Fiction logo

Everything is Beautiful

by Carl L. Lane 5 months ago in Short Story · updated 5 months ago

When winter comes to Texas

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

He had gone into the garage and cried when the power went out the night before. Jason had hidden his tears, having no right to shed them. But something within him had been broken when the power went out as the winter storm blew into Houston like a slap to the face, after a year had passed since he'd been laid off from his sommelier job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His little girl, Hope, had only been able to continue having a roof over her head and food to eat, because her mother, his wife, his good woman, was able to do her work from home.

Jason had years ago invested in a large wine refrigerator that was kept pretty well stocked: Cote Rotie, Gevrey Chambertin, Barolo, etc. But as the months passed, the wine dwindled.

One night, when they were about to sit down for dinner, he had pulled a bottle of Morgon from the shelves, and realized there were only seven bottles left. It had been almost full before.

Standing in front of the big wine cooler that he had been so proud of, and seeing just seven bottles scattered among the mostly empty shelves, he started taking each of those last seven bottles out. He sat the chilled bottles on the kitchen counter, one by one, sweating in their new atmosphere. When he was done, he unplugged the wine cooler, tied the cord into a neat knot in the back, and sat down at the little table in their breakfast nook for dinner, smiling as best he could.

When Beth had found him in the garage, holding the lantern: among the lawn mower, string trimmer, the garden tools, and six bags of black mulch he had planned to put down in the yard when Spring came and the sun began to shine again; his face stained with tears, she had gone to him, and held him in her arms, telling him that they would all be ok. Her brown hair was put up in a bun, still pierced by a pencil from when she'd been working at her desk before the power had gone out.

"I'm so sorry, Baby," Jason whispered, holding onto her tightly.

"I know."

"If I had known this was even possible I would've given it up. I would've switched, found something else to do for a living. Some better way."

"I know, Baby. I know." She rubbed his back. "We'll be ok."

"I'll figure something out, I promise. I'll figure it out."

"You always do."

They closed all of the bedroom and bathroom doors, and used the oven for heat. They slept fully dressed in the living room, Jason and Beth wrapped tightly on the couch, seven-year-old Hope on the love seat. Every couple of hours he got up to turn the oven off for a while, to let the air clear, just in case it needed clearing.

In the morning, they each used some of the water they'd stored in their bathtubs to wash themselves, bottled water to brush their teeth. Jason cooked eggs and biscuits, thankful they had a gas stove. They drank bottles of water from the garage, that was like big a freezer because of how cold it was outside.

After breakfast, the little family put on their coats, hats, two pairs of socks each, shoes, and walked outside, standing in their front yard to see what had become of their city, legendary for its heat. Everything was made of ice. It had snowed the day before, something that usually happened only once every ten or twelve years in Houston, but unlike the other times, the snow had not simply melted with the coming of the new day.

Icicles hung from the dogwood tree in their front yard; the grass was a frosty white. Every rooftop on their street was covered in heavy ice. It was daylight, but there was no sun. The sky was stingy.

They sat in the car with the heat turned on, charging their phones, Hope's tablet. Listened to the radio. They called to check on family, friends, and laughed sadly at the irony of the worst winter storm any of them had ever seen in Houston, and a pandemic on top of it. People everywhere out of work.

They managed to get Beth's laptop charged, and she got back to work while there was still daylight. Hope became restless, as seven-year-olds are known to, suffering from ennui. The tablet could only keep her entertained for so long.

When she kept going to the door of the guest bedroom that he and Beth had turned into a shared office, wanting her mom to play a game with her, Jason decided he needed to take her out somewhere for a while to burn off some energy.

I'm going to take Hope to the park, she needs to get out of the house for a while, he texted his wife, since she was still working.

Agreed! Lol!! Dress warmly.

After buckling Hope into the back seat of his small SUV, Jason looked back at their house. One story, red brick, the dogwood tree Beth had planted in the front yard herself. Oil stain in the driveway that he still needed to power wash. Beth's sedan parked neatly and unusually next to his car. She normally parked in the garage. He was the driveway person.

Backing out of the driveway, he noticed a plumber's van parked across the street at Jorge and Martha's house. He guessed that pipes had burst in the night. Martha was a mail carrier. Jorge drove a truck that delivered bread to local grocery stores. They had a daughter, Marisol, in college.

Theirs was not a rich neighborhood. The houses there were nice and neat. The yards were well kept. Houses there were what people who expected to become wealthy one day might call starter homes.

Another plumber's van was parked in front of the two story at the corner. The man who lived there, who Jason and Beth did not know, was carrying a wet couch out the the curb with his teenaged son.

