Short story: ‘Winter’s artist’

By VALERIE LOOKINGBILL,
PA Cyber Charter School

I feel the chill of December’s bitterness slapping the exposed flesh of my cheek, painting my skin pink with the frustrated hand of an incompetent artist. Buried deep within these woods, I cannot help but think that our little spot of the world is far colder than the rest,
that our glimpse of the twilight sky is far darker.

But you have me seated upon a fallen log, the thin fabric of my jeans wet from the fallen snow lying just beneath my thighs, and you tell me that soon I will be warm, that soon I will revel in a heat felt by no other. But I don’t have your eyes. I can’t see a fire burning through my retinas. Rather, I might only see the frozen structures tumbling, tumbling down from beyond the icy branches hiding us from your promised warmth.

Now, I breathe cold breath against my cracked palms, feel my fingers twitch into paralysis, and I am begging you, begging you, to please let us leave, to please allow us heat. You are far too fascinated by a sight only you might see, fascinated by a fire only you might feel
burning.

Now you leap from the settled log, the imprints of your weight soon beginning to dust, and I know that in just a moment it will be as if you never were. You leap onto the ground, the sole of your boot crashing onto the faded angel you had impressed upon the ground what seems like hours before, breaking her wings so that she cannot escape, cannot clatter through the trees in hopes for paradise.

Never ceasing for a moment, you grip the bark of a nearby tree with your red hands, digging the tip of your shoes into its sides, hoisting yourself up upon its trunk. Your back is turned, but I can hear you speaking, knowing that it is directed at yourself more than
all, you say, surely at the top we might see. Surely at the top we might see the spring.

Quicker now you climb, one hand reaching beyond the other, one foot slamming into the bark before the other. You climb, your flesh reddening and cracking with each movement, the shivering of your jaw becoming more pronounced with each breath. And still you speak, and still you are promising, convinced now that the tips will not be laced with ice, the trees will not be jagged by the trembling hand of an inept artist.

But I know, still feet below you upon the frozen surface, that you will not see the work of an artist of talent. You will not see the branches misted by an April shower, bringing to consciousness the creatures that have been asleep for so long. You will not see the leaves ablaze with the heat of color, with beauty sparked in the liveliest of reds and pinks and greens.

You might climb, but I know in the end you will fall, come tumbling down as quickly as the plummeting flakes. You might climb, but you will never reach the top. But these words I keep like a secret in my throat, knowing soon you will realize the snow falling against you is
simply too heavy.

About Matt Eyer

Assistant Features Editor at the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Read my (mostly ancient Greece-related) books reviews at Book Buzz. Follow me on Twitter @mjeyer.
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