Snow, Sweet Snow...
by Jean-Michel Calvez
Davy was a well-behaved little boy, and very greedy, maybe more greedy than well-behaved, if you had to choose one of them. However, his mother often insisted that he never pick up what he found on the street, as it was not clean. Eating a chocolate sweet he found at his feet in the street, that would have made her angry, and for sure he would get blamed along with a strong pair of slaps, if Mummy were told about such an imprudence. Nevertheless, he was not so stupid as to talk to her about it, Davy concluded for himself, his eyes lit up by greediness whilst he was unwrapping the golden paper that crackled sweetly in his fingers.
* * *
Lyra was a little bit fat, and she was fond of swimming in the swimming pool’s lagoon-blue waters, of which her eyes had taken on the pale transparency. This innocent passion satisfied everybody in her close circle, for her parents, following doctor Danyel’s wise advice, acknowledged that she had to practise some sport.
Anyway, she was pretty surprised, one day, as she became aware that for the first time she could cross the whole swimming pool without needing to take a breath. Such quick progress was quite stunning! In fact, this unexpected skill had come to her in the blink of an eye, she admitted on her way back home, while sucking another one of those somewhat odd but so delicious chocolate sweets.
* * *
Davy got on his yellow motocross bike fitted with impressive, notched tyres. He had specially selected this model for the purpose of crossing the mud as easily as the motorbikes on TV. That, he experienced once only, but it was a memorable one, as his mother strictly forbade him to get off of paved roads in the future. And it was true that after rolling through puddles he did not much like having to grease the chain and clean up the bike’s frame with a duster.
Well, no more chatter, guy, now it was almost time for lunch, don’t dream and be late! Nevertheless, it was the first time in his life he could get up the big hill without dismounting; moreover, he was not even out of breath! He was in a pretty cracking form!
* * *
Finally, Lyra had to admit she was a little uneasy. Let’s forget her dazzling performance in the water, when she left everybody far behind her: being able to compete with dolphins in their own environment was a cool advantage, but it was something of a bother, all things considered. It seemed she didn’t breathe any more, even when she was out of the water. Or, more precisely, it seemed she could still breathe — for example if she wanted to sigh, or if somebody asked her to do so — but now she felt it was of no use to her.
It was the same as when going to school she forgot to put on her bonnet and later, when sitting in her chair, she swore that she had not been uncomfortable at all and had not caught cold for having forgotten it. In fact, Lyra did not like having a bonnet on her ears. But on second thought, breathing is very different from a simple matter of draughts and catching cold or not.
* * *
Davy thoughtfully scratched his head, his dinner fork raised, looking as if he were miles away or trying to make a calculation with at least two numbers plus a carry over.
“So, Davy, what’s the matter? Aren’t you hungry, today? I know you love my spaghetti!”
“No, Mummy, not very hungry,” he answered, still absent-minded or bored.
He went on rolling up spaghetti around his fork without any interest in it. One minute later, he shook himself. After all, did he have to consider he was at fault if he had to ask Mummy something that, at first glance, sounded stupid?
“Tell me, Mummy, he asked carefully, deeply embarrassed, “should I think that somebody is dead and there’s no other explanation, if he doesn’t breathe any more? I mean, not at all?
* * *
It was a dark moonless night, as dense as a heavy black curtain. At three twenty-seven very precisely, only town lighting and traffic lights blinking their Cyclopean eye on a three-beat tempo, green, then orange, then red, could have pointed out the small town to a potential aerial observer.
Coming from nowhere, a huge bulging saucer looking like a golden paper, maybe as large and heavy as a flat stone, stopped instantaneously and silently for no more than a second, one kilometre over the quiet town. It disappeared at once and was swallowed by the inky black night.
Even if he had been day-blind and not yet asleep, no eyewitness could have noticed anything. On the other hand, if the same witness had taken a look at the ground in front of him, perhaps he would have noticed two or three of these pretty golden paper butterflies crackling under his shoes like nuts, mysteriously fallen or dropped from the dark sky or from somewhere else. But it was too late and, of course, there was no eyewitness around.
* * *
Well, if it has to be so, Davy swore, I will never talk anybody about that. Never! His cheek was still reddish after the memorable smack he got in return for his question. What was more serious, he had to go without dessert even though he did not deserve such a severe punishment.
But all things considered, that did not annoy him as much as he would have thought, because it seemed as if he really wanted no dessert today — or, more exactly, he needed no dessert, in fact, took no interest in it... or something like that. Well, for sure, everything would be different tomorrow, he hoped.
* * *
Lyra was terrified, but not to such an extent as to tell anybody in her close circle what had happened to her. All in all, she would have liked to come back to the swimming pool in order to take advantage of her brand new skill. But looking like a true conspirator as she did, such a spectacular and unexplained progress in breaststroke swimming would not fail to draw some embarrassing questions. Then, to top it off, another significant fact was that she was not at all hungry any more: and that really took the cake, since it happened on chocolate cookies day.
* * *
Davy awoke slightly later than usual, amazed by an unusual silence indoors — and outdoors too — a Sunday morning silence, a time of sleeping late. His mother had not come in as usual to shake him awake in bed. In a way, that was a good thing, and never mind school! Nevertheless, this was quite unexpected, as much, for example, as a snowy day when no snow had been predicted.
Outside, no traffic at all, it seemed. And here in his bedroom, no traffic noise reached his ears, as though all noises were smothered under a huge feather quilt. This odd silence continued, and then after a while Davy didn’t think it was funny any more.
He stood up, stretched, walked down the stairs towards the first floor and, there, he found his mother fast asleep, collapsed on the kitchen table, which had been left in great disorder. He did not dare awaken her, not even touch her; sometimes, her reactions could be quicker than her shadow, so, he’d better stay on his guard.
A little annoyed, Davy shrugged his shoulders and, from force of habit rather than hunger, he decided to make his own breakfast; but he scarcely tasted it. In fact, he noticed, nothing had improved yet as far as hunger was concerned.
Just as he got outside, standing on the doorstep, he discovered a new surprise for that most unusual day: all around, there was a funny pink fog, as light as a giant cotton cloud or a forest of Christmas tinsel. The pink fog was hanging almost everywhere in the landscape, as though it had fallen or been dropped from the sky.
In spite of this heavy fog, which must have been dished out by the ladleful, he caught sight of a motionless shape lying in front of him. It was Wippie, their neighbours’ silky young collie. Just like Davy’s mother a few minutes ago, the puppy seemed to be asleep, lying in the middle of the street with its tongue hanging out like a twisted velvet tie. How unwise this dear Wippie was to lie in the road like that, Davy thought.
As Davy was already more or less aware, now that winter was nearing its end, there was no trace of snow, of course.
Copyright © 2007 by Jean-Michel Calvez