"My God," Jason whispered.

It seemed like there were at least two or three houses that had busted pipes on every street. Sometimes there was a husband or wife trying to fix the damage themselves: tool belt around the waist, pipe wrench wielded like a magic wand.

They had been lucky. They had made it through the first night. A little cold. A little sad. The second night was forecasted to be just as cold. The sun needed shining.

Jason had planned to take Hope to the small playground at the front of the subdivision, next to the pool, but with all of the houses that had not made it through the night safely, it seemed to him that it would be wrong to have his daughter laughing and playing right there, as his neighbors tried to mop up gallons of water from their homes, salvage the lives that remained. So he drove on, past the playground, past the frozen pool.

There was a regional park not far from them with a playground, picnic areas, a jogging trail, and a pond. He parked in the empty lot, got Hope out of the back seat, put on her gloves, her warm winter hat, with the soft, pink, fuzzy ball that dangled on the top of her head.

The shelter covering the picnic area was covered in thick ice. They started off walking down the jogging trail toward the playground. They saw confused ducks dancing around the grounds, having flown south for the warm winter.

The pond was frozen; the ice was white. Five guys in old, battered coats, and two women, slid around on the frozen pond in only their socks, their old shoes lined up on the frosted grass, laughing, falling on their asses occasionally, but laughing.

The trees around the edge of the pond were frosted too. They reminded Jason of the artificial Christmas trees that came with fake white frosting that was supposed to look like snow. Jason and Hope stopped to watch them all playing on the frozen pond. The playground they had stolen from the wayward ducks.

Standing there watching, they held hands, and when one of the guys slipped and fell, Hope burst into the music of her little girl's laughter. Her father laughed too. From time to time, a few of the ducks would come and dance, pecking at the ice in the middle of the pond, where the humans were afraid to go.

One of the women walked over to them. She wore a thick wool cap. She looked tired. Smiling, laughing, but tired. She was blonde; her eyes had once been blue; her face was washed, but not clean. Hope loved her instantly.

"Isn't that funny?" The woman said to Hope, pointing at the fallen man, who was by then laughing at himself.

"Do it again!" Hope screamed at the man. "Do it again!"

The woman turned around in the direction of the man.

"Roy! Roy!" The man turned to her, his smile missing a tooth or two, but big and bright nonetheless. "The little lady said do it again!" Roy threw his head back and laughed, got to his feet, slid around the pond in his socks once more, before finally falling again, to Hope's delight.

"What's your name?" The woman asked, bending at the waist to talk to Hope.

"My name's Hope! What's your name?"

"Hope! That's such a pretty name. My name is Faith," and then, standing up straight again, the woman offered her hand to Jason, and he shook it, and was surprised by its warmth.

"And what's your name, little boy?"

He smiled and he was happy in a way that he had not been happy in a year, or more.

"I'm Jason. Please don't let my daughter bother you. She just needed to get out of the house for a while."

"This little beauty is no bother. She is sunlight! She is Hope."

"Sir, Jason, if I may be so bold. Would you and the Lady Hope like to try it out?"

"The ice? Oh, no, no, my wife would murder me in my sleep." He laughed.

"It's safe at the edges. I did it every year growing up in Montana. At the edges you are only standing on top of maybe a foot of water at the most, that's why it freezes harder than the middle of the pond."

"Montana? How'd you end up in Houston?"

"Same way as the ducks," she said, pointing to the ducks still doing their dance in the middle of the pond.

"The ducks?"

"Flew south for the winter." They laughed together.

After a while, the two of them were sitting down on the grassy hill that overlooks the pond, where the homeless men and the two laughing women had become children in the snow. They sat, watching, and eventually Jason, the father, began to feel himself turning into Hope, the daughter; and he stood finally, taking the little hand in his big one. They walked closer to the frozen water's edge. To be amongst the laughing ones. To be happy with them.

Roy walked over to them, smiling again: tall, black, his face a bit wry, but handsome; holding the hand of Faith. Their happiness together seems so real that Jason imagines it can be physically touched.

"The key," Roy says, taking Jason's hand, "is to take off your shoes, socks slide better."

Jason did not resist as Faith and Roy led them to the edge of the pond. It looked like too much fun. And it was. They slid around on the frozen pond, laughing and falling and dancing with ducks. It was freezing cold, so cold that they could dance on a frozen pond in Texas, but Jason had never felt so warm.

Short Story

Carl L. Lane

English degree with a creative writing minor. Published in The Ampersand Review, The Bayou Review, etc. 2012 winner of The Fabian Worsham Creative Writing Prize. Also a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.

Read next: Judgement

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.