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Kingdom of Snow
A novel By Wm. Anthony Connolly

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Take. We sunk ice-cold hands into buckets of dark red paint. We heard the call. Do you hear the ice cracking? We made the snow; no two snowflakes alike each exquisite & hexagonal. The dead girl. Angels & jumpy eyes. Ubi’m dubead. We inhaled the gospel of snow and found an unapparent connection is stronger than an apparent one. We wrote it down. In the snow. For snow is the color Of memory. &… God walks the dark hills. Take. And eat… The past, the present, the future. We are not alone in rising.

Three in one; three at once. Triunity, three, but one substance of things for in …The kingdom of snow.

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Part One—a time ago The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained

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One Winter kills. Immaculate snow and luminous frost belie the season’s violence. A pretty winter can be bitter and fatal. Under the right conditions, skin freezes in under a minute. Muscles atrophy. Teeth ache. Bones stiffen into staves of ice inside the body. Hypothermia lulls laggards into sleep, before death. People move resolutely down streets, bundled up in wool caps tugged over exposed ears and foreheads; ski masks are donned if needed; gloves, scarves and long, heavy coats are required attire. Boots, unusually ugly and chunky, are a necessity. Fashion is not a consideration. Those boots are needed for warmth, and to move one’s way through the snow and ice. People don’t linger. They walk with purpose, head down body held in tight against the drafts of snow, of cold air. Cars are plugged in to small heaters. The windows have been scrapped of ice and the snow tires checked for flats. The drive home isn’t terribly quick due to reduced visibility for one, and lousy road conditions for another. Vehicles move amid exhaust fumes frozen in the air, down rutted roads and treacherous thoroughfares stopped up with dirty snow blanketing buried sheets of ice. No one wants to get stuck outside. Cautionary tales of blackened skin from frost; death by exposure are found in annals of history and in the pages of a daily newspaper. Tales of winter’s alluring yet deadly power is on the lips of children who witness one of their friends’ folly or finds their tongue stuck to the metal swing set in the schoolyard playground. Even so, it is the tendency of youth, to ignore all this and to taunt Old Man Winter by leaving the boots at home with the gloves, the scarf, the wool cap, and the ill-used ski

Kingdom of Snow 6 Connolly mask. The jackets they wear are loose and unzipped. Their throats, their cheeks, their noses, their hands, exposed, turn red, briefly, before becoming a bluish white that stings. But it’s worth it. They look good. Their tight jeans, their insouciance make it a wonderland of ignorance. Some know better.

Usually, Cara Neufeld knew better than to venture out in winter, without bundling up. But not today. She was in a hurry to catch up. It began like that, innocent, a simple desire. The cold nipped at her thin five-foot-two-inch-body from so many angles, Cara didn’t know what to attend to first, but she didn’t care. They were there – just there for her to catch up to, just there, if only they’d turn around. And then perhaps what all teenagers want more than to look good in harsh climates is for someone to care; to be cared for, about, to be popular. And if she were popular, or got the attention of a particular popular boy, all would be well. Popular! Cara let the word roll around in her mind, it was a delicious word and the taste of it made her lightheaded, which might have explained her actions. But the child was in uncharted territory, a province she’d not read about in her books, or in the songs she heard and sung. “Gosh, can’t they see me?” Ahead of her on the busy sidewalk three teens walked ignoring her; they could plainly hear her huffing and puffing after them. There is a fine line between the popular and their followers; the adoration is required, and sought, but not the attachment. Clingy was icky. “Is she a dweeb?” one of the three ahead of Cara said; from her position behind them, she couldn’t be sure who said it – this inability was partly fueled by Cara’s need for the words to have not come from a certain boy. No, the question came from the lone girl of the trio, Sarah Redekopf. She had her arms entwined with Tarrance “Peck” Simons –

Kingdom of Snow 7 Connolly the object of Cara’s affection – on her left and her boyfriend, Lorne Penner, on her right. Sarah was pushing them to hurry because she had to get home to see her father. But she was feeling a little confused and torn, the boys had wanted her to stay with them a little longer; this had become as a bit of a surprise. Sarah was a cute girl with sparkling brown oval eyes, long chestnut colored shiny hair and perfect skin. Her cheeks blushed red at the slightest provocation. Her bottom lip stood out in a perpetual pout. But the reason for Sarah’s rather swift ascendancy to the ranks of boys, as opposed to most girls and certainly Cara her equal in age trailing them now, was twofold, both of which sprouted on her chest far earlier and in greater volume that her counterparts. Adolescent boys are drawn to developing breasts as much as the temptation to lick metal poles in the dead of winter beguiled them only a year earlier. Both instances of fascination were involuntary and strangely magnetic. These lures, one attainable and painful (the tongue must be kept on the metal pole long enough to stick, but not get frozen in place), and the other less of a sure-thing (first base, second base…), got them en route to manhood. Proximity counted. Sarah had boobs; Cara had nubs. So the boy logical went, Sarah was in for closer inspection; Cara was out until further notice. Sarah’s rise in popularity required, she felt, a new vocabulary one peppered with curse words. This was a shorthand way of establishing your coolness, which Sarah fueled by the sporadic cigarette, which she thought, would help both her “older, wiser,” image with the boys and her secret passion for singing. “Peck!” the thirteen-year-old without a chest trailing them finally screamed out, dodging between pedestrians who were hunched over and equally dogged in their less

Kingdom of Snow 8 Connolly than singular pursuits. Cara’s breath crystallized in the air, which was suffused with white flying snowflakes the likes of which would have normally entranced her, today served only as minor nuisance. The air was turning a ghostly blue from rising chimney and car exhaust, which froze into plumes of inexplicably suspended vapors of gray. Ahead, the boy named Peck, the target of Cara’s quest, liked the sky this way – mysterious and blue, gigantic wisps of nothingness rising in the air; the possibility of ice halos. He squinted and saw that everything, even vehicles and passersby, were made of infinitesimal gyrating dots. Gossamer molecules, he’d write in his journal later. God’s whisper. Peck wished Sarah would let go of his arm. She was Lorne’s girl not his, and besides, he was beholden to no girl. And the girl, back there, Neufeld, Straight-A Cara – didn’t she know? “Peck” Apparently not. Lorne was oblivious to Cara’s running after them; he was reviewing hockey plays in his head – puck after puck hitting the back of the netting, raising his arms in the air. Cheering, lots of cheering, and his skates making that sound on the ice: The ice-crunch. But that was Lorne. There was little in the world, but hockey. The late afternoon air was now a skim milk blue with flying snowflakes. Frost fractals crystallized every available surface. The cold wind made Cara’s nose run and burned at her cheeks; she had to flick snowflakes off her eyelashes. Despite the winter chill, Cara had her ill-fitting Van Buren High School jacket open and slung back over her shoulders almost to the point of falling off completely. A heavy beige book bag dangled off her left arm, swinging like a manic metronome, and in her white right fist Cara

Kingdom of Snow 9 Connolly clutched a rolled up notebook. She was regretting taking home so many library books. But they were free; in them pages of wonder, pages and pages of awe. Most of the books were about puppies; she was researching dog breeds to convince her parents it was time to get a dog. But the bag was very heavy. To clear her face of flying snow and unfathomable sweat, Cara used her left hand. But she had to stop to do so, hoisting her book bag up onto her shoulder in order to use her left hand; she poked out her right arm for balance on the icy street. This precarious running-shouting-balancing act finally came to an abrupt end when hollering, “Peck,” again, but this time with more gusto. Cara’s feet slid on a patch of hard ice, her legs gave out beneath her and she fell with a spine-jarring thud on her backside. The sudden crash caused the notebook to fly from Cara’s grip and her book bag to spill its load of library loans out into the muck of the well-tread winter sidewalk. Everyone turned. Cara tried to get up, but her rail legs splayed out akimbo from beneath her again. She skittered and wobbled before falling, this time face-first. She had to turn over when she heard, “Here, let me…” Cara saw, in transparent relief, a white hand covered in blue ink blotches. It was Peck of course. He came for her. He’d felt a sense of responsibility, after all, it was his name that caused her to spill in the first place. Peck wasn’t totally ignorant of Cara’s clamoring chase. He saw her in the detention hall back at school earlier, staring at him, but feigning indifference. Peck was not like the other boys, the boys whose logic brought developing girls closer. Peck never talked about baseball or rounding the plates, as it were. He often said and did things people couldn’t quite understand. I’m switchin’ to glide. Yet, he understood what it meant

Kingdom of Snow 10 Connolly to want something so badly you’d be willing to make a fool of yourself. He saw that Cara was embarrassed. He saw that she needed saving. Cara took the warm hand and he pulled her up. Peck held her, at arm’s length, so that she could catch her balance but not get the wrong idea. Behind Peck, Cara could see Lorne Penner picking up her library books. She nearly stumbled back and fell when she saw that her unfurled notebook, the one that had been held in her tight right fist, was being inspected by Sarah Redekopf, turning it over in her hands as if it were some kind of talisman. “Yo give me that,” Lorne said reaching out to take the book. She complied, handing him the notebook, keeping eyes on the girl in Peck’s embrace. Cara was watching with horror the notebook’s exchange and how Lorne tried to stuff the notebook in her full book bag. The blue ink heart on its cover emblazoned with the name “Peck” bobbed repeatedly up and down, there for all to see: Cara’s jittery heart. Peck let the girl go. Cara snapped the notebook from the star hockey player’s hands startling him with her deftness. He’d not seen it coming. He wondered if he needed glasses. Would this ruin his hockey career? Were those scouts still coming to his game this weekend? What if he was made an offer? “It’s uh…” she said placing, the notebook inside her waistband. She closed up her jacket doing up all the snap-buttons. Lorne was still grumbling to himself when he handed the book bag back to the diminutive girl that had grabbed the prize from his very grip. Always use your body to protect the puck. Lorne asked, “Weren’t you in detention with us?” “Yeah.”

Kingdom of Snow 11 Connolly “Cara Neufeld? Straight-A Cara? In dee-ten-sheoon?” Sarah interjected her voice coming out in a squawk. Sarah didn’t know what to do. She pushed back a black wool cap off the crown of her head and held it in her hands. She liked Cara despite herself. They had been to Bible Camp together and she knew Cara had a killer singing voice. So, she didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or throw up. In her mind a quick visual flashed: Sarah saw a bird, beautiful, sitting on a tree limb, singing. She knew Cara alright, the singer from Bible Camp, Cara from the church choir. Sarah looked at Cara’s exposed throat and something crossed her mind. She knew the girl all too well. Cara was who Sarah wanted to be – a singer, like her momma. Her momma was a singer. Had been a singer, she told herself. Her father loved her momma’s singing. That was how they met and fell in love. Over singing, her momma’s singing. “Yeah.” Cara glanced over at Peck. He was looking off into the distance. The winter light was such that in the fading expanse all shapes were jagged. The celestial darkness looms. He wasn’t that interested in what was going on. He was watching those serrated dots. Peck moved the dots around his imagination. “Let’s go,” he said, and began walking away. Peck wanted to stop and just stand there on the edge of the world looking out. He would open his journal and draw what was right in front of him. But it was getting darker, the snow flying harder and ….“To the Cathedral, come on you guys.” Sarah yelled out in excitement. She’d heard of the Cathedral but had never been there before. It was “the” in place for the in-crowd. A shiver ran through her; Sarah never got cold in winter, the shiver was of pure excitement. It had been a smart move of hers to get a detention so she could be closer to her boyfriend Lorne and the center of Van Buren coolness, Peck. She grabbed Lorne. He was thinking about new red Swedish hockey

Kingdom of Snow 12 Connolly sticks. Sarah was formulating a plan, in her head; get Cara into the in-crowd and maybe a little of that singing magic would somehow rub off on her. “Say something,” she said to her boyfriend, Lorne. She wanted to invite her Bible Camp friend; Lorne tugged her away. “See ya Carol,” said Lorne, who turned to look over his shoulder at Cara. “Cara,” she said, weakly, a sense of cold defeat washing over her making her shudder. She took a moment to watch Peck walk away. Cara readjusted the book bag on her shoulder and made sure the notebook was secure inside her jacket. A car’s horn bleated. Cara noticed the world around her was darkening. She then yelled out to them, “Hey wait up. Can I walk home with you guys?” But the car’s horn continued to sound and her voice was lost in the racket. Again the boys pretended they didn’t hear her pleas. It was easy to do with the traffic hubbub around them. They pressed on, Peck wanted to turn around and ask her exactly what she wanted, but didn’t. Sarah’s grip was strong and insistent. In fact, she kept her grip consistent as she turned to give Cara a look. Is this exciting? Hurry. But then Cara saw Sarah give her another look. It was there briefly, but she thought it was an encouragement. It was strange to see the one, perhaps Sarah was a little scared, and then the other in such quick succession. But Cara, Straight-A Cara, was not educated outside the four walls of house, church or school. If it didn’t come from a book offered by parents, pastor or houseroom teacher, it frankly didn’t exist in Cara’s understanding. Of late that had begun to change; Cara first felt the change come deep down in her stomach one Sunday at church, staring at the back of Peck’s head.

Kingdom of Snow 13 Connolly Something moved within her. Maybe the sun, she thought then, had broken through some clouds and Jesus had directed the little sunbeam to shine through the stained glass windows of the church and on to Peck. That Sunday, Pastor Reimer had talked about St. Francis and his sermon to the birds. He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple raiment. She wondered about what she was seeking or wanting … beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you… when her stomach turned. She looked up at Peck’s head. It was surely a sign from God. Feeding. Reaping. She was adorned with double raiment! Cara gave it some thought over the next few weeks. Few recognized how she had withdrawn to ruminate; Cara wasn’t one to be noticed, anyway. Reluctantly she began to see and understand that God wants his children to express and receive love otherwise why be fed at all? God provides. We need not worry. It was there. Love. Cara loved her parents. Cara loved Charon and Carmichael her younger twin brother and sister, nicknamed Carbon as in carbon copy, even though she thought them alien. Loved Michael W. Smith, her notebooks, her books, her room, her homeroom teacher, Miss Fields. She loved. And then there was Peck. Peck and the light, the Jesus sunbeam, from the stained glass window. Feeding. Reaping. Cara could do that. Not worry, just accept God’s gift. Take no thought for the morrow, she remembered and tried to believe. Eventually, she did. “Peck, let me walk home with you guys.” Confused, Sarah still had Peck and Lorne by their elbows. “Come on guys.”

Kingdom of Snow 14 Connolly Cara wanted them to stop. She wanted Peck. To notice her. She stood on the street corner watching them cross and asked God what to do. He hath bestowed on you so many benefits. Then it came to her. Sing. Cara Neufeld, thirteen and insubstantial in stature, book-smart, but a social pariah, opened her arms, threw back her head and opened her mouth. This was what Sarah knew, what Sarah dreaded, secretly. Her popularity could be easily taken away. Sarah knew: Cara could sing. Out came a clear and angelic voice singing, “Sweet hour of prayer,” a hauntingly slow paean to God, and anyone on that street, on that cold late afternoon winter’s day, stopped to seek out that wondrous sound. “…that calls me from…” Peck turned, too, even though Sarah was holding him at the waist. This wasn’t what Sarah wanted, she wanted it to be different, for Cara to quietly become her confidante, not by singing, but then she saw it again for what it was an opportunity… the exposed throat, and Sarah kept her eyes fixed on the exposed throat; inside her mind icy blood coursed. Catch a cold, goddamn you, catch a cold, lose your voice and I’ll be asked to sing solo in the church choir. Lorne stood, his mouth open and stared at the little creature across the road, not more than goal to blue line in distance, with the incredible hollering. “… a world of care …” Cara sang the song through and no one moved to leave, to get out of the cold; no one coughed or sneezed. They stood stock still, silent, in awe. The traffic noise seemed to subside. The snow fell and darkness bled. That voice.

Kingdom of Snow 15 Connolly It was a secret. But Cara knew. Sarah knew too. She heard it first at Bible Camp and sought it out for herself. Sarah had first heard Cara sing at Bible Camp that previous summer. She’d recalled hearing a voice, first thing in the morning, rising amid songbirds’ warble. After finding out who was doing the singing, they became friends. They hung around together, then, collecting wildflowers, and memorizing psalms. She watched her do her vocal exercises with her father always nearby, lifting his hand in the air and tapping his foot, or playing the piano in the dining hall. “You must practice if you want to be the best,” he said to her protests that everyone else was at the beach and not stuck inside a smelly old hall doing scales or singing old-time songs. Sarah was discouraged from singing along, even though she persisted. He asked her to turn the pages of the sheet music. At least that was something her own father had never asked her to do. He’d never heard her sing, much. Mr. Neufeld said, “Be of use.” Sarah obliged, feeling it only right. Nothing came for free. Cara would purposely sing off-key or badly and sooner or later her father would release them to the sunlight, the bees in the trees, the flowers and the endless afternoon of a girl’s Bible camp, but only after admonishing his daughter. They would then run off for the beach or for a trail in the woods squealing and laughing. The afternoon cliques had already formed – the sports girls off playing baseball, the little women doing each other’s hair back in the dorms or at the beach or the tomboys smoking cigarettes and cussing down at the local general store, which also had the area’s only pinball and pachinko machines.

Kingdom of Snow 16 Connolly “Don’t you want to be with your friends, down at the store?” Cara would ask as they scampered down the path. “I want to be with you.” At first, it was uncomfortable; Sarah had no idea how she'd make up their friendship. It wasn’t something she’d earned or worked at, it just happened because of that voice. Then, well: great – So, does talent rub off? To Sarah’s unabashed response tears would form in Cara’s eyes, and she would beam. Still she would stop running and ask, “Why?” Sarah quickly said, “You’re smart and you can sing so well…” “You can sing. I heard you in church once.” “Not like you. Why don’t you sing in church? I can’t believe that voice.” Tell me your secret, how do you do it, how do you make those sounds? Cara’s voice was unfair and it made no sense to her new companion. “Father doesn’t think I’m ready just yet. He does this thing, with candles. They cross them at my throat and ask for some saints blessing. It’s kind of creepy.” There was silence there on the path, Sarah imaging burning candles dripping wax onto her throat, the hum of some blessing coming from the shadows. Cara said, “Sure I can sing, but no one wants a smarty-pants for a friend…” “You have me, so come on.” If she was Cara’s friend, then perhaps God could give her a voice as a reward. Why not? Prayers were answered, right? They would go down to the beach, where the counselors were sitting in chairs, sweaty glasses of iced tea gripped in their hands. Sarah and Cara would spread a blanket and plunk down on the sand. Sarah talked about boys, nail polish and created elaborate sandcastles. Cara read passages from books she was reading. She tried to build a

Kingdom of Snow 17 Connolly sandcastle, but ended up with just a mound of sand. Sarah made a small doll fashioned out of Popsicle sticks and thick stalks of grass and placed it on top; she’d been praised at the camp for her creations. It would fall and she would continue, without getting upset, to place it atop the castle. “Sometimes it’s hard being a girl.” Cara nodded. “Have you?” There was a silence on the beach that filled her entire life with air and nothingness. She couldn’t believe it had happened. “Have you? …” Sarah motioned downward with her eyes. “What?” “You know.” She made a face. “Where?” Sarah pointed with her chin. The sound of the water came between them briefly; a canoe was being beached. Sarah said, “I think it’s me. Don’t tell anyone at school…” She looked away to the water; a portable boom box was playing Prince. Cara changed the subject by looking away. Sarah offered, “This is a singer’s stage.” “It’s embarrassing.” “Try singing like me. That’s embarrassing.” “I don’t want people to look at me as if I’m some kind of toy, a windup toy. Sometimes, those dolls, I had a doll once that had a string on its back and when you pulled it, it would say the Lord’s Prayer.”

Kingdom of Snow 18 Connolly “Weird.” “I feel like that sometime,” said Cara. “The worst thing in the world is to be embarrassed in front of your friends – that and actually not having friends.” “Right, like when Becky hit you with that water balloon and you dropped your Kool-Aid…” Sarah replied, “She’s probably down at the store right now talking about me.” “My dad embarrasses me.” Sarah nods. Oh to have a father. Her own was less and less a part of the family. She prayed sometimes that he would just go away and then maybe her mother would be happy. She had learned early that you don’t prayer for what you want, but for what you’d like to see happen. She loved to see her father disappear. Cara and Sarah sat together at breakfast, lunch and dinner and during all activities. They were always on the same teams for volleyball or baseball; Sarah spread the word. Sarah was building points. That voice was coming any day now. But it never came and here was Cara now singing like a dream. A tear formed in Peck’s eye and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his army jacket. Liquid poetry. Sarah hid behind Lorne, facing the other way, smoking a clove cigarette – one that her departing father had told her mother one morning, without looking up from his coffee, would maker her lungs bleed. Sarah stole a cigarette from her momma’s pack on the kitchen table. Sarah smoked. Cara sang.

Kingdom of Snow 19 Connolly Slowly, as the song winded down, Cara opened her eyes to see Peck crossing the street toward her. She almost blew the last line of the song: “Farewell, sweet hour of prayer…” At the corner, Peck motioned with his ink-stained hand to come with him. Cara followed. Everything appeared lighter: her book bag, the notebook, her whole body. Sarah stared incredulously; she was stunned. “You’ve been taking singing lessons haven’t you,” Sarah said coming from behind Lorne temporarily forgetting all the protocols of popularity, forgetting her anger, her disguise. She graciously offered her cigarette to Cara, who shook her off. She said, “Sarah you know I’m not. Remember…” This made Sarah moved to jerk Cara away for a private conversation. “My father says I can do choir now, but remember…” “Remember! Remember, we talked about this…” Sarah said inching close to Cara’s face. Sarah in her mind saw a blot of blood. Somehow it all mingled for Sarah, the singing, her want of a voice, Cara’s voice, the blood she told Cara about, her missing father, clove cigarettes. All signs, all stones in the road. Cara gave a weak smile. “There some things girls, friends, don’t share with boys…” Cara wasn’t following what Sarah was talking about and it showed on her face for Sarah got closer and whispered in her ear. “Your singing.” Sarah stuffed her black wool hat on Cara’s head. That should do it, she thought. This made Cara flinch. They had agreed; Sarah wouldn’t tell anyone about Cara’s singing, but now that it was too late, Sarah’s confessions were exposed and ripe for the telling, and poor Cara, Straight-A Cara couldn’t remember her end of the pact.

Kingdom of Snow 20 Connolly Sarah sighed. “On the beach that day… At Bible Camp,” she said in a low voice. Cara nodded. “Right.” She was still unsure, but thought what they were doing then was something girls, friends, did: confide in one another. Then Cara remembered, Sarah had come to her at Bible Camp and showed her a pair of bloodied underwear. Cara had to explain to Sarah what it was and when it would come again. “Oh I knew that,” she said at the time, but Cara could tell no one had told Sarah about menstruation and it embarrassed her. To Sarah the female passage was an invitation to sex. For Cara it was more about physiology. Cara has read about it in an old biology textbook checked out of the library and she remembered a special class for the girls in the sixth grade where it was discussed. Sarah had either been there and asleep or had missed that class, it was clear to Cara. So they made a pact. Cara’s popularity-killing skill at church singing would be kept quiet and the girls’ discussion, however it was acknowledged as unfolding, would never be spoken of again. In this way Cara and Sarah brokered a deal that every relationship agrees to enact. Every relationship rests on this unwritten agreement unthinkingly concluded by the confidantes in the first days of their meeting. They are still in a kind of dream, but at the same time without knowing it, they are drawing up like uncompromising lawyers the detailed clauses of their contract between one another. In these first instances of knowing each other, it was decided between the two girls that Sarah would be the purveyor of new knowledge (“Like sex?” Cara had pointedly asked) and Cara would help Sarah sing. But children, especially Sarah Redekopf, have terrible memories, or have stronger motives for forgetting allegiances and friendships made a few months in the past, that

Kingdom of Snow 21 Connolly presently, seemingly eons later, were utter embarrassments; utterly un-cool. Friends are dropped quicker than the wrong style of blue jeans. Behind them, as boys are wont to do when girls are talking privately, the guys busied themselves to distraction. Peck showed Lorne a trick. Lorne had grown to expect these little tricks of Peck’s for he’d been Peck’s audience since they were baby playmates. Peck pulled a pair of shoelaces from his army jacket pocket. Peck’s pockets were filled with a treasure trove of irrelevant detritus – things he found on the ground or stole from stores and classmates. Pulling shoelaces from his pocket did not startle Lorne in the least. “This is a special knot,” Peck said, tying the two laces together in an elaborate knot. Lorne watched, but soon realized Peck would have to show him again. “Wait, wait. Do that again, there that twist…” Peck undid the knot and slowly reconstructed it, “… and then slide this under here…Two interconnected loops…” Over time Peck had come to recognize that his magic tricks were more lessons to Lorne than illusionary tricks. Lorne knew hockey and little else. Peck undid the laces and handed them to Lorne. He turned around and over his shoulder said, “Tie me up. Use that knot I just showed you.” By now Sarah and Cara were watching. Lorne took a couple of tries before finally, magically to him, getting the knot just right. Then he undid the knot and placed the laces around Peck’s exposed wrists before re-tying the laces into the knot Peck had shown him moments before. “There.” The knot was tight.

Kingdom of Snow 22 Connolly Peck turned around and faced them. They could not see how he was moving his hands. His shoulders moved, his eyes were gazing upon the ground. Peck was visual like Sarah and he pictured the wristband in his mind. He pictured the knot. He shrugged his shoulder, one up and then down, the other up then down. He moved his wrists, wiggled his fingers. The binding came loose. He could feel it. Peck made more of a show of it, “And Abra…” “Cadabra,” responded Cara. And Peck was loose of the bounds. He held the laces up for all to see. Sarah and Cara clapped and cheered. Lorne sulked. The winter darkness oozed through the leafless oak branches overhanging them on the sidewalk. Behind them the traffic continued droning as they all set out walking. Now and again a horn sounded, a door was slammed shut or a voice called out for a child or a dog. Masses of shadow here and there flowed out in the darkness and sometimes, vibrating with one pulsating movement, the surging darkness rose up and swaying like an immense black wave pressed forward to engulf them. The snow shone silver blue. The cold of the early night made them clasp their jackets closer; their breath obscured their indignant expressions. It was time to get out of the cold. They could go home, but none of them were eager for that destination. Peck had nothing to go home to, his house nothing but a passel of ghosts; Lorne knew his family would be waiting, sitting around the dinner table their Bibles open and ready; Sarah wasn’t interested in having her lap used as a pillow for her drunk momma and Cara, she wasn’t thinking at all about home. God had

Kingdom of Snow 23 Connolly given her this night. Their squinting eyes could hardly see their continued progress and in their midst low words were uttered and fell crystalline on their souls echoing in each a different vibrating pitch. Ahead of them a field, and in the distance, on the riverbank a few stark buildings stood in silhouette against a canvas of winter stars.

