Why Not Minot?

You don’t know if it’s the windchill or the chill of what you’ve just seen that’s making you shiver. But you cling to a wet glove and take baby steps across the field.

Who will you tell first?

Of course, you’ll tell your parents. Let them do the hard part of telling the neighbors. You’re just twelve. You’re not supposed to break that kind of news to grown-ups.

Your right hand has gone numb, and you imagine it’s frostbitten, but don’t know for sure what that even means. You’ve heard that whole arms and legs get taken off when winter’s bite goes straight to the bone. You wonder how you’ll wear your baseball mitt if that happens.

Carthell, the eighth-grade boy whose father beat him with a garden hose yesterday in front of all the neighborhood kids, asks why you’re crying, and then tells you to get off his front yard or you’ll be doing more crying. You can’t see the yard or the sidewalk, so you move to the edge of the snow bank right next to the road.

You have to speed up. You really don’t want to go home, but your whole right arm has turned itchy cold, and you don’t want to be replaced at third base by some kid with two hands when Little League season comes around.

Your house is just ahead on the left. You haven’t even practiced what you’ll say. Maybe you’ll just burst out crying and hand your mother the glove, his glove.

You drag your snow boots back-and-forth on the rubber mat for minutes until your father tells you to cut it out and come inside.

###

It’s not your idea to visit the Sherwood’s house—it’s the MP’s; and he doesn’t look a bit like the police officers you’ve seen on TV. He looks like the soldiers you’ve seen in war movies. You don’t tell Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood what happened, even after the MP tells you to. You just stare at their feet, holding the white and blue-tipped snow glove, and let your mom do the explaining.

When Mrs. Sherwood cries out, “Why did Drew go out there?” you feel a smile crackle onto your face until you don’t. Your mom just pinched your arm, which you thought only an hour ago was going to be lopped off. That pinch reminds you of Drew’s terror when the ice cracked beneath his feet. He went out there, and that’s all. You’re damned if you’ll say that you egged him to get those toys that somebody pitched out in the middle of the pond. He was only ten, much lighter, so why shouldn’t he have gone?

As you’re led to the front door, you want to clear up one thing. Your smile was only a reminder of the question, a joke really, that Drew had asked, and you’d answered about the city’s lame slogan to find more visitors.

“Freezin’s the reason,” you’d replied, and he’d agreed.   

Brian Goercke

Brian Goercke is a fiction writer, fascinated by culture and his place in and around it. He’s lived in six different U.S. states and spent nearly 15 years in Southern Africa, working as a teacher in Zimbabwe and Botswana, as a public health worker for Family Health International and Johns Hopkins University in Namibia, and as Associate Director for the U.S. Peace Corps in Swaziland. Brian is currently enrolled in the Creative Writing Graduate Certificate Program at the University of South Florida.