Freezer Burn

     “Tell me when you start to feel the burn.” I look over at him with stopwatch in hand like he was conducting a professional scientific experiment.

     “But, Dad, the measurements won’t be accurate. We are much bigger than rabbits, and they have fur,” my big sister says. He had told us that he was trying to find the amount of time it would take before trapped rabbits meat would become freezer burned.

     “Shut up!” He snaps. I look over at her. She is tied to a fencepost as I am; snow up to the knees, with coat, hat, scarf on, but no gloves like me.

     I vow quietly that I will not tell him. I’m sick of these experiments every time he runs out of meds. He reads off each minute. Seventeen minutes: my fingers are on fire from the cold invisible flames.

     My sister tells him at nineteen minutes. “Joey, just tell him,” she urges. But I still refuse.

     At twenty-three minutes: my dad comes over to me fuming. “I needed both results to calculate an average! Well, I guess we are going to have to chop these off,” he says.

Metamorphosis of a Mermaid

The water was green. Eyes bobbing below the surface. I turned her over gently so as not to rub the molten scales off prematurely. She was comatose in my arms and almost dead. The pain of shedding her thick tail skin almost killed her. They tell me that most of them don’t make it to the next stage of metamorphosis. The liquid fire they have to anoint to the scales sends most of them into shock and convulsions. She isn’t shivering yet, so I carry her carefully to shore and wait. This becoming human is a dangerous thing.

Holodomor

She looked over at her Andrei’s gaunt old man face. He was only eight. She was his mother in the mother motherland. The great motherland who had abandoned her children and made them starving orphans. Little Viktor had died as a premature skeleton the prior week. Andrei had unknowingly eaten the stew of his brother’s organs to last a week longer. She had nothing left to feed her last living son. The rat feast ended about a month ago. She choked on tears as she remembered little Andrei and Viktor playing in the wheat fields singing “Without a pipe, without a pipe,my feet are walking the wrong way” while the sunshine danced on their cherub cheeks. Now her son was too weak to greet the sun. She sliced into the fleshiest part that was left on herself, and cooked some stew. Andrei could now last another week she hoped.

Regret

I’ve seen her barely there body in the mornings hunting the downtown trash cans. I always tell myself I will bring her something to eat. I always forget. On the sidewalk I am now closer to her than I have ever been. I try not to look directly into her eyes, because I know I would see the abyss; the pain of existence, and orphans crying because they were born and it hurts. But my son’s mittened hand tugs at my gloved one. “Grandmas should always have a coat and gloves when it’s cold outside,” he says. He takes off his mittens and taps her arm. I hand her my gloves. We get into our parked car and start driving home with the heat blasting. Tears well up in my eyes; I feel small. I should have given her my coat.

Two Eskimos

The cocoons that you weaved in the snow, so delicately, made me feel safe. I snuggled into one of them. Warm snow mummies we were, you and I. Our rebirth into the winter’s afterlife was always heralded by our glittering transient walls crashing down around us like infant tidal waves in practice. You took my hand as we walked away from our broken cocoon; non-existent now. Our life was always like this; permanence being a futile feeling.