New Fiction: “Snow Angel”

A euphiction written December 2010, this was intended for the Cover Stories website but was replaced by a another piece.  Not a final draft, so reader beware.

“SNOW ANGEL”
by N. Pendleton
Inspired by the song by Jamie Barnes

Snow Angel arrives on December 22, later than she has in years past.  But this time she  stays with me in my small walkup apartment rather than booking a room downtown.  She’s more than ten years older than me, but she’s the newest, brightest thing in my place, standing there against the worn varnished door, the tarnished brass knob, the dull plaster walls.  She’s in a white coat, white skirt, white boots.  Her eyes are blue like the earth from space, her lips ruby red, hair black and impossibly straight.  She smiles at me there in the doorway, and I’m so drunk on the sight of her, I just stand and stare and forget to take her bag.  She only comes with the cold, the first snow.  She spends the holidays here with me.  I’m no one special, not rich or particularly interesting, but I’m her vacation.  And her stay is the only present I want or receive each year.

Snow Angel has a past, but she doesn’t share it with me and I don’t care.  She also has a present, a family and a husband back where she lives, where it never snows.  She claims not to know where or when we met, but I will always remember.  She’s important in this world and she’s required to remember too many things and times and people and places.  I’m not important, I live in the spaces between places and times, and I like it that way, just as long as Snow Angel comes to me for the holidays.  I do not like her because she’s famous and important, because she’s a mother or a wife.  I do not like her for any of these things.  I like her because she’s Snow Angel.  Because I can become drunk on her standing in the doorway of my shabby walkup.  And that’s why she likes me.  I require nothing of her, ask nothing of her.  And here with me, she can just be.

Snow Angel stashes her things in my closet and says she’s hungry.  There is a deli down the hill from my apartment that stays open late so we head there.  “You’ve gotten older,” she says smiling, her breath rising into the cold damp air.  Her eyes shine in the street lamp light.  “It suits you very well.”  She pecks my cheek, comes back, lingers, reopens the hole in my heart.  I reach around her to pull her close, but lose my balance on a hidden ice patch and go down, taking her with me.  It hurts, but she laughs.  “That’s going to leave a bruise.”  And then she laughs harder.

Snow Angel avoids being noticed in my neighborhood because I’m the perfect cover.  When a woman in the deli recognizes her, and asks if she’s Snow Angel, I step in and say, “Listen, she’s with me.  Now, if she was really Snow Angel, do you think she’d be spending the holidays in this town with me?”  It’s enough to convince.  “The resemblance is uncanny,” the woman says.  “You’re a very lucky young man.”  Suddenly she’s judging us, probably because of the age difference, and soon she’s leaving with her husband who’s been waiting patiently for her by the door.

Snow Angel warms the cold night.  She warms my bed.  My arm curls over her.  I bury my face into her hair.  She turns just enough so that I can see her profile in the light of the bay window.  If you look just right, it appears that the snow is falling on her, absorbing into her person.  “Will they burn the giant sheep again this year?  Tell me yes.”  I laugh.  “It’s a Yule goat.  Yes, of course they will.  Just like last year and the year before.”  She turns back to the window.  “I just worry they’ll make them stop doing it some year.  I look forward to it each visit.”  I say, “Well, we at least have this year.  Let’s not think about next year.”  But I always think of the next time we will be together.

Snow Angel loves my neighborhood’s tiny holiday festival.  It’s by no means traditional, a hodgepodge of things borrowed from the Christians and the Pagans, some stuff smuggled over from Europe.  Father Christmas gives gifts to the kids and helps the men chase off the Krampus, who’s always trying to ruin everyone’s Christmas Eve.  They pelt him with snowballs, and he plows his grisly masked face into a snow drift, his shaggy legs kicking up in the air behind him.  Father Christmas, followed by the kids, tall and lean with a wreath on his head, banishes the Krampus from the neighborhood for another year.  We celebrate with hot cider as the old tree branches are unbundled in the lot behind the used book store.  Here the sticks are weaved together in the crude shape of a giant quadruped, our Yule goat.  A man in a long stocking cap walks amongst those of us gathered, tears off strips of paper from a legal pad, and hands them to all adults present.  “Put your burdens on the paper and give them to the Yule goat!  Lighten your load!”  Some of us write out our troubles on the paper, others just pray or meditate or just think over them.  It’s a symbol, after all.

Snow Angel takes a long time, writing on the paper in a small tight script I don’t try to read.  She’s important and famous and has many concerns that she gives to the goat each year.  I, on the other hand, have only one burden I write on the scrap.  We all approach the beast, jam our burdens into its body, and someone from the bookstore sets it alight.  It goes up fast, brilliant, and hot.  Everyone steps back as the flames rise higher.  We’re singing carols now, and the mood is light, but even though the words burn in the animal’s carcass, and even though Snow Angel is right here beside me right now, her arms wrapped around my arm, I cannot help but think about tomorrow.

Snow Angel will leave me again.  And the ashen words will find there way back into the hole she’s left in my heart.  How many years must I write the same thing?  How many times must I scribble, “I am in love with you, Snow Angel.”

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