Kingdom of Snow 24 Connolly

Two “Where are we going?” Cara asked, breathless, running after them across the field jumping from time to time into the footprints they left. Even though she was very cold, Cara could hardly contain her joy and the heat generated of the moment. Peck. She felt like singing out loud, again, but decided against it. Gulps of breath came in cold and the snow, dropping in gusts and flakes, continued to whip her face as she ran holding her book bag and notebook in close against her chest. The traffic was distant now. The street lamps and houses behind them faded. Row upon row of houses, slow moving cars and people all in the distance shrunk. Cara glanced away to those houses across the street, where lights lit up living room windows; along the street and near the houses small shadowy figures moved. A block from this was her house. Briefly she thought of leaving her classmates and going home as her mother had instructed her to do when she’d called from the school. It would be the umpteenth time Cara doubted what she was doing. After detention, the one she deliberately got for snapping bubblegum in a science class so she could be near Peck in detention; she had no idea the finer details of her plan. Earlier that day she saw Peck get a detention for sleeping while in class, so Cara decided to do something, anything, to be in there with the object of her affection. When she got to the study hall she was surprised to see so many students in the hour-long detention, which began shortly after school ended for the day at 3:45 p.m. Shortly after four, though, Principal Skinner drew the students’ punishment to a close and told every one to get home on account of an approaching storm. When Cara found herself at the school doors

Kingdom of Snow 25 Connolly looking out at the approaching winter gloom, she couldn’t possible imagine herself walking home with Peck. He passed by and didn’t even look in her direction. Cara thought briefly about running after him and his friends, but it was cold, it was dark. Cara phoned her mother instead. “Mom, can you come pick me up?” Right away her mother asked about her whereabouts, why hadn’t she come right home from school. Cara lied and told her mother she was in a chess club meeting. Meanwhile Wanda wasn’t really listening. Mothers are amazingly good at prioritizing in their heads as their children speak to them. But children are equally adept at perceiving a lack of attention. Cara could tell her mother was distracted by something. Apparently she was bothered by the antics of Carbon, both of whom was outside playing around and wouldn’t come to their mother’s call; Wanda told Cara she had her hands full. “Walk home. The twins need me…” Cara could hear her mother calling out her brother and sisters’ name. Then the line went dead. It was another sign from God, thought Cara – He wanted her to walk home with Peck a feat she was more or less resolved to accomplish because it seemed predestined. She hurried out the school to catch up to Peck and the others. That was nearly a half an hour ago. Now, Cara Neufeld looked ahead and saw Sarah, Lorne and Peck bob up and down as shivering black globs running through the white field towards the buildings. Peck dropped onto his back and made a quick snow angel before leaping back up and running towards the darkness. Someone yelled and there was a chorus of screeches. An electric thrill ran through her and Cara felt a part of them. She was doing this. So she turned and ran after their voices in the winter dark blissfully crying out, “Where are we going?”

Kingdom of Snow 26 Connolly Ahead, Sarah giggled. It would be great to have another girl around, to be popular with and besides hadn’t she been asking God to help her with singing. Ever since detention she wondered what Cara Neufeld, Straight-A Cara, was up to; it didn’t make sense that the school’s perfect student would be in detention to begin with and now here she was running after them. Sarah saw it as a sign from God; a Zeus-like man with a long white flowing beard pointed at her with a thunderbolt. The exposed throat, a cold, a chance to sing the solo. But singing was a mysterious thing. Her momma, Lily, had been a singer in a band years ago. “That’s how your father fell in love with me,” Lily told her daughter. Sarah found it hard to believe that her momma could sing at all. She sang a little when she dusted the house or made dinner, but never fully out loud. Sarah was encouraged to sing, by her father, but that was the only thing he ever paid attention to, Sarah’s “rather pathetic, but cute,” attempt at singing. “She’s no Janis Joplin,” her momma said at the dinner table one night a few months ago. Sarah had left the table to answer the phone. She had pulled the receiver around the corner to have a private conversation with Lorne. Sarah could still hear her parents talking. “No that’s you, remember,” her father, Frank, had said. “Thankfully you’re daughter is not you. Her singing is rather pathetic…” Sarah walked into the dinning room after hanging up the phone, “But cute,” said her father. She kept her eyes on her father, who she adored. “That’s who they said I sounded like. Janie Joplin. Honey pass the potatoes, be a dear,” her momma said taking a sip of vodka from a plastic cup adorned with paisley flowers and psychedelic shooting stars.

Kingdom of Snow 27 Connolly “That’s Janis,” her father corrected her. He passed the potatoes. On the snowy field, under winter constellations, Peck and Lorne thundered ahead yelling out, “To the Cannabis Cathedral.” Cara finally reached them and grabbed hold of Sarah’s arm. Half-cocked on Cara’s sweaty head was Sara’s wool cap. At first Sarah looked aghast at Cara, and then her expression softened; Sarah thought, this girl could sing, she could learn a thing or two from Cara. Peck, then Lorne, climbed over a barb wire fence, holding the spiky wire down for Sarah and then Cara to get across. “Everybody knows nuns invented barbed wire,” Peck said to no one in particular. The field, beyond the barb wired fence that bordered the yard, was pockmarked with unaccountably protruding rocks, rusted machinery, and buildings here and there in islands seemingly floating above drifts and looming snow banks – ships tossed at sea. It was away from the traffic and homes along the river and to the local teenagers it was a special place. This was where popularity took its hold, where exploits and challenges were forged and overcome ensuring the victorious big time high school attention. To those never popular its mechanism of creation, at once fickle and entrenching, was obscure; it was a Rube Goldberg engine that required secret fuel for power. This was the place, to be sure, but more needed to happen; it wasn’t simply a matter of being at the right place at the right time. It was that and the ability to accept the testing occurrence, or the challenge at hand in whatever guise it presented itself. It could be a joke that’s parlayed into a personality; admiration for carnal knowledge or sexual experience real or purely imaginary; it could be a test of will or one of sheer muscle. This something else, the confluence of location and pluck, was occasioned here and someone, those entering the arena of popularity, was initiated, here.

Kingdom of Snow 28 Connolly They stood in an unacknowledged moment of awkward half-silence to take in its enormity and its mystery. Sarah held Cara’s hand. There were just a few buildings, but in the gathered youths’ underlying hubbub they began to collectively drone reverentially about the structures’ sanctity. It was a proving ground, a place where gang and graffiti signs chronicled the local history of youth, where the countless cigarette butts, torn pages of pornography, empty cartons and cans, the accrual of their adolescent ephemera produced their mythology. It was an ongoing time capsule, diachronic and democratic, devoid of adult intervention. In fact, the detritus insinuated these young people and their insouciance into the last dregs of the industrial age by largely taking over these abandoned tool sheds and light industrial buildings bordering the rusted and outmoded rail way lines. The presence was like a creeping vine chocking off oxygen to its host. This was a slow revolution, a coup nevertheless of epic proportions. Heroes and heroines were remembered here and legends born. It was holy ground and they compliant mendicants suitably awed as if Mecca, Jerusalem or the Bondhi tree lay within reach. This was a place Cara and Sarah had heard about in school as if it were the very center of the universe. It was private property and there were no adults anywhere to be found. Cara found it exciting to be standing there on a Friday night awaiting whatever cool experience. There would be talk at the school Monday of her exploits. This was good. Lorne broke the reverence. “There’s no dogs right?” “Dogs?” Sarah asked, letting go of Cara’s hand. “Right no, like, guard dogs.”

Kingdom of Snow 29 Connolly Everyone assured Lorne there were no dogs, they did so in unison peering into the vast darkness before them, more out of a need to assure themselves than simply the incantation of the words, guard dog, could produce one similar to the rabid hounds circling their imaginations. Lorne appeared assuaged. “You light my way,” he said in a voice that sounded like he’d rehearsed the line and grabbed hold of Sarah from behind, lifting her easily off the ground. “Look at how we move.” There were times when passion surprised Lorne, surprised him because it was not linked to hockey. It fluttered in his chest, first, a little turn and before coursing through his veins. It made him strong and big, and hard. He swung Sarah like a rag doll and they stared at their shadows pitched upon the ground by sharp winter moonlight coursing through the falling snow. Lorne’s dark double towered, his stature making him portentous against a snowdrift. The looming suitor swallowed Sarah and she worried briefly about vanishing altogether – she laughed, nervously like a little girl being swung by her father. Sarah looked about for stones. This was her thing. He spoke in stone. She was not speaking to herself or what might be euphemistically called an imaginary friend. Sarah was speaking to her savior. Her savior spoke not in words, but in stones. White stones. It was one of those things youth carry in their quiet bodies from infancy, an internalized worldview that isn’t solidified in exchange with others, but made all the more ethereal by submersion deeper into their own thoughts and marrow. Sarah knew, but told no one. He spoke in stone. “You’re just about half gone,” Lorne said as they moved closer to the building called the Cannabis Cathedral – an obsolete grain elevator that in times of prosperity farmers in the area called a prairie cathedral. Sarah was looking around. The stones she

Kingdom of Snow 30 Connolly saw, the inexplicable boulders in the otherwise barren field near the river, were not words she recognized, so instead she formed trees into pirouetting dancers skirted by grounded sylphs with hoarfrost wings alight. Shacks became rooks or jaunty top hats. She alone beautified this proving ground. Peck was never where his feet took him. Nearby, Peck, cinching up his collar and scarf, counted the emerging winter stars, out loud, and connected the rambling dots with his finger. “Eight” he said, and then, almost under his breath, “The wind seems to be pushing them into a fall. They have exited Hell and have entered Nether.” He’d been reading Dante’s “Inferno,” one of the several books his ailing grandfather had given him. Peck sounded as if he’d received an education none of the others got – or would ever get. Cara wanted this other knowledge. She knew here in this field, in this place, book-learners hesitated and lost. And yet, Peck was the exception it seemed. Both able to quote from a book and still remain utterly cool and lovable, Cara thought and nearly squealed out loud. She wanted to close the gulf between her and Peck. Staring at him, Cara raised her voice to the level of a hum. The humming lifted fog from her nostrils and slightly parted lips, and floated briefly as a hymn of incredible beauty in winter’s fatally freezing crackling air. Soon their parents would be missing them, but before then, before they had to walk through those doors and became whatever was required, they stood in a field before the Cathedral; to the west the sky’s last dregs, nothing more than tresses, drained the skim milk daylight, Peck had earlier called “blue john.” “Let’s go in and have a smoke,” Sarah said breathlessly breaking from Lorne’s hold.

Kingdom of Snow 31 Connolly “Won’t we be late?” asked Cara, pushing the wool cap out of her eyes. “I have to be home…” She regretted saying it as it was leaving her cold lips. “Oh Cara. We’re already late,” Sarah said over the increasing wind. She could barely contain her glee. Being with boys was fun, and dangerous. “Breakaway to the cathedral!” Lorne barked and strode through the snowflake defense. They stepped into the cavernous structure, the smell of old machines and tools, clinging to its walls, bore down on them, but at least it was some reprieve from the elements. The Cathedral was just over twenty feet in height. It no longer had doors on either sides or a roof to speak of, just a few flimsy boards, like ribs sticking out. Inside it was all sky. Its gray-boarded walls, rattling and buckling in the bracing wind, were covered in graffiti and ice. All day long the Cathedral’s interior would heat up, thawing the ice and snow, which clung to the structure. By night, with temperatures dropping, the rivulets of water turned to steely ice. They went to a platform, which ran alongside the west, inside wall. Moonlight cast the interior in blue and darker blue. “Gone for good,” and “Yor,” were scrawled above the platform in fading black spray paint. “What’s missing from chrch?” was written beneath it in faded red, the “u” intentionally missing. A single cross, a large eye and mad annulus and curves finished the collage. “Skinner’s daughter did that,” Lorne said, pointing at the “Gone for good,” graffiti script. “Skinny did that.” His breath came out in puffs of crystallized air. He was talking about the principal’s daughter who ran away the past summer when she was sixteen and hadn’t been seen or heard from since.

Kingdom of Snow 32 Connolly “Really! Nah, that’s talk,” said Sarah, stepping back into Lorne’s body. “She left a long time ago.” “If people say she did it, she probably did,” Peck said strongly and hoisted himself on the platform. “Knowing our church, she couldn’t wait to get away from them.” The Skinners were members of their church, The Crossing, too. Their principal was one of the church’s elders as were Lorne Penner’s parents. Cara jumped up beside Peck and stared at the graffiti. There was a silence in the cathedral, permeated only by the howling of wind outside. Lorne gave out a howl, and grabbed Sarah around the waist, placing her on the platform. “She’s the most popular girl…” said Sarah. “…Not in school,” Peck continued. “Running away has to be the ultimate ‘Fuck You’ to the world. To go, just go it alone and not to tell anyone. Brilliant.” “Brilliant,” Cara said softly. Peck was staring at the door near the platform on the west wall. “I came here one night. Just to think. My parents thought I stayed at Larry’s – they were furious. ‘That youth minister,’ they used to say and wag their finger at me. But I didn’t stay with him. Slept right in there, that tool shed closet thing, the whole night,” Peck said pointing to a door near the platform. “Weren’t you afraid?” Cara asked and blew on her cupped hands, which were all bony knuckles and white. No one was sure if she were talking about staying overnight in the grain elevator or if Cara was talking about Larry. It was a taboo subject between Sarah, Lorne and Peck, not oft expressed. Larry was off limits, unless Peck brought him up.

Kingdom of Snow 33 Connolly Peck shook his head. He hadn’t been scared. They sat on the edge of the platform and Peck and Sarah smoked a cigarette, while Cara watched and while Lorne stood standing with his hands in his pockets in a shaft of new moonlight. The young are always making excuses for themselves, and Lorne was no different, feeling the pressure of not smoking a cigarette. “Hockey players need their lungs,” he said tapping at his large chest. He was so strong and imposing. Sarah loved him like every bold shape she conjured from the nothingness. He was beauty. Sarah could look at him for hours, the laugh lines on his face, his eyes knowing, his hands, warm. He was a rock. When he held her, she felt whole and radiant, and always knew he’d be there for her. Peck was emptying his pockets onto the platform (he’d lost a Cat’s Eye marble back there in the field doing the snow angel, he was sure of it; either that or Inez his sister, who expressed a fondness for the marble had stolen it from him. He remembered she asked in her own little language, “Cubat's Ubeye, fubor mube?”) and they silently watched him. He collected the wildest things: rubber bands to be sure, but also bird feathers, marbles, torn up pieces of paper, rocks, laces, spent match covers, bottle caps. On Sundays, Peck dropped some of these items in the collection plate at church. Last week he’d found a postage stamp depicting an old four-wing air plane flying upside down. He threw that into the collection plate. “My grandfather told me that I should always take things from the places I’ve been, so I would always know how to get back. Things tell you their history. History is what we throw away.” “How does that work?” asked Lorne, his voice earnest.

Kingdom of Snow 34 Connolly “Everything has a story, I guess. Take this match cover. Got a number on it. I found it by that telephone booth on Hickson, by the drugstore. I called the number last Wednesday, and a guy answered. I didn’t say anything. The guy says he can hear me breathing. ‘Angie, I can hear you breathin.’ Imagine that.” “What did you do?” Sarah asked and pictured this Angie as a waitress with long blonde hair and red lips. “Hung up. The guy was starting to cry…or something…It was a little weird. But I never forgot where I found this match cover. I got a mental picture of it right here.” He tapped his temple. “Hey. Remember when we were kids and we played that game,” Cara said so suddenly that a silence fell over the group. Their collective breath hung in the enclosed air as if a cloud. There were all still a little stunned over how beautiful Cara’s voice was; Sarah in particular was both awed and vexed by the singing voice. Cara would most certainly get the church choir solo spot that Sarah secretly wanted. “What was the game called?” Peck asked and looked at Sarah, then Lorne. “I can’t remember, but it was like all that stuff. I mean all those stories there. Like that pack of matches. We played it at birthdays…” “Yeah,” screamed Sarah. “It was sooo much fun.” “No, I remember,” Peck offered. “There was a tray…and…” Although she didn’t want to appear to be a dweeb, Sarah recalled those birthday games. Red, white and blue rubber balls, taffy bars and tiddley-winks. “There’d be all this stuff on a tray. Scissors, cotton balls, paper clips, a pin, a blue balloon… Just stuff,” Cara said.

Kingdom of Snow 35 Connolly “And cover it with a towel,” Peck said and motioned with his hands as if he was actually covering a tray of scissors, cotton balls and such. Cara pointed at Peck (she’d practiced that very gesture in her bedroom mirror). “They’d turn around and take something away. But not the scissors.” “Too big,” Lorne offered. He was leaning against Sarah’s legs. She gave him a punch in the shoulder for helping Cara out; the punch didn’t register. “Yeah. They’d take something small away, but something that was unique, the balloon, say.” “Cover it up,” Peck said. “And then viola!” Cara nodded. “Parties. Birthday parties. I always got to sing ‘happy birthday’ solo.” That last part ended in a whisper. Cara realized she had been nattering on and didn’t want to sound like a complete goof in front of Peck. But then, he smiled. “Why haven’t we known each other all our lives?” “But we have. We just…” Cara began to say to Peck. Sarah interjected, “Our families go to the same church, right. But you know.” “My parents keep to themselves, mostly,” Lorne said. “My parents are great, when they’re together,” said Sarah. Peck laughed, “My parents are freaking aliens.” Everyone laughed. Then Peck said, “Sing it Cara, please!” “What?” “The birthday song.”

Kingdom of Snow 36 Connolly But Sarah wanted to hear more about the game. It brought back such great memories. Her father’s big hands handing her a present. “Wait, wait, don’t go, what about the tray thingey?” She didn’t want Cara to sing. “Well, they pulled the towel away and you had to guess what was missing. The one to do it won a prize.” Lorne said, “Oh, okay, I think there’s a parable in the Bible like that…” It was a habit he’d acquired from his parents who were always quoting Scripture. “Don’t start that, not now,” Sarah said and kissed him on the cheek. The kiss registered. It was Peck that asked her to sing; he insisted, but didn’t look up from his lap. “Come on sing the birthday song. Sing for us.” He was looking at a jumble of things in his lap; he kept covering it all with a tissue, closing his eyes, and opening them again taking away the tissue. “Sing the birthday song.” He had a vacant look in his eyes. Sarah blurted out, “She doesn’t want to do that, she’s not a trained monkey you guys…” Why would she want to sing, wouldn’t that be embarrassing? What was her secret? And she did. She sang it straight through and it made the building, cavernous as it was, resound with waves of joyous sound. The air got warmer, walls thawed, ever so briefly. But it was only in their minds. When she was done singing, it was as if someone had punched Sarah in the gut or fed her acidic lemons. Sharp nails floated in her stomach. Cara’s head dropped too and

Kingdom of Snow 37 Connolly her chin went to her chest. Barely audible she said, “You guys are great. God, it’s cold, my lips are numb.” Sarah heard, “lips” and “numb,” and pounced, “Hey that spelling bee at Bible camp.” It was an opportunity to score some points, to entrench her popularity, to bring up a past success. Cara laughed nervously. At Bible Camp that previous summer, the first time Sarah and Cara had come to know one another, Sarah had won the perennial spelling bee, while Cara, Straight-A Cara, had come an inexplicable second. “I heard he locked you in your cabin – is that right?” Lorne asked and was promptly kicked by Sarah who was aghast her boyfriend would repeat a secret she’d told him. “Well, that’s what I heard.” His eyes said, “From you.” Cara looked at Sarah and said as plain as day: “Chrysanthemum.” She winced and Sarah said rather indignantly, “It’s a hard word to spell.” Cara replied, slowly: “C-h-r-y-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m.” “You…” Sarah could hardly believe it. Cara closed her eyes, “C-h-r-y-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m.” “Cara: You could have won that damn spelling bee and then he wouldn’t have gotten so mad. And then…” Cara pictured her father in her mind, but didn’t want to. She wanted this moment to be over so that the rest of her life she’d be a popular girl, someone Peck would want to hang out with, talk to on the telephone, and has as his girlfriend. Her stomach roiled. It was her father’s fault she didn’t have many friends, and wasn’t popular. It was his fault she wore lousy clothes. His fault she was smart. “I’m not his trained monkey.” She was talking about her father, Barry Neufeld.

Kingdom of Snow 38 Connolly “But…” “He’s always giving me words to spell at home, always making me do math formulas at the kitchen table, all those history books he bought and put in my room, for what? So people can think I’m a, a, fucking…” “Goddamit, Cara …” “…Fucking freak! Sarah, you’ve seen how mad he can get. Chrysanthemums. God, we’ve got them growing in the backyard in the summer. Of course I knew how to spell it. And I knew he’d get mad. So I hid from him. I can hide places where no one will ever find me. That was a just a rumor that he locked me in the cabin.” “So you let me win?” It hurt; the color drained from her face. Cara’s face brightened with a grin that subsided as quickly as it arrived. “You’re my friend.” Her voice rose at the end in a questioning tone. “That’s not being a friend,” Sarah said highly embarrassed. “You let Sarah win?” Peck said and laughed. “I didn’t lie. I did it so he’d get the idea.” “We have secrets we don’t tell anyone else,” Sarah said more loudly than she intended. Why would you tell someone about your secrets unless you hoped they would tell you theirs? “Sarah, spelling bee queen,” Peck said laughing. “That’s not fair, is it—Lorne.” Lorne said, “Well…” “Come on for Pete’s sake are you going to let them make fun of me. Geez, I’m smart,” Sarah interrupted because, frankly, Lorne wasn’t too quick on the draw.

Kingdom of Snow 39 Connolly “I didn’t…” he offered to no avail. Sing dammit sing. “Shut up.” “I wish I could be as brave as Leslie Skinner,” Cara said almost inaudibly. Then, the only sound was the wind and the elevator boards creaking in protest. It was Peck who broke the silence. “I think we need the weed,” Peck said, withdrawing a marijuana joint from his jacket. “Blue sage—mondo.” He lighted the joint and passed it first to Sarah who’d had a puff of a marijuana cigarette just a few months ago, apart of her initiation into the ranks of schoolyard gods. “I am too smart,” she said and took the joint in her fingers. After she’d finished toking, she handed the joint to Cara. She shook her head. “I just wanted to be your friend…” “Come on, Cara, one puff, you don’t have to inhale,” she said. Deep down Sarah knew her popularity had something to do with her developing breasts. She also knew it was getting lonely; being one of the chosen few girls to be popular with the boys was lonely. She handed the joint to Cara. Cara took the joint and put it to her mouth. The end grew brightly as she sucked on the joint. She immediately began to cough. “Here, here, don’t drop it,” Lorne said taking it from her. “Hockey players need to relax, too.” He took a hit. For a while there was nothing but the sound of the wind, gusts of beautifully sparkling snow at their feet. Sarah was stoned; she watched a wayward snowflake land on the tip of her nose. It was good grass, and soon all four of them were high. The storm

Kingdom of Snow 40 Connolly outside, its whirling gusts of topsail snow and chilling temperatures hadn’t had a chance against the numbing impact of blue sage. Lorne howled like a wolf, baying, his throat stretched, his head thrown back. When a dog barked in reply nearby, he stopped immediately a surprised look on his face. He smiled sheepishly at Sarah. Although she’d taken only one puff and coughed until her eyes filled with tears, Cara was clearly stoned too. “Gone for good,” she said, and laughed. She was covered in feather light diamonds. Everyone else laughed too and soon they were all rolling around the platform, “gone, gone, gone…” Peels of laughter and shouting came from the wrestling mass. “The most popular girl not in high school!!!” “I’m having a vision quest,” Peck said and looked at something on the floor that wasn’t there – a snow mirage composed of hexagon accumulation. “You know like the young Indian warrior sent out into the forest to conquer his shadow.” The children were either happily oblivious or too stoned to notice the building was beginning to quake, shaking from the force of a ferocious winter gale. Gusts of snow thrust into the Cathedral from its exposed roof, its empty windowpanes and doorways. “Like Job, or Ezekiel,” offered Lorne, who also stared at the ground. “I just go to my room…” Sarah said, her voice trailing off. In her room she’d been practicing her singing; at choir it had been announced a new solo would be incorporated into the Christmas Eve service when her father said he’d be in town. She looked up to see snow falling from the sky. She wondered where her father was and what he was doing. Lorne continued, eyes closed, “They rolled the rock away and he wasn’t there…”

Kingdom of Snow 41 Connolly “And the young warrior saw his future in the cold eyes of the wolf, the wind in the trees, the way of the water…” “Can I be your friend?” They turned together and looked at her. Sarah took her attention away from the falling snow inside the Cathedral. Cara was searching their faces, looking from one to another. “Peck…” What if she caught a cold? Maybe if she was popular too, I could learn to sing from her… “She must stay here the night. If you really want to piss off the old man – like Skinny did to fuck up Principal Skinner – you have to stay here tonight.” Every one turned to look at Sarah who had never before used such language. Peck finally said, “Sarah’s right, you must have your own vision quest, your own time here alone to gather your thoughts, to…” “Calm and quiet the soul,” Lorne said and raised his hands into the air flecked with flurries. He was imitating his father. Peck pulled Cara off the platform. “Our own initiate. We must exercise.” He took the pair of skate laces from his pocket, scattering pennies and marbles from his coat pocket on the white ground. “What should I do?” Cara asked and dramatically thrust out her thin wrists. It was Peck, after all. Peck tied up Cara’s wrists. “Lock her in her room,” said Sarah and Lorne, grabbing her. They pointed toward the tool closet in the corner where Peck had slept. Lock up that voice. Drown the monkey. Make her useless. Chrysanthemum. “C-h-r-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m,” Sarah tried.

Kingdom of Snow 42 Connolly “Friends are friends forever…” Cara sung. It was a popular Christian song and it was her favorite. “Never and never, ever shall we not be…” “Into your room…” the old door swung open, and into the darkness they pitched her beige book bag and Cara who was giggling followed. “Chrysanthemums,” she squealed, “Chrysanthemums.” All three pushed the door and it slammed shut – and it crunched. “This place is so old,” Lorne said looking up at the walls, the open roof. “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous,” Lorne said looking up at the winter sky darkening and then the closet. “Come on Sarah, I’ll walk you home.” She said, “Continue.” “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother…” “Father?” Peck offered. “The Cosmic Christ…. My soul is like the weaned child that is with me…” “Cara?” Sarah said and opened the door. Cara was sitting on her haunches; the rolled up notebook in a tight grip. “I’ll show ‘em.” Take no thought for the morrow. This seemed to inspire Peck for he leaned in and kissed Cara on the forehead. He pulled the black wool cap down on her head in a brotherly way. She closed the door pulling on its rusty handle. Sarah grabbed at the two boys. “Is this okay, I mean? It’ll be cool right. She’ll…” Peck offered, “It’s cool, really. No problem.” “Let’s get her out of there and go home,” said Lorne. Sarah nodded. “This isn’t right. Is it?”

