Winter Beast

6 Apr

Winter Beast

by L. Stewart Marsden


The Winter Beast came howling over the Blue Ridge mountains, snarling and slashing at everything in its path.

It was the  season’s matchless last fury. No one could remember one worse.

It would linger, the weather reporters said, with sub-zero temperatures that froze pipes and bit flesh. Ice and sleet that cracked limbs and felled trees, snapped power lines and exploded transformers throughout the mountain countryside.

To that add two feet of heavy snow, with more to come.

You can make it,” I heard my father say as I trudged awkwardly along what I hoped was the right road.

The Jeep was useless. Besides snow making driving impossible, the cold had frozen the radiator of the vintage car, and the battery was dead.

I was covered with snow. My ski hat crusted over with chunks of ice, as were my jacket and pants and boots.

You can make it.

I thought of tales I heard as a kid of people being stranded in snow. How their body temperature dropped so low they become lethargic and disoriented. Their extremities − fingers and toes − died, and some actually cracked and broke off. Like carrots quick-frozen in liquid nitrogen, then dropped to the floor where it shattered into a thousand shards.

You can make it.

I thought of the cable reality shows − how I’d much rather be naked and afraid right now than bundled and slowly freezing to death.

You can make it.

Sure I can. I think I can. I’m not so sure. I sure don’t know.

They’ll find me in the spring when the snow melts. Maybe.

Wait. Spring was three days ago! That damn − what is it? What’s the animal? Hamster? Otter? Saw his shadow? If I had an otter I could slit its belly open and shove my hands inside for the warmth. Some guy did that with his dog. He was freezing, too. Famous story. What was that story? Was it London? Can’t remember.

You can make it.

My lips − cracked and needing balm. Where’s my lip balm? My inside pocket? Yeah. I can feel it from the outside. If I could get my fingers to move, I could get my lip balm and smooth my cracked lips.

God, I’m thirsty. The snow’s too cold to eat. Watch out − the yellow snow! There is no yellow snow. There’s nothing alive out here to pee in the snow to make it yellow.

How many miles? Why the eff did we have to buy that cabin? Miles from nowhere?

“Great view, huh? You can see down into the valley, and at night, when the slopes are lit up, it’s like Christmas!”

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fire. I wonder if the fire is still going? I wonder how Dad is doing?

“Want some popcorn? I’m gonna to cook it right over the fire!” When I was a kid we had those Jiffy Pop aluminum popcorn pans we used over the fire. But it always burned. Black widows is what you call burned popcorn.

Yeah. Burned popcorn. I can smell the butter and the salt. If I could smell anything. It’s in my head − in my brain, which is getting colder and colder. Remember brain freezes? I hate when that happens!

God, I’m tired. My legs feel like tree trunks. My feet − I can’t feel my feet at all. I don’t care. Actually feeling kind of warm right now. Maybe I should take my jacket off for a few minutes. I could move better. And find my lip balm and smooth my cracked lips.

What was that song? Pretend that he is parse and brown? Parson Brown. I always thought that what it said. But maybe it meant a brown snowman that parses. Clinton? He parses. But he’s not brown. Later on, we’ll perspire, as we dream by the fire. Jenny hit me in the arm when I sang it like that. As we sweat by the fire. Hit.

Jenny!  What’re you doing right now? Not freezing. Not trying to save your dad. Not out in the middle of God only knows − with your fingers and toes . . . that rhymes! Fingers and toes . . . God only knows!

You can make it.

Right, Dad. I can do ALL things! Hot. Is it hot to you? ‘Cause I’m feeling very warm. That’s ironic! If I just could get my fingers to bend, I could unzip . . .

Good thing I don’t have to pee. I’d wet myself. And then the pee would freeze and I would freeze and my dad would just have to get himself out of his own mess.

How far? Which effing way? I’m so tired. So tired.

I’ll just sit down for a moment. Not long, just for a moment. Don’t worry, Dad, I’m not giving up on you. I’m just sitting down in the snow for a moment. A little rest. Maybe take my jacket off. Get my lip balm.

It’s so soft, the snow. Like a fluffy, soft cold blanket. I like it cold when I sleep. Can’t stand it hot. Ah, that’s better. Like a bed. And the snow coming down again.

Quiet. Lighting softly and quietly on my face, and on my eye lashes, and on my lips. My cracked lips.

Hey, Jenny! Snuggle close, will you? Hold me. I’m just a bit too cold. Just a bit . . . too . . .


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 6 April, 2014

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