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Topic: Winter (the season)( 08/13/09)
A Seven-Letter Word for Phenomenon
By Sandra Petersen
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She sighed as another gust, stronger this time, rattled the panes of glass in the windows around her.
The first major snowstorm of the winter season would mean calling her neighbors, finding out if any of their sons would clear her walkways for ten dollars.
Or daughters, she reminded herself. Shaking her head, she scolded herself for thinking of the way things were when she was growing up. Her mother and father would never have dreamed of sending their daughters out to do a man’s job. Times had changed but part of Miss Liddie, as her neighbors called her, had remained in the past.
Sections of that past were being slowly and painfully stripped away from her as more of her self-reliance shriveled to advancing age.
She fell and broke her collarbone a year ago. Since then, her distant son paid her next door neighbor to visit once a week to check on her. Her son had given her neighbor a key just in case. She knew the arrangement and gritted her dentures until they pained her mouth to think of it.
When the young man with the diamond stud earring and shoulder length mousy hair knocked on her door she would open it a crack, just enough to tell him she was fine. He seemed relieved to not be invited inside. She watched him from the window as he retraced his steps back to his porch.
The rafters above moaned in the wind. After this storm, she had to remember to get someone to clear the century-old roof of the accumulated ice and snow winter had already deposited.
Miss Liddie adjusted her wire-rimmed trifocals and frowned at her puzzle.
“Five-down. Seven letters. A supernatural occurrence, phenomenon.” Miss Liddie mused. “Begins with an ‘m’.”
The walls creaked, causing her to glance around. A flicker of movement at the window caught her attention.
<i>Was that snow? Snow isn’t brown.</i> The question and the answer tumbled in her brain, daring her to sort them out into logic.
She squinted. A thin, brown face pressed itself against the glass, looking in, staring at her and her fireplace. Bare brown hands cupped the boy’s face to shield his eyes from the weather. His hands trembled.
Miss Liddie set her puzzle and pencil on the table beside her and stripped the lap robe from her legs.
<i>Who in their right mind allows their child to wander outside in a snowstorm like this?</i>
Even as she silently cursed the parents, she realized she had never seen that face before in this neighborhood. Her arthritic joints popped in protest as she crossed the living room to the front door.
Hesitating for a moment, she edged the door open. The wind slapped at her hand to wrest the door knob from her. She meant to coax the child inside to discover where he lived. He could not stay outside on a day like this.
He was gone. Footprints were being quickly erased by the storm but the path he had made wading through the drift to the window remained. She stepped outside and the door slammed behind her.
Miss Liddie groaned. She twisted the knob clockwise and counter-clockwise and pushed at the resistant door.
Grumbling under her breath, Miss Liddie picked her way through the snow drifts to the house next door, hoping the young hippie was home.
“Sure, Miss Liddie. I’d be glad to unlock your door. Here, put this on.” The young man draped a fleece-lined jean jacket over her housedress. “Sorry I don’t have boots for you to wear.” He glanced at her slipper-shod feet.
As he led the way back to her house, a sharp crack and a dull thud in quick succession startled them.
“He was standing there.” Miss Liddie pointed. The snow drift piled against the window frame bore no marks of a human presence.
Her neighbor cupped hands to gaze in the living room window. As he drew back, his eyes wide in disbelief, he beckoned her to look.
She shuddered at the sight of wooden beams, snow, and tiles covering the chair she left minutes before.
“Miss Liddie, I think you just experienced a miracle,” her neighbor stammered.
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