Wilie Taylor will have his face rubbed into the snow until he screams, he will deserve it because he punched me first. Shawn Thomas will be forced to ride a bicycle all the way down the street – he won’t know that the bike has no brakes, and he will crash, and hurt his arm. That’s his problem.
Tommy DiGirolamo will get hit with a snowball: The snowball will have a rock in it, and the rock will cut his eye wide open. Tough luck, kid, gonna need glasses now.
Rose and Tina Pollakis will get locked out of their house on a very cold day.
Johnny Auletto will get punched in the back, by me, and will cry in front of everybody. It won’t be my fault, though, and I’ll laugh, because he asked for it. He can cry all he wants, he asked for it and he got it and that’s that.
* * *
It snows all day and whaddya know: we have a snowman.
"What?" My brother Sam, better known as Samantha, has gone purple with the cold. "Whassamatta, you cold?"
"F-f-f-freezin’." We are walking out of the woods down the street from Melvin Avenue and that’s our house, the green one on the right hand side. "You like my s-s-snowman?"
"No." His snowman is standing at the edge of the woods. He is crazy tall with one arm bent at his hip, like the way Mommy gets sometimes when she is mad or just in a bad mood. "How’d you get ‘Tim so tall?"
"I don’t know."
I’m not kidding, the snowman is tall. I can’t figure it out but then again it’s my brother, and he will do things sometimes that just make you dizzy. He will draw a man that looks exactly like a man, you could put the drawing on the man’s face and not know it was a drawing.
"Later on, I’m gonna come back with a shovel and chop his head off," I say as we pass the snowman. "Then afterward I’m gonna come to your room and chop your head off."
We look both ways before crossing the street but there’s no cars moving anywhere because there’s so much snow. We are at our driveway when Dad steps out of the house, looking mad, and telling us to hurry the hell up, it’s time for dinner.
* * *
Dawnie Ballinghoff will fall on the ice and bang her head. She won’t cry but she will bleed a lot and by the time the ambulance comes she will be asleep, and no one will ever see her awake again. Some people will be sad, but David Siugzda will think it’s funny: He’ll be laughing about that, or something else, when I haul off and punch him in the stomach. He will stop laughing right away, and will have a hard time breathing for a minute. But afterwards he will run after me and try to hit me back.
Needless to say, I cannot be caught.
David will instead go home and cry to his Mom and Dad, and his Dad will hit him and tell him he’s a pansy, crying over a fight with a girl. The man will be mad, and later on when he’s drunk and going out for more liquor, his car will slide, and he will run into another drunk man, and he will be arrested and that’ll be the end of him for a while.
Tonight it’s hard to sleep. The snow is hitting the window and it gets me excited so much I have to get up and look at it but after a while just looking ain’t enough, I got to open the window and feel it.
It ain’t enough.
There’s no other way around it: I got to go out and walk in that snow.
My clock says it’s one in the morning. Dad is at work ‘cuz he works all night and Mom is sound asleep in her room. You can hear the t.v. on loud which means she can’t hear me walking down the steps, even though the stairway is almost right next to her room.
Downstairs, my boots and my coat are still kinda wet but I figure I won’t be outside long so the fact that everything I’m wearing now is ice-cold doesn’t bother me too much.
The door is hard to open: It’s blocked up with snow.
Outside, I dive off the step and do a roll down the front lawn. Now I’m covered with snow and I laugh, it feels good. The snow on the street is up to my knees and that feels good too, but I keep looking both ways because I can’t really hear right with the hood of my jacket on and I don’t wanna get hit by a car.
Then all of a sudden I’m walking down the street and I see somebody else walking too, they’re up ahead a little bit and there’s no streetlight there so it’s hard to tell who it is: Alls I see is a fat white shape moving slow, like he’s soaked through with snow and having a hard time getting home.
I start following him.
I’m about 20 feet away when I notice him stop. He could not have heard me walking because I’m being real quiet and you just can’t hear anything. But he’s stopped, and when he stops I stop too: Because I’m scared, because I see he is very big, and when he turns around to look at me I see he has no face for a minute and the way his hand is holding his big fat hip makes him look super-mad, and that’s scary, it’s the scariest thing I ever saw.
I just stand there a minute and all of a sudden his mouth opens up and it’s black and 2 eyes open up and they’re black too.
He makes a weird face.
He says, "YOU," and the voice is deep, but it’s more like a girl with a deep voice than a mean giant, if you know what I mean.
I wait a minute, and then I point at him, and I say, "YOU," right back in a real deep voice.
It’s quiet for a minute and then he starts moving toward me real slow. When he is five feet away, he puts a hand on my shoulder and I can’t feel it through my coat but I know it’s cold.