Kingdom of Snow 43 Connolly “But then nothing will change in her life,” Peck said. “And, this will change her life?” Sarah asked. “Hers, yours, mine. She’ll continue to be Daddy’s girl, Straight-A Cara, the one no one talks to… When word gets out about this, that she did this. We’re her witnesses.” “But what did we see?” Lorne asked. “Anyone asks about Cara and we have to…” Peck began. “Right, now anyone asks about Cara and we say…” Sarah continued. Surely Cara would catch a cold. But Christmas Eve was another month away! She’ll be grounded! And I won’t be only popular girl around. “We know nothing,” offered Peck “Last saw her on Tinker,” said Lorne. “It’s just a game. She’s the most popular girl not in high school…,” Sarah said to the boys and then to the battered door, “Call you later.” The door would not shut properly. Lorne lifted an oil-saturated railway tie from a nearby pile of garbage and leaned it against the door. The light inside the cathedral grew darker. Her voice, clear, but obviously scared, could be heard through the flimsy door. “Peck, was it warm enough in here for you?” He didn’t answer her question. Instead Peck said, “This is what it means to leave your mark on the world. Stare into the darkness and do not be afraid. Abra…” “…Cadabra.”

Kingdom of Snow 44 Connolly Not a good thing to do, mention being afraid. Sarah stood in the doorway with Lorne. He smelled her hair. He wanted her, and she was thinking about it, he knew. Soon he would have her and he would be a man. You have to be able to put the puck in the net. Peck turned from the door and before leaving bent down to picked up something from the ground. He held it up saying it was a brass pin the kind used to squeeze through an eyelet of a badge that could be fastened to a lapel. It was a tiny tin anchor. “Hey look,” he said turning, but then remembered no one was there. There was nothing but the moonlight being chewed by shadows, a door, an oily column of wood, a section of indecipherable graffito. The Cathedral shuddered against the bracing winds. “Cara! This is your re-birth!” Peck had to scream to be heard over the howl. “Goodbye,” she sung in a voice that rang in Sarah’s bones.

A few blocks from the Cathedral the driving wind made walking difficult. Snow was beginning to whip hard from the dark sky. A car was abandoned in a ditch and was being devoured by a snowdrift. People were watching from their living room windows glad to be out of the storm. In the obsolete grain elevator the unforgiving winter, with its immaculate snow and luminous frost, grew tempestuous. Near the platform, the tool closet door opened just a little, and Cara inside, humming, saw that she was in trouble…

Kingdom of Snow 45 Connolly

Three Outside the diaphanous confines of the Cannabis Cathedral the night was spiraling out of control from a ferocious winter storm. A blast of icy wind hit them as soon as they were outside. The storm made them think immediately of nothing else, but of getting home. It’s something in the brain, an endurance mechanism that goes off when confronted by adverse conditions. They could have turned to seek what shelter the old grain elevator provided, but instead, cursing, they moved forward. There was no telling what it would be like in the Cathedral in an hour or so. Home wasn’t far. Self-preservation made them think only of themselves. The storm afforded them some cover, in terms of an excuse for their tardiness; it might even serve as a diversion for their malingering. This was on their minds, not was behind them. None of them turned, or thought of Cara in the tool shed, inside the Cathedral. It was part of that survival instinct perhaps or simple ignorance. Sarah remembered her hat, patted her head, and continued on. They stooped into themselves to get out of the wind and pulled their jacket collars up tight against their necks. Sarah, Lorne and Peck moved slowly through the darkness, over a field of broken luminous snow helping one another from time to time through the blizzard, over the barbed wire fence forged by nuns and across the rutted and icy street wrought by Old Man Winter. Visibility was poor on account of the flying snow. All three of them were soon covered in a layer of illuminant snow and frost. Their eyelashes were freezing together. Turning at what was once a street corner now rounded in accumulated

Kingdom of Snow 46 Connolly snow Peck gave a little wave and broke into a trot, leaving Lorne and Sarah. The couple continued a few blocks, and Lorne saw a car advancing slowly, its lights on illuminating the storm’s maelstrom. It was his parents. Lorne opened the back door and let Sarah climb into the warm vehicle. Lorne got in and closed the door. The car rocked, but the storm at the very least was outside. They burned with the cold. Their skin ached in the burgeoning heat and as precipitation dripped from their cheeks and foreheads. “Thank God we found you,” said Lorne’s father, Tobias looking up at rearview mirror. The Penners drove Sarah to her home, four blocks away and then over snowfilled precarious roads made the journey home, a few miles away. Tobias parked the car as best he could in the obscured driveway and ran into their house. It was at this time that Lorne was about to say something. He was taking off his jacket and boots. Cara. But his mother, Vinita, spoke up. “You’ll be ready in a few minutes, yaw.” Her expression was stern. She unraveled her scarf and hung it on a hook. “Boys,” Tobias yelled from another room. “What tonight?” He could hear his five brothers running down the stairs from their bedrooms. Vinita gave him a look and turned away. Heat rose to Lorne’s cheeks again. “Yes, mama,” Lorne said and followed her to the living room. Everyone in the family was there; his father Tobias, Vinita and his brothers Walter, Stephen, Kirk, Reilly, and Christopher; all barefoot, and lined up sitting on the couch. A large wash basin with warm water was before them on a coffee table.

Kingdom of Snow 47 Connolly The youngest, Christopher said excitedly and clapped his hands making a cupping sound, “Daddy goes first right?”

Sarah found her mother, Lily, asleep on the couch when she arrived at her dark home. Dinner was in the oven, a scrawled note on the refrigerator whiteboard read. Inside the oven something black crackled and spat in the heat. Sarah closed the oven door and turned off the gas. The stench was revolting. Sarah turned on the kitchen fan. On the nearby counter an empty bottle of vodka sat atop some papers – bills. The house was quiet, buffeted from time to time by the storm. She went out into the hall and opened a closet withdrawing a blanket. Before covering her mother, Sarah slid beneath her mother’s legs. She sat there in the darkness, with her mother snoring, staring out the window at nothing at all. “Did father call?” she asked in a whisper.

Peck walked in through the backdoor. His entire family: father, mother, and two little sisters were at the dinner table, eating. They didn’t rise to greet him nor did they utter a word. The air was filled with dry furnace heat and crackling static electricity, which smelled to Peck like iron. His family kept gazed at their dinner plates upon which were heaps of potatoes, pork chops and peas. Peck meekly said, “I’m home,” and went upstairs to his room. He stripped to his underwear, turned on the radio, and sat on his bed smoking a cigarette, his bedroom window propped open to let the smoke out. Soon there was a sound at his door. It was Inez and her asthmatic wheezing. He heard her take a shot from her inhaler. The door fell open slowly and Peck saw his

Kingdom of Snow 48 Connolly younger sister standing there in a shank of moonlight, her bobbed black hair, braces, and blotchy skin making her apparition particularly frightful in the bad light. Inez dryly said, “Dubead yubet?” He turned away and flicked the cigarette butt through the open window into the darkening snowstorm. Practice made perfect.

The frantic calls to Sarah, Lorne and Peck came at around eight that night. Barry and Wanda Neufeld used the church directory to call and ask if anyone had seen Cara, their daughter. It was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the high school to their home, tops. Cara had called; she was in detention, but on account of a coming storm the principal had adjourned detention early sending the students home shortly after four. When Cara called Wanda had told her to walk. “It’s only six. But this weather…” Barry had asked coming in from work slightly expansive and boorishly. He’d been drinking, it was his Friday thing. He’d been expecting recrimination. Once the “whistle blows” on a Friday he and the other mechanics head over to a local hotel to drink beers and play darts. Tonight was no different. Barry came into the house to find Wanda in hysterics. Cara hadn’t come home, yet. He checked the kitchen clock again. “She walks home all the time.” “But not in darkness and when it’s storming,” he said pointing to the window half in an attempt to divert attention from his drunkenness, but also out of concern for his daughter, his pretty flower. “If you’d been home you could have picked her up…”

Kingdom of Snow 49 Connolly “What about…” “Charon and Carmichael were outside and I lost sight of them…” Wanda was known to be a tad over-protective of the twins, born premature by six weeks. At eleven, not much younger than Cara, Charon and Carmichael still resembled skinny seven year olds, but surely they could be out of doors without the gaze of a parent? Wanda didn’t share that sentiment. The twins were small and wiry; Charon and Carmichael had identical dark eyes, jet-black hair and pallid skin. They were euphemistically referred to as Carbon, as in Carbon Copy as in CC. As with most identical twins, proclivities, doubled, came off freakish; Charon and Carmichael did not disappoint. They always pooled resources it was said, and often wore a surreptitious expression leading one to think that they shared some secret. “Such small shadowy figures,” Principal Skinner said once. “Alas no two snowflakes are alike.” Lately, the twins had developed an ardent penchant for puzzles and riddles and were annoying everyone with tests and pontifications and would have received nothing save blank attention if it weren’t for their intrinsically beautifully faces; Wanda had sent them out that night out of sheer exhaustion, and then instantly regretted it. She was about to retrieve them, when the phone rang. Distracted, she answered without full attention and found that it was Cara. “Walk home; the twins need me. The twins are outside…” As she told Barry that she’d lost sight of them when Cara had called. When she said this, the twins on the stairs out of sight of their parents hugged one another. They bowed their tiny heads in prayer. “What were you doing? It was cold. A storm was coming.” Barry stopped to catch his breath. He looked incredulously at his wife and shook his head.

Kingdom of Snow 50 Connolly “Where were you?” Wanda yelled. She had been waiting to blast him and it felt oddly good to finally be yelling at her husband, his breath bad, his balance off. Barry turned away shaggily, “I’m going to drive around. You start making calls. You might want to call Skinner first,” he said and grabbed the church directory from atop the refrigerator; he tossed the book at Wanda and proceeded to nearly fall down the back stairs to the door. Wanda called the principal and he said he’d not seen Cara since detention. He would go out in his car to have a look though and get back to her. Wanda thanked him and hung up. She went through the church directory calling the families she knew and when she exhausted those she began going through the directory alphabetically. By this time, Barry had returned looking pale and dehydrated. “It’s terrible out there. God, where can she be? I look everywhere…” He lumbered to the kitchen sink and ducked his head beneath the kitchen faucet gulping back mouthfuls of water straight from the tap. Tobias Penner was called and he had his son Lorne come to the phone. “He walked home with Cara. He’s talking to Rab…” A flutter of hope rose in Wanda’s chest. Lorne had walked home with Cara. Big strapping Lorne, the hockey star – Cara was fine. Tobias had to interrupt Lorne who was talking to his hockey coach, Sergeant Rab Strayhorn – an indomitable man who walked a few blocks in the storm to talk to Lorne in person. They were in the kitchen. By all accounts, a National Hockey League scout was coming to Lorne’s game tomorrow, the scout specifically asked about “Penner The Punisher,” the nickname Lorne had acquired for his physical and offensive play. He took the phone agitated and distracted.

Kingdom of Snow 51 Connolly “Yeah?” Wanda asked Lorne about Cara and he told her he’d last seen her on Tinker. That was it, Tinker. She had walked home with him, Peck and Sarah. Lorne kept an eye on the coach. He was going to play hockey in the National Hockey League. He was going to be a star. What of little girls? It’s just a game. She’s the most popular girl not in high school… Wanda made calls to Sarah and Peck, following her short conversation with Lorne. They all last saw Cara on Tinker, that’s what they told her parents too – no one said a word about stopping at the Cathedral, only that they had walked home together after school in the storm and then parted ways at Tinker. Separately they were thinking: Cara was really trying to piss off the old man. She’s found a really good hiding place – just like Skinny. They decided to keep it “hush-hush,” just to make sure. They weren’t in trouble, were they? No one wanted what Larry got; no one wanted to be “exercised,” or called an abomination. Cara was going to be a heroine. She was going to be a whole different person. Her name would be spray-painted on the Cathedral wall. It’s just a game. She’s the most popular girl not in high school…It would all work out.

Saturday it stormed, swirling and ugly, in a constant drive of snow and ice. Events were canceled and no one left their homes. The storm didn’t break until late Saturday night. People had to shovel their way past the mound of snow on their front stoops and outside their back doors. Stores were closed, traffic lights failed to work, everywhere abandoned cars sat half-buried in snow. Emergency crews moved about the streets aboard snowmobiles. For all intents and purposes the city was incapacitated and only at dawn

Kingdom of Snow 52 Connolly began to crawl from beneath the storm. Barry walked his neighborhood with a few of his friends from the church and some of his co-workers. They called out his daughter’s name; Barry screaming it out until he was hoarse. He returned home, got out of his sweaty winter clothes and sat beside Wanda on the living room couch. The twins were on the floor completing a jigsaw puzzle. “Cara?” was all Wanda could get out. He shook his head. “I don’t know what else to do,” Barry said. He thought of people buried in the snow, of people suffocating; he remembered the winters of his own youth.

That night, after Lorne’s hockey game, they agreed to meet at the Cathedral to see if Cara had left some kind of sign. The snow there was to their hips. They trudged through the field to the grain elevator. They had to shovel with their hands to get the snow away from the gaping doorway. Inside drifts of fresh, undisturbed snow covered the floor; the place looked like no one had been inside there since they left the night before. “Just like your Cosmic Christ,” Peck said bugging Lorne about his fascination and frequent references to Jesus Christ, the one found in the Book of John. “Here, but He’s left no trace.” “You’re just being mean.” Lorne gave Peck a light shove but it was enough to send Peck headfirst into a snow bank. Sitting up, dusting snow off his hair, Peck said, “Like Jesus wasn’t mean to Larry. Or my grandfather?” “God didn’t give your grandfather Alzheimer’s” “Cut it out you guys,” Sarah said helping Peck up. Lorne seemed to ignore this.

Kingdom of Snow 53 Connolly “Look I’m sorry about your grandfather, but you don’t know.” His voice was deafening in the still winter air. “Oh, I know.” Peck was up brushing snow from his coat sounding a little intimidated. There was no moon that night so inside was dark and colder. The tool closet door, still barred with the oil-stained railway tie, was encased in a pane of ice. There were no cracks. The ice was perfect, like a translucent plastic skin. Lorne lifted the tie aside after several tugs and grunts. The door did not fall open as they hoped. Ice still held the door in place, stubbornly. “Who wants to…” Sarah began, when Peck grabbed the handle and tugged leaning back on his haunches. His fell backwards as the door jarred open. There was nothing but darkness, a black so dark it appeared to be blue. The darkness gave them nothing. “You didn’t expect her to be there,” Sarah said to no one in particular. She might have been talking to herself. On all fours Peck crawled to the entrance of the tool closet. He flipped the top off his lighter and ignited it. They leaned in. The darkness was hiding nothing. There was no Cara. She was gone. Lorne said, “Thank God.” Sarah wept, holding a hand to her lips. Missing, but not gone? Had He come for her? Did He carry her in his white arms? Where did He leave the message? Stones? Stones? We are always saved. Right?

Kingdom of Snow 54 Connolly “What are you looking for? Do you see something?” Lorne asked seeing Sarah’s eyes darting all around them; perhaps there were footprints he missed? It was one of the things he didn’t share with coaches and scouts – he had a blind-side, when he turned, he saw nothing but black. “My hat,” Sarah lied. She looked deeper into the flicking orange-lit enclosure. Into the corners her eyes strained. Up on the walls, on the ground, up to its ceiling. Anything? She was lonely and Sarah knew her voice wasn’t enough to make anyone come back to her. Still, she said almost inaudibly, “This is good news right?” Sarah tore a shard of ice from the elevator wall, she envisioned as a sword of starlight. “This changes everything. Now we don’t know. We don’t…” “Well, Peck. Where could she have gone? Maybe she’s at home right now? Thank God.” Sarah said, “Lorne, you barely got that board off.” “Maybe somebody helped her,” he offered. “Who, who helped her? How did she tell them—telepathically?” Lorne shook his head and leaned against the platform. Peck stepped into the closet and closed the door behind him. “It’s fine. She pushed it open as we were leaving. I’m sure I saw her. But I didn’t want to say…” “What are you doing?” Sarah asked “I want to see what it’s like in here,” Peck’s disembodied voice, muted as he closed the door behind him. “What did Cara…it’s not dark in here, your eyes get used to it.” “I thought you said you spent the night here…”

Kingdom of Snow 55 Connolly “Yeah I did.” “Peck: Sometimes you’re such a liar,” Sarah said and walked away. She went to Lorne and grabbed his hand. He was standing near the platform, looking up through the roof. “Now what?” he whispered. Her head was against his shoulder. The sound of his voice vibrated through his body and into her own. She could rest there forever. Sarah felt safe. Finally, she said into his arm, “Maybe we should call her parents.” Now, that would fix her. She would be grounded and couldn’t sing. Not really the Christian thing to do. Suddenly, Peck was standing right before them. Lorne turned. The door was still closed. “You have the right to remain silent…” he said startling them even more. “What?” Lorne yelled out. “Peck, how?” Sarah asked. Peck walked toward the tool shed closet and opened the door and pointed. They looked into the deep darkness. “It’s hard to see from here, but there are loose boards back there, a hole in the wall. When you’re inside and it’s dark you can see the light through the loose boards. I crawled through and came out on the other side. That’s how she got out.” “Cara,” Sarah said in a reverential whisper. In her mind boards parted. Chrysanthemum. Cadabra. “She did it,” Lorne offered, truly amazed. The scouts didn’t know about his blindside, right, right… “Just like Cosmic Christ,” Peck said.

Kingdom of Snow 56 Connolly Their breath hung in the air as they surveyed the inside of the elevator, whose walls were veined with thick ice and covered in hoarfrost, which made every surface appear to be scared with sulfur. There was nothing to indicate Cara had even been there. No sign anyone but them had been there. It was the surface of the moon. Peck withdrew a fat black marker from his jacket pocket and wrote: “CC!” in looping letters on the tool shed door. “Huh, what’s that?” Lorne asked. “Cosmic Cara,” Peck said and stepped back, “Gone for good.” “What now?” Lorne asked into Sarah’s neck. Still in his mind he was visualizing a hockey puck. Sarah touched the ice to her lips. She examined it briefly then threw the shard of ice hitting the wall with a muffled thud, before it fell to the ground in one solid piece. She said, “We helped her run away, that’s it.” “It’s a sin,” Lorne said. Peck shot back, “Says who?” “What do we do now?” Sarah persisted. It was no time to argue about what the church told them was right and what was wrong. “Hush, hush,” Peck said and brought a paint-stained finger up to his mouth; he left a faint trace of black paint on his lips. “We’ve got to give her a running start.”

Kingdom of Snow 57 Connolly

Four Sunday morning Sarah was at the breakfast table staring into a bowl of soggy oatmeal her mother had made. The radio was on. “A severe weather watch is in effect until noon,” the announcer said. “Precipitation…” Her father coughed, Sarah looked up, but he wasn’t there at all it was a figment of her imagination. He was gone too. Sarah stared into her oatmeal. “And now today’s top stories…” She held her breath. Cara had run away, but still, it required Sarah’s silence. Gladly, then, there was no mention of Cara Neufeld. No one was missing. Sarah stared into the lumpy and graying oatmeal, the milk turning a tinge of blue. Missing, she heard herself say. Tears welled from her eyes, heavy and stinging. Missing, Sarah said louder. Then on the radio, it came. Missing: Cara Neufeld was last seen… She felt the room temperature drop. The kitchen light dimmed. Everything was blurry. Her father wavered in and out. Everything was oatmeal. Her breakfast, that one-tablespoon she forced in her mouth, churned in her stomach. The room jerked violently and spun. The cold in her veins made her shake – she felt cold! Sarah never felt cold. The news was a roar of white noise, a rush of cold air. There was a terrible confusing mix of the newsman static-laced voice and of Cara’s singing inside her head. God Walks The Dark Hills. Have you seen my father? The oatmeal rose in her throat, Cara! Sarah leaned forward, tried to balance herself, but couldn’t stop; she vomited. First that lone spoonful of oatmeal, then yellow egg yolk-like phlegm, strings of

Kingdom of Snow 58 Connolly translucent, rubbery spit, flecked with small triangles of blood flew from her mouth. Sarah brushed her hair out of the mess and sat back, spittle on her chin. She had to get cleaned up; she was going to church with the Penners.

Lorne’s heart rested low, his throat and chest aflame. He sat on the edge of his bed watching a video of a hockey game. An open Bible rested in his quivering hands. The game didn’t interest him that much, though he tried to watch it. Instead, he stared at the floor not far from his feet, wanting to concentrate on something, maybe a Bible passage, but unable to because of the neighbor’s dog. Whenever anyone went by, it barked, a full belly woof, woof…. He wanted to stand, that was all; stand and yell out the bedroom window, try to calm the dog down. Woof, woof… Lorne wanted to be a man, someone his parents would be proud of. But hockey players were tough. They took it on the chin. They broke their teeth and didn’t cry like little babies. There were two Cara then: one he found in his thoughts, the other, outside the window and as the morning newspaper said, missing Woof, woof… Cara. She ran away. He knew this to be… Woof, woof…He couldn’t concentrate. He rose and dropped the Bible onto his bed and went into his closet. Woof, woof…He took out his hockey stick and carried it outside. Woof, woof…And calmed the dog down. Back in the house, he closed his eyes and let out a breath. “Quiet now,” Lorne said and bit his lower lip. “I can be strong.” He held onto his stick with a tight grip. With an audible gulp he swallowed hard. He consumed a burning in his gut and kept it down. He opened his eyes and let the darkness recede. Lorne felt light.

Kingdom of Snow 59 Connolly “… From this time on and forevermore,” he read on the open page. A shaft of bright winter light fell across the letters. He raised his eyes and stood looking out the window. It was quiet, but the sky was dark. A winter storm drifted.

Peck walked to church, alone, thinking about his own disappearance that would come some day. His family drove to the service without him.

These were private moments, diminutive realizations of angst, none of them shared. A child is never tentative to peers. Only to their private selves does the clandestine devil appear in the mirror pondering such mewing weaklings.

Later, at church that Sunday, Pastor Reimer made an announcement about Cara. “If you have… Have you seen Cara? …The Neufelds are concerned, they haven’t seen her…” She’s just hiding from her old man. This is Cara breaking out. What’s missing from chrch? The pastor asked for prayers, for miracles large and small. The stunned parents had asked for volunteers to go door to door with her picture. Barry stood with a small flyer he’d made on the church copier. “I look up at tall buildings, those ones downtown; I look at the most expensive cars – I ones I fix but cannot buy. Does my strength come from these? No, my strength comes from God, who made all of those things possible.” A member of the congregation stood, “I’ll look with you. God won’t let you stumble.”

Kingdom of Snow 60 Connolly And another, and another and soon all the pews were standing, one woman standing on the pew yelled out, “God won’t slumber.” “Not on your life!” came still another. “Right at your side,” said Pastor Reimer, “Right at your side.” “To protect you. God guards you from evil,” the congregation said in unison. “He guards you when you go and when you stay. He guards you today, now and always, Selah.” Barry stood crying, still waving the flyer in the air. Wanda stood and took his hand. The twins, their heads bowed, prayed. Sarah wanted to scream; she felt hot and wondered if they could see the guilt on her face. She pretended to pray, a lot, her face buried in her hands. The service was about the miracles of Jesus. And everyone had expected Lorne to have logorrhea over it all, but all Lorne could talk about was the scout that came to his game. He stood outside the church with Sarah and Peck and was later joined by Walter, one of Lorne’s older brothers. Walter talked excitedly at the church door about spitting on the ground, and using the spittle to gather up the dust into clay and spreading clay on our eyes, washing them with snow. Sarah stared at a scoop of crystallized snow in her hand: What a wonderful idea to make something out of dirt. Sarah threw the ball of snow aside and kicked at the ground with her heel until she came to the dead grass and then kicked her heel in some more. The ground was hard and was unyielding, but she kept on kicking and kicking with her heel, each thud making a dent in the ground. Finally after her leg was throbbing in pain, there it was: Clay. Second Corinthians.

Kingdom of Snow 61 Connolly The boys stopped their conversation to give Sarah a look of concern. Lorne raised his eyebrow. She cocked her head and smiled to indicate she was not going totally crazy. Their conversation started up again. “But then he disappeared,” Peck said. “Who the blind guy?” she asked staring down at the brown muck near her heel. “No Jesus, shit-kicker. He’s not around, just like Reimer said.” “Pastor Reimer,” Lorne and Walter protested. “Jesus was already gone. He always is.” “But he comes back.” Sarah had a lump of mud in her hands and was turning it over and over caking her fingers with muck. “He just has this great hiding place.” “Right,” said Peck walking away. “Right. I think I saw him just the other day pushing a shopping cart full of ratty old newspapers and stinky beer bottles.” Walter punched Lorne in the arm and gave him a look, before leaving. Lorne coughed and said after Peck, “Jesus was God’s messenger. Through Him is the way. We shouldn’t turn away…” But Lorne was talking to a ghost of Peck, for he’d already walked around the corner of the church.

The days not being terribly long during winter, a search for Cara was held around one that afternoon, giving church families enough time to get home, change into outdoor clothing and reconvene at the church. The search was lead by Pastor Reimer and Principal Skinner. Every church member was given a sheath of flyers to hand out during the search. The flyer had Cara’s high school picture on it and pertinent information about her height,

Kingdom of Snow 62 Connolly weight and hair color. The search which would take them back over the route Cara took home every day from school. The route included a major throughoutfare with stores and gas stations. It went by Dahlsip’s Yard where the young hung out, and along the river. “We should go in there,” Barry said to Wanda who leaned forward to brush snow from his broad shoulders. The search party entered the field and started going through the buildings, one by one. Tobias and Barry entered the Cannabis Cathedral. And Barry felt sure this was where he would find her. “What is all this?” Tobias said motioning to the graffiti. The scribbles made them think of thugs and vagabonds. “Ramblings.” Barry had heard about the Cathedral from some of the guys at work. He knew it was a place for kids to smoke dope and have sex. It sickened him to think Cara had been here, was here. It sickened him that despite all the garbage and vandalism the ice and snow fractals made the place a cave of diamonds. They searched the abandoned grain elevator and came up with nothing. In one corner Tobias called Barry over. “Are those what I think they are?” Barry walked over to find Tobias staring down at a heap of garbage – cigarette butts, soda cans, shoelaces, torn pages from a magazine and several used condoms. “Rubbers.” “What’s that?” Tobias asked. “Condoms.” It was then a yell came from outside. Maybe someone had found Cara or there was a piece of her clothing, something; anything. Barry and Tobias ran out and saw that snow was beginning to fall again, hard and slantwise.

Kingdom of Snow 63 Connolly “We had better get the children in – it’s kicking up,” Principal Skinner said. “The storm, it’ll only get worse.” Lorne was standing beside Sarah. They looked at one another and in that silent moment conveyed a sense of relief. The fathers had come out of the Cannabis Cathedral without having found any clue, it seemed, that Cara had been in there. It appeared Cara had gotten away and no one would be the wiser. Sarah swallowed a mouthful of new snow.

