On Friday, under leaden April skies, my kindergarten son Ayden, along with his teacher and classmates, crouched against the wall of his classroom, lights off, voices quiet, bodies still. Just a practice. Just a drill. That’s what they told the kids.
Shortly after 4 p.m., the snow started. It fell for 16 hours straight. At first the snow was light and fluffy, but by the end it was wet and heavy. Perfect snowman snow.
My son was out the next morning bundled in snow pants, a jacket, boots. He rolled the snow into a giant ball for the base, added a medium-sized ball for the torso, gave the snowman a head, and named him Felipe.
Felipe was austere in his beauty. No carrot nose, no button eyes. No hat or scarf. Cold, sculpted, solid. Ayden whispered secrets in Felipe’s ear – or rather, the place where Felipe’s ear would be, if he had ears ― and waved to him from his bedroom window that evening before he went to sleep.
“Buenas noches, Felipe! I love you!”
In the morning, bright sunshine streamed into Ayden’s window, and he peeked outside, then frowned. Felipe’s once-round head was now oblong, his torso wasting. This would not do.
Ayden wolfed down a bowl of Frosted Flakes, pulled on the first pair of winter boots he could find – my Sorels – over his pajamas, and slammed the door behind him as he stepped outside.
Scooping up snow in both hands, Ayden tried to perform first aid. He daubed handfuls of snow to Felipe’s torso, his head, tried to repair the damage as Felipe’s entire body continued melting away. He was determined to do everything right. That’s how they would stay safe, his teacher had said. That’s how they would save their friends.
JENNIFER HERNANDEZ lives in the northwest suburbs, where she teaches immigrant youth and writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative non-fiction. She’s vice-president of the League of Minnesota Poets and loves to perform her writing. Recent publications include Visual Verse, Talking Stick, and Heron Tree.