She stared at the white slush piled against the back of her house where the shadow of the eave never seemed to disappear. The size of a loaf of bread, the slush pile was mottled with black. She stared until the black flecks were dancing.
All around the neighborhood she could catch glimpses of spring. A green shrub here, a precocious tulip there. But here in front of her was a miracle of Mother Nature. It was all that was left of winter. Here in her own backyard was the very last piece of snow.
“Let’s pee on it,” said Jonathan. Margaret Mary punched him. He yelped and rubbed his arm.
“Gross!” she barked. Still, she was intrigued by the thought of his pulling it out and letting loose. She wondered, was it true they sometimes peed in two directions at once? What would he do if that happened? What would she do? Maybe she would help him write her name in the grass.
“Let’s build a snowman,” said Cathy. She turned her broad, innocent face toward Margaret Mary, who spat at her feet.
“Which part of him?” Margaret Mary offered. “A foot? A hand? Honestly. I don’t know why your mother lets you out of the house. Or out of the outhouse.” Cathy screamed and bent over, clutching her stomach, spraying laughter. All of which irritated Margaret Mary all the more.
Margaret Mary wanted to put the snow in her mother’s freezer. She wanted to pack it in Styrofoam with dry ice and send it to her grandmother in Florida. Nanny missed the northeast, she had told her, missed the winters of her childhood. Margaret Mary wanted to give her back those memories on Nanny’s birthday in May.
But Margaret Mary could not say any of this to Cathy or Jonathan. After all, she had her reputation to think about.
“Just leave it alone,” she said. “It’s doing fine all by itself.” Jonathan moved out of arm’s reach.
“You’re gonna take it, aren’t cha? You’re gonna make ice balls with rocks inside. You’ll keep them in the freezer and then one summer day—splam!—I’ll get a broken tooth or a busted lip.”
“And what if I do?” said Margaret Mary, pleased in spite of herself. “It’s my yard.”
“You don’t own the snow,” said Cathy. She hid behind Jonathan.
“Let’s go for a walk,” said Margaret Mary, unbuttoning her collar.
“I have something to show you.”
The walkway to the old Holland Sport Club was overgrown with pricker bushes and weeds.
“We’ve been to this dump a hundred times,” said Jonathan. He kicked at a loose flagstone.
“It’s scary,” said Cathy, clutching Jonathan’s arm.
“Just a little ways more,” said Margaret Mary. She led them around back by the abandoned pool, away from the road. She stopped at the tool shed.
“Stay here,” she said to Cathy. “If somebody comes, give the signal.”
“But I can’t whistle.”
“Knock on the shed.”
“Three times. Ten times. Who cares?” Margaret Mary said. “Just knock.” She turned to Jonathan. “You,” she said, pointing to the shed, “in there.”
“In there,” she repeated. “With me.”
“Oh,” he said. Margaret Mary closed the door and they stood beside each other in the dark. She groped for Jonathan, caught him and wrapped her arms around him and found his face and moved her lips back and forth over his. His hands slid up under her armpits, then around her front. She held him tighter, leaning against him, bending her knee so her foot was off the ground behind her. He purred, deep in the back of his throat. Then she brought her knee up into his groin as hard as she could. He fell to his knees, gasping. She picked up a shovel and knocked him cold with a shot to the side of the head.
Outside, Margaret Mary dismissed Cathy’s stare.
“Fell asleep,” she said. “We’ll come back for him later.” She put her arm around Cathy and steered her away from the shed. “Let’s get something to drink.” They giggled and chatted, and when they passed the deep end of the empty pool, Margaret Mary shoved her in. She hit the bottom with a dull thud and did not move.
Back home, Margaret Mary scooped up the snow and disappeared into her house. Some hours later she came out with a gallon jug of milk. She skipped along the road. She whistled and played with the cat that followed her. She was going back to the Holland Sport Club to revive her friends by drenching them with Grade A, homogenized, pasteurized cow juice. They would never say anything about what had really happened to them. They knew better.
Late that night, Margaret Mary opened the freezer and studied the white wonder she one day would mail to Nanny. Beside the slush pile were the two ice balls she had separated out. They glistened, the kitchen light revealing their dark centers.
Margaret Mary imagined the joy on Nanny’s face, her surprise and wonder at receiving so unusual and thoughtful a gift. Nanny would know how much her granddaughter cared for her and loved her. A tiny tear formed in the corner of Margaret Mary’s right eye, falling along her nose like a grain of sand.
She flipped the tear away and slammed the freezer shut. It’ll make for a good story around the dinner table, she thought, that’s for sure. Even after she’d mailed the package, even after the ice balls had hit their targets, she knew she would never be without the snow.
She pressed her hand against her chest, feeling for her heart.
Yes, she smiled, there it was.
"The Last Piece of Snow"
Copyright: © 2009 Robert Meade
Copyright: © 2009 Robert Meade
Robert Meade is a Boston native now transplanted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to a Healthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.