'An Unexpected Fall of Snow' by John Holland

She stands in the darkness of the back garden wearing her red water-proof coat and green wellingtons. Underneath only her nightgown. It is 4 am and the garden has a covering of snow. Something she was not expecting when she left her husband sleeping. She has two carefully folded white sheets under her arm. A green plastic petrol can in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. She feels the cold wind like a sharp slap on her face; a bitterness cutting into her legs, through her nightgown. Making her body tense. Her hands rigid. 
She thinks she has never seen snow this white, this luminous. Never seen the garden so beautiful. Or desolate. Like a secret world. For what the night does not hide, the snow does, flattening, folding itself around contours. Trees stand like silent witnesses. Huge white hands pleading to the dark sky. She looks at her footprints that make plain the short journey she has taken from the house. Her tracks defiling the covering of snow. If it does not snow again, or thaw, her tracks will be obvious in the morning. She does not know if she cares. 
She takes a few more steps, hears the snow creek, almost groan, under her feet. Finds the garden incinerator next to the compost heap. Wipes the snow from its lid with her bare hand. She places the sheets on to the lid of the container. The scissors allow her to cut across the outer seams of the sheets. She tears. It takes all her strength but there’s a satisfying ripping noise that echoes into the silence.
She places the torn pieces in the dry bottom of the incinerator, carefully splashes them with petrol, lights a match and drops it in. Nothing. The match has extinguished. She tries again. The reaction is immediate. An orange flame surges from the sheets to the top of the incinerator. She steps back. The snow under the incinerator legs melts. She continues cutting and tearing, dropping more strips of sheet in the fiery container. A circle of green is now spreading outwards from the incinerator. Like a growing oasis in a cold white desert. 
The heat is so intense she has to throw the strips from some feet away. Flames lap the top of the incinerator, so that her face begins to feel sore from the heat. Her back still cold. Her boots squelching in the green under her feet.
She hears the distant sound of a train. Impatient drumming fingers. Fainter, fainter. Like a memory, a longing. Walks a few steps towards it, raises her head to listen until it is silenced. She sees a band of silver grey at the edge of the sky. And wipes her tears with the back of her hand, as the strength within her grows.

Comments

  1. This is beautiful and sad and mysterious and the language is lovely.

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  2. Mesmerizing. Leaves me with questions.

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  3. Thank you, Fiona and Lindsay. It's kind of you to read it. So pleased you enjoyed it. John

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  4. I really enjoyed this, too! Leaves so much to the reader's imagination, which is no bad thing! Beautiful writing.

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  5. I loved this story, John. So memorable and thought-provoking, with such powerful images. I felt the heat of the flames and heard the 'creak' of the snow.

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  6. Lots of mystery here, and really pretty writing.

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  7. Thanks so much Jo, Joanna and Susan. What lovely things you have said. 'Pretty writing' - yes, that's me all over. John

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