Snowman by Heidi Heimler

Elmira used to live where winter feasted on the weak, the unprepared.

After many years of battling the blustery beast, Elmira's husband announced he'd had enough. “Pack your bags, woman," he told her, “We're heading south."

Elmira didn't want to leave, but he gave her no choice. He bought a condo in a sunny development where everyone talked about gallstones and grandkids. Snow became a distant memory, a thing confined to the pint-sized black and white TV perched atop her kitchen table. She lit a cigarette and stared with longing at the minuscule set, its rabbit ears bent at peculiar angles. Despite the antennas, the screen showed nothing but snow. She liked it that way.

Elmira's husband, a Zeppelin on a battered recliner, hollered from the living room. His words dissolved into alphabet soup by the time they reached her ears, but she wouldn't have answered anyway. Lost in the droning wonderment of snap-crackle nothingness, Elmira slipped into yesterday, into a world where Johnny lived.

Elmira loved life as Johnny's only, but the bottle, a temptress he could not resist, beckoned, beguiled then abandoned him in a room with no windows, just bars. When the doors opened and Johnny came home, he swore he'd never stray again.

She loved him, she said, with a passion that curled toes. Still, it wouldn't work. His past was a loathsome voyeur that never left, and she couldn't bear a threesome. Johnny begged, cried, made promises; he even prayed. She played warden and locked herself in, him out. When he ran out of words, he shoved his feet into steel-toed boots and ran off, the flimsy screen door ricocheting behind him.

They found him the next day, a coiled fetus in the womb of a snow-filled ditch on County Road 57, frozen like Lot's wife after she saw Sodom. Icicle tears hung from his eyes. His heart didn't beat. Beautiful Johnny, with his untamed cowlick and mournful eyes, his image burned forever into the fissured flesh of her mind.

Hat pressed against his chest, the sheriff delivered the somber news. He handed Elmira a bag of souvenirs, modest mementos from his trip to Johnny's Demise. She fingered a bundle of keys, a pair of weathered gloves, the silver lighter engraved with an eagle. “Looks like he ran out of gas," the sheriff said. “Sorry, ma'am."

When Elmira's tears dried up, she married a man that everyone else liked. She let him plant his seed, as any wife would, but the kid, a pilot in a damaged plane, ejected prematurely. After a while, Elmira's husband stopped tilling her soil, and Elmira was grateful.

In the evenings, Elmira would sit alone in the kitchen and tune into the snowstorm on her television. Soothed by perpetual static, she'd suck on smoke and bourbon, and wait for Johnny. When she'd drunk enough, he'd come to her.

And Johnny never strayed.


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