Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 21

Letitia Trent | 21

There’s a bear in the front yard, the mother told the boys. They were playing cards, maybe Go-Fish or Hearts, the only games that the Mother knew, so the only games that they knew. Such is the way of children and mothers.

The big brother dropped his cards and looked at his mother. The little brother squealed. I can see your cards! He said, and wiggled on his knees.

What are we going to do? The big brother asked. His eyes were large and his lips pressed together. He was old enough now to understand danger. The Mother pressed her lips together, too. The boy’s thick, black hair stuck out like a pot scrubber bristle.

We’ll wait, she said. It might go away on its own. You never know.

The boy nodded, but his mouth did not smile. This was not new: he no longer smiled at her in return to check and see if she was happy, to make her happy. The little brother still did. Just checking to see if Mommy is happy, he’d say. If she didn’t seem sufficiently so, he’d put his fingers in her mouth and pull the edges up into a split-faced smile.

During the night, the snow fell and piled. It didn’t squall and the wind didn’t shake the little house, as most winter storms did, roaring around them as if angry. When the Mother looked out the window at night, the snow seemed to be falling slowly. While they slept, it fell steadily. When the small family woke, the snow had breached the window lines—a blinding skitter of sunlight knifed off of the new snow’s icy surface.

Look what happened, the little brother said, still in his pajamas, the plastic feet slapping against the linoleum. He touched the window where the granules of snow were smashed and piled, and then pulled his hand away, as if it hurt him. It’s cold out there.

The Mother nodded and touched his head. They’d run out of food if she couldn’t leave the land and get into town soon. This meant she’d have to go outside and shovel the snow from the porch, from the driveway. Twice she started to do so—she found herself looking for her snow shoes, her heavy jacket and gloves with the fingers exposed, heading for the door. Then she would remember: the bear. Then she’d be right back where she began.

The older brother watched her as she puttered, picking up twisted, dried tea bags, cups with dried cocoa in the bottom, boys socks and shoes and underwear slung wherever they shed them. She didn't mind picking up after the boys. That was her job now.