He leans over.
He opens his mouth.
He screams into my face, and it’s so loud and scary I scream right back, and turn around, and run back toward my house knowing he’s following right behind me but when I reach the steps I take a look back and I can’t see him so I run inside, and lock both doors, and I go to the window and stare out at the street while I’m taking off my boots but nothing else happens. Except later when I’m hiding under my blankets and I can’t sleep I hear the snow moving outside and I keep thinking, IT’S ALIVE, the snow, and that thought scares me enough that I’m still awake when Mom opens the door at 6 in the morning and tells me, "There’s no school today, you can sleep a little later if you want."
I sleep all the way ’til noon and it’s still snowing and Mom says we can’t go out ’till it stops. For some reason, I don’t complain, although I can tell by her face that she thinks I’m going to.
* * *
Dad will pee himself and start talking funny, and when we take him to the hospital they will tell us it’s good it happened so fast. Mom will sit in her room all day and Granny will have to bring groceries, and cook, and yell at us when we act stupid.
Samantha will get bad grades, and fail all sorts of things.
Mom will get fat, ugly, and will watch t.v. a lot even when nothing’s on.
Everybody else will stay the same, until they get in an accident, or get sick, or leave and never come back.
* * *
It’s somewhere in the middle of the afternoon when Samantha says, "My snowman’s gone," and right then and there I know we got a problem. He is at the living room window looking down the street at the woods. Yesterday, you could’ve seen the snowman real easy from here, the hand on his hip, his big round bottom.
Today you see the woods, the street, the sky all gray and cloudy.
"He musta got buried in the snow," I say, and I want to believe it but I can see right away Sam doesn’t believe it either. "It’s been snowin’ like crazy."
"But he was wicked tall."
"Well maybe some assholes knocked it down."
Mom says, "Hey," from the kitchen and I get a chill up my spine, got to watch my mouth – my nerves are all jumpy and I don’t need anybody mad at me.
"I know what happened," Sam says, and it’s creepy, and I feel like holding my ears when he says, "He got up and walked over to the hill at the school."
"What?" I say. "School’s closed, what the heck’s he got to do there?"
"He’s got to roll up and down the hill," Sam says, and now is when I hold my ears, when Sam says, "so’s he can get even bigger …"
* * *
Jeff Ferraino, who I think is cute when I get to high school, will have sex with me then go to college in Massachusetts, and he will meet another girl and have sex with her too, and I’ll feel terrible. I will go to college the next year but I’ll hate it, and I’ll make no friends and the people I used to know will be different, so I’ll hate everybody. I’ll do some bad things and get sick, I’ll get a little better but it still won’t be that great.
And I’ll have a family, too, it’s a long time from now but there’ll be kids coming out of me, and they’ll be a pain in the neck but they’ll be mine. They’ll grow up fast and learn to talk, and think, and do so many great and awful things. In the winter, I’ll take them out in the snow, and we’ll build a snowman. I won’t say anything weird and I won’t scare nobody, but inside I will be feeling my guts turn into knots. But I swear I won’t say anything and maybe there’s even a chance later on I’ll stop feeling weird about it, maybe when I’m real old or if I move to Florida or somewhere it never snows. Maybe by then I won’t remember anything, which would be a relief but would be terrible too because wouldn’t it actually be better if I just had somebody I could say it to? Just somebody, anybody at all?
* * *
It’s night, and Dad is mad at dinner, he’s always mad and I hate it that I’m scared of him but hey, he’s Dad, what can I do.
"Goddamn wind," he says, "it’s gonna be even worse tonight." He’s mad at the wind because this morning, when he left for work, the screen door was hanging off the hinges. I know it was just the wind, I keep telling myself that, but I got bad feelings too, and I remember makin’ sure it was locked when I came in last night. "Ain’t gonna be no school the resta the week." He’s looking at me and Samantha, still mad. "And I don’t wanna hear about you 2 buggin’ your mother to go out, you’re stayin’ in ’til I say so."
As you can see, dinner is always a pleasure and tonight when it’s over I go right to my room and take a nap. There is a dream I have where I am on a sled, and I’m going down the big hill past the fence near Glendora School. Samantha is on my back and we go down the hill very fast, and there’s so much snow we can’t see the bottom of the hill. At some point, though, the sled starts to sink — we’re goin’ wicked fast but we’re slidin’ beneath the snow too, and I must have goggles on ‘cuz I’m still able to see. When the sled stops, I stand up and there is snow all over, in every direction I look. I try to reach up and push my way back out but I can’t and that’s when I get scared because Samantha has turned white and is standing there frozen and when I look at my own hands next they’re not even hands, they’re round and white, so I scream and that’s when I wake up.
