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Ander Monson

Freda Thinks Spring

Rob and Freda sit in front of a pyramid of a hundred and twelve shot glasses with logos from every NFL team. The weather report on the radio says don’t go out tonight, it’s just not worth it. Eight inches of snow at Houghton County airport in Calumet and counting. Freda cracks the blinds and sees that there’s no sign of it stopping. She wishes the TV still worked, but it died two weeks ago in a power surge from a storm. There’s a half-empty bottle of shitty vodka in the fridge along with some old red wine that isn’t nearly as good as the advertisement said.

Rob’s eyes are closed as she looks at him, sniffs the air, looks at the grandfather clock—her father’s—and it chimes eight times, slowly. She stands up and goes to the silverware drawer, takes out a pack of playing cards, sits back down, and begins to count. They were all there last night, but she knows Rob, knows he likes to steal the Queen of Clubs.

Freda plays solitaire, making seven neat stacks, turning the top cards over with her hand. She can tell all the jacks because they’re dogeared, but it’s fun to play anyhow. Her wrists are thin and birdlike; they seem to be something apart from the rest of her body as she watches her fingers manipulate the cards, flipping, moving, and stacking, starting a clubs pile with the Ace.

Rob stands and goes over to the couch, flops down on his stomach, without opening his eyes. It’s darker there. The light in the living room is on hiatus right now, he’s said. She kind of likes it that way. It lends the room a weirdness. The tractor pictures on the wall, and the one of the green John Deere riding lawnmower, turn deeper shades, become sinister. She looks at Rob’s form, his stomach moving slowly, raising and lowering his back.

Freda makes a decision. “Let’s go driving, honey.” Her voice reaches the end of the room and stops, turns around, sits down. “Hey, sweets?” The question reclines, brings out the footrest on the used La-Z-Boy.

The humidifier turns on to fill the silence, hums and blows warm, moist air into the room. It waits and shuts off. The shadows shift and shift back.

Freda gets up and walks to the rubber doormat, puts on her boots. They’re cold. She starts to lace them up. “Hello? Are you coming?”


She brings the strings around the back and ties tight bows in the front. She reaches for her heavy jacket. The keys jingle quietly in the pocket. She grabs his hat, and pulls it over her hair. “I’ll be back, then.”

The door opens and closes. Chilly air rushes in. Rob shifts positions, gropes for a terrycloth towel, throws it over his feet.

Outside, Freda’s kicking at big chunks of snow, smashing them on the way to the truck. She hopes it starts. She’s pretty sure it will.

The snow falls quietly, more silently than she thought. She stops walking and listens. It’s so much quieter out here, she thinks, like there’s a huge cone of hush all around her. Nothing moves except the snow. It comes down so slowly that when she forgets her boots and the ground, it seems like she’s going up. It floats lazily through the glow of the streetlight, making the illuminated area almost solid.

There’s so much space here, but it’s beautiful, not like inside. The air in there’s too old and hard, lonely but refusing to admit it. Here it’s shocking, cold, but so soft. It reminds her of church when she was young. The snow lighting on her nose seems warm. Catching a flake on her tongue, it’s salty. Like a piece of warm dirt. Or dust from somewhere way up there, who knows how high, from the top of Quincy Hill maybe, floating down across the canal, gaining speed, picking up precipitation, to her. Or maybe it’s from somewhere around the world.

She decides to pass the truck and walk down towards the wide canal. She’s careful where her feet go, cause a slip could be ugly out here alone. No one would come out in this weather to find her, ankle twisted and swelling, gasping tiny puffs of hot air into the night.

It’s a perfect kind of silence. So much snow coming down. She knows this as she gets down the trail to the shore, holding onto familiar trees on the way since the path is treacherous with the only light filtering through the snow from the high white moon. Birch, birch, blue spruce, birch.

The woods fall away and she’s out on the beach. The water isn’t frozen over yet, so it laps quietly as it swallows the snow. She sits down, her butt slowly understanding the cold, cell by cell.

There was a time when she hated the snow, when her brothers would push her face down in gritty city snow, filled with tiny jagged rocks. They’d laugh and leave her to get up, clean the cuts, cuts so small she couldn’t see them, except when she pressed her fingers to her face and felt a drop of blood slip out, smear in a circle on her fingertip. She’d lick the finger with her hot tongue. As she got older and taller, she grew to know the taste.

Ander Monson is from Upper Michigan but lives now in Alabama. Recent work has been published in Fence, Quarterly West, The Florida Review, and Many Mountains Moving.


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