Frozen Earth

25 Feb

He put on his tuque and the elastic of the hat squeezed on his head, making the ends of his long hair explode into the obtuse figure of an old shaving brush with dry, split bristles.
Someone has to clear the land.
He emptied the night pan into the snow, outside the door, and the urine left trailing, yellow burn marks two inches deep into the soft, white cotton candy ground cover.
Mmyea. Someone has to.
In 1983 they ran a telephone line into the house but she never used it. His mother was stubborn all the way through. All the way.
Summers he watched black and white kittens climb up the terracotta façade of the house. The red baked clay provided uneven grooves for the animals to hoist themselves up the walls like giant spiders.
In the city we keep them on leashes. We walk them as if they were dogs outside the apartment buildings, and the Siamese ones huff and puff and snort like discontent pensioners sitting on park benches in the cold winter sun. Ever have Siamese cats? They roar like their big cousins.
Don’t laugh comrade. This used to be part of the Ottoman Empire.
Romans first. And all they’ve left for us is scorched land. Nothing grows here anymore. Nothing has grown here since they strung up Jesus and drove nails into his wrists.
To-day is Friday.
On the way out he collected a rusty pitchfork leaning on the fence, separating what used to be his father’s vineyard from the front yard. He used it out back to remove the snow, which had settled wet, and clumped together in large, flat squares that dislodged easily under the iron spikes of the tool.
Mmyea. None of this is ours. We’re just ill-mannered visitors.

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