Short Story – Footprints In the Snow

I got up one night in college and went to the computer, and wrote this short story in one go, for my creative writing course assignment.  I wasn’t as long, then, I’ve since edited and added to it, but it is essentially the same story I wrote nearly nine years ago in my second of three unsucessful attempts to gain a post-secondary education.

I’m 0 for 3, but maybe I’ll try again one day…all three attempts were made before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, so perhaps knowing this, I could give it another go.

I’m mentally drained and not in the mood to blog at all, don’t know how long it’ll last.  I’m currently working on another project which has my entire focus, but I wanted to share this story with you all…I posted it last year on MyLeftWing, but I took it down after a couple of days…perhaps not ready to share it with the world.

Most of it is true, pulled from my childhood, some of it isn’t…what is and what isn’t, is mine to know…

Here it is now…see you all when I feel better.


“Christina,” this is for you…wherever you are…


First, “You” by Amy Lee


Footprints In the Snow


D.J.G Watts

The pain has returned.  It throbs dully, a loose tooth in his chest.  He sits on the veranda, ignoring the fresh autumn air.   A cigarette, a long finger of ash from the tip, dangles from his nerveless fingers.  The wind has brought with it the metallic taste of early winter.

A sudden gust knocks the ash to the ground, where it disintegrates.  Tiny flakes swirl around his face, and he starts violently.  It is only ash, Frank.   He rakes his trembling fingers through his greying hair.


The first snowfall came early that autumn,

A mere two days after Halloween


Her laughter, carried on the chill air, floats over the fence.  He glances into the adjoining yard.  She is chasing leaves through the twilight as the stars emerge to twinkle in approval.  The flavour of wood smoke is on the breeze.   Floating leaves, dislodged by the wind, careen with acrobatic abandon just out of her grasp.  She is oblivious to the gaze of the boy who stands watching her, axe in hand.  She catches a leaf and cries out in triumph.

Now he is at the fence.  She starts at the sound of his voice, and turns to him warily, as if prepared to flee.  That is the look he will forever remember.  The look of the hunted, the hopeless prey.  


The first flakes, fat and white as the ashes from a campfire, swirl on the wind.  Wood smoke and snowflakes.  Brown apples, tortured by frost and autumn heat, have fallen unmourned to the ground.  They are turning to mush, their sweet pungent spice filling the night.  Her cheeks, rosy with the bite of dusk, draw back as she smiles at him.  Dried leaves rattle down the street, disturbed by a passing car.



I was sixteen years old when my parents died.  I went to live with my grandmother in the country.  A new world opened up to me.  Taking a yellow bus six miles from school.  Waking to the song of  migrating birds as they filled the power lines in the thousands. Chopping wood for the stove, which filled the small farm house with the dry, smoky heat that stains my soul even now.  Fishing on the banks on the river, fishing for dinner which my grandmother prepared, with the skill of a woodsman.


They lived beside us, the police man and his two daughters.  Christina was also sixteen, Jessica was ten.  We met with the falling of the first snow that autumn.  Flakes came, few at first, then thick and wondrous as the stars disappeared behind mustering clouds.

He came to the door, looming dark and tall, framed by the lamp behind him.  He did not like me.  He called her inside, glaring at us as if we’d done something terrible wrong to stand at the property fence.  He held the door open for her, and she flinched as she ducked under his outstretched arm.

The door slammed behind them.


We sat together on the bus rides to school, ignoring the catcalls and taunts of our companions.  The boys played ball hockey in the winter, softball in the spring.  Christina sat alone watching me play.


It stretches out from my grandmother’s house, the road that slashes through the marshy forest like a razor’s cut upon the wrist.   In the spring the swamp bleeds, brown water into the ditches, concealing the soft, stagnant mud beneath.

Christina and I found a case of 7-Up in the ditch .  Protruding from the melting snow, the box beckoned us.  The cans were half-frozen, and some had burst.  The others, we opened.  We sat on a stump deep in the forest with our treasure, returning every day to savour the sweetness.  She sprayed me, then kissed the sugary droplets from my face and neck.


Grandmothers had an old transistor radio, ancient and dusty, from another age, from which came the crackling, magical sound of music.  Christina would sneak across her yard to our back door, where I awaited her.

Grandmother slept.

He was gone, working the evening shift.

We held each other, moving slowly across the linoleum.  My hand fit perfectly in the small of her back.  I loved her even then, before we became lovers.  Her eyes, so melancholy, would smile when we were together.


Boxing Day.

Grandmother fell asleep, as always, after dinner. Bing Crosby was on the radio as I slipped into my parka.  Christina and I had promised to meet beneath the apple tree.  The snow fell from the sky, soft and silent.  There was no wind, not a breath.

Have you ever listened to falling snow?  It makes a sound; the sound of suffocating silence, muffling all other sounds.

My boots made deep tracks in the fallen snow.  They would be filled by morning.

A pale, flickering glow emanated from their living room window.  I’ll surprise her.  The last time I tapped on the window, she had been watching television.  She had nearly screamed, her eyes wide and startled.  They had narrowed as I collapsed in laugher.

On this night, I stood beneath the apple tree, stricken.  I wanted to cry out, but I had no voice.


I ran back to the fence.  I tripped and fell.  As I climbed back over, I looked back and saw, in horror, the stark, naked trail in the snow.

Fall, snow fall.  Cover my tracks, oh God…

What would he do to us if he suspected I’d seen him?

I ran across the snow, to my grandfather’s barn.  He was long dead, but his barn still stood.  I buried myself in the stale, musty hay.  I screamed.  I screamed until my voice broke, and I could only weep in hoarse gulps, filling the barn with the sound of a winded runner at a marathon’s finish line.  No one would hear me, this I knew.

The falling snow muffles all sounds.


“He can control my body, but not my heart,”
she whispered in my ear.  The straw in her hair, our clothes on the ragged horse blanket.  I could cleanse her, she said.  She gave to me, what he took by force.  




It is winter again, and I am preparing for school.

Outside, I notice a large vehicle in the neighbouring driveway.

It is a moving van.

She stands silently at the top of the drive, watching the men file past her and into the van with boxes and sundries.  Our eyes meet for an eternal moment, and while I stand staring from the yard, he appears.

He says a word to her and, without ever speaking to me again, she turns and re-enters the house.

The school bus is close to my stop.  I begin to jog, in order not to miss it.


I never see her again.  




He falls to the leaf-strewn veranda, and the chair topples over beside him.  

The first few snowflakes fall from the iron-grey sky.   They dot his hair, melt on his face.   His lips move, imperceptibly, with his last breath.


The pain

In my chest

Is gone.


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  1. and I’m off to dinner.


    • Tigana on November 14, 2007 at 06:11

    for this ittersweet beauty.

    • pico on November 14, 2007 at 08:31

    He can control my body, but not my heart

    In another context, that’s pretty corny.  Given the opening and closing of the story, you’ve turned it into bittersweet irony.  Well done.

    • RiaD on November 14, 2007 at 11:02

    heart breakingly realistic. thank you for sharing this powerful story with me.

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