walk in the snow, not in the streets.

31 January 2011 § Leave a comment

The powdery snow crunched underfoot. The clouds split into overdose pill-shaped symmetry as the sun set behind the cracked pepper hills laid in blankets of sea salt and calm. Meltwater streamed through snow caves and that singular flowing sound contradicted the valley’s freezing December silence.

The dog hopped about in glee. Off the hardpacked trail, the mutt sunk into the dry snow and burrowed a few feet before he popped up like a jack-in-the-box – half as colorful and twice as ugly. His boy companion only stepped on the snowshoe tracks left by more prepared hikers sometime after the last snow. He walked as if tramping through Elmer’s glue, the cold biting his nose and fingertips like a hundred miniature rabid weasels. The sun persisted in its descent, bathing the antipsychotics in the sky orange and yellow and red. The boy and his dog made their way through the snow, oblivious to each other’s plight.

In between his paw pads, ice gathered and formed itself to the shape of the crevasses that made up dog feet, and pushed up into his leg nerves  as would a torturous insole. He ran about, jumping from one place to the next with the hope that the ice would dislodge itself so he could walk like a proper dog again. Why the boy was walking so slow, he couldn’t fathom. But he couldn’t be in nearly as much pain as the leaping beagle.

No, the vultuous expression on the human boy’s face wasn’t one of pain. It was despair: the city lights from the other side of the valley were replacing the orange of the sunset now, and created artificial agents of social destruction out of the immovable clouds in the sky, the atmosphere between them grey and sterile like the uncomfortable hospital ward on the day of his mother’s death. The wilderness, or some close (but not quite plastic) facade of it, didn’t serve any longer as a thought-purging source of inspiration, but as a farmer that cultivated dreams he didn’t want and manipulated the screenplays in his head to have sad endings.

The snowshoe tracks led into an open field past the reaching alders. They traveled in circles as if the person wearing them went in search of something buried under the snowdrifts. The boy’s weight kept him aloft on the crust until the dog created a faultline in the white mass, piercing it with his narrow paws. They felt a wave of collapse underneath them – it made a whoof sound like a giant pine collapsing in the forest, if they were there to hear it. Their existence dropped a couple of inches in an instant.

Three weeks later, the boy drank the last of the water from his bottle and trudged back to civilization.

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