And a fine job he made of it too. He said it was really hard to narrow it down to only five. In fact, he said it took him a long time to choose between two as to who would be the fifth choice.
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When Andrea’s father came back from the north, he told her about how he’d gone ice fishing.
“They cut holes in the glaciers and put the cubes into their beer,” was what he said. “Folk told me two of those cubes could go into a glass of rye and last you all night. And it’s blue ice, Andrea. BLUE, like you’ve never seen.”
These years later, she likes to think about this, stuck as she is in this town that never sleeps, never cools down. She spends her mornings brushing the dust from her eyelids, and wondering how it is that she’s landed so far from home. Her father went back to the ice fishing coast — Newfoundland, such a strange name for a place that had existed forever — and died there, the year after he first told her the cube story. He fell under the ice and they couldn’t get him out in time. Floated up beneath the surface of the ice and held his hands out to his fellow fishermen like some kind of priest blessing his constituents.
Ice melts, down here in Raleigh. Down here, she can’t get her ice cubes to last more than five minutes.
It was February when the melt started. That year she couldn’t predict the weather, no one could predict the weather; and after months sitting in front of the stove wrapped in the thick-cable vests her grandmother made, the sun emerged in time for the Strumica Carnival. Zuki told Goran that she would be there, and for the week before it was clear what all this good weather meant, they communicated by strings of text messages, all their plans for her three days in Strumica.
The first landslide came on the day her friend was meant to travel to the capital for her teaching exam. On the news it looked not like a landslide but as though the mountain had stepped over, landed on top of the road. Power lines looped ragged through the wreckage, and five days later when she went for her rescheduled exam Linda told her how the kombi had let them out on one side to pick their way across the rubble.
To the south, the road flooded; it was a simpler melting there, the ice turning into waterfalls that fell down the mountain, built up the river until it surged over its banks. Then, a week later, another landslide to the north, then a third, a fourth. She wrote him to ask what she should do and was meant with silence, and for the first time she felt the weight of all that land and chill water surrounding her. She wrote him a second time, a third, a fourth. She wrote him one time for each landslide, for the fifth one that came the morning of the carnival, and came to see that warmed-up ice as the best and only answer she was likely to receive.
Ice. It’s all I could think of. His face was the color of ice. Then I realized that his fingertips were black. Stupid funeral home, couldn’t even get that right. He is gone from this world and all I have left is an off colored black fingernailed corpse who looks nothing like my Adam did in life.
“Holy cow,” Zach said, staring straight ahead of him. When I came to a stop behind him, I finally saw what he was gawking at, and my own jaw dropped.
If you had asked me to describe fully and carefully what we saw that day, I honestly wouldn’t have a clue how to go about doing it. The funny thing is that the other guys all had a completely different idea of what they saw that day, entombed in the ice. Zach had described it as a black, stick-like figure that was definitely not human, while Aubry had used the phrase “a giant praying mantis”. As for me, I had simply shook my head every time someone asked me what I saw. I simply had no words, and I didn’t think anyone else who wasn’t in that Arctic Expedition would understand.
However, the three of us who had gone on that expedition definitely agreed on one thing: whatever that black, alien figure trapped in the ice was, it had been hunched protectively over a smaller, equally stick-like bundle in its arms, mouth open in a frozen scream. Whatever had gotten them, got them fast.
I had been in awe of what we found, but at the same time, I couldn’t ignore the sad, sudden ache in my chest.
When I had gotten home and was lying in bed with Maria, who was now six months pregnant, she had often asked me why I was so quiet after returning from the Arctic. And as I looked at my wife, cradling her bump as she gazed questioningly at me, I said, “Nothing,” and simply held her tighter, thinking about mysteries that may be better left unanswered.
There was no getting Gran to sit down. She refused to rest, or take it easy. Didn’t seem to be in her. When Leah found her in the kitchen, she sighed. “Gran! I thought you were taking a nap.”
Her gran sighed, while pouring freshly made tea into a pitcher of ice. “You won’t always be here to help me. Besides, it’s almost dinner time. Someone has to cook for everyone.”
“Doesn’t have to be you, Gran,” Leah sighed as she checked the stove. “The stove is full, Gran. How did you even get all this food together so fast?”
“I’ve been running a house full of people longer than you’ve been alive, young lady,” she walked over and smacked Leah’s hand and closed the stove. “Let that macaroni bake and sit down. The food needs the heat to cook.”
Leah sat as her Gran told her to and found a glass of iced tea and a plate with pound cake on it. “Settle in for a second. How’s my darling doing?”
Leah sighed. “Gran, why is he here?”
Leah looked outside and saw Carter painting the shed as he promised he would. She shook her head, feeling bittersweet. She was happy to see his mother. But as for Carter…
“Gran, why is he here?” she asked again.
“My house, my guest. And he’s going to stay as long as I wish it,” Gran finally sat down and drank a glass of water. “When are you two going to get over what happened? You don’t have to take him back. You don’t have to ask him to be a father. But, civility? Civility is better than being this ice princess you’ve turned into where he’s concerned.”
“How am I supposed to feel? He is rejecting his child!”
“So, you’re going to return evil for evil?” Her Gran stood and shook her head. “Is this how I raised you?”
At that, Gran left Leah to her thoughts.