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The Night the Snow Caught Fire This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I saw you this morning. You were walking to your mailbox, staggering in the snow. You looked pale, even against the white glow of winter. You're skinnier than I remember. You look frail – your toothpick arms protruding from your puffy black winter jacket as you fumbled with the door of your dented mailbox with the faded red 49 on it. Snowflakes were gathering in your wiry gray hair and on top of the red beret I'd never seen you wear before. Red looks good on you; someone should tell you that.

I wanted to stop the car or slow down to wave or something. I'm sorry I didn't. And I'm sorry in ­general, come to think of it. I've been meaning to tell you that.

I'm sorry that the last time you saw me I was 14, all decked-out in a vampire costume, with my little brother and a bucket shaped like a jack-o-lantern. You were elated to see us, as always.

I'm sorry that I couldn't hide how it scared me to see the ambulance outside your house, explosive orange lights making the early November snow catch fire.

I'm sorry about your husband. He always amazed me – his attic a miniature world of replicas, of trains, of Germany, of whatever life he'd had when he was young and didn't need a cane to get up the stairs. He called you his lucky gold coin, didn't he? I know he was sick, so, so sick, and you were tired.

I know that you loved him even when he didn't come back the night your frozen yard ignited. And I'm sorry that my brother and I didn't come back either. Not for Halloween or Thanksgiving, or just to say hello. I hope you don't blame it on the fact that your living room smells like mothballs, or the way you showered us in trinkets and gifts that we were too young to understand. I hope you don't think it was the lack of chocolate chips in your oatmeal cookies, or how we used to shy away from the little gray figurines perched all around your home.

Your mailbox reminds me: I wrote you a note. I remember now. I had jumped out of my mother's car to slide it in your mailbox as it was growing dark, only to jump back in and drive away. The note told you I was sorry for your loss.

Once I'd written you and your husband an essay about his model trains. I had used the richest language I had known at the time – ornate phrases to describe the way your husband conjured magic out of plastic and time. I'd typed it up in a pretty font, handed it to you on crisp paper while we sat on your floral couch.

After your husband died, all I wrote was a small paragraph of cramped, generic words in schoolgirl cursive and quickly slid it into that mailbox that I watched you open this morning.

A few hours ago, I vaguely wondered if, for some obscure reason, you hadn't opened that mailbox in two years. I decided that, in a hypothetical dimension, you'd misplaced your mailbox.

At 9 o'clock this morning, I pulled a U-turn while crossing the railroad tracks and doubled back to your driveway. You were standing with your back to my car, reaching into the bottomless mailbox with the faded red 49 on it. I slowed, carefully putting my car into park parallel to your backyard. You didn't notice when I got out, or even when I walked over.

You were shorter than I remember. It looked as though you had shrunk a little, your back hunching over, your shoulders receding into your neck. I know I've gotten taller, but I could see the way you've withered. I couldn't even fit into that vampire costume anymore. I didn't know if you would recognize me, in everyday 16-year-old attire, standing with my hands clasped behind me at the top of your drive.

My tongue battled with potential words behind my lips, trying to choose a victor to present to you. Keeping a careful distance, I watched my breath form infantile clouds as I spoke into the cold winter air.

“Red looks good on you.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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kksbrnn This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 24, 2013 at 6:48 pm
I love the way you write. It's unique and this was a very good piece :)
random_person said...
Nov. 28, 2011 at 11:45 am
That is really good!  I love it  :)
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