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The Snowbank

8 December 2010 No Comment

P1011870The snow plow came at once, pushing him into the bank, wedging his compact body deep into the dense snow. He wanted to laugh; how outrageous was this and on Christmas eve! He had just gone to get whipping cream for Audrey’s walnut pie–not his favorite but hence it still needed cream and he crossed the street in a hurry, stumbling along in his ridiculous black galoshes and thought about his good deed, bringing it back in time for her to display the pie and bear her silty smile for her family that as a group resembled a cloud–a stratus cloud–jagged and gray and unnerving in their approach.

And he did try to laugh but managed only a snicker because he couldn’t really open his mouth, could barely breath in fact, the ice and snow crowding his hairy, tiny nostrils and the thin line of hairless lips. How lovely it would be to be discovered like the iceman, a few articles of clothing still remaining on his body: remnants of soiled leather, wilted canvas and the final dust of rotted cotton. And what would they find left? Oh, let’s see, bits of his overcoat, remnants of his corduroy blazer, trousers and the torn underwear! Christ, he was wearing the torn underwear—too lazy this morning to find something presentable, after all who would see his underwear? His wife rarely looked down there anymore and his in-laws would see his pressed suit, maroon tie and still be unimpressed. So, now these vulgar scientists with their little pickaxes would discover the sinewy rope of a man with tattered underwear and find the remnants of his wallet and his name would be in their newspapers or whatever existed in their formidable future world and they would all laugh together, hearty and terrible laughs in their little academic circles.

He was able to shift his body a little, move his head slightly and took a deep breath–gulped the air like an alcoholic rolling off the wagon and tasting that first sip and that’s when he saw the gray fur and teeth. Christ, what was it? Was it alive? Would it gnaw at his earlobes and eyelids? And what could be worse to be found in tattered underwear and half his face gone? He blinked his eyes quickly and saw it was the head of a squirrel. He couldn’t see the rest of the body, it wasn’t moving and appeared dead. One eye wide open and less then a few inches away, staring straight at him. He was stuck in a snow bank with a dead squirrel, scooped up together to suffer the same fate. He and the squirrel, left to finish their lives in this white winter-land, this deafening silence.

And academia, academia with its whiskery little feathers of reason always stalking him. His wife didn’t approve of his profession anymore, saw it as a soft spot in the skull like a baby’s fontanelle.You tread so thin up there, Kip, one wrong tap and you could fall in and it would all be over and then what would you do? Work like the rest of us? Christ, can’t even fuck your students anymore. Why had he chosen to become a professor in this day and age? Oh, the sweet days of yore where they lined up to fuck you and splayed themselves out on your office sofa, their bras dusting the floor. And now if he had a girl in his office, the door seemed to be welded ajar, the talk stilted and bland. He had slept with one, Lei, a Chinese exchange student he knew would never say a word least she be sent back to China to finish her dissertation in a cement room with an aging uncle as a mentor. She was beautiful girl and liked his poetry.

Liked his poetry! He didn’t even like his poetry. Christ, get a MFA, write a stupid, topical book and anyone could be a hero. Had the squirrel moved? Ha, ha, squirrel, you spiteful varmint!! He stretched his jaw open as much as he could and pretended to laugh a loud guffaw but it came out sounding like a wounded yeti. And the novel? Why did he bother? Why did anyone bother with novels anymore? More paper to sweep the dead words up. He was proud at least of the first sentence. “Walter awoke happy and stretched his arms wide, knocking over the glass of port on his bedside table. It spilled forth like a polluted stream from a factory and ruined his wife’s manuscript.”

He said it out loud this time.” Walter awoke happy…” He stopped short and looked at the squirrel again. Had it moved its eye? It was still looking at him but it seemed to be looking more intently now, it’s eye gleaming! Shiny and opaque like they always make eyes in horror films these days, no pupils baby! But why was Walter happy? What was he really happy about? And why was his wife the creative one! What did Walter do? “Why is Walter such a weak fuck?! He shouted. “Why does Walter deserve a glass of port if he hasn’t accomplished anything!” He shouted, but this time directed it at the squirrel who he was sure had moved and would now really come and nibble at his cheeks and probably mock him.

He heard a terrible grinding, loud and grueling in his ear and he felt his body shift slightly. Another loud grind, and his body moved again, pushed forward suddenly and knocked against the squirrel. He felt the cold damp fur and the little teeth against his check. Someone was shouting. “Hey!” He heard. “Hey!” And he saw the snow moving above him, gloved hands digging towards him, scooping snow away, throwing it aside. They dug out his head. “Jesus, buddy.”A big man in a puffy jacket looked at him, eyes wide and bright. “How the fuck did you end up here?!”

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