Kingdom of Snow 64 Connolly

Five A young girl is missing. Dead of winter. Police are investigating. Top of the hour, bottom of the hour; in newsprint and on the tip of every talking head’s tongue: Cara Neufeld was mentioned in news broadcast after news broadcast; her class picture was on the front cover of New Quantico’s two daily newspapers, which ran above the fold new stories on her disappearance and on the television and radio, reporters were broadcasting live from Van Buren High School. A girl had been missing now for three days. It was the dead of winter. Police were investigating. New Quantico citizens shuddered hearing the news, pausing in hallways and bathrooms trying to picture Cara or imagine her circumstances. People hovered over their oatmeal, nodded over coffee and cigarettes; stood with coffee in bathrobes looking out the window or walked their dogs to the end of the drives and scanned the once-familiar terrain made strange by the news. At bus stops and inside vehicles ears were piqued to the news, while conversations, covering little else, rose suffused with tragic utterances and in some, into intercessional prayer. We must witness for the one that is not there. God bless the child. Oh, her parents! Is there a killer on the loose; his head squirming like a toad? Some one has her. She ran away. Dead, surely oh poor, poor child.

That morning, Lily walked into Sarah’s bedroom and tugged on her daughter’s hair. Sarah awoke and saw her mother standing there, holding a drink in one trembling hand. Lily had slept through much of Saturday, drank herself senseless Saturday night and

Kingdom of Snow 65 Connolly spent Sunday in bed. When Sarah saw her she instantly thought it was about her father. She could see that her mother had been crying. Was there no more Vodka? “My baby,” she croaked. It sounded bad. Sarah thought something must have happened. Her mother placed the glass down on the nightstand and took Sarah in her arms. Sarah hugged back – Cara?

At the Penner house all was quiet. Tobias had convened a morning prayer session in the kitchen. The table was rimmed with bowed heads in silent prayer. When he said “Amen,” he looked over at Lorne, “Go to see Principal Skinner this morning and offer to help in any way you can. I’m sure they’ll be out searching again today.” “Yes, Father,” answered Lorne before tearing into his eggs and ham. “All you boys help yaw,” Vinita said. “But don’t neglect your chores here, yaw.” “Yes momma,” they answered in unison.

Peck sat alone in his room. He could hear his family downstairs. No one called for him to join them, to get out of bed and ready for school. Peck sat up in bed and listened until the house was quiet and the aliens who’d taken over his family had left with their body pods. He then got up and opened every single window in the house, that he could pry open; he then turned the stereo to the hard rock station and cranked the volume control to its highest level. A madman distortedly screeched about crazy trains. Peck hit the shower.

Across the small city, concerned parents woke their children and hugged them closer than usual or startled their children all the more for hugging them at all. Confused children

Kingdom of Snow 66 Connolly rose to warnings and a flurry of questions. Did they know Cara? What do you think might have happened? Have you heard anything? Over hot breakfasts they were told to not converse with strangers, to go straight to and from school. Stupefied, New Quantico’s children soon filed from their homes, beleaguered, but eager to talk with their friends. Cara’s name was in the very air the students of all of New Quantico’s schools inhaled. It hung in the sparkling hoarfrost and in the gossamer exhaust on their walk to school that bright, but very cold November morning. Groups of students walked together, loudly chattering on and on about the little girl lost, looking under trees and around corners; over fences and in yards; they glanced at one another and wondered – who’s next? Where was she? School buses were rife with talk about Cara and her disappearance. Few, if any students, hadn’t heard about Cara by the time they got to school. In a snow bank, near Van Buren someone had written: “Cara?” with a stream of urine. Principal Skinner gave the routine Monday morning public address, but following the anthem and school prayer, he said. “I have a special announcement to make. As many of you know, by now, Grade Seven student Cara Neufeld has not been seen since Friday. We will be announcing later today details of an afternoon search of the neighborhood. For now, it’s important that you keep to your studies and classes. If anyone has information about Cara’s whereabouts, please come to the office to speak to me. (Mumbling)… ” Fidgety Sarah was in her desk at school when the school announcement came on that a student was missing and that the school would be taking a portion of the day to help search for her. The principal’s usual mumbling irritated her. She saw in his throat that

Kingdom of Snow 67 Connolly he’d swallowed a sweater! Then she came back to Cara. Who could blame her, if they knew the full story? It wasn’t exactly written on her face. Still, a mix of excitement and horror filled her stomach. Her knowing about the missing girl made her feel a sense of power over the others, but it also ran poisonous. She knew Cara had probably run away, but another part of her, the part she tried to suppress from herself, felt that something terrible had happened. Sarah felt like two people then. And in that way, there were two Caras then: one an empty desk and the other, a faint remembrance. Few knew Cara, really. The news of an afternoon search raised a stir in the classroom. How would the search work? Would she be a part of it; would her own eyes give herself away lead the search party to the very spot they left Cara? Sarah knew she could keep it together. Peck would know exactly what to do, but she turned and found him gone. He usually sat behind her and to the right. His desk was empty too, but no one organized a search party for him. Everybody knew Peck. Or thought they did.

Peck was outside his bedroom window in his housecoat. He sat on the rooftop smoking. The house behind him was stock-still and silent as church on a Saturday night. The entire world was a circle of gapping swarming emptiness. He tapped cigarette ash onto the roof; the slag rolled and was whisked up in the steely breeze. His mind raced. Please God have mercy on his soul, make him see the error of his ways. Let him find a cure… He pictured his family moving mutely as if in a funeral procession from the front stoop. A faint click and the door was closed securely behind them. They walked single

Kingdom of Snow 68 Connolly file down the short, shoveled pathway, to the car, in his imagination – they resembled hunched vespers monks. Four blue dots off to Bible study, to work, to school. He pecked four dots onto the page of a journal, which sat on his lap. No one turned to see him up on the snowy roof, in his housecoat, smoke dangling from his mouth. No one. Four heads, all forward. His father, mother and two sisters folded themselves into the car in a rehearsed hush. He was cold, but didn’t care; his ears sensitive, straining to hear something, rang with nothing, which was its own kind of noise. Soon enough the noise of silence was not enough: He could hear someone yelling his name, but then realized; no it was just his dream. How much did a howl of winter wind sound like his name? And how that wind sounded, familiar. The curl of his tongue, the vowels of woe; he said aloud his own name into the winter air; it was blue oxygen crystallized, falling and breaking. His family was leaving but had already been long gone; he waved, a pathetic halfwave, but they did not return the gesture. All eyes were forward. Peck shrugged his shoulders and blew smoke out the side of his mouth. He folded his journal back into his housecoat pocket along with the pen. With the tip of the cigarette within his pinching fingers he wrote in the blue winter air: “Cara, where are you?” There were two Caras then: one the smoke in the air, the other one a memory of her face. Gone for good. He thought of Larry, the ousted youth minister. …mercy on his soul. Peck stood, his toes making small imprints in the rooftop snow. The bracing snow invigorated him, gave him a taste of freedom on his tongue, his burning cheeks. He did not shiver. He ditched his journal through the window and onto his bed. Now, grabbing a

Kingdom of Snow 69 Connolly hold of his bedroom window gable he shimmied across the roof to the west side near a stand of Evergreens. On the ground, one storey below was a bank of fresh snow, which sat in a deep shadow. The bank was high, almost halfway to the rooftop. With the cigarette wedged in the side of his face, Peck stood at the edge of the roof. He leaned back his head, closed his eyes, threw open his arms and tipped himself forward off the roof. His housecoat billowed. Air. Snow. Darkness. He loved the freedom of falling knowing there was no one, just himself. He would save himself. Peck needed to take back his life. This was the only way he knew how. This was the only way he could erase all that was. It was like suicide. In the snow he rolled over, wet and now shivering. He inhaled a guff of smoke from the bent cigarette, blew a ring of smoke, which rose into the air, warbled and then disappeared. Peck entered the empty house. The dusty brown speakers blew crackled and distorted music. He tired to imagine his family still here, in the house walking with their heads bowed, their mouths thin white lines, eyes on their shuffling feet all the while Pink Floyd’s hands dripped coins. He showered, changed into some clothes and lighted another cigarette. He wrote in his journal a line: “If you’re reading this, then you must have found me out. But of course now it’s too late; I’m gone for good.”

Kingdom of Snow 70 Connolly He left the front door open. There was a winter storm coming, the radio announcer in a voice filled with sparks and pops said before introducing a song. Sting sang about soul cages.

Monday went by without a word on the whereabouts of Cara Neufeld. Larger search parties were formed from schools, churches and community groups. Wanda Neufeld made an appearance on the news pleading with whoever had Cara to let her go. A tip line was installed and the police received several useless tips. Tuesday, Wednesday, Cara was no where to be found. There was nothing. It was as if she never existed.

Lorne stowed his hockey gear in the trunk. Following a meeting at the church he had a practice. For a moment he looked at the gleam of his skates, the metal so brilliantly bright and sharp. Lorne was light on his skates, a power forward with “good hands,” they said, one who could put the puck in the net. His coach was a pilot from the nearby Air Force base. Sergeant Rab Strayhorn said, “The boy has potential, real potential. He is a real diamond that one. There are a lot of pineapples out there; Lorne isn’t one of them. He is the real deal.” A few scouts had attended his games. His name was in the sports pages all the time, because of his size and scoring ability. Once, his picture made the front page of the newspaper. In the picture, his arms are raised up and forward over his head in celebration. “Penner’s NHL Prospect,” the headline read. He stick-handled in his sleep; he outmaneuvered goalies when he was walking and scored goals at the breakfast table with

Kingdom of Snow 71 Connolly pieces of dry cereal and his spoon. He wore a crucifix beneath his shoulder pads; the other players call him “Penner The Punisher,” but also, “Penner The Pastor.” “Jesus saves, and Penner picks up the rebound and scores,” they said. For years he and Peck played on the same team, until Peck stopped playing altogether at age ten. Lorne wasn’t the only Crossing Crazee on the team – there were four, and he knew three of them from his school. The team was mostly white; one player the team’s second top scorer, after Lorne, was an Indian named Cody Lafontane. Cody was the fastest skater Lorne had ever seen. He had quick hands. He was very quiet and small. He wore homemade mukluks in the winter. He had two practices a week and a game every weekend. Several times during the season there were road trips. To travel most winter evenings was foolhardy. At night, with any wind, snow bombarded the windshield resembling a miniature meteor shower. Conditions were often wet and the road was frequently hard to see. Last night traveling back home from a game in the next county, the team bus lost traction and trying to find the road again, hit an animal. Sergeant Rab Strayhorn had been sitting beside Lorne talking a blue streak about what a player had to do to survive. He said he wasn't coaching the team to make kids to be better players, but to be better men. This wasn’t anything new to Lorne, who only shook his head at his coach’s rambling speeches. “You gotta sacrifice, you gotta stick your neck out some times,” the coach said the very first practice. “You must stand up for something, or fall for anything,” he droned on and on. The team did lines after that, skating from goal line to blue line back to goal

Kingdom of Snow 72 Connolly line, to centerline to goal line, from goal line to the opposite goal line. There was a scrimmage. “Men of character know what to do,” he said in the bus that one night last winter when the bus hit the poor beast. Lorne couldn't really see his coach’s face. The lights were out and most of the team was asleep. He was nodding off himself. The coach had made the decision to go with Kenny Magura over Gaston for goalie duty that night and the team had lost badly. A lot of soft goals got past Magura. “Magura has been through a lot. He knows which way the wind blows,” the coach said. “He's a diamond.” Just as the coach said this, a loud thump came from the front of the bus and it lurched forward to a sudden stop. Some of the players were yelling, Lorne couldn’t make out what they were saying. Mayhem ensued with the bus crooked in the road, slightly tilted to the right, and boys squealed and mewed. Coach Strayhorn left his seat and went to the front. Lorne saw him talking to the bus driver. “OK; girls quit your squawking and get off the bus. We had a little accident. Why doesn’t everyone go outside – stand on this side of the bus please gentlemen that side is the highway and we don’t want any of you cheesecakes flatter than your seventh grade girlfriend. Get some fresh air, powder your faces,” said the team manager. The bus door opened with a hydraulic sigh, and everyone began to file out, still chatting and gawking out the windows at the dark night. The smell of cold, of the forest alongside the highway, filled the bus when the doors were open. Lorne breathed in the

Kingdom of Snow 73 Connolly night air. He went to the front and saw the bus driver just sitting there in silence. He had a dazed look on his bulbous face. “You all right?” he asked. The driver didn’t respond he just blinked, looking straight ahead. He sipped soda through a straw. He made a sound with his mouth, bubbles, maybe. Lorne got off the bus and there on the road lying in the twin cones of headlight was a mass of fur, a pool of blood, and a chain trailing from the thing’s neck. Coach Strayhorn had the animal's head in his arms. It was a dog. The chain looked as if it had been ripped off a post. The team was in a semi-circle around the coach and the animal. Lorne moved through his mulling teammates and stood beside a defenseman named Randy. “Isn’t it dead yet?” Randy asked tossing the words over his shoulder. Lorne nodded. He could see the coach checking the dog's eyes and nodding his head. Sergeant Rab Strayhorn dragged the dog to the ditch and dumped it. He cleaned his hands with some slush. A swath of blood, bright red, marked the road. It glistened in the moonlight. Briefly all that can be heard was the bus engine, purring. The team manager checked the front of the bus for damage. Everyone's breath hung in the air. “Come on men, back in the bus, we have time to make up,” coach said finally. He was standing at the front of the bus with the team manager then. He picked hair out of the grill. “Come on. Have to get you babies back to your mummies.” “OK, let’s go fat farts, back in,” the manager intoned. Clots of wet snow caught on his jacket. Obligingly, all the players started to pile back into the bus. They all took glances back at the blood, or the dead animal slumped in the ditch. The dog appeared to

Kingdom of Snow 74 Connolly be in mid-leap by the way the carcass was positioned its paws up and forward. The chain was trailing in the snow. To keep a dog in its place, you need a good chain. Lorne turned around, as if looking for what had just spoken to him. But of course, no one was there. It was from another time, not that one. For a moment, he just stood there. He wanted to do something. Bury the poor thing. Say a prayer. Sob. But no. Nothing came. And still, he knew, they wanted his soul. The coach stood behind him, staring at the ground or perhaps a fleck of blood on the toe of his black boot. “There’s a lesson in everything. And it’s not always easy to understand why.” “How can we just leave?” “We have to, it’s dead.” In his sleep that night, back home and safely tucked into his own bed, Lorne dreamed of the dog. It was lying in the snow, inert, when a flash of bright, white light jerked it awake as if it had only been sleeping. Its black tongue licked at blood on its snout. The dog stood, shakily on its uncertain limbs, blinked with its black eyes. It appeared unsure of what to do. Lorne was there, his hand on its heaving ribcage. He could feel its beating heart, the heat of its skin, and the roughness of its fur. The light intensified. He had to cover his eyes with his arms. As he did that, the dog turned, quickly, and jumped up and forward into the light, a swaying of snow-covered evergreens perhaps, a curtain certainly, and away. The snow at his feet was pristine. There was no more blood. The air was still. A small bone in his ear was vibrating. The dog had said something before leaping off.

Kingdom of Snow 75 Connolly Inexplicably, because Lorne knew that only in cartoons do dogs speak, that the animal, which stood in front of the path of a hockey team bus, had said something to him. He awoke, not sweating, not panting, but calmly, serenely by simply opening his eyes. His hands were folded on his chest as usual. He opened them and raised them up and forward. Lorne closed the trunk and went into the church.

Sarah is a baby again her fingers glued together with frost, her lips cracked and dry, and the left side of her face stuck to the ground. She is asleep again, and again there is the old, all-white giant of winter his white boots digging heavy spoors in the crunchy snow with each step. He lifts her in the palm of his gigantic coarse hand, parts the cracking lips and blows air into her tiny, aching and reluctant lungs. Frost-lined eyelashes flutter and tear apart. She is thawing and yet to be home. Sarah is on the brink of love her eyes filled with the giant – “Sarah, Sarah, sweetie,” Lily cooed from somewhere else. And he dropped her into the snow bank pillow, his satchel swinging at his side. Inside a single footfall he has dropped a rock. She pears over its hoary edge to read what it – “Sarah you’re having that dream again, wake up…” But she cannot yet read. “Sweetie, wake up.” Lily was seated on the edge of her bed. “You had that dream again.”

Kingdom of Snow 76 Connolly “And?” “Same as always.” Her, unusually sober, mother combed a bangle off Sarah’s forehead and kissed her. “Get some sleep.” Sarah laid back and watched her mother leave her bedroom. When she closed the door, she sat up and looked out the window at the dark night. She wondered if Cara could read what the old, all-white giant of winter left her? Would he help her too? Ever since any one could remember, Sarah had been immune to winter. She seldom got cold or if she did no one ever knew because she never said. When she was a thirteen-month-old she wandered away from her house in the dead of winter wearing only a diaper. Her father, a drunk, was on the couch asleep. Sarah stumbled through the snow and eventually got lost. When her father awoke, he ran panicked through the neighborhood and found his daughter lying facedown in the snowfall with her hands curled underneath her body. Sarah’s heart had stopped beating; her fingers and toes were frozen together when she was rushed to the hospital. She was revived en route to the hospital and by the next day was breathing without a ventilator. Doctors said her heart had stopped beating for two full hours. Her body temperature had dropped to sixty degrees. Sarah survived the doctors said she was so small and that young children tended to cool so quickly that their organs and blood are preserved. None of her toes or her fingers had to be amputated. There is still some scaring on her fingers. Most amazingly, no brain damage; the little girl shut down so efficiently there was very little oxygen depleted. Sarah’s picture – ruddy cheeked, blank stare and tussled hair – was on the front cover of every newspaper for a day or two. They called her the miracle winter baby.

Kingdom of Snow 77 Connolly “Our daughter loves to wander. She is the creator of her own misfortune,” her father was quoted as saying in one of the yellowed newspaper clippings that Sarah had read when she was old enough. The day she was found, her father quit drinking. A miracle. The day she was found, her mother started drinking. Life was too scary. The two cancelled each other out, and the family didn’t talk about the incident. For the most part, Sarah can’t remember anything at all about her time out in the elements. She got her story from the newspapers. But she had her dreams; it was a hazy memory of an old man, wearing all white, with a white beard and satchel. He left rocks in the snow making it melt.

No one said anything, and if they did, it appeared to be trivial, meaningless. Cara was missing. Sarah thought for sure Cara would have sent a message of some kind, a letter or a phone call. Peck said he didn’t think so, but then he didn’t really care. Lorne said he’d been too busy concentrating on hockey to worry about it. It was Friday, one week since they walked home with Cara Neufeld and left her to her own devices. They walked home but in silence. Sarah went home to find her mother sitting at the dining room table. “Sweetie?” Peck got home to find his family, as usual, eating without him. His mother pulled herself away from her husband’s grip and presented Peck with a dinner plate of food. “Larry called,” she said. “We told him to never call here again. Eat. You need your sustenance.” Lorne got home and found his family convening in the living room. Candles had been lit. The telephone had been taken off the hook, radios turned off. The entire family trudged into the living room. They sat on the sofa in front of a

Kingdom of Snow 78 Connolly basin of hot, not scalding, water. In the clear water, always, was a blue, terrycloth facecloth. There were several towels, folded neatly, and placed off to the side. The entire family was barefoot. It started with the father. He moved the basin of water before his wife. With one hand he gently held her foot over the basin. With the other hand he retrieved the facecloth, wringing it gently with a squeeze. He washed the right foot first, the entire foot up to just above the ankle, and then he completed the left foot in the same fashion—all without saying a word. Then it was Lorne’s mother’s turn. She moved the basin over to Walter, the eldest, and washed his feet. It moved mutely down the line, with one member of the family, the elder, washing the feet of the younger. The youngest, Christopher, seven, washed his father’s feet and said, “Do as I have done to you.” In that solemn air the family filed out of the living room, feet squeaky clean, in silence. Lorne could hear the water being poured into the kitchen sink as he entered his bedroom, the one he shared with two brothers. As he walked to his bedroom, Lorne would place his feet down precisely as possible as if to keep their holy cleanliness. It was as if a skin of darkness had been wiped clean and his feet, tingly and cooling, were nothing but light, billions and billions of molecules of brilliant light, buzzing for Jesus, itching to take him, but where, but where dear Father, where would you take me?

Later that evening, Lorne in bed, pulled the covers from his feet and let them walk through the darkness of his dreams. They took him where he was asked to go. The

Kingdom of Snow 79 Connolly booming voice of a hockey coach whose utterances could be heard deep down in the bones of his toes filled his soul. Lorne always stood where he was asked to stand. He was humble. He was going to be a hockey star, but found he was caring less about that and more about where his feet would take him next—where? Cleanliness is next to Godliness. So where? He was thirsty, but he didn’t get out of bed. That would have ruined the state of his feet. He fell asleep thinking of all the journeys he would take, and invariably, as his dreams were wont to do then, he soon found that his fingers were inside his girlfriend, Sarah’s body, and that she was singing, crying and he was a ravenous beast with yellow bones for teeth.

In her dreams, Sarah walked through fields of snow, under a dark sky of stars, in a flowing white nightgown. She sang as she wandered exploring the landscape riddled with stones, which seemed to multiple growing out from the very path she found herself treading. Soon she found herself surrounded by heaps of rubble and had to dig herself out of the ruins, the rocks hot and jagged. Her hands were cut, with her digging, her knees and one cheek bleeding from her scrambling, but she made it through the craggy field to the bank of a river. A large block of crystalline ice was melting, thawing even in the moonlight, and inside the ice were five pristine white stones.

Peck sat on a bench by the day lockers inside the New Quantico bus depot, his journal cracked open on his lap. He wrote: “She is a blue shape flickering through the frost, the drifting snow, and the exhaust of cars and chimneys; she is a crack in the ice. There, she

Kingdom of Snow 80 Connolly is singing, longing for me to join her…” On the opposite page he’d drawn a sylph suffused of hundreds of little blue dots.

Kingdom of Snow 81 Connolly

Six The days went by bizarrely, numbly. Time became the measure to which the severity of the situation, of Cara’s absence, grew, but it also played inexplicable tricks on those left behind. Absence is made all the more vacuous by the haunting of presence casting its shadow upon the unfathomable void. If the presence were here, the thinking went, I would not think this way; if still here I would not be asked for an accounting; if the presence were here the days and night would not be filled with this searching. Time echoed the hallowed and the hollow as snowflakes in their physical dance fell on the just and unjust alike: Beautiful but cold and lethal if caught without reprieve from its eventual unmitigated burial of all it alights.

Lorne was the first to give in and talk to his parents about the missing girl, Cara Neufeld. Lorne through the ordeal didn’t make any sense. He could no longer buy the story that Cara had simply run away. She hadn’t called back. It had been nearly two weeks. Earlier, when Lorne told Peck, “We are going to fry in hell.” Peck imagined a cartoon hell of red devils and pitchforks and rising columns of fire. It was a big fucking joke, he thought. All of it adds up to one big lie. We’re just dots of insignificance. “Tell your parents then, go ahead. And when she turns up in another town serving truckers coffee under a new name, don’t come crying to me.”

Kingdom of Snow 82 Connolly Peck knew Lorne had done it when the telephone rang and from downstairs his father yelled out his name. Peck flicked his cigarette through the open bedroom window and went downstairs. Practice made perfect.

Tobias Penner had rushed over to the Cathedral and confirmed for himself what his son had told him. Lorne showed his father the hole in the back of the closet. Both men stood looking into the dark closet both hoping secretly the closet was but another cave, and an angel would soon appear to offer guidance. Their breath hung in the cold air. “We should pray,” his father said. Both dropped to their knees in the snow. There were two Cara; one was in a closet, locked in there by her friends and now gone like a magic trick and the other was out in the wider world living under an assumed name, living another life as someone else, a presence somewhere else that needed it. Since there was no body, at least she wasn’t dead, at least Cara was still out there, but where and why were questions still to be answered. One thing was certain; Cara was not where the children had left her. Cara was gone. After rising, Tobias asked “Why?” He shrugged. “It was a game.”

The Penners phoned the other parents and included both Pastor Reimer and Principal Skinner in the discussions. Peck’s parents wanted to call the police immediately. Steve Simons said the children were an embarrassment. Peck should be taught a lesson. Everyone agreed that going to the police would be the prudent thing to do, and they would be called, but first some suggested that they make sure, to avoid the inevitable

Kingdom of Snow 83 Connolly police. “Remember what happened with Larry,” the pastor reminded his congregants. Church Enraged: Youth Minister Had Sexual Relations with Young Boy. Church Holds ‘Exorcism’ for Larry Tchaikovsy. ‘Satan’ Pastor Calls Youth Minister. The Crossing: Church or Cult?

A meeting was called. The Neufeld living room, domestic and tidy, was filled with rumpled souls carrying mugs of coffee and tea. Young children were sent downstairs, while Peck, Lorne and Sarah joined the adults. “Barry, Wanda. Lorne has something to say,” Tobias began staring at a spot on the carpet. Seeing his father’s head bowed, possibly in shame, shook Lorne to the core; he began to cry. He clamped his mouth shut and began again, wiping away tears from his cheeks. He presented the best he could the events of their time with Cara. “And that’s the last we saw of her…” A presence filled the room. Snowflakes struck the large black living room window. There were two Caras then: one, a missing girl, and the other girl floating somewhere in the room as if a snowflake. Every one could feel her near, nearer as she’d been in the last two weeks. Barry and Wanda sat together weeping, heaving, with their conjoined hands in Barry’s lap. Barry scanned the room. It was horrifying. “Sorry,” Peck said but his voice was so low no one heard exactly what he is saying. Steve Simons grabbed his son’s arm and forced him to sit down on the floor. Sarah was draped in her mother’s arms.

Kingdom of Snow 84 Connolly “Oh dear God why, you mean bastards!” Wanda yelled before being restrained by Barry. “Our baby.” “Why didn’t you tell us that night, that Friday?” Barry screamed, his arms full of Wanda and her unbridled anger. She yelled out, “We could have…” Lorne began “It was a game. She wanted to play a game. We thought…” “We thought she ran away,” Sarah said. “A game!” yelled Barry. Wanda shot back in a ferocious rage, “And then you just, what forgot about her?” “No,” Peck said and received a slap on the back of the head. He jerked away from his father’s grip and stood. “We hoped she ran away from all of you, this crazy church.” “Peck,” said Lily stirring. Her standing took everyone by surprise, most particularly her daughter. “Peck that’s enough. Haven’t you done enough? Sit down young man. Sit down.” And he did. The furnace groaned blasting more heat into the dry air. “They all deserve a good smack,” someone said. “If he’d listened before… Larry,” others said. “Cara.” “Cara!” Wanda cried out. Pastor Reimer stood beside Wanda one hand on her shoulder. He placed his other hand on Barry. “We’re family. Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need renounces faith. That’s the sin, a sin worse than refusing to believe in the first place, Selah.” “But they hurt my daughter,” Wanda said.

