The Snowman

      The wind swirled around and made the whole world look like a freshly shaken snow globe.  Joe thought he had never seen anything so wonderful.  The people passed beyond the front lawn, heavily bundled; the cold made everyone look like colorful, plump grubs.  Joe liked grubs, and he usually felt indifferent to people; but their rosy faces and their colorful garb endeared him to them.

           He took a slow sip of hot chocolate and wiped the whipped cream that had settled itself on his upper lip with the back of his hand.  Joe had spent enough time inside.  The snow was falling steadily, and he had work to do.  Snowmen didn’t build themselves.

            He dropped his mug in the sink, yelled a quick, ‘Thanks Mum!’ out into the void, buttoned up his coat, hastily wrapped his dad’s old scarf around his neck, put on his snow boots and shoved his hands into thick, lined gloves.  His hat was still on his head, the strings brushing his face as he gathered his accoutrements.  Slamming the door behind him, Joe raised his face to the snow, opening his mouth wide.  He always thought he’d catch a million snow flakes that way, but he was lucky if he caught one or two. 

Stepping onto the white lawn, Joe sank to his knees and began to work. 

            It started with a ball of snow, he remembered that from last year.  Then he had to roll it and roll it until it was just the right size for a nice fat bottom.  It took some trial and error—after all it was his first snowman built all by himself—but it wasn’t long before the snow started catching.  He rolled it from one side of the lawn to the other, making it as even as possible because that’s what Joe’s dad had done.

            Joe rolled and rolled, with meticulous precision; not too fast that the ball would turn into a weird shape, and not too slow that everything fell apart.  Finally, when the ball had grown to two-thirds of the lawn’s snow, Joe decided it was a perfectly fat bottom.  He rolled it to just the right spot, right where it had been last year, and took a moment to gaze at his handy work.  Then, packing another snowball in his hand, he started on the middle section.

            When the middle was finished, Joe had to struggle a bit to get it up onto the base of the snowman.  Snow was heavier than it looked.  But he was determined, and that being half the battle, he eventually rolled it up onto just the right spot.  Unfortunately, as he rolled, the middle took some of the bottom with it.  Joe shook his head, and then bent down to add a bit of snow and smooth it out.  His dad had done that last year too, running his gloved hand over the snowman, rounding out anything that threatened to be on the square side of things, careful to keep as much snow on the man as he could.  Joe remembered.  And he was very careful.

            Then came the head, and that was the most important part.  It couldn’t be too big or too small; that was a quick way to make the whole thing look wonky.  When it finally was the size Joe wanted it to be, he reached up as tall has his arms could go and stuck the head on the middle. 

He gave the snowman a brush around with his gloves, smoothing everything to a curve, running an appraising eye over his work.

Time for the sticks, thought Joe.  He walked around to the backyard to see what the apple trees had dropped this year.  There were plenty of old branches, but snow sat atop all of them.  After a bit of digging, Joe came up with two branches about the same length, with a few twigs on the ends of them.  They seemed about right.  But he had to put them in the body to make sure.

This was the part Joe hated: sticking the sticks into the perfectly rounded body.  It ruined the curve.  But, it also wouldn’t be a real snowman without arms.  Shrugging his shoulders, Joe plunged a stick into each side of the middle bulge.  He took a few steps back and crossed his arms.  He nodded; his snowman was coming along fine.  It was time for the face.

Joe was quick up the steps to the door, kicking his snow laden boots against the bottom before throwing it open.  A gust of wind came along and followed him into the house, but Joe was too focused on de-robbing to notice. 

‘Mum, I’m grabbing a carrot!’ he called into the void.

This time an answer came from somewhere.  ‘Pick a nice big one!’ the answer cried.

Joe smiled.  He’d pick the biggest one they had, and if he was lucky, it would have a little crick in it, just enough to give the snowman character.  It was all in the nose, his dad had said, for giving a snowman character.

Putting on his snow gear, he headed out again, and was about to stick the long, thick carrot, with a little crick half-way down, into the top mound, when Joe stopped himself.  He had to do the eyes first, and then the smile.  Otherwise, he couldn’t make sure the nose would be in the right spot.

He placed the carrot gently on the lawn, renewed white by the continually falling snow, and ran around to the barbeque.  Looking over the charcoal briquettes, he sized them up, and chose the two best ones.

He put the charcoal in one at a time, each one a little askew.  To give it a twinkle, as his dad had said. Joe got the briquettes in the right place on the first try—no sign of a black smear on the snowman’s face, just two black, twinkling eyes.  He dusted his gloved hands in satisfaction and turned his attention to his pocket’s zipper.

The smile took less effort than the eyes.  It had taken Joe and his dad ages to find the right stones, and when the snowman’s grin had melted away, Joe had put the stones in his snow coat to save them for the next year.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the pebbles he’d saved, and placed them one after the other in a curved line. 

Joe jumped back to see.  The snowman gave him a wry grin.

 Joe smiled back, and bent to pick up the carrot.  Gripping it in between both gloves, his feet on the tips of their toes, he wedged the carrot just where a snowman’s nose should be. 

And there it was; a snowman, with tinkling eyes and a cheery character-filled face, rounded body, and nice stick arms.  But it wasn’t quite perfect, Joe knew.  He unwrapped the scarf from around his neck.  It was cheery red, and just the right amount of old.  Joe wrapped it around where the snowman’s head met his middle and stepped back.

It was perfect.

He grinned wide, and gave a wave up beyond the clouds and sky where he knew his dad was watching.  Signing a deeply satisfying sigh, he trudged through the snow up to the house in hopes of more hot chocolate. 

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