A Frozen Moment of Winter
January 4, 2016
EVEN AS THE NEW FLAKES drift down, the old woman sweeps them away.
Her thin white hair stands out against the early morning blackness like a frothy halo. I want to get out of my car and take her by the hand, lead her inside, tuck her into bed where she belongs.
But it’s three a.m. I’m afraid she will scream or run away.
The black door wreath has faded to no color, but I think for her it hasn’t been that long. I slow the car and toss the newspaper gently into her periphery.
Her broom halts in mid-arc.
I smile, wave, and goose the accelerator with the toe of my boot.
In the mirror, she resumes sweeping, but her eyes follow my car.
If she’s still out when I make the block, I will call someone.
I throw the other low-rents hurriedly, parking to hand-deliver the disabled units. In number fifty-six, someone is playing the piano in the darkness. I stand until my own fingers are frozen, listening to the melancholic opening of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The notes hang on the cold air. When the pianist stops, I hurry back to my still-warm car.
The image of a person sitting alone at a piano in the dark stays with me until I glimpse the 7-Eleven in the distance. It beckons like a snow-globe of light behind the tumbling flakes. It is always my last stop. Especially on cold winter nights.
But first, this.
I turn the corner and breathe a sigh of relief.
She is gone. Perhaps someone is staying with her now. Maybe they woke and found her bed empty.
Is that a slipper in the road?
And there’s her broom.
I press nine one one on my phone and cruise the curb, watching for a bare footprint in the snow. Should I go to the door and ring the bell? I don’t want to scare her even worse. I think if someone were there, they would feel the draft of that open door.
Maybe I’d better just chill until the cops arrive. I’m sure it won’t be long. Last time they were here in minutes.
I make a careful U-turn and park a few houses down, holding my numb fingers in front of the heater vents.
The thought of hot coffee is so strong I can smell it.
About Ann Swann:
Ann Swann was born in the small West Texas town of Lamesa. She grew up much like Stevie-girl in The Phantom Pilot, though she never got up the nerve to enter the haunted house. Ann has done everything from answering 911 Emergency calls to teaching elementary school. She still lives in West Texas with her husband, Dude, one rescue dog, two rescue cats, and a part-time box turtle named Piggy.
Ann Swann is the author of Lilac Lane.