Kingdom of Snow 85 Connolly “They put her in harm’s way is my thinking, Wanda. Until we know more, we need to first secure Cara’s safety.” “And then?” asked Barry. Principal Skinner interjected, “Getting the local police involved at this point will all but slow down the search for Cara. The main thing, right now, is to find Cara. The children are sorry, we can see that. They made a mistake.” “Do we go to the police?” asked Lily. Sarah hiccupped and burst into tears; a ragged crying fit, and sank into her mother’s chest. Principal Skinner stepped forward raising his hands as if in surrender. “Not with this… Not yet. Recall, my own daughter…” His words hung in the air. When Skinner’s own daughter went missing there was fear she had been abducted. Reports in the paper called the police response inadequate and negligent. Three days after her initial disappearance, he told the church, the community, that she’d called home to say she was, “gone for good and would never be coming back.” He never again mentioned her by name. “Are you insane? This is my daughter you’re talking about,” Wanda raged, trying to rise. Barry held her in his arms. She began to cry anew. The room fell silent over her tears. Peck looked around the room and found faces contorted in pain and others as still as water. “They’re children, they didn’t know better. Accidents happen,” said Pastor Reimer, “it’s wrong to confuse children with angels. They should be forgiven their transgressions, Selah. They have fallen short of God’s intent.”

Kingdom of Snow 86 Connolly Principal Skinner again, all jumpy eyes, “For now, (mumbling) we just need to get Cara back. We have to think since she wasn’t where they left her, that she’s sought shelter or… Wanda, I know what it’s like to lose a daughter to…(mumbling)…” No one offered to finish his sentence. Was Skinner’s daughter pregnant, crazy, high on drugs, did she run off with a Carney or a Catholic; no one knew? There were suspicions. “This could be just like with Tchaikovsy; our children were exploited doubly: by him and the media; the media did its part,” said the pastor, folding his large hands together and looking at Peck. “Thankfully we saved them before it got too far gone, Selah.” “Does it change anything?” asked Tobias thinking out loud. He stood, his hands his pockets at the living room window. “I mean they did something horrible, but,” he shook his head. Lily said, “But if Cara’s not where they said she was, then where is she?” “She could be anywhere,” said Wanda her head in her hands. But the thought that Cara could be gave Wanda an odd feeling. Though she couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing, in a way the anger it produced ate away at her own guilt, her own dread that Cara would never been seen alive again. This was something. It meant something, but exactly what she couldn’t be sure. She looked up at Peck, Lorne and Sarah: Mere children; God’s children. The news gave her hope. Wanda smiled at Barry. “We need to pray for Cara,” Pastor Reimer said. He then began softly to recite a prayer and one by one everyone in the room dropped to their knees or bowed their head in prayer.

Kingdom of Snow 87 Connolly Wanda prayed so forcibly – her eyelids clamped shut – she felt blood straining in her throat and behind her eyes. She threw her glasses across the room; they landed in a plastic palm plant. Barry took her in his full embrace. “It was an accident,” he could be heard saying, “It was. She’ll be fine. I know.” Sarah looked across the room to see the parents all nodding. They all knew Principal Skipper’s daughter had run away because her daddy liked her more than her mommy. Gone for good. Yor Gone for Good. Yor? What’s missing from Yor? “We’re all God’s children,” Barry whispered to his wife who turned to look up into his gaze. Wanda closed her eyes. “No police. They don’t need to know about this. It was stupid kid’s stuff. She’s not there now where they left her. Not there. So. Where did she go?” “Peck. Lorne, Sarah.” Barry called out and stood. The three youths came forward. “You did a bad thing, a horrible thing. But you’re not bad people.” Wanda held back her tears. Where did she go? Who had her now? “But we need to do all we can right now to find Cara. Understand?” Barry continued. “Come, Selah.” They stood before Cara’s father, waiting whatever punishment was to be handed down. He hugged them. Wanda stood. “We forgive you,” he said.

Kingdom of Snow 88 Connolly “We do,” Wanda added, tired, but encouraged and hugged the three youths in turn. While she hugged Sarah, Wanda looked out the black picture window catching the reflection of her twins, at the hallway corner. When she turned to speak to them, they’d disappeared. “The quality of mercy is not strained,” Principal Skinner proclaimed. “Selah,” a few canted in unison.

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Part Two—a memory Ice

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Every other year an envelope arrives in the mail. Inside there is a single note with no author named and no one addressed. The note reads: Do you hear the ice cracking? They would gather at the bridge in the morning, before the sun rose. It would always be in deep fall, when the temperature is cold enough to freeze water, but the snow has not yet fallen. They would sit under the bridge and lace up their ice skates. The ice on the lake at that time of year is thin, but pristine. The sound it makes when the steel blades slice into it is magical. There is little friction and skaters glide effortlessly, smoothly. For days they would watch the weather, read the thermometer, just to be sure. They would scan the sky, read the papers, and listen intently to the radio. They would finally agree on a day. The skate was over a mile long from one bank to another. Starting off was crucial. For a moment there in the dark, their breath hanging in the air in front of their faces, they would stand in silence. Then, Go! As soon as the skates hit the ice, the ice begins to crack. They must be fast and cannot hesitate. They pump their arms, their legs scissor back and forth quickly. Their lungs grow cold. They cannot stop. It is all ahead. Mostly they skate hard and fast, without looking back and without speaking. They are all listening.

Kingdom of Snow 91 Connolly As the dawn begins to thaw into daylight, and the bank comes into view they begin to glide, turning to see what is coming for them. Only then with strides left in the annual race do they breathlessly ask: Do you hear the ice cracking? People noticed a change in them. They were quietly confident. They kept to themselves. The three boys never told anyone about it. Years have gone by and they no longer live in the same small town with the lake that freezes over in the winter. But every once in a while an envelope comes in the mail one of them thinks to send. They open it slowly and withdraw the single note. Their lungs grow cold, and they listen.

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Part Three—Maybe Now Blue

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One Editor’s Desk: Decade Old Mystery Solved Police close to announcing the case of Cara Neufeld’s death closed By Martin Ford Managing Editor New Quantico Tribune

Winter buries everything – even newspapermen’s leads. So I will bury mine…

“What are you still doing here? Something’s… you look different…” It’s Cecil Harper, an old friend. You were right in the middle of writing tomorrow’s newspaper column, “So I will bury mine…” and admittedly it is late, and in he walks bringing with him the cold air, the stale smell of it. It smells like electricity and musty wood. So you stop typing; your fingers hover over the keyboard. We’d been at the New Quantico Tribune together for over fifteen years. You are the managing editor and Cecil’s the arts section editor. He’s just back from a New York press junket. “How was New York?” you ask turning from your desk. “Pure mayhem, but I loved it,” he says, squints at you and takes the chair opposite. He hands you a package and asks, “How was the Redekopf unveiling?” Yesterday New Quantico’s premier sculptor, Sarah Redekopf unveiled a new piece intended to immortalize one of city’s lesser known citizens – Cara Neufeld. Cara was a

Kingdom of Snow 94 Connolly schoolmate of Sarah who went mysteriously missing walking home from school fifteen years ago, yesterday. Her disappearance and death were never solved; you know this intimately, because it was your first big story, big crime reporter assignment. Just today the decades old mystery was solved and you have the details. Just today… Still you’re a reporter, at heart, and reporters know how to handle information. And to be honest, you are writing your way through it all. “You read Maggie’s coverage – it was what it was…I have something…” Cecil missed all the day’s excitement because he was in New York for the new Jasper Johns retrospective. “Open the damn package, Marty.” You know there’s no stopping Cecil. “You have a memory that defies science. How did you remember my birthday? Katherine…” Cecil shakes his head and sighs. “Marty.” You tear at the string and brown paper, to find a large drawing. “It’s CBGB…a sketch of that punk club in the village.” You pick up the large canvas and bring it in for a closer look. You and Cecil share a love of music. “Wanna borrow my specs?” Cecil asks. You can’t see him for the sketch. You put the canvas down leaning it against a bookcase and squint. “I don’t need glasses.” “Marty it sure looks like you do.” You extend your hand across the desk and Cecil takes it. “Thanks man.” “You’re welcome. Now the Redekopf…” “Yeah…” “Maggie’s young…” he begins in a cooing voice trying to placate you. Maggie’s story had a few factual errors in it, but that’s not what you want to talk about. There are other things, now, mysteries solved. “Wait, there’s something I’m dying to tell you about the Redekopf thing.”

Kingdom of Snow 95 Connolly Cecil sits back in the chair, and places his hands in his lap. “So that’s… What’s going on?” “Remember Cara Neufeld?” “Sure, of course, that was Redekopf’s subject: Thirteen-year-old girl goes missing, turns up dead. Case has never been solved.” “Until now.” He leans his lanky frame forward. “Wait. What’s this got to do with Redekopf’s piece. She…?” “Cara and Sarah Redekopf were childhood friends and you’ll remember…” “Sarah was one of the last people to see her alive, to see Cara, right. I remember that. That was one of your first stories.” “Won a press award for that one.” “What’s new?” A reporter’s inclination is to give the reader the W5 – who, what, where, when and why – right off the bat, first paragraph. But when the reader is another reporter, what is more important is how the information was found and gathered. Because all reporters want to know the way stories are found; all reporters want to know how you beat them. So it’s no surprise, you want to give him the lead, the opener that sets him back – but you don’t. You want to give it to him like you’d gotten it. It is a classic hurry up and wait scenario journalism is famous for; reporters hurry to cover a story, but wait for the details.

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Two You wait watching Cecil lean further. You waited fifteen years to finish this story. “I know who killed Cara Neufeld.” “Holy shit.” “First a time line.” Cecil laughs. “Always a fucking reporter – time line, puh-leeze.” “1987.” “Cara Neufeld found frozen to death in a shed not far from her house.” “A month after going missing. Right in the dead of winter.” Cecil asks, “What happened today?” You hold up a hand. “Wait, wait. Not so fast.” “1989.” “Eight-nine? What… what about it…?” “Two years later. Remember the…?” “Ice box suicide note!” Cecil snaps his fingers into the air. “Memory like an elephant. Yes. Two years after Cara Neufeld is found dead, her boyfriend, Tarrance Peck Simons, is found dead of an apparent suicide.” “Torched his room,” Cecil adds. “The River Hotel.” “And you found the note.” “Right where you said the mark on that ice box was…” you offer. “The icebox suicide note was inside, right, right. But what about today?” I bring my hands together. “Let me start with Peck and work forward.” Cecil shakes his head, “Why? That doesn’t make sense, to…”

Kingdom of Snow 97 Connolly “Oh believe me, it makes sense.”

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Three “In 1989, a call came in across the police scanner: New Quantico’s historic landmark – The River Hotel – was burning to the ground. I ran out to cover the story with a photographer. The hotel, which was once the grand dame of the county had over the past few decades decayed into little more than Skid Row housing, burned to the ground. There was a single fatality – one of the rummies of the hotel. Dental records, a few days later, had identified the dead resident as being a fifteen-year-old kid, Tarrance Peck Simons. “At the time I remember not giving two shits about some old hotel going up in flames. It was a simple story to cover and write. Go to the scene and report what happened. Some resident Wino was smoking in bed and had passed out, burning his sheets, the floor, his room and the entire combustible heap. So what if the River Hotel on Main was reduced to slag. Who cared? It was as old as Pontius Pilate. Good riddance. Maybe it would clean up skid row, I remember thinking. “But then the day after when I was checking to see how the editors played the story. Atop my front page story about the fire were a few photographs of the hotel burning to the ground. Looking at the pictures on the front page, the picture of the firefighters with their silver stream of water aimed at the flames flying out of the River Hotel and another photograph of the rubble firefighters had culled from the wreckage. I couldn’t take my eyes off the photograph of the fiery mess. I felt drunk. The pictures floated in and out of focus. It was really weird. Something was there. I just had this sense that someone was compelling me to look into this further. “So I pulled the pictures up through the newspaper’s database and magnified the one picture with the smoldering pile of rubble. I stared at the computer screen until those pixels blurred into bloated ghosts. Blur. Sometimes words could lose their meaning this

Kingdom of Snow 99 Connolly way; I’d happened to me before, I’d get tired and everything becomes blurry. I’d never admit it to anyone. I’m not the crying type; not the kind of man who tells his friends every infinitesimal thought that pops into his head. There’d been times when I caught myself unable to decipher the simplest of words. Photographs were no better. A photograph could sear into the back of my brain with such potency that when I shut my eyes the image remained — stark white against blood so dark it was black — surfacing, bobbing in the dark ink behind his eyelids. I was amazed at what I saw behind my closed eyes. The picture of the rubble was doing it to me. I thought I was going crazy. I was seeing things when my eyes were open and seeing things when they were shut. In the ruins I saw a crucifix. Remember?” Cecil leans back and stares at you, smiling “You called me that day, woke me up if I remember, and I told you, you were not seeing things.” “There was a black cross in the picture, right?” Cecil nods. “I went to the kitchen and picked up my copy of the paper. And there it was man, plain as day: an icebox. Gosh it’s been a long time and I can still see that thing in my mind: Someone has drawn a black cross on the front of a small icebox, the kind you find in hotel rooms, the mini bars.” “Right. Either the cross had been drawn on it or by some weird occurrence the fire had left its mark.” You let a moment pass, a beat, “And inside…” “But what does that have to do with Cara Neufeld?” You light a cigarette and lean back on your chair. “I went down to the site of the hotel fire the next day. Debris from the fire was stilled piled in the back alley. Fire investigators were at work sifting through the ruins, looking for the fire’s origin. “ ‘Hey Marty,’ ” one of the investigators called out. I waved and moved toward the rubble pile.

Kingdom of Snow 100 Connolly “ ‘Alright with you guys if I have a look around,’ ” I said. They turned and focused on the pile for a moment and shook their heads. “ ‘Knock yourself out, we’re done with that.’ “I stood in front of the large pile of charred garbage. It was bits of burned wood, old furniture soggy and reeking of smoke; there were bed mattresses and coat racks, an inexplicable cigarette machine looking none the worse for wear and amidst a pile of rotten and scorched timber sat several room iceboxes – one had a black smudge on its door. That was the one I’d seen in the photo, the one you confirmed for me that I was not going crazy. The mark looked like a cross. “ ‘Nothing in those,’ ” a voice came from behind scaring the crap out of me. I flinched. ‘What about that one?’ ” “ ‘We check the electric cords – nothing combustible. None of those were the source of the fire, if that’s what you’re asking.’ ” “I had turned to ask if they’d looked inside and if they minded I would, the investigator had walked away. I was alone with the icebox and the black smudge that remarkably resembled a crucifix. But I didn’t feel alone.” Cecil says, “You said it was like someone was standing right behind you.” Blue smoke fills the space between you and Cecil. You wave it away with a slow brush of your hand. “It was weird. I actually thought the investigator hadn’t left. I could have sworn someone was standing right behind me, holding me by my arm… “I walked over to the pile of wood and began pushing aside the boards until I could get at the icebox with the black mark on it. Every cell in my body was telling me to get to the inside of that icebox, to open it and find out what was inside. I thought you know how you get these feelings; I heard someone telling me this, to get the box open. “You had your rosary with you?” Cecil asks.

Kingdom of Snow 101 Connolly You give Cecil a look. You never leave the house without first checking the right front pocket where you keep your rosary. You don’t hang it around your neck given the political correct nature of the newsroom. So you stuff it into my pocket first in the morning before leaving the house. “That day when I was crouched in front of the icebox, hearing voices and feeling a presence, I was amazed to find that I had absentmindedly taken from my pants’ pocket and had it rolled around my hand. The blue beads dangled from my hand as I reached out to open the icebox door. “ ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.’ The words came automatically, as I reach out, as the beads caught my attention. A tear came to my eye, maybe from the cold, but also because I felt moved by something, maybe the very words I’d said in a hush as I reached forward. The words burned their way up my throat. I felt a hand on my shoulder as I opened the door of the icebox with the black smudged cross. Words brought me the world, the substance of things hoped for.” For a moment you are lost. You can see that Cecil is concerned and is starting at you. You feel a tear roll down your cheek. You go to wipe it away, and remember as you raise your hand, silence and the color blue.

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Four When you were an infant, a bout of influenza temporarily deafened you. In that silent world, words could not surface. It would take an act of God for words to once again come from your mouth. You were without words until one day at mass. Your mother says her son pointed at a priest’s stole. The sanctuary was quiet, it was a moment of reverence and reflection in the ceremony; parishioners had their heads bowed. Not you. You looked at the stole and blurted out “blue.” And your ears popped. The congregation gasped, sucking in all the air in the church and then as if sweetened by the sanctified air, everyone began to laugh. Your tiny ears filled with hot rushing thunder, applause. Your ears stung with sound. Your father was doubled over beside you in the pew, laughing — the first time you could recall hearing his laughter. It was one of your father’s rare appearances back home before leaving again. He always left at night. It was at night that you felt their quarrels, their muffled screams making their way to your bedroom, as if electricity running through hidden wires imbedded in your bones. You lay awake, shaking. In the pew on the Sunday you blurted out “blue,” your father’s body shook with great heaving laughter. “You’re going to make Jesus fall off his cross,” he said leaning in to whisper it. Again your bones quivered. You thought you’d heard your father right. Mother scolded the two of us, her finger wagging in the electrified air. “Blueblueblue,” poured from your mouth. For days it was nothing, but “blue.” Cars, spoons, pebbles and cats were all blue. The sky wed the blue fields of blue snow over which hung a blue sun. A blue baby Jesus changed the blue world by singing the blues. Winter was blue.

Kingdom of Snow 103 Connolly The miraculous story of your return to the world of words was the stuff of legend among family and friends; it was often repeated at gatherings and parties. Your “blue” was trotted out side by side Padre Pio’s rose-scented stigmata, Fatima’s utterances or Marian apparitions in doughnuts or hubcaps. You were a religious miracle. Growing up, your mother wouldn’t stand for the jokes, especially not religious jokes. She often told you, “Jesus is going to come back one day and clean up this whole mess. We only have to keep up our end of the bargain, the vows, and the prayers. We must confess our sins. Ask for forgiveness. We must say the words: Please forgive me Father…” To you it sounded conditional. The following Monday after the “Blue” mass as it was coined, the house was empty; father had moved out again, taking with him his pajamas and shaving kit. You stared out the window, peering through the frosted windowpane wanting desperately to see him return. The last time you’d seen him was when he tucked you into bed. He’d come to say goodbye. “No matter, I’m a good man, mark my words, I’ll be back.” You turned my head. The smell of beer and cigarettes was in the air. She’s so aggravating she could get Christ off the cross. I’ll be back. You watched your father being swallowed by the dark street. Your lip quivered and you cried out his name. Our Father Blue who art in Blue Heaven… Still to this day the rosary sits in your pocket — pilfered from your father’s nightstand. It’s comprised of highly shined blue beads. Your childhood bedroom walls were painted “Prussian,” mother liked to tell it. Years later during a Lenten sermon you heard that blue was considered the color of change. When the rosary lay in your hands,

Kingdom of Snow 104 Connolly the heavy blue beads pushed along on their way up and around his mind through joyous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries; your prayers were of hope, and for change. Lead us not unto temp… You often pray and read aloud. As you grew up you tried each new word to yourself, and then ventured to use it aloud. You put the word in a sentence and wrote it out on small pieces of paper you’d tear from notebooks. You’d roll these pieces of paper up into a ball and eat them. For those who lose the power of words, ever so briefly, those very words become more than liberty, they must be discovered and internalized; words must be hoarded as if nutritious insects. Words unlocked doors; brought the dead back to life, kicked at the darkness until it bled blue. The right words, mother had said, could bring miracles; the wrong ones would mean only continual suffering. You won spelling bees, the correct spellings falling from your tongue effortlessly. When you were a teenager you’d complete crossword puzzles in blue ink. At university you majored in English. You brought home novels for mother to read and discuss together. Your first job after graduating was as a reporter — a job where you could work with words every day and see them in black and white every morning. You cared less for the actual stories and more for the words. Your editors knew this and chided you for it. “I don’t care how it sounds or how appropriate a word it is,” said one looking down at the sheet of paper in his hand. You could barely contain myself. “Exculpate is the right word.” “I don’t care, dumb it down.” The story was handed back. “Kiss: Keep it simple stupid.” Over time, you were like a taut prizefighter, slugging it out with the heavy words in your head and the ones that eventually landed on the page. You foraged and rummaged through the detritus, the slag heaps and the mess of what was left. You became obsessed

Kingdom of Snow 105 Connolly with crisp, clean sentences with words even a child in the third grade could pronounce. You became possessive. For your efforts you were promoted to editor as all obsessive writers are.

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Five “I put my hand through the boards to the door handle. I tugged. No problem: the door opened. Nothing inside accept an old dirty box of baking soda. There was something else, though, right, something written inside, on the freezer door.” Cecil lets out a burst of air. “Pszzt: That still gives me the heebie-jeebies.” You laugh too, because it feels right, releasing some of the tension in your neck; the seeming yoke on your shoulders that was lifted just today left a residue impression at the nape of your neck as if it had been there, weighing you down, for years. “Someone…” “Peck,” offers Cecil. You tilt your head, “Peck had written one word: ‘Cara.’” Cecil rose from his seat and rubbed the front of his pant legs, and look about. “Need some coffee. Are you going to tell me what I think you’re about to tell me? You found Peck?” You shake your head. “Better. Grab me a cup while you’re there.”

I couched to get a better look. “Cara?” I asked weighing the word in my mind. It was familiar. I opened the freezer compartment and inside there was an envelope, which itself was inside a sealed plastic bag, the kind used for peanut butter sandwiches. I saw through the slightly frosted plastic. On the envelope it read: “To the friends and family of Tarrance Peck Simons.” I sat down on the ground staring at the envelope. You say out loud: “Peck?” “A reporter never forgets,” Cecil says returning to the desk with two cups of coffee.

Kingdom of Snow 107 Connolly Right. You nod. A reporter never forgets. The wind moved about me, sending swirling columns of light snow in my face. For a moment it was all sparkles and light. “Cara?” “I remember thinking it was like not being there at all,” you tell Cecil. “Just the sound of that name inside my head, the sight of it there on the envelope and it all came rushing back…” “I get that way staring at a Rothko or Richter.” Cecil stares out the window on the adjacent wall at the black winter night. You look at Cecil. “If someone had gone over and tapped me on the shoulder, I would not have turned. I was frozen there, my body, but my thoughts, my brain was time traveling back ten years ago…” I could still see her. Cara Neufeld. That measly smile, the mousy hair; she was a sylph lost in the snow. I took the envelope and got back into my car. A few blocks later, I stopped the car and parked. I pulled the bulky envelope from inside my jacket and stared at it, afraid to open it. Now, Cecil says, “To this day, I don’t understand: Why would you take that envelope from the scene, it was evidence?” “I don’t know. There was a sense of urgency and I just did it.” Sitting in my car, alone, I felt that holding the envelope was like holding the inside of someone who had been blown open. Newspaper writers got that feeling whenever they knew what they were being told was highly private. A wind knocked the car. Across the dark windshield a trail of crystallized snow drifted. A reporter never forgets. A story rose of a girl. It was Cara Neufeld. She was walking home from school… I opened the plastic bag and lifted out the envelope. It was not sealed. I opened the envelope and lifted out a black book or journal and a letter, which were pages torn out

Kingdom of Snow 108 Connolly of the journal. I scanned the letter quickly flitting from word to word, until that one word appeared to emerge from the glowing page, to burn itself in relief on the page: Cara. I read the letter through twice, copied it out in full in my own notebook, every word, every period. I thumbed through the book, which was a journal of drawings and entries. A penny dropped out. I examined it, and thinking nothing of it, placed it back inside the journal. When I looked up from the contents of the envelope I saw that the wind had brought more snow and it was covering the windshield in what looked like a scattering of diamonds. “Ice,” I said and pulled away from the curb. “That story dogged you for years.” Cecil says and looks at you. You turn from gazing out the window. “It was my first big story and it was so maddening how it never came to a close. I always thought it was…” “Until…” “Today: The Redekopf unveiling.” You say picturing it all over again, the white unbroken snow, the inimitable sculpture, the milling people and a fracas; the smell of melting snow. Cecil fades before you, into background, into mist. In your mind, everything turns cold, the sun sinks back to the east, and everything is skewed; what was whole shattered as if ice, as if a flensing knife slicing snowflakes.

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Six The day of the sculpture unveiling began broken. Fractured light, stratified dreams, broken curtain line all fissures as if fractals on a window pane. The gray winter light fell on the living room carpet in silent strafes as it passed through the blinds. I stood lethargically staring at the floor, a cup of coffee in my hand; I’d slept only a few hours. I’d been out again last night. Last night it was the burden of the beast; today you taste the sweetness of the slain monster. But not before…the beautiful ache, for some a heroine high, five-card stud coming from behind, bungee-jumping off cliffs and bridges; while my own; the shivering flesh of forbidden fruit; a wrestling with noxious angels or it’s a cavorting with Screwtapes and Wormwoods. In another part of the city under a sky of dancing lights the night previous, I went to go see her, the other woman. Blue-tinged smoke plumbed from brick and wood chimneys, the crystallized breath of noisy, belching furnaces, of sated brimstone hearths. Antiquarian clocks creakily took steps into early morning. The hands strike out new day, new day, over and over again in house after house, every new beginning a deep black with distant icy stars. The moon was white bone. I moved slowly down the deserted street arms held in tight, my canting body cast in silhouette on the incandescent snow. Ice crystals clung to my eyebrows and lashes, granting me prisms to gaze through. I was breathing in frost. I told myself it was not far, that soon I would be warm. Soon. I wondered how I got here and where I would go from here – before me the light became geometry and rainbowed through the ice on my eyelashes. I love the charity of night, the magic of being alive at an early hour, and the thought that all that I loved

Kingdom of Snow 110 Connolly slept. I was a good man mark, I thought, but only became when my words were turned into action. But not before… The crunch of fresh sleet beneath my boots sounded like loneliness, the infinitesimal crack of the snow coming to his ears alone; that there were no other surrounding sounds, save the distant din of traffic and no one around to hear what I could hear. Cold muffled the world. At the corner I turned to see the bone moon jut and move through the hoarfrost branches of a stark oak tree. A shudder ran through my chest and rose into my thoughts. He could… I turned, as I did on these excursions. The window was lit, the curtain parted. She is there waiting. The mystery there. Soon I would be warm. Out of habit, I patted my pant pocket for my rosary. I mounted the stiff stairs of the house, the moonlight kissing my cheeks farewell, even as shadows, falling from the porch, ate my hair and began to swallow me whole. For an hour time stopped and my flesh turned milky blue. I took her in my embrace, my wounds, and entered into that other life, that place hidden from loved ones, a place bereft of responsibility, but full of passion. There were two bodies, and a third, a scalene triune. I knew that we were not alone. There was always another man there, sitting in the dark corner, the smell of beer and cigarettes in the air. Through a wheeze: Easy son, you’ll aggravate Christ off his cross. Sometimes when I was making love, and my lover’s eyes were closed, I looked around for the other, but he’d never be there when I searched for him. It was like when I’d been swallowed by this place, it in turn had swallowed itself vacuous and blue. Last night, before entering the house the sky brightened. With my back to the door I watched the northern lights shimmer across the sky; lights moving up and down, moving along an invisible seam as if beads of a giant chain of luminous wonder. I whistled and the lights seem all the more near. It began to snow.

