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.
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
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.
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
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.