She’s done it again: our local writers’ club (Writing on the Wharfe) ‘leader’ has set us up to do another performance – spoken short stories or poetry and music. Even more ‘intimate’ than last time, in Ilkley library on 10 December afternoon – no stage, no microphones, no projector, no technology whatsoever. She set us the task of writing something original with a ‘winter’ theme. I’ve offered a tanka, rather than my more usual haiku, and a short story.
snowflakes in the rain
diluting their cold beauty
we wait for snowballs
like waiting for love letters
in a disrupted affair
“Don’t touch me, please”.
Alicia snatched her finger back just before it touched the window, taking a few quick steps backwards and turning her head to see who had spoken. She had thought she was alone in the room but, where were they? She could see no-one. It must be that younger brother of hers, Ewan, she thought, but where on earth was he, and how did he speak with that delicate voice?
Was it someone outside? It didn’t seem likely as snow was falling fast and it was very cold, so cold that large snowflakes landing on the window did not melt but kept their beautiful, delicately intricate form. It was these that Alicia had approached the window to see more clearly.
“Don’t be frightened, come closer, but please don’t touch me”. The window itself seemed to be speaking. Alicia moved cautiously forward, a tentative step, then another.
“Oh, you can come closer than that”.
Where was that voice coming from? Alicia was a little frighted, but more curious so she shuffled half a step towards the window.
“Come on, just one more step, but be careful, don’t touch the window, not even with your nose”.
Alicia moved forward another step, now so close that she could see little more than one much larger than usual snowflake on the outside of the window glass.
“That’s better, now we can have a chat”.
Alicia’s eyes snapped into focus on the centre of the snowflake, amazed to see two bright eyes and a pretty rosebud mouth and realised that the speech was coming from that mouth, now smiling.
“You do look surprised”, the snowflake continued. “Can you hear me alright? I’d like to come inside for a chat but that’s not possible, it’s too warm”.
Alicia fought with the jumble of thoughts tumbling about in her head. Is she dreaming? Is she crazy? Finally she stuttered some words:
“Oh you are so pretty, a bit like some lace on my mum’s nighty, or some doilies at my gran’s, but I never knew snowflakes could speak”, said Alicia finally, struggling over her surprise. “And you have such beautiful eyes; I didn’t know snowflakes had eyes, or a mouth for that matter”.
“Oh, we can speak but we can choose whether a human can hear us. We only choose children, they seem much nicer than adults. Mind you, there are some pretty horrible children too. I was lucky enough to land on the window and saw you. You looked nice so I chose you. The double glazing is good as we don’t get warmed up so quickly unless you touch right where I am, but it does make it a bit more difficult to chat with you.”
“Do you chat to other snowflakes too”, Alicia asked.
“Oh yes. We chatter quite a bit when we are growing up, up in the clouds. Then we have some serious conversations on our way down because we know that usually when we land we are so packed together and there is so much noise we can’t hear anything. I was lucky today, landing on your window”.
“It must be lovely floating down as you large ones do”, Alicia said. “I just love to watch you”.
“Yes it is good, a wonderful feeling, and we get more time to chat, or sing. But it’s good to land on something like your window because when it eventually warms up, slowly, we quickly go back up again and, if we are lucky, rapidly grow up as snowflakes all over again. I hate it when I land in the sea; I can be there for thousands and thousands of years and it’s really boring. So I’d like to stay here as long as possible, please”.
“Oh yes, I’d like you to stay there forever”, said Alicia, “but anyway, for a long time”.
A noise behind made Alicia turn round to see Ewan had come into the room. “Who are you talking to, yourself? That’s crazy you know, my crazy sister”.
“I’m not crazy, I’m talking to a snowflake. It’s very interesting”.
“Now that’s really crazy” said Ewan, breaking into a sing song chant “My crazy sister, my crazy sister” as he came up beside her.
“I’m not crazy, look there it is and if you talk to it maybe it will talk to you. Come closer and see, but whatever you do don’t touch the window”.
The boy moved forward till finally he was standing right beside Alicia, looking suspiciously at the large snowflake now right in front of his face.
“Say something to it, but don’t touch … Don’t touch. Don’t touch the window Ewan”.
Alicia’s voice rose to a scream as he approached the window, adding a final despairing shout, “Don’t touch” as Ewan purposefully put a chubby warm finger on precisely where the snowflake rested, watching fascinated as its beautiful filigree blurred and a single tear fell, to disappear in the packed snow on the windowsill.