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In the morning the world’s tracks had been covered, in snow. Katherine had bothered me awaking earlier than usual. I was mad at her and she was keeping her distance, again. Marty, our son, was crying. The wing on his toy space shuttle was broken. I hoped it would stop before he had to do anything, but there was no such luck. The kid was wailing. “Hey, hey, hey big guy stop that crying. No problem see,” I said this placing the coffee cup down and bringing the two pieces of the shuttle together. “A little glue and it will be as good as new.” The news business was like this, a piecing together the bits and pieces of lives and events that appeared to tear at the very fabric of life. A death, a scandal, an accident or a missing child all tell the reader what was once whole was now, less so. There was flux. What was constant? The world was replete with brokenness, but that, Martin had been taught, was where beauty lived. The wind coming through the draughts sometimes sounded melodic even as it brought pneumonia; the defects in a friend’s heart made that person humble as the organ supped weakly for blood; his perfect mother laughed when it was pointed out that she was a control freak only to chastise herself later in private. Things fell away, and every day to be human was to build things back up in acknowledgment that nothing was perfect. The cracks were resplendent. The center was sheer. That was where the light of grace lessened the darkness. The universe was one from a God of dust and rainbows. I knew that soon Katherine would emerge from her darkness, and transform back into the light of my life, I knew this because with any death, big or seemingly small, came the heralded resurrection. “But it’s b-b-broken,” our little boy astronaut in Sesame Street pajamas stammered. He knuckled a tear out of his eye. “Can you fix it Daddy?”

Kingdom of Snow 112 Connolly Everything is already broken. I nodded looking at the hurt in his weary eyes. Sure hope so. The crying continued. Now stop your crying or you’ll aggravate Christ off the cross. “Great, now this,” I thought Katherine said. She remained detached, alone, in bed. “We can glue this,” I said and combed his hair with my fingers and left to get the glue and more coffee. Little Marty was in a trance looking over the shuttle as if it were an alien artifact he found half-buried in a field and had unearthed it. His eyes filled with bulbous tears, still transfixed on the broken wing. In the small apartment kitchen I tried concentrating on the crack, lining up the jagged teeth on both sides of the fissure. I envisioned his wife’s arms crossed on her chest —being huffy. She let out a sigh loud enough for Martin to hear. “Blue again?” I didn’t look at her; didn’t need to. She gave me nothing, but the silent treatment. “Here. Take it to your bedroom and leave it on your dresser for the rest of the day. The glue needs time to hold.” With that my little Marty scampered away, making burbling noises. I refilled my coffee cup and walked the hallway to the bedroom door. Leaning against the doorjamb I could take in the unmade bed; the rumpled bedclothes made me sad—the sheer banality of it, the repetitiveness. I said finally, “I’m going jogging with Cecil and then off to cover that unveiling.” Perhaps she knew then, maybe she’s always known or maybe it was this final lie that broke it open, broke me open. I didn’t know, because there were other things. “Mommy?” “Marty…” I said quietly turning away from the bedroom. One minute there is nothing but the wholeness of things the next… I brought a finger up to my mouth to indicate Mommy was still asleep and we should be quiet. Marty smiled and skulked away.

Kingdom of Snow 113 Connolly Turning, Katherine was on the bed, her back to me, as usual. I looked at her slender back, her spine—vertebrae by vertebrae—ghosting through her nightgown. The wind rattled the bedroom window jarring me. I looked up to see snow gathering on the window ledge. I stared out the window, peering through the frost. For a moment I fooled myself that something was there, then, it wasn’t – whatever it had been. Behind me the apartment door swung open. “Your mother’s here,” I said to the bed and turned away. “Grandma,” Marty squealed and ran into the outstretched arms of Gail Pazmandy. She hoisted her grandson up and into a full hug. I packed a sports bag with clothes for work and dressed in jogging clothes. At the door I threw on a parka, a scarf, wool cap, boots and gloves. It was a ritual, leaving, so I was greeted at the door by son and grandmother. I kissed the top of my son’s head and gripped Gail’s shoulder as I passed and opened the door. In passing, I exchanged a look with Gail to let her know, her daughter was at it again. She gave him a small smile of understanding. “Thanks Gail. Call you guys later.” “Goodbye Daddy.” Marty said and then made flying sounds.

I wasn’t needed at work yet and I certainly wasn’t jogging with Cecil. I needed out of my house. Down the street I pulled the car over and went into a coffee shop. Standing at the condiment station dumping cream into my coffee I scanned the community bulletin board in front of me. The board was covered in small posters for bands performing at local bards and clubs; I used to go to clubs. One band caught my eye: Yor! It brought back more than just my own memories, it reminded me of something from years ago, about the Cara Neufeld story; she was on my mind because of the sculpture unveiling later that day. Where she was found – in the ill-used shed – someone had spray painted on the shed wall the very word I was looking at: Yor.

Kingdom of Snow 114 Connolly I drove around drinking from my coffee and trying to remember what Yor stood for – something about what was missing. Well the “u,” for starters. I found myself driving back to Neufeld’s neighborhood. It was several hours before the unveiling. Still there was activity over at the site where the sculpture was going to be, on the bank of the river. I drove to a street nearby and parked the car. It might be excused as tiredness morphing into delirium, but for someone like me moving in and out of time and place, like this finding myself walking and thinking like a reporter from so long ago, was a regular occurrence. I often saw things – figuratively and literally – that others did not. It was a sort of game I’d played as boy; I imagined people out of sheer air, and I had them sit on the edge of my bed. I gave them words and actions. I held conversations with people who had long left the room. It was not something that I did with any frequency as I got older; children understand the world is magic, grownups grumpily dismiss such beliefs. I didn’t want the magic to be gone. But I knew it was fading. Katherine’s increasing distance, pressures at work, had made me cynical to be sure, but life often invited me to welcome nostalgia of the more tactile variety. I wanted so badly to see the world as a good place. In my childhood, “Onward Christian Soldier,” was written for children like me. God wasn’t a noun; God was a verb and He would bloody a nose to prove it. As I entered adulthood, I doubted my faith, only to have it reemerge with the birth of Marty; still my belief ebbed and flowed. I was confused. As a boy it had all been clear. It was clear that mystery is an agency of faith. I welcomed the blues of inscrutability while cursing its pallid underbelly. I merged back into traffic and drove aimlessly, while thinking – a veritable no-no for driving safety, I know. Soon enough I parked again and got out of my car with my cup of steaming coffee, to stretch my legs. Thinking of Cara, of my first forays into journalism, I wander and soon enough I found myself leaning against a red building, within eyesight of the river and the bridge. The day was unbelievably bright, but not

Kingdom of Snow 115 Connolly warm; the snow was brilliantly white on the ground. I gulped coffee and fingered my rosary. As I moved the blue beads one by one through their looping majesty, a part of me was gone, back fifteen years, typing; a part of him was younger and hungry; hunting and pecking out words to describe a seemingly reprehensible act. Passersby could clearly see a man standing before the building; I knew this, so I try not to look spooky or like some trolling pedophile. My mind was far away, enacting the story of Cara.

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Seven “On Friday, November 30, Cara Neufeld, thirteen-years-old, a Grade seven student …” In my mind, I could see the fuzzy green letters floating on my old computer screen. “Was last seen walking home with boyfriend Tarrance Simons…” I said this out loud and it startled me, as if I’d been asleep. My breath hung in the cold air. Rainbows circled the sun. I stood at the corner fingering my rosary, and I wondered—briefly—what people were thinking as they drove by and saw me. I mumbled like it mattered and walked toward the river. The first Cara story was maybe six inches long running one column in width. There was no picture. Cara’s mother, Wanda was quoted as saying, “We don’t know what happened, but something, someone, is keeping her from coming home.” She never came home. Would never come home again. I looked both ways before crossing the road, and walked the few blocks down to the railroad; I then followed the rail line south to beneath the bridge and came to Alsip’s yard. I stood with my hand on top of the fence, looking over the field of snow.

I moved along the fence. “Ah shit,” I said aloud as I sunk in knee-high snow. Clouds withdrew from the sun and it was brighter; I was temporarily blinded by the glare. In my memory I was still typing, as I presently scooped out snow from my shoe: “She walked home with her friends Sarah Redekopf, Lorne Penner, and Mr. Simons. All had been serving detention.” The building Cara had been eventually discovered in was no longer in the yard; there remained little, but a field of brokenness.

Kingdom of Snow 117 Connolly I felt chilled. Snow drifted into rivulets and dunes; over stiff, bleached grass and dull gray rock, old shanks of abandoned metal, the bent and unusable rim of a large trunk in sculpted beauty belying its banality. There was little left of what was once a hangout for teenagers. Now, passersby would simply go by without a second glance, unless they knew the ground’s history. By appearance it was insignificant. Railway tracks along the banks of the river were the color of red dirt having been unused for shunting cargo in decades. But in all the banality of the place something remained; I could feel it in the air and could almost see it if I squinted. I wiped my eyes and the field filled with students. They were searching. “Don’t go out alone,” the police and school officials had said. I recalled writing those words down and wondering if, as Wanda did, there was a madman around—an escapee from the jail, or a transient who devoured children? The fabled ogre under the bridge. Don’t go. I stood on a half-buried cement platform, its surface smooth and oddly free of any dirt. Why do people leave anyway, what’s left for us to do but wonder? I opened a newspaper box in my mind, moved beads over and over. There on the page: My first front-page story. The words, lifted from the page, transformed from black blurry blotches, into warping faces, and gangly arms, liquid legs and bubbling eyes. Eighty, perhaps a hundred students materialized, walked, and stained, the bank of the river, searching; their mouths opened, tendrils of fog lifted steadily into the crystallized air, words unheard unwound, powerlessly mute, rising then dissipating. My bones ached. Out alone. I could see through them, now. They shimmered and floated moving and congealing like black mercury against the white background of snow then formed into translucent glutinous blobs before becoming black ink again. Intermittently, I could hear them. They called her name. With each syllable, I punched an imaginary keyboard, one

Kingdom of Snow 118 Connolly finger at a time and a letter at a time. Hunt and peck, they used to call it. Hunt and peck. They were desperate. Their voices bent around trees, fitted through tight cracks and into the darkest of corners. Moving, congealing, calling and hunting. Pecking: Please come home, please come home. We forgive you, just please come home. It is wrong to confuse children with angels. I gripped my rosary, and then let the beads drop. I watched father being swallowed by the dark street. I called out his name. Our fathers are not gods. The students, the imaginary ones I saw blackening the banks of the river, were part of a very real search, a one-hour blitz of the twelve square blocks between the school and Neufeld house, just days after her disappearance. I turned to look over the field, across the road and down a side street. From where I stood, I could see the roof of the house where the Neufelds used to live. In the wind, through the parade of emptiness and imagination, ephemeral flyers fluttered like snowflakes, a thousand of them and every one of them had a picture of Cara. Have You Seen Cara? Have You Seen Cara? “The cops came up with nothing,” I whispered aloud, my voice rising in front of me before vanishing. In his ear, I heard, “She didn’t run away. She was so looking forward singing in church. Someone stopped her from coming home.” It was the past, it was Wanda Neufeld, the mother and she sounded like a bird. Her voice was caught in the bare limbs of the riverbank trees. Or was it an old shopping bag flapping? I turned up my jacket collar, cinched it up beneath my chin. My nose was running and my cheeks burned with the cold. With a finger I wiped at my weary eyes. I walked back to the car, which I’d parked on a side street by the school. She might come back. He might come back. He picked up the rosary in his pocket. Blue is the color of change.

Kingdom of Snow 119 Connolly At the car, I stood and looked across the busy road at a cemetery. The graveyard ground sparkled with the fresh snow; crows made their way through the field creating in their wake a strange line of dots. I followed the line to a ridge of snow, wending its way through the labyrinth of graves. As far as I could see with my eyes, through the field of headstones, gray and protruding, the line of snow traveled unbroken to a stand of shelterbelt Evergreens. Then disappeared. It was a very cold winter that year. Cara seemed so fragile in her school picture. She could have been anyone’s daughter. Everyone knew if Cara was found outside, somewhere, that she’d be dead. If she wasn’t dead, where was she? Who took her? Why would someone take her? “If I ever lost…” In the car he started up the engine and let the car warm up. Inside my breath made cold smoke in the air. The windshield was opaque with a sheet of ice, and then watery as it warmed. I traced a circle onto the glass and watched it fade. What do the missing think when they are lost, that no one wants to find them? Don’t they know that if they simply yelled out for help, someone would answer their call? Are they lost because we stop looking? Are they never found because someone or something else finds them first? The problem with the lost is sometimes—often—we never get to find out how they got lost in the first place. For those left it’s two things: The wait, and then, the weight. There were two Caras: one was fluttering in the wind in a thousand different colors while the other evaporated on the car window.

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Eight It was like a sentence that ended with no punctuation. It made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to know more. How could a young girl go missing, turn up dead and no one be blamed? The police had no answers. Her parents had all but fallen apart over the incident and that did nothing to produce an answer. “How do things like this happen?” My cell phone vibrated from its clip on my belt. I didn’t bother. It was probably work. His wife was no longer really talking to him, she hadn’t exonerated him. A truck could be driven through the distance between them now. And it was growing. He took a sip of his coffee, but it was now cold.

The unveiling. You went. You took notes. You felt something move within yourself. Like a stone being rolled away from a deep, dark cave. You get the security guard to let you and the Neufeld twins into the library. You go to the philosophy section and find the book by Heraclitus; a Greek philosopher. “You never came here?” you ask them. They nod. “We just never thought…It was all in his journal. His parents gave it to us…” You pull the book off the shelf. You stand with it in the quiet library aisle, the Neufeld twins nearby. “Here, it’s still… It’s a newspaper clipping. Did he mention that?” You open the book and hand it to them. “What?” “You open it.” “Why?”

Kingdom of Snow 121 Connolly “It’s for you?” “I don’t think so…” Charon opened the newspaper clipping. “It’s for you.” You take the newspaper clipping and see your own name— a byline: “Martin Ford, New Quantico Tribune.” The story is about Cara Neufeld. The first story of her disappearance. “The ties that bind you will undo to free me,” was written in ink on the margin of the article and under the line, “Peck, Menno Fuck.” You place the article into your pocket and feel your father’s rosary. “Martin?” they asked with concern. You are as white as a ghost. “Are you…” Taking the rosary from his pocket you place it in the gutter of the book. You close the cover of the book and place it back onto the shelf. “…okay?” You slump to the floor, holding the story. The story of Cara. “Martin? Martin?”

You drove home and entered the bedroom to find she was still there; Katherine was by the window, hovering. You ask her to sit on the bed. Sometimes she obeyed you, but mostly she lingered, indignant. “Darling…” you began and knelt down in front of her as if in prayer. “What is it?” “I’ve been unfaithful.” “I know…” You lay your head in her lap, and you know anyone else seeing this would see only the bedspread. Your hair is stroked by your dead wife. “Please forgive me? Please forgive me?” When you wake, the moon bright and full shined through the window. You know that Katherine won’t be back and that she was finally gone. You just needed to ask her forgiveness. And then she was gone for good.

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You know me; I’m famous for short paragraphs and tiny words. Keep it simple stupid. That’s how I learned it. Always – and forever more. Here’s the bottom line: I can tell you that police have solved one of this city’s strangest unsolved crimes. The crime was my first front page story back when I was a young reporter starting out in this business in my early twenties. It’s a story that has never left me. The death of a young child is never easy. Some say the death of a young girl is the worst. I’m not sure. A death is a death. Little girls are no more innocent than little boys. But when the death cannot be explained, there’s more pain than we can handle. We want answers. This is a story about Cara Neufeld. If you’ve lived in this town long enough, you know who she is and what happened to her. Almost two decades years ago, she walked home from school with friends, and never made it home. A month later her dead body was found in a little used tool shed. Her school jacket was draped over her. Her hands were bound behind her back. She had frozen to death, the New Quantico M.E. office found. It said there was no evidence of sexual assault. To make matters even more tragic, if that were possible, Cara was less than a block from her home.

Kingdom of Snow 123 Connolly That’s what made this case highly strange: Search parties looked throughout the community for her, and yet, there she was found less than five hundred yards from the warmth of her house. Five hundred yards. And no one found her. That’s not all. The case gets more tragic. For decades no one was ever brought to justice for killing Cara Neufeld. Oh there were plenty of rumors and finger-pointing, but often journalism is about what is not reported and published. Perhaps that is all to change. This week police are expected to announce the case has been solved. Despite the rumors. You heard me. Everyone knows the story behind the story, the kind of story you don’t find on the front pages of newspapers. This is the story. I can tell it now. The police now know what happened the night Cara went missing, how the case was finally cracked and solved.

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Kingdom of Snow 125 Connolly

Part Three—A Meander Beseke

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Outside my window light and shadows mingle. Focusing I can almost make out a pattern. Cicadas’ susurrant sonata rises. The heat will soar today and looking carefully waves will appear above the hot asphalt. I have always enjoyed staring out windows. When I was a child growing up in northern winters, frosted windowpanes drew my fascination. With rapt attention, I would stare at the intricate designs ice would produce on the glass. Delicate and beautiful the crystallized patterns defied explanation. Were these frosty stars and hoary gyroscopes always there in the air, but only revealed when the temperatures dropped? Was their place on the field of frost haply wrought or positioned, just right, purposefully? If I squinted could I see where the artist’s signature was? Spider webs come from spiders so who produced these ice mandalas? As an adult I would hear of the ancient symbol, the mandorla, which is two overlapping circles. The shape is highly valued by myriad cultures and refers to the union of opposites, such as heaven and earth, masculine and feminine, known and unknown. In my mind I cannot recall there being any such definitive mandorlas on my childhood’s wintery window, but perhaps was not my leaning into this magic and its wondrous response an over-lapping? Years later, in the book-lined study of a church pastor I’m told there are three, maybe four, meanings of the Greek work for love. The day was hot too, and hazy and very quiet. I forget now why I was in the pastor’s office seeking his counsel; it might have been bible-study, but there was only the two of us and it was mid-morning of a weekday. We’d read a passage from the Bible and he’d ask me what words or phrases resonated. I must have said something because he’d combed his Greek bible concordance

Kingdom of Snow 127 Connolly to come up with “proseuchomai.” Writing this now, I’m able to go to my King James to find the verse: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” It’s Philippians 1:9-11. The word, proseuchomai, means to send out prayer, but the pastor says that the sending out of prayer is an act of love. Like a breath, inhaled, exhaled. This is when he tells me the Greeks have several words for love and that use of the word is a matter of context. Greek scholars too say the early myth writers, like Homer, used words that meant one thing today, but meant quiet another, in their original use. Like the word blue. Later that same day I’d found myself by water. I’d been trying to decipher my thoughts of love, of prayer, when the faces of old friends began to emerge. They came rushing back, one after another; I’d not seen most of them for several years. It was as if we’d all stopped what we were doing, heard something, when the noise of the world ceased ever so briefly, and in the ensuing silence thought of one another. Proseuchomai. I stood by the lake; my eyes closed and heard the water lapping. When I opened my eyes I noticed a dusky heron rising, its blue twin rising, gliding through the silver-tinged ripples. Where did it go? Which of two landed, safely, softly, into my memory? At the center of the brain is an almond shaped section of grey matter, traversing both hemispheres, called the amygdala—it is the locus of processing fear and emotion. It is oscillates a throbbing pain in my head as I search and search, but do not find the home repair manual I so desperately need. Of course I will find it later, but that’s another story.

I have an electrical situation on my hands—the outdoor light isn’t working. It was, now it doesn’t. I know that I will have to take the plate off the exterior wall and look at the

Kingdom of Snow 128 Connolly wiring, but aside from that I’m at a loss. I can’t stop thinking about electrocution. I make sure the switch inside is turned off (flipped down actually). Over the phone, an old acquaintance, an ersatz father, instructs me to take all the white wires leading from the back of the light to the white wires exited the house from the metal box inserted into the wall. This father tells me to take all the black wires leading from the back of the light to the black wires exited the house from the metal box inserted into the wall. I am to fasten the fine, filaments of copper threading out from the wires together and twist on a cap. I do this for both and have light. I must do this very methodically and without distraction. Later, walking through the garage the home repair manual stands out from its position near the toolbox as if saying; when you are desperate you never find what you are looking for. In the garage, hot from exertion, I drift back in and out of over-lapping time… Three spheres modulating mandorlas once commingled form a circumference without end—without time, without place, without person; quivering three signs of mysticism to the body, to the soul and to the intellect shudder; from a father, to a son, the lingering hungry ghost; this triune; my past, my present and my future oriflamme unfurling scrolls, etched with the alphabet of grace—beseeking: “…a lasting will of the soul, coming from grace, by which it is oned and fastened into the will of our Lord by the sweet, silent workings of the Holy Spirit,” the anchorite says. Stiff-armed by the arcane Ancrene Riwle, Julian of Norwich kept her eyes downcast avoiding the windows, and the talkative. Her senses could usher in Iscariot’s

Kingdom of Snow 129 Connolly dark side. She was shifting from bios to Zoë; Julian was switching to glide. Mendicants came for guidance. She sent them away for take-out. The anchorite prayed and kept solitude and beginning surely on May 8th 1373 all her prayers trembled under her feet, drowned her corpus with light; invigorated her soul with vibrating string and stoked her nascent intellect. Answers came in showings, or revelations. They came until there were sixteen and it would take two decades to decipher the enigmatic and seemingly prosaic. They were revelations of love. Before we are born God whispers the story of our life. We live one life trying to recall this one story. But why whisper? Plain and audible speaking gets many a person their wants. But for God, anything vocalization over a whisper is a deafening baritone. The ear’s dulcimer is newly plucked and could not withstand the mighty tug of God’s voice. God whispers out story because He loves us. It is a whisper of encouragement; of tradition, but mostly of love. Before we are born we are so small, little more than a speck of light, energy. We are the tiniest of vibration, which increases as we come to be born. But God’s whisper is a vibration too and it goes inside us. It goes inside our own energy, into the way it moves and reacts, the way it waves and forms things like fingers, bone, eyes. It is our music, the da-dum of our newly formed heart, the pulse of this new blood coursing; the instructions to grow an inch; the letters in DNA. When we are born many of us say our stories in great excitement, but it is in a language few can understand, a language so ancient, yet brittle, that even those who awaken speaking it by midday cannot recall with any clarity a letter in its lexicon. So throughout our lives in ways as varied as there are people we search, beseke, for these

Kingdom of Snow 130 Connolly letters; the way to speak of our story; to speak in syllables of grace once whispered into our ear by God before we were born. There are numerous times in our lives when we vibrate with such harmony that the calling we throw out is responded to. But the response is not always heard or interpreted in the correct way. God knows this and so makes several attempts to reconnect, to respond, to reveal. But why doesn’t God just whisper in our ear again, just tell us the story. He has. He does. This is the mystery of our lives. There is a constant flow of showings and God the mover; God is a verb in so many ways. Yet stories flow like so much Sturm and Drang and we are incapable of translating the cacophony. In this, we hear the stories of others, if only partially amid the static and noisome bleats. We hear our own too, but fail to recognize it. But amazingly it is the same story but we come to it; either in the middle, the beginning or its end and this nonlinear narrative does little to allow us dead reckoning. We end up facing the wrong way. And perhaps because each of our stories is so precious God doesn’t entrust the duty of its relay to a few individuals, but gives everyone you meet a little piece of it. We carry in ourselves the part of a story we need to share with someone else. But the identity of this person isn’t revealed because then we’d come to judge some of being more important than others. And that’s probably not part of the story. Disjointed letters in the wake of the Muhammad’s testimony; the Aramaic code: Hidden stories in the desert, in clay pots, in caves; stories by revelation, by contemplation

Kingdom of Snow 131 Connolly and example. The sojourner finds these things sitting in coffee shops alone, the world around them abuzz, when they are beseeking. They are the beseke. It is a new word perhaps as important as Shibboleth. There is always a sense of adventure, a thrill in the back of my throat, and opening up in the chest, when I am lost. It’s not the kind of lost where the elements or a lack of food could result in dire circumstances; it is a lost looking to be found. There is a new art form like this called psychogeography. Its aim is discovery. Its mode is to wander without destination in mind. Some equip themselves with some orientating scheme, algorithmic divining, to chart their footsteps, their way through the urban landscape, others simply go and when desire strikes them, they turn and go forward in a new direction. I try this from time to time, going place without seeking places; I do this without equations or worry. My chest is open, my throat filled with light; I am without burden. This is for me the sense of thrill, when that sense of being alive is the greatest—when there is the possibility of finding is the greatest. We are yearning animals. My prowl takes me down urban neighborhoods with thoughts of all the possibilities, the manifold ways, our lives can unfold. They all present themselves and I delight in this. We all share the same consciousness. We are all connected. As I pass them, they pass me and we in a brief recognition light the dark passage of time. Not at all aimless after all, the aim being to recapture the wonderment of a child who sees in everything, possibility; sees in everything the fingerprints of God. As I go the field of energy that amasses and disperses in specks and waves undulates into the familiar and the strange. Down one seemingly deserted street I stumble upon children, shimmering, playing, and play-acting a public execution. They cannot see

Kingdom of Snow 132 Connolly me. Someone is suffering here. There is blood, thorns and sudden wind. In this amassing and dispersing, I get out of my car and stand in the middle of the street, shock, and sad, and enraptured. Take and eat of this. I reach out and before me the trees on the deserted street move, all speck and waves, murmuring storm and urge, a sparkling array startling Starlings and Wrens alight, my heart a flutter of soft wings, now in the summer afternoon…falling to my knees. A man found. “…the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of pure being,” I hear Carl Jung say, but know it’s God’s raspy reminder riding moats of dust. Julian of Norwich sought such a scene. She wanted to be one of the few to witness the horror, passion of Calvary—to be so close as to taste the iron nails driven through the skin, bone bearing rivulets of blood into the dust and dirt—on her tongue. Take and… She sought sickness to bring her to God’s door. But mostly, perpetually, she desired the three wounds all beseekers, all scroll scribes and deliverers yearn for: contrition, compassion and longing. I write this on a tiny scroll and leave it in the coffee shop for another to find, someone lost and feeling the world is so beautiful that they could stumble down the street and come upon, quite by accident, the passion of our incarnation. Perhaps this person, that one, the one who feels in their throat a thrill of swallowing nails, will smile and cast about for ways of sharing. Take. And eat. It is interaction we all seek and crave. I am because you are. I particularly enjoy this in the late hours of a coffee house’s hours of operation, when it is dark outside, but

Kingdom of Snow 133 Connolly warmly lit inside. Students stare into blue-white glowing notebook computer screens. Groups of people discuss issues or their lives. A lone coffee drinker nods over their brew. Outside, people smoke and talk over coffee. The night is completely withdrawn of sunlight. Darkness reigns. But we’re all these portals of light—of cursing the darkness, keeping it at bay. For we are ephemeral and highly extinguishable—the flicker from the wick; the candle in the window, in the wind, but first we must be lit. Physics tells us nothing exists outside of interaction, that only by interaction from the crashing together of subatomic matter to bodies in motion at higher, more visible, levels, does the world come into being. Light we are told does not exist independent of its observer. Light has no properties of its own, but rather the interference (interaction or interpretation) is constituted with properties. This interaction with light is comprised of waves and particles, complimentarily co-existing paradoxically for us. If my energy did not go forth, striking whatever is in its sight, it would not be there at all. Argentinean fabulist Jorge Luis Borges speaking on metaphor says there is an almost infinite supply of ways of highlighting the unfamiliar by way of the familiar— metaphor’s raison d’être. Writers take something that is familiar, concrete and readily available to the reader, say a rose, to speak of something that is abstract or unfamiliar; or if the particular reference is personal, say a particular woman, a comparison is made to allow for a universal interaction with this character. Cara is like a perfect spring rose. We can all picture a rose, any rose, but few of us, if only the writer, can picture the particular Cara, for example, if not for the metaphor. The inventory of those things to which writers can make the abstract or unfamiliar, concrete is inexhaustible. He actually attempts to calculate the opportunities by firstly interpreting the world as being constituted of “ten

Kingdom of Snow 134 Connolly thousand things,” a term he attributes to the Chinese. “If we accept the number ten thousand, and if we think that all metaphors are made by linking two different things together, then, had we time enough, we might work out an almost unbelievable sum of possible metaphors.” Borges goes on to say that the possibilities are not endless, but mind-blowing. In 1955, Borges was appointed director of the National Library in Argentina. By this time Borges, who was born terribly nearsighted and would undergo eight operations to correct his failing vision, was going completely blind; interestingly two of the previous directors of the National Library had also been blind. He took it as stoically and gently as possible: “I speak of God’s splendid irony in granting me at one time 800,000 books and darkness.” Kindle. Kindle. For they took Poseidon’s eyes; looters salvaged those gems eons ago before the god of the sea was dunked into the Aegean. For the Greeks do not know blue, but instead degrees of darkness. When they stole his eyes, it was darkness they sought, a darkness befitting a god of the sea who’d not told them what to do with utter certainty. Dark pools, not seeing today when the bust of Poseidon greets you at the Museum of Natural History in Athens. He and Homer, singing muses down from their stations, swaying and singing Odysseus home; singing Tiresias through the surly underworld; chanting through the ages of lapis lazuli and change, through the furrows of our marrow a whispering from Matthew the Saint, scroll scribe of Yahweh: “The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Kingdom of Snow 135 Connolly When I innocently placed my hand on the cold windowpane I cried just a little. The ice thawed, and the outside world, once veiled in tiny filaments of frost wrought by winter, became all the clearer. I knew later that the wonder would return to my windowpane. But that first time—oh the loss; I left the house and went into the neighborhood to play, to wander, to be lost, to be found. My breath on the cold air, a cloud trailing me, inhaled, exhaled. I fell to my knees and made snow angels in the fields near my house. Until Abba calls me home before it gets too dark. In the garage I drift back into my body, only to look down to find my hand wading through a pile of nails.

