The Edges of Seasons
Number 14 of the eighteen stories in my debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called.
A woman grapples with discrimination and the loss of her mother as she rescues a swan trapped in the ice.
Read an excerpt:
Is the ice strong enough to hold my weight? Never, a concerned mother would say. I use a frosty branch for support and inch my way onto the lake. My foot slides out from under me and I nearly fall.
I’m back on shore and the swan’s cries are louder as the sky brightens to a dull grey.
I look at my watch.
My dad once told me a story about a brave man who stripped down to his pants to rescue a dog trapped in the ice. It bit him and then ran away, but he saved it. I never asked: why did he take off his clothes?
I return to my house and fill a bucket with hot water.
On my way back to the lake, I avoid thinking about the girl under the ice.
I strip down to my long johns and jumper and woollen socks. No point in going all the way. I don’t want my skin to stick. I put the bucket down on the ice and crouch behind it. The man’s stripping makes sense now: less weight. I should have taken off my jumper, but I’m glad for the warmth. I lie face down and spread out my body: distributed weight.
A flurry of snow dusts the surface and I’m grateful. I don’t want to see the girl’s face staring up at me. It was only a mother’s tale, but . . .
I push the bucket in front of me and use my elbows to propel myself forward.
It’s hard work and I’m thirsty. I resist the urge to lick the ice. I know rationally it would not be a good idea. I know my tongue would stick.
I crane around and look back at the icy trees in the distance. I rest my head on my arms and squint sideways at the swan. It looks different from this angle: Majestic and enormous. Terrifying.
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