Snow-Life

by Meg Pokrass

I’m reading my five-year-old daughter Eliza a story about a boy and his dying grandfather. The boy talks to the moon about sadness. Eliza has her jaw set like my mother’s was, the day she went into Hospice.

“Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!” Eliza says. “Where did you get that book?”

“People die. So do animals,” I say. Her bed is messed and warm. She still holds her blanket like it’s part of her body, moves it around as skin.

Eliza is starting Sunday school. Ryan died when she was one year old, and she doesn’t want to know about her own father, which makes little sense to me.

~~

I hear the whoosh of plumbing next door and raised voices, a family argument.

It sounds nice.

“Daddy is part of nature now, and it’s very, very cool, Eliza. He’s part of the flowers and the mountains, like the book I read explained.”

Eliza pops explosive lip-sounds.

“Why do we have to live so far?” she screams. She throws herself down on the rug and cries.

~~

We live in a slow, small town in Northern California. Our neighbors wouldn’t do anything to help if we fell over dead, but I like it pretty-well here. Everything still feels new.

Around the holidays people take their kids to see the interactive snow exhibit at a mall in the city. The exhibit is called “Winterness.” This is where I have taken Eliza for a few years, but this time, she doesn’t want to go. Often, I wonder how Ryan would have dealt with Eliza. There is no handbook for this child.

Near Christmas, Eliza shows me her new concoction: frozen dish soap and water mixed together in a Tupperware. She calls it Snow-life.

She rips half a roll of toilet paper, climbs the piano and releases the bits, jumping around.

“You were wrong mommy! It’s here again!”

She looks at me with eyes like stones under water, so angry and wet I don’t know what else to do but stare.

MEG POKRASS is the author of Damn Sure Right (Press 53, 2011) a collection of flash fiction. Her stories have appeared in around a hundred and fifty online and print publications, including Green Mountains Review, The Literarian, storySouth, Failbetter, Gigantic, PANK, Mississippi Review, and McSweeney’s. Meg’s humor pieces, co-written with author Bobbie Ann Mason, have recently been showcased in TNB Original Fiction. Meg’s story “Like A Family” was recently selected for Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, edited by Shapard, Thomas and Merrill, 2015). She currently serves as an associate editor for Frederick Barthelme’s New World Writing. Learn more about her at megpokrass.com.

What fascinating, surprising things can you tell us about the origin, writing, revision of this piece?

    I wrote “Snow Life” four years ago, and it had become lost in older, disorganized files. Finding it again presented an interesting challenge, as it needed much editing. Perhaps it is ideal to lose stories and then find them again.

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