The Indomitable Snowman

It caused quite a stir in the town the year that the snowman didn’t melt. The year was already a month old, and Christmas a fading memory. Then winter had come late and all at once, and suddenly the place had a dream-like quality. Families dragged themselves down streets on sledges, and schools closed as water pipes broke. Snow covered everything in a big thick white blanket that kept the happiness warm from the cold outside. On one street every single house had a snowman, some no more than blobs of imagination with hastily borrowed human clothing, others seemed ripped straight out of a book or Christmas card, with their pipes and carrots protruding from under the ever-watching coal eyes.

Then, just as people had started to forget what the world was really like, the snow melted.  Life, such as it was, continued. The children eyed their sledges with hope as their parents stuck them back in the backs of sheds for another year. Wet and sorry-looking scarves and hats were begrudgingly scooped up off the front lawns, along with the odd bird-pecked carrot and mouldy pipe.

Yet, somehow, one snowman still stood. The Jacksons lived on the cul-de-sac where each home had made a contribution to the winter fun, so competition had been fierce, and reputations were at stake. The Jackson boy had been the first out when the snow fell, had hardly waited for it to sit thickly on the floor before running into the garden. Mr Jackson told his work colleagues the next day that he had stood in the doorway watching, and his son had reminded him of a dung beetle pushing the ever-growing snowball in circles. He didn’t tell the boy that, though, or Mrs Jackson – who had lost her sense of humour a few months before. He also told his colleagues he was proud of the boy, too. Because after he had finished, he had made a snowman so magnificent it just took Mr Jackson’s breath away. He had called for his wife to come see, and she had quietly come along, not really looking but trying to look like she was interested. Which was the most any of the Jacksons could hope for most of the time, the pretence. It helped.

She did look eventually though, and she did like it. In fact, as Mr Jackson told everyone the next day, that was the first time he had seen his wife smile in so long it made him sick to his stomach to remember the days when it wasn’t just the normal way of things. So the morning after the snows had melted, Mr Jackson didn’t expect to see anything but a pile of snowman parts on his lawn, he had even been about to shout back into the house as he left for work, to tell the boy to come and pick up the bits off the grass before they blew away. Only to find, right there in the middle of a floor of muddy green grass, the snowman still stood, as good as ever.

The first day went quietly, though the boy told everyone at school who would listen about his snowman, nobody really wanted to hear. They still had their own snowmen in their heads, their own memories of the last week of so of snow to try to grasp onto, in the hopes they wouldn’t fade. Of course, they did. And a couple of days in, people started to listen to the boy. Some came after school and stood and stared, almost as immobile as the thing they stared at.

The snowman stood there, looking out across the street, seemingly intent on watching the bird house in the opposite garden, ignoring the impressed faces of the boy’s friends. A few of the neighbours stared too, that child-like curiosity that never quite leaves almost forcing them to stop what they were doing and nod in appreciation. The snowman still stood.

Days seemed to come and go, each morning bringing the same surprise. Mr Jackson’s fixed grin as he got into his car for work seemed to match that of the snowman that refused to melt. Mrs Jackson had to walk past it too, as she left the house each day she held herself that little bit taller, her shoulders slumped less, and her smile genuine. Each night though, she still came home a broken woman, as the drugs still coursed in her veins and the agony and discomfort still made her dying body scream. The treatment she had to endure seemed impossible, but, then, so was this snowman, and as stupid as that made her feel, it brought her happiness.

It made the papers. The local ones, at least. A car pulled up and a lady asked a lot of questions and a nice man took pictures of the boy next to the snowman, and they went away. It didn’t make the front page, of course, but it got the whole of page seven, the lady had spoke to people on the street over the phone as well as the Jacksons, and had come to the conclusion that this snowman was a good thing. Look, it said, life is good. Look what it throws at you. And life was good, they were right. Nobody even questioned why it still stood anymore, well, they said, it wasn’t like it was really warm outside, it must have just been a well-packed snowman. And it was.

One night, a vicious storm came. The winds whipped at people’s backs, as if shooing them home, the trees bent and the narrow streets whistled. Most stayed in that night, sat round in the warmth and tried not to listen as phone lines were toppled and badly made fences showed their true colours. That in-built sense of hiding from the badness – a thing passed down thousands of generations and right back to the cave-dwellers – kept them all huddled in their protective shells.

The next morning, they had emerged, and all about them chaos had been wrought. People stared down at decapitated gnomes in gardens that never seen gnomes before, trampolines had been flung from back yards and left in the street, lying on their sides. But, somehow, the snowman still stood.

That got the local TV interested. A researcher for the main local news had read the story in the paper and had found the town with the snowman to be a wonderful piece of feel-good news. He had enquired after the storm, quietly sure that it was now finally just a puddle, and equally pleased when it was not so.

Whilst people were still picking up the pieces, the van turned up with the quirky journalist and the cameraman, and they even interviewed the Jacksons in their home before going out for more questions and answers next to the snowman. The boy seemed to find the whole thing too much, and suffered badly under the gaze of the camera, much to the delight of the kids in the school yard the next day, who had all seen him stutter his way through simple questions. Children are fickle things, and jealous too, they would have found something to joke about regardless, the boy knew that in his heart, and took the jokes and laughing on the chin.

It was nothing compared to the bullying that he received once they found out the truth. It had to happen eventually, and much later the people in the town would all say they knew the boy must have been making the snow in the garage each night. Wasn’t it obvious that he had used lots of tools his dad no longer bothered with, and a large open chest freezer, access to the internet and the unwavering desire to just see his mother smile. Well, no. At the time, it wasn’t obvious, People wanted to believe, his mother wanted to believe, and so, they did.

His mother didn’t take it very well, the neighbours didn’t either and shunned the Jacksons after that,  for a while at least. They still showed up at her funeral though, a week later.

Most people in the town turned up, in fact. It was a nice day, all things considered. The sky was clear and the air had a feel about it, like it was holding something in, the whole world just holding its breath. Then as they lowered the coffin, a sudden gust had blown across the cemetery, making the newly sprung flowers flutter in between the graves, and the mourners unconsciously grabbed their hats and remembered that night when the storm hit. Behind Mr Jackson, the boy had stood, his head buried behind the man’s arm as he shielded himself from the wind, his shoulders had gently shook as he cried. People remember Mr Jackson stepping forward suddenly and dropping a small object into the grave before stepping back quickly to comfort his son. Then, as the gust started to fade, so did the mourners.

Much later when the men with shovels arrived to fill the grave, one man noticed a shiny object sat on top of it. He got down on his knees and peered into the hole to get a better look, and there on top of the late Mrs Jackson’s grave, sat a plastic Christmas decoration, the kind you hang on the tree. It was a small white snowman, complete with a tiny scarf and pipe.






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