Sandi Rigby Winter Trees


part of: Fiction

by Jake Wickenhofer

My feet trudged through the slosh-covered mess that was my yard. I stuck deeper in the mud with each loud, vile step. The sucking sound of my feet emerging from the slop worsened my headache. My hands were cold; the skin had cracked after enduring the boreal season’s unforgiving winds for so long.
I reached down with a few of my freezing fingers and grasped a chunk of white from the ground. It first sent a terribly cold sensation through my arm, then the feeling that my skin was burning. I waited for numbness to set in, but it never did. When the pain became too much to bear, I relinquished. The sphere hit the ground and sent murky droplets onto my pant legs.
The grass had grown yellow and withered from the lifeless season. And what a detrimental season it had been. My life had changed so drastically that my mind had not quite caught up with it all. So I stood in the cold waiting for reality.
I looked off to the snow-covered pines in the distance and inhaled as if to try and drink in their beauty, but something was missing. The air penetrated my lungs and dried my breath. Steam flew from my mouth, and then dissipated.
I looked down once again at the ice. It looked pale, defeated, and gray just as everything else did that time of year. I knelt down next to the remnants of Dallas’s snow structure. My eyes closed as I imaged what it must have felt like to run his small fingers through the snow. For a moment, I returned to my own childhood and remembered my father and all the ways he ignored me, but I may as well have been looking in the mirror.
Then I imagined my son’s voice as he said, “Daddy, come build a fort with me.”
And my father’s words flowed off my tongue, “Not right now. Daddy is doing something important.”
Nothing could have been more important than seeing my son one last time before he died. To see him smiling and laughing. Just once more.
My wife walked out onto the porch. I turned my head slightly, but did not look at her. I couldn’t stand to. She paused, opened her mouth as if to speak, then went back inside.
I turned my eyes once more to the snow-covered horizon, soon to melt under the warmth of the coming sun.