Snow Day


Nestled on either side of a busy six-lane highway, a neglected cemetery quietly ages. Separated from the road by a sagging chain link fence topped with rusting barbed wire, the majority of travelers, going well over the posted speed limit, pay the relic no mind. Of those who do notice the broken headstones, most increase their pressure on the gas pedal ever so slightly, an unacknowledged volley in the never-ending battle against mortality.

This early February day dumped hours upon hours of record-breaking snow on an anxious, housebound populace in an attempt to bury the anger and frustration of the past three months but stubbornness burned through. Drivers curse and scream, throwing half-visible middle fingers through the holes of poorly scraped windows. SUV owners, confident in the power of their American-made machines, sit stuck on the side of the road. Prius owners, mocking the unnecessary vehicles, lose control and rear-end the car in front of them.

On the sidelines the permanent residents of the hallowed ground, (those that weren’t uprooted when the road cleaved it in two), stroll through a world of ever-deepening snowdrifts, each 30 mph gust adding an extra layer of peace to the afterlife. They, unlike the drivers, make no attempt to convince themselves that anything, (let alone everything), could be permanent, including the kingdom of heaven. Fully conscious of how soon the snow will rejoin the earth and fade into memory, they take comfort in the changing weather, knowing those that lie dormant will soon see the sun once more.

Footsteps near the graves attest to the existence of life passing through, but those looking for tangible evidence to cling to find themselves disappointed. The steps within sight of the road are in 4/4 time, while the larger number of prints, far from the sputtering engines and coughing tailpipes, in the shadows of the deepest drifts, are in 3/4. Sightless, the raging motorists rush home to lock the icy wind, cold, snow out.

There is no room here, no quarter given. The houses—the ostensible homes—from studio apartment to mansion, become voluntary prisons, coffins. Here there are no footprints, no 3/4, 4/4, or any other time recorded on the ground.

The little ones, yet to silence themselves with sleep and regret, having no room for lies, take hold of the opportunity to play, cradling it softly with both hands. They invite the snow to stay for dinner, taking care to dress it up in old clothes, knowing snow feels uncomfortable in new belongings. On days like this the fate of the world rests in their small numb hands, in their ability to throw themselves into the biggest snowbanks, to slide across the ice, to ball the flakes and toss them about until fatigue wins out.

The following morning the travelers drive on, flying past the past, cursing the sun for melting the snow just enough to turn it to ice as soon as the temperature drops five degrees. The children, school canceled, find themselves handed another unexpected gift. Aware of their duty, they take care to pick shoes with the least amount of traction, racing into the world to slip, fall, cry, dive, laugh.

Seeing them, the dead dance, smile, live.

Gregory T. Janetka is a writer from Chicago who currently lives in San Diego. His work has been featured in Foliate Oak, Glass Mountain, Gravel, Heartwood, and other publications. He is terribly good at jigsaw puzzles and drinks a great deal of tea. More of his writings can be found at