My tiny friend lay across my chest, her tiny head nuzzled just under my chin. Her soft snore sounded like purrs and I wondered if she would be offended by the comparison if I voiced it to her.
She wouldn’t be of course. Even though her intelligent eyes would lock onto mine as if hearing every word, she would not understand the words themselves, just the feeling behind them. We had an understanding, one forged the moment we met, but it had been based on feelings not words. Perhaps it was the purest form of love two creatures can share.
There would be a time – soon – when she would grow too heavy to sleep lay across me as she did that night, and then she would begin sleeping at the foot of my bed, sometimes waking me by nipping at my toes with her sharp little teeth, but for the time being the puddle of warmth she produced was welcoming in the cold winter nights, and the beating of her little heart lulled be back into sleep.
I woke to a sea of white. My window presented me with a view of the row of houses that sat at the foot of our garden, all of them covered in white sheets of snow, ghost houses whose edges were undefined, bleeding into the white sky around them. Our greenhouse was a mound of white, twenty feet away a larger mound of white must have been my mothers workshop, beside it a slightly larger mound was my grandfather’s garage. Each was an addition to the undulating wave of white which spread as far as I could see, the furthest edges of my vision consumed by the mists of still falling snow.
I felt something tug at my pyjama bottoms, something small but powerful ripping tiny holes in the fabric. I felt the elasticated waist begin to twist down my body and I grasped at it. She yipped and then ran in an unsteady circle, colliding with the base of my TV stand with such force that the screen wobbled. Undeterred she ran in another circle.
I reached down and picked her up.
By the time I was up and dressed my mother and grandparents were already downstairs, but my mother – usually already in her workshop by now – was stood at the kitchen window in front of the sink, staring out over the backyard with the look of a child on her face.
My mother loves the snow, always did, always will.
I opened the door to the small hallway that separated the kitchen from the downstairs toilet and immediately felt the cold from the backdoor. It was a simply constructed door that I’d always associate with those found on barns. Five planks of wood fixed together by a zigzag of smaller boards. Under it was a half an inch gap, today it was filled with a crust of blue-white. It was smooth to the touch, part ice, part snow.
I unbolted the door and shook it. It top swung inward a few inches but the bottom was fixed by the ice. I shook again and heard the ice crack.
She ran to the door, colliding with it as she always did, and then sniffed at the ice. For a moment I forgot my battle with the door and watched as her nose must have contacted with something colder than she had ever experienced before. She sniffed, then actually sneezed, before sinking her teeth into it.
I picked her up and wrenched the door open.
The snow fell inwards covering a third of the cracked red tile closest to the step. The second step was completely buried, which would make the snow the better part of eight inches’ deep. Its surface was entirely unbroken, a calm white sea of perfection that spread from fence to fence. Against one fence was the bench, before it the metal garden table, both were covered in white. The slats of the bench presented four mountain ranges in miniature, the table the perfect circle of a scale built ice-rink.
She wriggled in my arms excitedly, glistening snow still sticking to the tip of her pink nose.
Okay, I thought, this might be a bad idea, but I placed her tiny body between my feet anyway. She ran around my legs, colliding with the door and smashing it against the blue painted brick wall of the hallway. She changed direction and span around me again, then slid to a halt near the kitchen door. There was a pause, and in it I had a sudden realisation of what she intended to do. This happened sometimes. I would have a flash of madcap inspiration that could only come from a truly deranged mind, and I knew it must be from her. I leaned low, quickly, but not quickly enough.
The little creature ran between my outstretched hands and made for the open door. Her speed was dazzling, she bounded and leapt as she reached the edge of the step.
Perhaps she thought that the snow would support her, that her podgy little body would somehow dance across the icy crust of its surface, but it didn’t. She popped through the foam of white and plunged into the cold blue gloom underneath.
For a moment I stood there, my hands still outstretched to catch the long gone animal. I could imagine the dumbstruck expression on my face, even now, as I looked into the glare of white with the dimple of blue-black at its centre. In that moment nothing stirred, time may have slowed to a stop for a moment and I would not have noticed. Then a tiny hill of white appeared, a miniscule hill made by a snow-mole. Then another appeared and my paralysis broke.
I dove through the door and into the snow.
The following few moments were a blur of memory. I imagine it now as a frantic pouring through snow, cupped hands digging through it creating a shower of white that spilled over hitting the kitchen window as my mother laughed, snow pattering the glass in front of her.
I imagine a comical moment, but what I remember was a blank panic that lasted moments but felt so much more.
The little creature looked up at me, only slightly larger than my two cupped hands.
Snow stuck to her fur and clung to eyelashes that suddenly seemed so much longer to me than they should have been. Her belly was an angry red, her body shivered.
I carried my little friend inside and closed the door behind me.
Winter gave way to Christmas, and then spring gave way to summer. Summer became her months of choice, and in winter she stayed close. It was the first time she had seen snow, but I think she always remembered it, because – fearless as she was – she never played in it again with her customary abandon.
posted by Alan Preece
on November, 10