Snow, Houston, 1974

HoustonSnowman11Jan1973Published in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 78, No. 1, Winter 2002.


Through the window next to his bed, Buddy watched his father build a wire cage to house a light bulb to keep the bougainvillea bush warm. The weatherman had warned that it would get down to the 20’s that night, a record low for Houston. As usual, Buddy’s father had appeared after the ten o’clock news, and Buddy waited for him to pass beneath the back porch light, his white lab coat like a ghost. Now, he knelt in the back yard, steam puffing out from the hood of his heavy jacket.

Trip let himself in the backyard gate, offering to help, but Buddy’s father waved him away. By that time, a pink blanket glowed on the wire cage. Trip stood there a moment, hands in his pockets, then slipped up the steps outside Buddy’s window. From the kitchen behind his bed came Trip’s and his mother’s muffled voices.

Buddy put on a jacket like his father’s, leaving his feet bare. The bright yellow kitchen was filled with plants his mother had brought in. Trip leaned against the clothes dryer near the back door, grinning at him through his scraggly beard. Buddy’s mother sat at a yellow table in the middle of the room.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she asked Buddy.

“Outside,” Buddy said.

Outside, the night air stung his face. Without turning to him, his father said, “What do you think?,” admiring the pink lantern the blanket made.

“It’ll catch fire,” Buddy said.

His father glanced over his shoulder, but the hood of his jacket hid his face. “Is that right? How come you know everything?”

Buddy hadn’t meant that. His toes felt like icicles on the rough cement.

“You better go inside,” his father said. “If you get sick, I’ll have to fix you, too.”


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