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Andy Coan

Glare Ice

A young man and an older woman on a long-distance bus:  not an uncommon scene.  The man is quite handsome, the woman quite large (though she is not so old, just barely enough to be the younger man’s mother).  She overflows her portion of the seat, crowding the young man toward the window, outside of which it is snowing delicately and is also very cold.  The young man does not take much notice of the woman, except for the mild discomfort he feels at being forced into so small a space. 

Looking out the window, the young man is entranced by the ice covering the trees and road.  There has just been a storm and, besides being frozen, everything outside the bus is extremely still.  It is, he thinks, like entering a painting where none of the scenery moves for his being there.  He recalls a specific painting to suit his rumination—a scene from “Hans and the Silver Skates,” depicting Hans, alone, gliding carefree over the frozen surface of the canal.   He imagines the road as the canal and the bus gliding along it, as if on skates.  The fence posts along the shoulder are log pylons of the tradesmen’s docks, frozen like bristling whiskers into the canal’s thick winter skin.

After a time, the young man turns to reach a book from his knapsack and notices again how little space he has to move.  At his rustling, the older woman raises her head tentatively, as if to speak, her gray eyes seeming to plead for an audience.  Her lips move slightly, silently—perhaps with the words of some burden she has long been made to bear.

But the young man has forgotten her.  He is turning pirouettes on deadly-sharp silver skates, careening over the ice at breakneck speed, laughing at a pretty blonde girl watching him from across the canal.

Andrew Coan lives in Madison where he is completing his final semester at the University of Wisconsin.  In 1999, he was selected as one of 20 Beinecke Memorial Scholarship winners nationwide.  He is currently awaiting admissions decisions from several MFA programs.


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