by R Gene Turchin
The trek across the field was shorter than walking the winding road to the mailbox. Since Mr. Hitchens retired last summer, it seemed like there was a new person in the mail truck every other week. Mr. Hitches always called the house if there was a delivery saving everybody a trip out to the box. The new guys didn’t even get the deliveries right most days. How hard was it to read the name on the box and match it to the mail. At least once a week they got letters for the Jenkin’s or Samuleson’s who were on the same route. Bobby’s Dad wondered if they even received all their own mail.
The mail arrived after the bus let him off at the gate by the main road so he walked to the house, put away his books and helped with a few chores before trudging back out to the box. Without the phone call, there was no way of knowing if something important was in the box.
“I’m worried we might miss a bill or something else important. Things ain’t like they used to be. Not like the old days,” his Dad said.
Today’s icy cold made the half mile out to the box feel longer and only yielded a spring seed catalog and a postcard from Uncle Jerome in Florida. The card displayed a picture of a sandy beach, sailboats and crystal blue water. Bobby wished he could see the ocean. Probably would have to wait until he finished school. Mom and Dad weren’t likely to take vacation to the beach.
“I’ve seen the ocean. It ain’t no big deal." Dad said. "It’ll still be there when you get older.”
The sun was a pale smudge behind the clouds and almost sunk below the trees in the distance as he headed back toward the house. He tried to slide lower inside the collar of his jacket as the wind slashed at his face with cold white dots. His own outgoing footprints in front of him were the only thing marring the silky whiteness of snow. If it weren’t for the footprints, the ground would look like a freshly washed white sheet had been laid over it, except for the dimples. The snow was pocked with crazy round uniform dimples as if someone had lightly pressed on it with a grapefruit or softball. He couldn’t recall having seen anything like that before.
He stopped and squatted down for a closer look. The depression was smooth, like the snow had melted and refroze. He ran his glove over the curvature and pulled his hand back. The dimples were warm, almost hot to the touch.
He brushed snow from his boots placing them carefully into the boot tray and hung his jacket on one of the pegs in the hallway. The warm air inside the old farmhouse was a welcoming breath. His Mom called from the kitchen
“Spring seed catalog and a postcard from Uncle Jerome. I put them on the table in the hall.”
“Come in and give me a hand with dinner.” She handed him a tray heaped with mashed potatoes. “Put the potatoes on the table and tell your father dinner’s about ready.”
He hesitated. “Mom, did you see the snow?”
She turned toward the window where a curtain of darkness obscured the landscape. “Of course, it’s been here three days?” She shrugged. “Why? Was there something about it I should know?”
“It’s dimpled, like somebody went around with a grapefruit and touched it down all over the field. Kind of odd looking.”
She glanced over toward the window again. “Now, why would somebody do that? Wher do you asking come up with these crazy ideas?” She shook her head.
He finished his homework after dinner and then searched online but only found some obscure references to sunlight causing localized melting. No references to dimples being warm.
His Mom’s footfalls stopped outside his door on her way to her room. “It’s nearly ten,” she called through the door. “Don’t stay up much longer.”
“Just finishing homework,” he lied.
He shut down the computer, switched off the room light and pulled his chair to the window overlooking the field. Cold air seeped around the old window frame causing him to retrieve a throw from his bed to cover his legs. A quarter moon poked through a curtain of clouds while random points of starlight pierced the grayness like small needle holes. He didn’t know what he expected, if anything, but felt the field drawing him in. The unchanging landscape lulled him to sleep. He awakened some time later stiff and cold. The small blanket had slipped from is lap and lay puddled at his feet. Outside in the field something was different. A flat blackness replaced the moon and clouds as if the sky had been painted over. Random flecks of light, like blinking fireflies on a June night, pulsed in the black void. He pressed his face against the chill glass looking up but only fogged the window. He was sure something dark hovered out there. He padded softly to the downstairs hall and slipped into to his boots and coat. The night air frosted against his face as he stepped out and the black object seemed to weigh down the sky. He walked carefully toward the fence bordering the field now feeling a deep thrumming musical bass vibrating up through the ground. Or in the air. It was directionless. It was the sound of a symphony, an orchestral arrangement synchronized with the release of joyous sparkling packets of light, which pelted the snow, splattering liquid light in the recoil.
The small clear bulbs floated to the ground and touched the snow where they gently melted through. He realized they were plantings. Something wonderful was going to happen in spring.
R. Gene Turchin recently retired after 12 years of teaching electronic engineering technology and mechatronics in West Virginia. Prior to teaching he worked as a network engineer and telecommunications technician before stumbling into the academic life. He has published how-to articles in technical magazines including Servo and Tech Directions in addition to poetry and short fiction in literary journals. He spends the winter months in Florida where he is currently working on a science fiction novel and comic book scripts. Most recent published works can be found in VerseWrights, 365 Tomorrows. With Painted Words, Aurora Wolf and Literary Hatchet.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'If I Didn’t Have Papa'
'A Lonely Road'
'Ezekiel the Elf'