Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a scene involving the moon. Today’s contribution comes from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, a YA reboot of Hawthorne’s original. Val’s distaste for winter sits somewhere along the spectrum between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Jack Torrance (the writer from The Shining).
The winter was long, and that stupid groundhog had seen his shadow. Or was it a her, now? Melody couldn’t remember. The groundhog wasn’t the original one—she knew that much. The old one had died. Or maybe someone had killed it.
Someone wishing for spring.
Last weekend had been so close—the hot sun took inches off of the snow, compacting it and drying the pavement. But still it lingered, that blindingly white frozen hell. At night, it gave off a chill the way a fireplace gives off heat, robbing the earth of its warmth. It was like The Blob—if it touched you, it took away all your heat, leaving you cold and lifeless, shrouded under a blanket on the couch.
It would never let you pack up your sweaters or your wool socks. It threatened to return if you were brazen enough to put out the lawn decorations, or set up the chairs around the table on the deck.
After a tauntingly warm weekend, winter returned on the wind. The snow re-froze. It was now so hard and cold, one could walk on it without falling through—or rather, one could slip on it. Last week’s melt had left it covered in a frozen sheen, compounded by the freezing rain on Tuesday night. Everything was glazed, preserved, in ice. And it hadn’t melted in days.
But Melody didn’t want to go skating. She wanted to garden. To cut the lawn. To go running without sliding on an ice patch or stepping through a puddle of melted chemicals. She wanted the beach.
“That’s it,” she wrote on Facebook one night. “I’m not going out again until spring returns.”
“What about your job?” asked her friends.
“You need groceries,” they said.
“I need the ocean.” And that was her last comment.
“Mel, you there?” they asked.
“Mel, text me.”
But she was already signed off, hidden beneath a blanket, reading a cheap romance novel about a girl and two guys somewhere tropical. She stared at the eye candy on the cover for hours, coveting the way the palm trees bent in the sun, the way the tropical drinks melted in the hands of the supermodels. She coveted the sweat that glistened on their bodies, the way the sun bronzed their skin. She wanted that weather—now.
That night, there was a knock on her door. She awoke from under the covers and checked the clock, perplexed. Though the house was dark, the glow coming from the window gave off the luster of midday to the objects in her room.
“What time is it?” she asked herself.
A glimpse at her watch told her it was approaching midnight. Late for a work night, but this was Friday. A livelier, happier, spring-summer-fall version of her probably wouldn’t even be home yet. Pathetic. Winter had turned her into an anti-social sleeper.
But then, the knocking again. That’s right—someone had woken her up. Who in the world would be knocking at midnight? A glance out the window showed several cars and—was that a tent in the driveway?
Concern jolted adrenaline, and she grabbed a baseball bat and a phone.
“Who’s there?” she called at the front door, glancing through the peephole.
There, standing on her porch, were several of her friends—Rob, Christine, Dani, and Pete.
She tossed the baseball bat and opened the door. “What the hell, guys?”
“We brought you the ocean,” Pete said.
She looked at her coworker. He’d always been overly kind to her. He definitely had a crush but was always too dignified to say anything—probably afraid of the company policy about dating coworkers. But his smile now was undeniable. Pete grabbed her hand and pulled her down the concrete steps to the front yard. There was a beach tent set up on the driveway, and behind it, a small campfire roared in a brand-new portable metal firepit (Mel’s was still buried under inches of icy snow).
“We brought you the ocean,” Pete said again. He pointed to the full moon rising over the field in front of Mel’s house. Against the icy snow, the reflecting moon did look like it was rising over the ocean—almost.
It was hard to dismiss the fact that the rippled ice was frozen in place—unlike the fluid motion of the waves.
Still, it was a beautiful sight, and Mel stared at it for a moment. Then she realized she wasn’t wearing a jacket.
“Here,” Pete said, slinging a blanket over her shoulders. No, it wasn’t a blanket—it was a beach towel.
“We’ve got a cooler and everything.”
Mel turned to see that Alex was there, too. He’d pulled open a package of hot dogs and was skewering them over the fire. Christine opened the cooler and cracked open a beer. Mel smirked to think that the cooler was probably actually warmer than the air right then.
The beach tent they’d erected was stuffed with sleeping bags and comforters, and Dani, dressed in her warmest winter gear, was stretched out with her hands behind her head. If it weren’t for the layers of warmth, she’d almost look like she was sunbathing. Moonbathing, rather.
“We thought we’d miss you too much if you didn’t come out until spring. So we thought we’d bring the ocean to you.”
Pete stood behind her, putting his arms around her waist. His breath felt warm against her cheek, coming from his mouth in warm puffs.
“What do you say? Feel like partying a little?”
She turned to take in the scene: the magical, frozen “oceanscape” of the glistening snow on the field, the beach tent, the towel, the cooking hotdogs already spitting on the fire. It was magical, alright, and she had great friends.
But it was still winter out, and it was damn cold.
“Sorry, guys,” she said. “This is nice, but I need the real deal. You’re all welcome to stay, but as for me—I’m going inside to hide under a blanket. And I’m not coming out until spring!”
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Catherine A. MacKenzie