It’s 2 o’clock in the morning.
I go downstairs right away and slip into my boots and my coat and then I’m outside, and I’m running, and I don’t even check the woods because I know he’s not there and the school is the other way, and it will take me a while to get there.
The snow has stopped coming down, sort of — there’s still snow flyin’ all over ‘cuz there’s so much on the ground so I keep gettin’ whacked in the eye with tiny flakes that make my eyes water like I’m crying but I’m not, I’m not really even scared yet.
It usually takes like ten minutes to walk to the school but it’s longer now even though I’m runnin’ since the snow’s up to my knees almost. I shouldn’t a taken the shortcut, I guess, if I’d stayed in the street I coulda got here quicker but that’s alright ‘cuz now I’m here, lookin’ at the school and now I’m walkin’ to the fence at the end of the playground and I’m climbin’ it and I come down and right away I start slidin’ down the little slope that leads up to the hill.
Where the snowman is standing, looking at me.
He’s big now, he’s got legs and he walks over to me in big steps that make the ground shake. I got to stare at him even though I know I oughta be running but I couldn’t possibly run just now, he is so big, he is amazing: He’s got to kneel down just to be close enough to my face to say: "I AM GONNA EAT YOUR HEAD."
I try to catch my breath, and when I do, I tell him, "I’m gonna eat your head first."
He screams into my face and I scream back but I still don’t run away. I’m in a bad spot here, I won’t be able to run real fast and I got nowhere to run to from here.
And I don’t even wanna run away.
And I don’t wanna be scared.
And I don’t even feel the cold of his hands when he puts them on my shoulders, heavy enough to make my knees buckle a little but I’m still standing when I see the black line of his mouth go up into a smile.
"You’re a giant," I tell him, and that sounds dumb but when I say it I mean it like it’s something great: He’s A Giant In The Industry, or something like that. "I like you."
"I’M FREEZING," he says, and his voice is so deep but it’s not creepy, it’s so sweet I start to smile and now is when I start to cry too, because I got him here now and I know I’ll never meet him again, the sun’ll come out and he’ll melt and who knows if Samantha will be able to make a snowman that tall again next year.
He is still looking into my face with his big black round eyes when he tells me, "YOU CAN’T GO HOME NOW," and I know what he means: I’m freezing too, I’m so cold I can’t feel the tears runnin’ down my cheeks, and even if I turned around right this very second and marched all the way back home I wouldn’t make it, I’m so tired and frozen I don’t want to move, I want to stay here and freeze up so’s I’ll always remember where I am right now.
"I’m too cold," I say, and he says, "I KNOW," and that’s when his hands slip down under my armpits and lift me up so soft and so high I can see all the way across the town: I can see the bridge that goes to Granny’s house and the baseball field and the creek and everything. But the last thing 1 see is the snowman holding me up, and his smile opening so wide you could see it a mile away. It’s a smile, and when he slides me down into it, I can already feel my clothes get warmer, so I laugh, and when the smile closes up behind me alls I hear is that laugh, and I know it’s good ‘cuz I’m warm now, and I feel good, and for a second I can hear the snowman laughin’ right along with me. And that’s when I’m sure that it’s good, and that it’ll go on and on forever and ever.
* * *
There are so many other people, and many things will happen to them: Brian McLernon will marry a girl he likes to beat up, and that’s no good. Mark DeMuro will own a record store but he will be poor, and he’ll do drugs, and he’ll lose the business and he won’t even care.
Samantha will fail many things, and be poor too, but he will be one person I will always think is good, and happy, because when he talks to me later I know he doesn’t even think about the bills or the cockroaches in his apartment or the hundreds of friends he won’t ever have. He will have his own life and no one else will know about it so that when he dies he will be the most perfect person I ever knew, because he didn’t have anything to do with the planet or the people on it, he was just Samantha, and he was good, and that’s that.
I won’t never be that good but I got my own life too, which is nice, but it’s not perfect I can tell you that much. There are things I remember about the snow — about being GIRL, 8, MISSING IN BLIZZARD, but most of it is just in my head now, because I can’t say it, and because sometimes I guess I don’t even really believe it no more. I know there is a future and I make my own family and get old in it and die but I also know I’m somewhere else: I’m buried in the snow, and it’s warm but it shouldn’t be, and it’s dark but there’s nothing to look at, and I move because the snow moves. Because it’s alive, and so am I. Because I can smile, and stay warm, and know that I’ll always be the same. Because I’m here, and nothing else will ever happen, absolutely nothing at all.