White. Stark. Cold.
Ice filmed the opposite side of the pane, sloping in a gentle curve, fattening at the bottom. My finger traced the line down, skiing the steep slope, creating a squiggly wake of clearness along the breath fog. I blew air from my chest, long and hot. The line faded beneath the mist. Now I closed my hand into a fist and pressed it sideways against the haze.
My hand peeled away, leaving a sole impression of a baby’s foot. Four dots with my index finger made the smaller toes and a thumb blot created the large piggy who would be going to the market while the others stayed home. A footprint stained the glass, my mark on the world, as ethereal when cast in fog on a warming windowpane as it would be on sand near rising ocean tides.
I looked through the frail imprint. Two white flakes skipped along the pane, blending in the cover of white throughout the backyard. My body shifted to sit on bent knees. I snagged the black pushbutton handle for the storm door. The blast of cold hit into my chest, lungs contracting, airway passages confused over the drop of temperature. Irritated wheezes crawled from my throat as I pulled in large gasps ending in ragged coughs.
I fought off the rising asthma attack. My arm reached out to scoop up a palm-sized wad of snow. It wasn’t entirely white like it should’ve been. It was cold, and it was melting. But the snow wasn’t entirely white. Black specks dotted the surface. The first lick of my tongue lifted my upper lip into a grimace. Gritty. Foul. Beyond the crack along the door, a billowy gray cloud settled onto the barren flowerbed. Smoke blasted from the chimney settled onto the snow, tinting it in specks of burnt coal dust.
The water in my palm splashed onto the outdoor carpet as I wiped my hand on the hard fibers. I scooped up another unformed snowball, flicking the tainted bits away until I found a clean spot. My teeth bit down, shoveling the flakes inside, cooling my tongue. The cold white caused a brief shiver through my muscles and brought a grin to my lips. The snow tasted like presents.
The snorts proceeded her into the kitchen. My mother sucked in air through her nose claiming her allergies irritated sinuses. Every five seconds it happened, punctuating the air and halting her mumbling words spoken to herself. Yet the action seemed more instinctual.
When she had watched television, the noises would stop with her fully focused on the glowing screen. After the show had ended or an annoying commercial appeared . . . snort-snort-snort.
Back in the kitchen, I heard a large deep snort of disgust. She must have noticed the open porch door, felt the cold draft, realized whose shadow sat in front of the sun-filled storm door window.
“CLOSE THE DAMN DOOR.”
The squeak of hinges betrayed my movement when I tried to quietly swing the door shut. Garfield slippers scuffed underneath as I scrambled on hands and knees to the kitchen screen door, keeping low as it banged behind me. Against the dryer, I huddled while spying around the white edge, smelling springtime freshness from leftover fabric softener sheets.