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Part Four—Now and Again One Thousand Red Hands

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One Winter is quickly forgotten. Most are. It’s one of the season’s oddities. Three warm days in a row come spring all but removes a dreadful winter from memory. The snow is gone and too the remembrance of it. When we’re in the midst of the winter season, at the peak of our misery, we think we’ll never get out of it, and then we do. We loathe and worry winter. Spring brings happiness and amnesia. Our sister Cara is winter. Snow is memory. It is hardly surprising that in the decade since her disappearance and death our memory of what happened fades and often betrays us. The winter night she failed to come home the most baffling details stand out, but for the most part that night is a muddle. The texture of our uncertainty, as the weeks back then passed without word of Cara, is now hewn of rough edges. It is bulbous and saddening. That winter is a blur of flyers, carrying our sister’s high school picture, fluttering in snowy wind; a thousand flyers as if a plaque of frost-defiant butterflies droning. We were just into our teens when Cara disappeared. At first, we thought her vanishing was a game, a puzzle, like the mysteries we read in books. It was vaguely interesting; not every family had a missing sister. Obsessed, diminutive detectives then, we took Cara’s disappearance as an opportunity to exercise our note-taking and deducing skills we’d seen employed by the small screen detectives we worshipped. People thought us strange and stood looking at us gap-mouthed as if we were trolls when we strode up, as a pair, small spiral notebooks in hand, pens and pencils at the ready and began

Kingdom of Snow 138 Connolly peppering them with questions. Or when we skulked around the neighborhood together, without adult supervision, peering through windows and into yards people took notice calling us kooky; we got forceful rebukes from our father. Mother thought we were inconsiderate, and frankly, a little warped. But, we took down every detail, thankfully. To this day some of the notes remain under our sporadic scrutiny. The volume of investigation notes and materials shrunk as the years advanced. We grew bored, sadly, with asking questions no one seemed to have the answers for and eventually, without much fanfare or recognition on our part, packed it all away in a Nike shoebox marked “Cara Case,” stashed it in our closet, turned out the light, and closed the door. And we simply gave up.

We live and study now in Chicago. Our hometown of New Quantico is a place we visit infrequently and when we do arrive, we are dumbstruck: Nothing has changed, and we’re always surprised. Not that nothing’s changed; we expect that, no we’re surprised how badly we remember the town. Rivers flow where they shouldn’t, streets meander of their own accord, and razed houses rise up in our path. Rubble reassembles into red-brick schools and piercing church steeples. Graves pop up. The lair and landscape of our sister’s last breath, dissipates before our very own watery eyes. People there aren’t immune. Their faces thaw and harden into visages we no longer recognize. We’ve mixed up dates and allotted words to those who did not utter them. The dead speak. Over the years, Cara would come and go, into that room we call remember, turn on the light, retrieve the box off the shelf marked “Cara Case,” and float it in front of our eyes. Granted, this often came after we smoked a joint, but we believe consciousness is

Kingdom of Snow 139 Connolly not something expanded, but is a malleable field of energy, fires and snow caves. Even today, our sister helps us rifle through the contents of that shoebox. In the past, when on summers home, a causal conversation with a neighbor or church member would remind us of our duty to find out what happened to our sister. Snow covers us even amidst sweltering heat. Admittedly, our investigation is inconsistent work. A decade passed and for our efforts we had a shoebox of inconclusive notes and materials. We long ago forgot what this missive, or detail, in our scrawled notes meant, for example, or why this particular puzzle piece, say a newspaper story of various police leads, had failed to fit any of the others. We were prepared to leave it alone, to go on without peeking inside that shoebox on the shelf ever again, when an unexpected invitation came in the mail a year ago. The invitation was from Sarah Redekopf. Yes, the Sarah Redekopf, the sculptor. To commemorate Cara’s life, Ms Redekopf was working on a sculpture, a work of art she would have installed on the banks of the river near where Cara was eventually found. The unveiling ceremony is in two weeks. We had opened the invitation last year while sitting with our thesis advisor at lunch. We’d been discussing our theses, or lack thereof, over lunch; the advisor had not been particularly enamored of either of our social anthropology papers and had in effect just prior to the invitation falling on the table, told us either to start over or go into modeling (she said modeling with great distain. We had been featured the previous weekend in a local department store sales insert that came in the Sunday Chicago Tribune). Coming upon the invitation was inadvertent and quite innocuous; we were hardly paying attention to what we were doing – opening our mail and listening to our

Kingdom of Snow 140 Connolly advisor at the same time. She had been doing all the talking. Talk, talk, talk: How we were lousy students, lacking organization, and concentration. You both have to get your heads out of the blahblahblah… It would be tits up for us if we didn’t get down to business! When the invitation fell on the table; well, of course we had to tell her the story. (Anything to shut her–the fuck–up). Thankfully we’d smoke a joint before lunch, because she was unbearable. Grass takes the edge off. “That’s what you should do,” the advisor said rather self-importantly looking down her aristocratic nose. “Look into this,” she said pointing to the invitation. And so we did. Thankfully, she bought lunch. “Don’t come back until you have something solid to work with. And you both reek of pot.” she intoned snapping her purse shut. We shrugged in unison. Just to piss her off.

Before heading home on a break from school last year, we purchased tape recorders, Rhodia notebooks (we adore the orange covers), wall charts, and a bolt of newsprint; we got a great deal on a used file cabinet and file folders and had them placed in the basement of Wanda’s house in New Quantico – Mother and Father had long ago divorced and Barry’s apartment was no place for us because of the pigeons (we’ll get to that). On the train, we’d made up a list of people to talk to (most of them we would have to re-interview or at the very least do so under the guise of academic research) and began examining archival materials, mostly newspaper accounts. Every trip home during holidays and school breaks we took to further researching the matter. Investigating felt familiar to us because it was much like thesis research and at the same time it felt odd in

Kingdom of Snow 141 Connolly a way because what we were doing – investigating our sister’s murder – was something we’d been doing – on and off – since we were eleven-year-olds. On the night our parents forgave Peck, Lorne and Sarah, we made a vow to find her and her killer as we stood in the hallway of our parents’ house. Now, in New Quantico, as a fresh round of interviews and research began earlier this month, we recalled quite fondly our youthful play at solving puzzles and riddles, how we annoyed those we pestered with aphorisms and conundrums. White as snow, black as coal. She walks but has no feet; she speaks, but has no mouth? It was as if a special knowledge had lain dormant for many years, hidden in our bodies, and had been awakened by our inquest and an ardent need to get out of Grad school away from snooty advisors who looked down their patrician noses at pot-smoking Grad students. We thought perhaps if this didn’t work, it would be modeling. Being pretty pays handsomely.

Kingdom of Snow 142 Connolly Two Hannah Arendt in her volume on thinking The Life of The Mind states that memory stores for us what is “no more,” and that this is only possible, in a modes of imagination – making present what is absent – by withdrawing, “from the present and the urgencies of everyday life.” She quotes Augustine as saying we perceive through our senses and an impression is made upon our consciousness and is stored in memory, “ready to become a vision in thought the moment the mind gets a hold of it.” But, “what remains in memory… is one thing, and…something else arises when we remember.” Arendt sums up memory stating: “[Memory] is the most basic thinking experience, has to do with things that are absent, that have disappeared from my senses. Yet, the absent that is summoned up and made present to my mind… cannot appear in the way it appeared to my senses, as though remembrance were a kind of witchcraft. In order to appear to my mind only, it must first be de-sensed, and the capacity to transform sense-objects into images is called imagination. Without this faculty, which makes present what is absent in a de-sensed form, no thought processes and no trains of thought would be possible at all.”

Arendt says this kind of thinking then is a withdrawing from the immediate, to a land invisible to everyone but the thinker in a most important process, “of which I would know nothing had I not this faculty of remembering and imagining.”

Kingdom of Snow 143 Connolly We are led by what we remember, what we long for; we go back to beginnings to know the present, and to know where we are being led. We recall snow. Snow is the color of memory. The red of Cara’s cheeks and her singing. We remember dark footprints in the white field. The sound of our parents crying. The church bells come to our memory echoing. It’s all a disappearing act: the games played as children; the relatives that come with strange accents and stranger gifts and then are gone buried in foreign countries under military dictatorships; teachers dressed up like nuns and insurance salesmen; friends quick and dead filling in the gaps helter-skelter and round-a-bout; snow and rain; wind in a line of trees bending majestically. Wending tea-colored rivers and faded graffito. “Memory is the mother of all wisdom,” said Aeschylus. Ephemeral, transient – how to retain these? What schemes and ideas arise in its service? How reliable?

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Three There are two weeks before the unveiling of Sarah’s sculpture. We can think of no other place to start the laying out of our evidence than the start. We begin on a viciously cold November 30th a decade ago. Never start with the weather, we are told, but we must. It’s that important. It had already been a bitter cold winter for our city by the two rivers; snow and the cold temperature came Hallow’s Eve and never left; and that day, Cara’s day, was no different. It was overcast, temperature in the high-to-mid-twenties, exhaust hung in the air and frost covered every surface. Nothing moved very quickly. The snow-cover was hard and unforgiving. Unsurprisingly by late afternoon daylight died out in the west and the temperature was dropping five degrees Fahrenheit every half hour of light left over New Quantico. Four high school students, all from our church, walked home that Friday from school. Three made it home. One didn’t. The one that didn’t went missing for over a month. We searched for Cara; our folks looked for her tirelessly with the help of our church. Men from the church gathered at our house to form search teams. They were to scour the area with police and their dogs. Children and women, about fifty in total from The Crossing, made new posters and stapled them to telephone poles or taped them onto storefront windows throughout the neighborhood. “Have you seen Cara?” shouted from every pole, from every storefront window and from men clad in parkas and wool caps, dogs on leashes, snouts down in the snowy paths, leading the way. The search took place mainly off Tinker, near the Cathedral and on the banks of the river.

Kingdom of Snow 145 Connolly Often a winter wind, which had kicked up a lot of snow in the morning, gave away to clear skies and a biting cold immobility. Most of the searchers wore sunglasses to avoid snow-blindness, a winter malady caused by sun reflecting off snow. Ice halos ruled the crystallized skies. The searches lasted for hours, and usually ended with there being no trace of Cara. One search for Cara after the parents had discussed what the children did with her; we walked with Lorne in a field near the river, our boots crunching through the thin snow. His father and brothers were ahead of him. Principal Skinner – he’s dead now, dying of a heart attack or something a few months ago – was sticking close to us, worried about our health in the cold he mumbled; he was beside Lorne cleaning his sunglasses walking awkwardly in his dress shoes in the shin-deep snow. “Snow,” he said. Lorne shook his head toward his principal. “Lots of it.” We watched his principal prancing like a bird unfamiliar with the ground. “Snow changes as it forms and falls, and it continues to change after landing,” Skinner said nearly tittering and falling, pointing toward the banks of snow around us. “The larger the flakes, the looser they lay and the more quickly they change.” Again Lorne shook his head. We gave a silent stare. “Every situation is an opportunity to learn, Mr. Penner, Miss Charon, and Master Carmichael. Every situation, don’t forget that. Even when you think there’s nothing to see, that’s something. Mathematicians study nothing. We study knots by looking not at the string or the knot itself. That would make sense. That would be logical. But no, we look at the spaces the knots don’t occupy. Not knots,” the principal said donning his

Kingdom of Snow 146 Connolly sunglasses. Is there wisdom in this memory? It’s one of the bizarre details we recall and find in our notes. Principal Skinner stood with his hands on his hips as if surveying all that was before him. He turned and placed one hand on Lorne’s shoulder. “It is difficulties that show what men are,” he said and blew his dripping nose with a handkerchief he pulled from his jacket pocket. “Racing across frozen water, ahead of the cracking…” He pulled the handkerchief, which was stitched with a sailboat, away from his face and looked off in the distance. “It’s difficulties that show what men are…” “I think that’s from Epictetus, if Peck were here – where is Peck by the way? He’d know he’s the one with the encyclopedic knowledge.” “I dunno.” We nodded in unison. Principal Skinner clucked and walked away, his head turning mechanically to the right and the left, scanning the horizon. Lorne trudged through the snow towards his father. When he was near his father, and thought he was away from us hearing, he whispered: “What if we don’t ever find her?” Tobias Penner saw us, and smiled. He kneeled and drew us in. “Seek and you shall find. Knock on the door…” He acted out knocking on an imaginary door. “What if we don’t find her?” Lorne said again standing closer. Men in the distance called out “Cara.” This drew Tobias’ stare. “Men search for God their entire lives never once realizing He is on every blade of grass, is every grain of snow. We have to want to see. We have to believe that she will be found. She will be found.”

Kingdom of Snow 147 Connolly Tobias pulled his son aside and remarkably thought we could not hear him say, “We have just got to keep looking. I would want the world to keep looking if you were missing. Maybe she’s hurt and can’t walk. Maybe someone’s… maybe she doesn’t know where she is and she’s lost. We have to believe that she will be found.” We scanned the snow and we took note of its nothingness. In the snow it wasn’t so much what was there, but what had been there. Lorne asked and we overheard, “It’s been more than a month. What do we look for?” Tobias said walking on through the snow, “Anything that tells us Cara was here. Look for things that appear out of place.” Lorne scanned the field before him; he looked at us, grinned weakly. We scanned too.

Thousands searched for our sister; schools cancelled class and students combed the community; our sister’s story was on the front page for a month; police investigated day and night; so-called cadaver dogs were used even though the extreme cold and time meant picking up her scent all but impossible. No one could find Cara. Rumors spread. Doors were locked, curtains drawn. Whispered conversations were held. Finally, on the thirty-second day, a Monday, December 31st, she was discovered in a shed near the Cannabis Cathedral – not where Peck, Sarah and Lorne had left her; she’d froze to death. That’s the skinny, the bare bones of it. She’d been right beneath our very noses all the time. No more than five hundred yards from our house, our sister went to sleep and never returned. No one could explain how she could not have been discovered.

Kingdom of Snow 148 Connolly Because of the condition Cara was in when she was found, hands bound behind her back, high school jacket draped over her like a blanket, police suspected foul play; unfortunately the investigators never solved her murder. No one has served jail time. It became the mystery at the core of several people’s lives – including ours. We tortured our memory; we clawed the facade of that dominion, but memory does not capitulate to such inquiry. All we came up with were fists of snow, and then when the snow melted away we were left with nothing but ice-cold hands.

We believed what we were more or less told: We were in part to blame for Cara Neufeld’s death. If you hadn’t been outside. This wasn’t what the world was told. The world was told Cara’s murderer was never caught – this much is true. But plenty did her harm. Cara died a decade ago and we were spared, Selah. We hold in our hearts the guilt of that death, because if our mother had not bothered with us, she would have gone to pick up Cara. We all lived in the same northern town New Quantico – River City, A Place for Families; attended the same church, The Crossing – the Inerrancy of the Word and Life Everlasting, Selah; and the same school, Van Buren High – Martin Van Buren, the “Little Magician” and 8th President of The United States. But we ended up living such different lives — some of us living farther away than others — making it hard to put it all together. If we’d simply asked one another, sent letters or e-mails or asked simple questions. But we didn’t. The past was best left alone. There was nothing we could do about it now. Cara was Cara. She was the dead girl we all knew, but we all knew her in our own way. Cara the singer. Cara the runaway. Cara the straight-A student. The sister.

Kingdom of Snow 149 Connolly The devout. The sycophantic girlfriend. We concluded this was one of the reasons why it was supremely difficult to ascertain, with any accuracy, a complete picture of what happened. Cara became collage. We might have known more back then, but we were too young and very much afraid. We believed what we were told: We were to blame for Cara’s death. If we hadn’t been outside. We didn’t know better. Accidents happen, Pastor Ed Reimer said, and it was wrong to confuse children with angels. We were forgiven, Selah. In silent reproof we were told, we had fallen short of God’s intent. We had been, ever so briefly, children of the Father of Lies, the church services went. We were being rescued, we were told, not forsaken, the intercessionary prayers droned. We collected our notes, we torn stories from newspapers; we walked the streets and wrote down our observations. In all ended up in a box. This is the box and these are the other boxes and files we’ve since accumulated over the past year. We’ve learned more about her disappearance and the parts each of those involved played. Exhibits one to twenty are newspaper clippings, bound in a large, three-ringed binder. There are several large storage boxes with ancillary materials including books, journals, recordings and other odds and ends. In a separate box we have five individual file folders with pertinent information on Barry Neufeld, Wanda NeufeldGrimes, Sarah Redekopf – yes the Sarah Redekopf, Pastor Lorne Penner and Tarrance Peck Simons (now deceased). There is a large scroll, which diagrams the associations between all those involved. A word about the evidence, before we proceed: We’ve tried to arrange the evidence in a pragmatic order that reflects how an understanding of one piece will shed

Kingdom of Snow 150 Connolly light on the piece of evidence that follows. We’re fallible, and we have no doubts that we have, at times, missed the mark. We tried. So many years have lapsed, making it somewhat difficult to remember everything. The last year has been insightful, but, well, we’ll let the evidence speak for itself. We’re not the most organized, either, please forgive us. Please put on these gloves while handling the evidence.

A good place to start with the evidence might be the twenty-first piece. This is “The Magic” our yearbook. It was dedicated to the memory of Cara Neufeld. She died that winter. Her school picture can be found on page forty-three. Mrs. Simons gave us the yearbook with all our pictures eloquently framed in black Sharpie. “Peck,” she had said with a smidgen of pride in her voice explaining the origin of the artistic frames. “It was my boy Peck.” Indeed we have newspaper clippings from the New Quantico Daily Tribune and The Quantico inside the yearbook of Mr. Simon’s obituary – he died about eight years ago now – and the clipping of hotel fire story. We haven’t had time to properly catalogue those on account of them being very recent acquisitions. Peck’s suicide letter will be produced later. The time of day when Cara was found we were still in school. News stories clipped from the next day’s papers and included in the binder say a worker found her in the shed. The worker, David Ebbers, told reporters it took him a minute to notice the girl (draped in her maroon and white Van Buren High School jacket) lying inert on the cold floor. In fact, Ebbers first noticed the graffiti. Yor? He later told us (we have the tape recording, we have since move to digital recordings, but initially we used tape) Cara Neufeld looked peaceful laying there. She was beautiful he said, and blue.

Kingdom of Snow 151 Connolly Mrs. Crabtree, our neighbor, told us she’d seen our sister, Cara, the day of her disappearance, or the day before, she couldn’t be entirely sure. Actually the transcript, Exhibit twenty-four (we misplaced the actual tape) showed that Mrs. Crabtree “heard” Cara first. She could hear singing. Cara was on her back in the snow, waving her arms back and forth, and she was singing – one of her favorite things – singing. Mrs. Crabtree said she went to the front door to see what the noise was, and saw Cara. “Get out of the snow,” she said she told Cara, who didn’t move at first. Then Cara tilted her head back to look at Mrs. Crabtree. “Why?” “Child, you’ll catch a death of a cold.” “Would it matter?” she told us Cara replied. This matched up with how we remembered Cara then, and how others more or less characterized her demeanor the days prior to her disappearance. Mrs. Crabtree said, the girl then got up and brushed snow from her pants. We note on the transcript how Mrs. Crabtree mimicked brushing snow off herself. From that point on, for the rest of her life, Mrs. Crabtree thought of death and mystery whenever she smelt snow. Cara being in the snow did not seem at all unusual to us. Our father told us often how the world is built of infinite kingdoms; there are kingdoms of water, of sand and air. He told us that anywhere we went we were to get down on our knees and cup with our hands the world before us and in our cradled hands we would find God’s kingdom. He told us we lived in the kingdom of snow.

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Four It was a sheepshank. The knot that bound Cara’s hands behind her back was a sheepshank. Beautiful name, right? It’s a sailor’s knot, as most knots are. We have an example of it: It’s Exhibit twenty-five. Now remember this isn’t the actual piece of rope, (Please keep the gloves on while handling the evidence.) this is one we bought down at Greene’s Hardware and fashioned into a sheepshank after talking with the cop and having a look at the Ashley Book of Knots down at the library. This was the kind of knot, though, that Cara’s hands were bound with behind her back. The French cop with the cigarette breath told us this — that the knot was a sheepshank. This wasn’t in the papers, he said. We thought he liked us. He’d seen some of our modeling work. The French cop confirmed what we’d thought: Peck hadn’t done that. He’d simply tied her up in a normal, everyday knot, not something as fancy and complicated as a sheepshank – it took us several attempts to get it to look like the one in Clifford Ashley’s book. We have a composite drawing of the knot we expect Peck tied. We didn’t get an opportunity to interview him of course; we were what, thirteen when he died. There was a lot in the files about Peck, but some of it, we suspect, apocryphal. Peck planned his disappearance. We know this from his journals. It might be prudent for an aside at this point. Perhaps you can help us out. In high school Peck became involved with an on-line community called One Thousand Journals. They have a Web site. The community exchanges journals with each recipient adding passages and artwork to the journals before sending them on their way. They travel the world. And people talk about the journals via the site; entries are

Kingdom of Snow 153 Connolly transcribed and commented on. Well, two of Peck’s journals got into the system, but never made it back out. We got this from the site: “The Search for Journals 152 and 234: Journals #152 and #234 were contributed to by a fellow named Peck, (also known as Tarrance Simons). Tragically, he died recently in a hotel fire. His family and friends have asked that if we find the journals that they be allowed to transcribe his entries. Peck was an avid journal writer, and helped start off both these journals. “We attempted to track them down once before, but nothing came of it. The more we think about it, the more it bothers us. It shouldn't be that hard to find them, so we're going to try again, this time with your help. “Journal 152 was taken to Nashville, and dropped off in an unknown location while Journal 234 was taken to the Rainbow Serpent Festival in 2001, and given to a girl named Claire. From there it was suppose to go to an Austin DJ named Nixon. Last known location was Tulsa, or just outside of Whitepoint, and probably heading for Dallas. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Please e-mail us with any information you might have. Thank you.” Of course nothing came of the Web site’s appeal. But we checked recently and found this: “News UPDATE: Well, we've had one lead, sent in from someone who works at the Rainbow Serpent Festival, and tried to track down DJ Nixon... but it didn't work out... does anyone know a DJ Nixon? Or a Claire that attended the festival?” And again:

Kingdom of Snow 154 Connolly “UPDATE: A note sent to the site: Would the missing diary happen to have been in possession of a DJ named “Nickson” not “Nixon?” This would make more sense, as I don't know about anyone else, but I've never heard of a DJ named Nixon. Nickson is an Atlanta boy of amazing talent who was alive and well the last time he was in Tulsa. This could all be useless info, but it was just a thought! Maybe it’s worth a try?” Apparently not. “We e-mailed DJ Nickson... and it's not the same DJ.” The journals, in which Peck describes exactly, we speculate, what happened the night of November 30th remain out there. If you come across them, let us know. There was much we didn’t know about Peck, and still to this day he remains as much a mystery as Cara.

