece hat that I would hate in a few months, that I would steal, intending to wash, but would throw away when it partially disintegrated in the machine, would push down to the bottom of the trash can, burying the evidence. He would have to buy a new hat. But that day it held a certain charm, lightly coated in the new snow.

Christopher had skied his way to Kroger, bought as much wine and cigarettes as he could stuff into his enormous backpack, and set out from house to house, distributing his loot to a lucky few. He handed me a box of Cabernet and a carton of Camels. People in Gladstone still tell the story about him skiing around in that backpack. Saint Christopher, that’s what we would all call him, and I had my quiet doubts about this title, but if the saints are the sinners that keep on trying, why not admit we’re all saints, most of us.

I knew Chris, a friend of my husband, so wasn’t surprised when he came in sideways, negotiating his skis, for a hug that I could not reciprocate as I squeezed the carton of cigarettes into my right hip and the box of wine into my left, but he got in there, and that’s when he kissed me; cold, warm, the whole catastrophe.

After a while he left and I went inside.

That night, my husband and I built a snowman in the backyard. We made a major dent in the box of wine. We had quit smoking six months earlier, but it didn’t count that night, we smoked one then another, we gave the snowman a cigarette. There were so many, you see, we could afford to be generous. We dropped our stubs into the fresh snow where they sank and disappeared.

In April, the thaw would come, the whole mess would be revealed, cigarette butts in wet dirt. But that night everything sparkled.

About the Author

Freda Love Smith was a drummer and songwriter in The Mysteries of Life and The Blake Babies, among other bands, and currently writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in publications including The North American Review, Bound Off, and Riptide Journal. She is completing a book about teaching her teenage sons how to cook, a subject she blogs about at lovesmiths.blogspot.com.

About the Artist

Carrie Wells is an artist working in the mediums of photography and sculpture. She earned her BFA in Studio Art from The University of Texas at Austin and continues to live and work in Austin, Texas.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-One
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