Here is Exhibit twenty-six – Peck Simon’s suicide letter found by and provided to us by New Quantico Tribune editor Martin Ford. We show it to you because it would seem odd to talk about Cara without Peck. But the fact is there is no more “Peck.” The letter was placed inside an envelope and placed inside a freezer compartment of a hotel room refrigerator. On the outside of the envelope, discovered by Ford, was written a single word: “Cara.” It’s a long and wordy suicide note. Our study of suicide notes tells us they are short. We hate to disappoint you, but Peck’s note does not meet that criterion. All we can say is that length confirms its authenticity. Peck was a contrarian. As you can see the handwriting is neat, decorative, and in sections Peck wrote in a personalized calligraphy. There are small drawings. On other pages the script is scratchy

Kingdom of Snow 155 Connolly and nearly incomprehensible. There is a one-line preface: “This was years in the making… [“self-portrait” in ink] and unmaking.” Then the note goes on for pages…

“Dear Dots:

I’m No Longer Yours…

If you’re reading this, then you must have found me out. But of course now it’s too late; I’m gone for good. Why?

I needed to take back my own life. This was the only way I knew how. This was the only way I knew I could erase all that was me and give you another version.

When we die there’s a story they tell about us. It’s the one thing they can talk about at the funeral; it’s that one thing they can hold on to in order to explain what we do, who we were and why we’re placed on Earth. None of us gets to choose our own beginnings, we can change them, make up some story, but that’s just fooling ourselves. The beginning is the beginning. We cannot be other than what we are. What’s worse is that we cannot change the people we become—it’s like a slow-motion collision we get to watch.

Kingdom of Snow 156 Connolly Everybody knows: The great nothingness between birth and death is a series of decisions we make thinking they’ll always be others, when there are not. And one after another this hope, this crazy dream that some day we’d have the life we’d always wanted, it adds up to one big lie. The only place anyone can shake a fist at all the crap is at the end, if we choose the ending. And I choose my own. If we steal a part of our own story, particularly the ending, it makes all that comes before it dubious. It will take them forever to figure it all out and by then we’ll be long gone. This way they can’t pin us down; they can’t decide whether we’re worthy of getting our feet washed by them. They have no idea about us. We’re out of reach. We’re out of their grasp. We may not be who they thought we were. I say fuck ‘em; they can’t touch us now.

The ending for me came at the library. I was there getting out of the cold. I walked through the stacks just running my fingers over the books, reading the titles, killing time. If a book interested me I took it down, opened it and read the first passage that came to me. The security guards kept walking around, checking me out. I just smiled and kept pulling books off the shelves and putting them back. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe the rent-a-cops had me spooked. I don’t know if it was my fault; I could never be my own judge, I suppose, but this one book fell on the ground. I think I accidentally hit it loose when I was pulling books off the shelf. I don’t know. I left the book on the floor and went around the stack to see if someone had pushed from the other side. I looked down the aisle: nobody. The place was empty; everyone else had a life, a job. I was just getting in from the cold, so there was nobody but my monkeys and me. I picked up the book and there was a piece of paper, folded several times and all gray and dirty, sticking

Kingdom of Snow 157 Connolly out from between a few pages. I opened the book where the piece of paper was sticking out, and someone had underlined a sentence with a squiggly line; it looked like a snake. “An unapparent connection is stronger than an apparent one.” Heraclitus—a Greek philosopher I had never heard of before. I grabbed the book, sat down in one of the ratty couches there by the windows, and read for hours. One of the guards tapped me on the shoulder after a while, “Weather’s cleared Peck, time to head back out,” he said all in a friendly voice as if we were cousins or something. He was a Crossing Crazee, I could tell: crisp, freshly iron shirt, big smile. All us Crazees have big fake smiles. His last name was Toews or something like that, or so his badge said so. The weather had cleared and I looked up to see the sky turning a color I had never seen before. It was like the sun was melting the air; we were all under water.

I got up, put the book back, with the paper bookmark—which turned out to be an old torn piece of newspaper—for someone else to find. I left and I knew immediately what I was going to do. I guess you could say it became apparent. It wasn’t always that way with her. I guess it’s always been about her. Hasn’t it? [A few unintelligible lines, scratched out several times in pen tearing a hole into the page. There are three star-shaped specks of blood the color of rust.]

It was in the middle of a snowstorm when I first saw her; I was fifteen by then heading home in the dark after detention with Principal Skinner that fat prick. The snow was flying in the air. I had to put my head down and walk as fast as I could; the snow was caking all over me. I don’t know why I looked over there? The urge to go back a few

Kingdom of Snow 158 Connolly weeks to that very spot and start all over again was so great—I think you know what I’m talking about. It wasn’t really what I was thinking of then, mind you. This is all after and I’ve had time to think it over. Then, I don’t know what made me look; I wanted to be home so badly, it was cold and the blizzard was really kicking up. I turned. I just did. There, there she was.

One thing I’ve learned is that strange things do happen, they do, they do. They happen all the time. Books fall off shelves. Snow angels walk upright, Selah. [The handwriting is so bad for a page or so the note is unreadable.]

Ever since then, I had glimpses of her out the corner of my eye. It was around that time I began disappearing, going to places alone, and not giving a shit for much at all. I was just beginning to disappear. There were times when I was alone in the dark with the constellations, the northern lights, and the moon, all that snow. I tried to figure it all out. I often saw her there; at least I think I did. The days passed in a blur because I wanted them so desperately to be over, so I could leave the place behind. Always in the winter, I thought I saw her. But I didn’t tell anyone. Nobody was listening to me anyway. [Gibberish. A hand drawn picture of gigantic fist descending from a cloud made up of blue microdots. More cryptic art.]

Those things I saw, they were just mine to bear. They were like snowflakes freezing on my eyelids making me see things. I saw something. So—it was her?

Kingdom of Snow 159 Connolly I know you’re all asking that. Not exactly, she was different, all covered in ice, with hoarfrost; her hair was stiff, her lips, her face, milky white and blue… the color of windowpanes. Her school jacket hung over her small shoulders. And she was singing, “Friends are Friends Forever.” God, I pissed my pants then. She was there and it was all blue—a blue I have always associated with Demeter, empyrean, hyacinth. It was a blue like a new skin of ice on the Cross Fork river—no cracks, perfect. I made drawings of her in tiny blue dots. Dots slowing down. It was her, I know it. But not exactly. Her singing was different too, trembling slightly, calling. She wanted to be looked at and admired for what she is, was. [Picture of a girl, in blue microdots.] I couldn’t look at her for too long my eyes stinging. But, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I remembered our last kiss. None of you touched her; I did. And I never considered I would be joining her, but now, yes. In a way it is only now, too tired, too fucked up, am I able to stop myself from shaking. “Weather’s cleared, Peck.” That warm sanctimonious Crazee fuck. For days after the first time, whatever winter path I took, she was there too, a blue shape flickering through the frost, the drifting snow, and the exhaust of cars and chimneys; a crack in the ice. There, singing, longing for me to join her. Once I saw her, near the Cannabis Cathedral, where I had stumbled drunk and confused. She was crouching near a bank of snow pocked with stones and mud, writing something in the snow with her finger. She was heaving, her jacket on the ground at her feet. There was a wordless cry. I stumbled on, keeping to my jagged footsteps through the knee-high snow trekking toward a light on a distant horizon I envisioned as some kind of shelter. She stood, then, and barred my way. It wasn’t a threat; she extended her shoulders forward,

Kingdom of Snow 160 Connolly such as they were, puckered her dark lips and closed her eyes. Her hands were always behind her. No it wasn’t intimidation it was a request. And in the swirl of darkness and snow, my eyes, my face biting from the cold, I turned and screamed at her; “fuck off!” I shouted with all my might, forcing blood from my raw throat. I turned away, heat rising in my strained throat, and she was gone. Time and time again she returned singing, writing her words in the snow, with her pleading there in the darkest, cruelest winter nights. I could care less how cold it was out. I was on some sort of sojourn, stumbling in a funk, towards some imaginably place, a light always over there, not here, a place where I’d feel I belonged. She kept returning, standing there, waiting for me. One final night, just the night as I wrote this, after my library moment of clarity, she stood before me again. I could not get around her and I realized I didn’t want too either. If I was to find my way to the light in the distance, to be through, to be out of it, I would have to come to terms with her, and acquiesce to her will. So there, as the winds of God whispered, and they do, they do, we stood facing one another. This is insane, but true. Her hand came up from behind her back. Slowly she raised the hand, palm towards her; she covered her face. For a moment there was a heat, slight, but there and then water, water dripped from between her fingers, from the back of her hand, off her chin, her hair stuck to her moist forehead. Taking away her hand her face emerged. It was the color of the sky where the sun had melted the air. It was my face, Selah. The snowy field, as if it were a lake of perfect ice, mirrored back to me a line, a shape, a color and it was my own. And I knew that I have always known, what lay

Kingdom of Snow 161 Connolly beneath the cold I had felt for most of my life since that day when we did what we did. The unapparent connection, perhaps. For a brief moment, she looked me over and my face must have been a surprise to her too. Then she smiled, with my mouth, a smile that was shy and sorry. “Forgive me,” she whispered. “No,” I found myself murmuring, my breath coming in gusts of fog from my mouth, “No, it is you who must forgive me.” The light in the distance without my notice grew with such velocity that it engulfed us both so suddenly. We stood and burned with the blue flames of light, and the sleep came as it does and it does come so sweetly in the cold arms of Morpheus. It does. When I awoke, aching, cold and near dead, I found that she was gone. And I knew I would never see her again, here. But I also knew I would never stop looking. [An eye etched in blue pen.] I walked to my room, a place where you never came to find me, a place you’d never crawl to, the place where I’m from. The last place you’d ever think to find me because it was the most obvious. I walked there, wrote this letter there, hid it there… …And lit the fire there, left it there, to grow, and forgave her there. And then there, there…fully absolved. Light, finally. I’m No Longer Yours… Goodbye Tarrance Peck Simons

Kingdom of Snow 162 Connolly H-E-Double Hockey Sticks”

We didn’t really know Peck, that’s clear. We’re not sure if this helps at all. Please place the pages back into the protective sleeve. Thank you. Gloves please and thank you. No photocopying is out of the question. We’re sorry. Yes, of course the suicide note is bogus. Duh.

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Five A most interesting theory about memory – K-Lines – is advanced by Marvin Minsky in his book The Society of Mind. Minsky, professor emeritus at MIT suggests that, “we keep each thing we learn close to the agents that learn it in the first place.” The agent is a knowledge-line or K-Line. Minsky, by way of a visually astute student Kenneth Haase, came up with the following way to describe how K-Lines work: Say you are about to fix a flat bike tire. Before you begin you smear your hands with red paint. Every tool (agent) you touch fixing the bike tire will be marked with the red paint. Every time you want to fix a bike tire, the theory goes you know that red paint smears means good for fixing bike tire flats. Use different colors to mark different jobs. So a memory is a K-Line reactivated. It helps to solve a problem presently that in the past you fixed and impressed upon your consciousness and its agents. Now, today a new problem arises and your memory recalls a similar problem in the past, and so this new problem is solved or attempted with present agents (tools) to be solved using this other K-Line (former tools or agents) as assistance. “If everything goes well, perhaps both sets of agents will work together to solve today’s problem. And that’s our simplest concepts of what memories are and how they’re formed.”

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Six We sunk ice-cold hands into buckets of dark red paint. When we pulled them out, sluicing paint fell from our fingertips drizzling stark crimson talons; these retracted when we held our hands back up into the air. From our smothered appendages, globs of paint moved down our forearms coalescing at the elbow, before trickling over bone, and falling, splattering at our feet. There on the ground were stars and explosions, scarlet and startling. Fingerprints of paint, sometimes smeared and smudged, graced everything we touched. When the paint dried our traces cooled into stains. Our hands, depending on how much paint covered them, desiccated, dyeing our skin or caked and cracked when we moved our fingers. Red leaves fell to earth. Around us the snow was pockmarked. This was our sinsemillian-instigated memory, the snow, these dark smudged stars, the fading smeared explosions, the startling screaming pink stains of what we’d held: evidence of a murder, evidence the quality of mercy was not strained.

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Seven We had thought Cara ran away. She’d said so to each one of us – “Whuben Ubi rubun ubawubay thubey’ll nubevuber fubind mube, Subelubah.” Sarah Redekopf – yes the Sarah Redekopf – was the first to talk about it. They went to Van Buren together and were to sing in The Crossing choir together. “Sarah-Cara sounds like a song!” They were at choir try-outs, a super-secret event between them, when Cara told Sarah her future plans. “I’m going to run away.” Sarah turned and looked at her. They weren’t best friends, we wouldn’t want to mischaracterize their relationship, they knew one another from church, Bible camp and school; no one would call them the best of friends; everyone knew they had this secret friendship thought. Some at school teased in falsetto singing, “Sarah-Cara sounds like a song!” Really, no girls were close to Sarah, she’d be the first to admit it and Cara was just too much of a goody two-shoes for anyone but a few nerds. “Thube subide uboppubosubite tubo thube rubight ubanguble ubis thube hubypubotenubuse.” This was how it was, Selah. It was pretty clear. Cara’s secret notebook with the blue ink heart on its cover emblazoned with the name “Peck”, written partly in Ubbi Dubbi, the language she got off the television and used frequently, clearly shows she was envious of Sarah’s popularity with the boys, especially Peck. Sarah told us in interviews (We realize the plural of anecdote is not data, but still the quality of this material lends itself to importance) we did with her over the past few

Kingdom of Snow 166 Connolly months now both on cassette tape and digital file that she said to Cara: “Run away? So do it…” In one rambling story, Sarah told us they turned and watched a choir stage being set up. Each row of blocks had to be aligned just so. Sarah said she remembered Leslie Skinner to Cara then, but can’t recall what brought her to mind. “… Leslie did it you know.” “I heard she’s a waitress in Yorktown.” “If you’ve heard that don’t you think Skinhead has?” Cara seemed to think this over. We knew she could scrunch up her nose when thinking. Sarah said this is what she saw and so we knew she’d perceived Cara correctly. On this one day, the choir director was calling the girls over. “So where is she?” “Skinner’s daughter? Gone for good, that’s for sure,” Sarah said and got up. “You could be too.” Of course Sarah regretted saying that but only later when Cara did leave and was gone for good. Sarah said she’d regret that for the rest of her life. We don’t doubt. Sarah got a tattoo for that too. Back then she had her reasons for saying what she said, but now they’re just pathetic she told us. We believe her.

That Friday night when Cara didn’t make it home, we didn’t think much about it. We weren’t being evil or mean, or overly insouciant for that matter. In fact, we’ll tell you: We saw Cara go into the Cathedral with Peck, Lorne and Sarah. We took it all down in our little detective minds with such glee. We shared a silent stare. We didn’t have to say a word to one another. Cara doing that was kind of cool. Cara wasn’t cool and yet, here she was doing something that was cool. Running away was the thing, back then; everyone did

Kingdom of Snow 167 Connolly it to piss off their parents. Cara talked about it, Whuben Ubi rubun ubawubay thubey’ll nubevuber fubind mube, Subelubah, so Cara had gone and done it. Gone for good. Gubone fubor gubood. Barry and Wanda were having shit fits, understandably. When they talked to us we acted calm and surprised – we didn’t mention the running away option or what we’d seen. It was one telephone call after another; the hours and days were filled with talk. We sometimes forget or mix up who said what and when – thank God for recorders and transcripts – and grass, in our case. Back then people said a lot of things. In the years since, we talked to Barry and Wanda about Cara, to friends and school officials, we spent inordinate amount of time reading old newspapers and police reports; going over and over the evidence, all of it failing to paint a complete picture. It seemed that none of us could remember correctly, Cara and her death. Well, the facts spoke for themselves because they were largely indisputable. The night, the girl, her death. We’ve all the voices in our head. We’ve all red hands, Selah. Like we’ve all been catch red handed. Thanks be to a merciful God. We have a copy of the New Quantico Police’s unsolved crime case number twenty-seven – Exhibit 22. The French cop with the cigarette breath finally gave us a copy. The file was stuffed with papers, some of it redundant. The facts are all there, but not the story. What does the unsolved case file say? It states that thirteen-year-old Cara Neufeld disappeared while walking home from school November 30th. The case file shows she was found four and a half weeks later, New Year’s Eve. Cara had frozen to death in an old machinery shed on some industrial land five hundred yards from her home. The record says friends last saw Cara, as she walked home alone. It was shortly after five in the afternoon, the file states. She was seen on Tinker Avenue. We’re

Kingdom of Snow 168 Connolly mentioned, but only in passing mind you. Sarah Redekopf – she pulled a few strings, we’re told – got the file from the French cop and made photocopies. It was a real surprise to go through the file and not find any conclusive assertions about what they did to her and how they were part of it. We saw. But, there’s no Sarah, no Peck, no Lorne (he’s a pastor now, near Springfield) did this, or did that. They all walked home with Cara that night. We know this because we saw them too – but they didn’t see us. We heard the talk; we have a good idea now as to what happened in the Cathedral. And yet, their names are in the file, but it’s just the obligatory police report stuff. Names of friends – last seen details. That’s it. Nothing about them at all. At the time we thought for sure our folks and the other Crossing’s parents had spoken to the police about it. There were meetings at Pastor Reimer’s house and at our house. Surely they would have said what we had done, what Sara, Peck and Lorne had done to Cara to the police. We know now they hadn’t.

Back on the phone the following day, Barry and Wanda called everyone in the church directory – every one gave the same response: Cara had not been seen. Some of them lied, of course. Cara ran away and found a good hiding spot — just like Leslie Skinner, Sarah said. Lorne Penner’s older brother Walter had told us about Leslie. She ran away after her father, the school principal, caught her smoking dope (oh how egregious!) in the basement of their house. There was scuttlebutt, of course, that she fled to Europe; that she was a truck stop waitress. There was even one that “Skinhead” buried her in his yard after killing her. Leslie’s stuck in the ground by ole Skinhead/Leslie’s gone for good, good and dead. Peck Simons in one of his journals wrote extensively on this. He said the police dogs would have found Leslie’s buried remains in the backyard if it were true. “You just

Kingdom of Snow 169 Connolly can’t dump a body anymore,” he wrote. “You have to do something extraordinary.” Besides, he wrote, the graffiti down at the Cathedral was pretty clear as to what Leslie did. We have pictures of the graffiti; we’ll get to those. No, Cara had run away. We were sad, of course we were. But, we were also glad. And we thought it was best to keep it to ourselves. Hush, hush. Give her some time to get away, we’d agreed. Cara was going to be a heroine. She was going to be a whole different person. Disappearing did that for you. Her name would be spray-painted on the Cathedral wall. We would interview her when she called us or returned. Sarah told us Peck was instrumental in forging and keeping the pact to keep quiet. Peck said too it was important not to say anything, about Cara running away. “You don’t want to end up like Larry.” No, we didn’t. We most certainly did not want to end up like Larry. Pastor Reimer tried to exorcise the homo demon out of his body. It was fairly dreadful and theatrical if we remember correctly. The Tchaikovsy affair just about did our little church in; homosexuality was viewed as leprosy, totally abhorrent back then, not like it is now. Now, being gay is like, say, suffering from a bad cold. Hey, we’re part-time models; you can’t swing a cat without hitting a trouser pilot or a salad muncher. When Cara was found, the families involved, were called to a special meeting in the church with Pastor Reimer and Principal Skinner – the second time every one involved would met to discuss our sister. Sarah said in that meeting, our parents begged Peck, Lorne and her to come clean. It was Peck who unequivocally spoke about what they’d done and not done. Our parents forgave them and vowed to not say a word to police, Selah. It was wrong to confuse children with angels, it was said.

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Eight There are too many names, of course, we know this. But that’s life isn’t it: too many names. It was extremely difficult to wheedle out all the stories, and make connections between them. We have boxes and boxes of files, recorded tape, transcripts, pictures, diagrams, plastic bags of dirt and wood; bottle caps and string. Everything is labeled. But still it’s hard to make connections, to see it all for what it was. We found Cara the biggest mystery of all for the ways she acted in the last days. We found her notebooks to be particularly helpful in one sense and maddeningly frustrating in another. Dubamn Ububbubi Dububbubi! Finally, we had to draw an organizational chart, a family tree if you will, to get a good look at how everything flowed. It’s Exhibit twenty-six. We used a newsprint roll. When community newspapers print their editions they feed bolts of lightweight, durable, faintly grey paper through printers. These bolts are huge. They must be moved by forklift and it takes several men to load them into the room-size printers. We visited a few newspapers to see this in action. When the roll is of no use to the printers, it is taken off and stashed in a corner. The bolts, at most newspapers, are given away free. For our purposes, for anyone’s purpose to be frank, there is still a lot of paper left on these bolts. We got one and used it for the chart. The chart measures eight feet in width and is three feet wide. It tears easily so we’ve had to be careful with its storage and moving it from time to time. We have taped the edges now to reduce the risk of tears. To unroll this chart of newsprint you will need a

Kingdom of Snow 171 Connolly large table and some weights to keep the ends from rolling up on you. We carried it around in a tube for half a year and would take it out from time to time, just to see if there was something we missed. It was our road map. Each person has their own box and lines run from the boxes to other people and boxes based on relationships. At the very top are Barry Neufeld and Wanda Neufeld-Grimes. They are the parents of Cara, Carmichael, and Charon Neufeld – yours truly, madly, the twins. A broken line runs between Barry and Wanda on account of their divorce shortly after our sister’s death. There is a solid line to the children. We thought of erasing the solid line leading to Cara, but decided against it based on our interviews with Barry and others. There is a box beneath Barry which indicates that today he is a “mechanic” – he owns a service station on the interstate near the Six Mile Run Mall. The box also lists “opera singer” and “pigeon fancier.” Anyone who knows Barry will attest to these classifications being added. He is always humming or singing aloud something from an opera. He told us in an interview that he had at one time wanted to train to become an opera singer. The other thing about Barry is that he loves pigeons. Oh the pigeons. He has several cages on the roof of his service station. They stink. The pigeons are a long story, we’ll let you in on later. For now, we want to tell you what Barry said about Cara. “There are times when I think I see her,” he told us. We have transcripts from our interviews with him. “I see her in the strangest places.” Barry describes it more of a feeling than an actual sighting of something that reminded him of Cara. He made a point of saying that it’s crazy to think in this way, that he sometimes could see or feel the presence of our departed sister. “She tells me it’s okay.”

Kingdom of Snow 172 Connolly Barry believes Cara got herself into trouble and had died trying to get herself out of it. “Her friends didn’t help, but you can’t blame children for being children, Selah.” That was The Crossing talking we could tell. When her daughter went missing Wanda was a stay-at-home mom (she did some part time clerical-type work at a local book publisher), taking care of the family, which also included us eleven-year-old twins. It was/is a lot of work, she said/says. In an odd sort of way Cara’s disappearance and death invigorated plain-Jane Wanda. She became famous. She is famous. During the ordeal she wrote a book (which we will undoubtedly cite heavily in our theses), Have You Seen Cara? The book led to many appearances on radio – she was on with Larry King once in fact, as part of panel and she had an appearance on local and national TV shows – that one, America’s Most Wanted, we have a tape of the show. Eventually, Wanda got her own show – Have You Seen? “We still haven’t. Caught her killer,” Wanda said in her now typical halted speech, when we interviewed her. She told us, “It’s not over. I will work. Until my dying day. To find him. It’s not about absolution. For them,” she said meaning Sarah, Peck and Lorne, “they deserve every piece. Of guilt that comes their way. But they didn’t murder. Cara. Someone else did. And I’ll find him.” Sarah Redekopf, Lorne Penner and Peck Simons were high school friends. Thick as thieves as the saying goes. They’d all known each other since they were babies. Peck wrote in one of his journals that Lorne and Sarah were his “family, outside my family.” He affectionately called them The Dots. During the days of Cara’s disappearance witnesses say Sarah, Lorne and Peck were largely inseparable – we, everyone really, thought the trio were simply amazing. We wanted so badly to be like them. We wrote

Kingdom of Snow 173 Connolly “SLaP,” on our forearms in ink. Cara had just begun hanging around them when she disappeared. As evidence by notes found in her textbook, notebooks, and papers in her bedroom, Cara had a crush on Peck. Sarah reported to us, “Peck didn’t even know Cara existed.” Sarah and Lorne were a couple and if Lorne’s family hadn’t moved to Ecuador, some believe he and Sarah would be married today. They’re not. Lorne, once a hot hockey prospect, ended up going into the ministry and now pastors a church in the country. He’s married and has two daughters. Pastor Penner wouldn’t talk to us about Cara, saying only, “It was in God’s hands.” We headed out to Springfield where his church is on the oft-chance he might change his mind. We thought perhaps if he saw us we could convince him to talk to us about our sister. We drove out in a rented car and parked outside the church. Pastor Lorne came out at the lunch hour and stood on the stoop of his church. He was not was we expected; in our minds we saw the physically imposing and beauty boy that Lorne was and were struck by how gray and stooped he looked. His hair had gone the color of pigeon feathers, his once muscular frame, now slumped and bulged. Dressed entirely in black Lorne looked foreboding, still, but mealy. He left the church stoop and walked, his gaze downcast, smoking a cigarette. When he saw us, Lorne stopped, threw the cigarette in the gutter and stared at us. We rolled down the window and were about to say that we simply wanted to talk, when Pastor Lorne said in a hoarse voice: “We’ve been driven out. Barring the way back, you find the dogged angel and the flaming sword. Neither let you pass. We cannot return.”

Sarah never married. She has a son, Ben, six, whose father, J.B. was a semi-famous rock singer before drowning. Sarah wasn’t famous then. She is now. The art magazines call

Kingdom of Snow 174 Connolly Sarah, “The Sublime Sculptress,” or “Ice Princess,” depending on what materials she is using to make her art. She became famous for creating naked statues of historical figures. In one magazine article all of her twelve tattoos are pictured and explained. She had a sheepshank tattooed on her left shoulder blade a few years back. “Cara deserved better,” she told us and showed us her flat stomach where the words Grace was written in script above her bellybutton. “For Cara.” Over the years, we’d run into Sarah at church or mall, son Ben always in tow – the two inseparable. We’d always bring up Ben’s famous Daddy and then regret doing so. We had to say something about the terrible accident, the loss to the music world. Sarah would always just stand there, half expecting it we supposed. A clove cigarette would be wedged in the side of her mouth, unlit or smoldering depending on where we stood in relation to “No Smoking” signs, not that Sarah obeys them. In our estimation Sarah had hardened over the years, but then who hadn’t. Her demeanor always suggested that we had a special place in her heart. When we turned up, apparently, so too did Cara; few people wanted to be reminded of their past, their youthful indiscretions – Sarah was not one of them. But she was the exception. It was to this that the mystery of Cara’s case could be explained, or at least be theorized. Most didn’t want to remember her because it reminded them of who they were back then. We understood this and took it into account. It took years to gather the meager evidence, we took long breaks. The theses assignment was a convenient excuse to wrap it all up for good. Spending so much time in the past, digging around, wore on us, took its toll. Our relationships didn’t last. As the years progressed and the anniversaries of Cara’s death came and went more and more of those involved were living vastly different lives and to

Kingdom of Snow 175 Connolly revisit that past was to put on an old costume they’d long ago discarded. It was ill-fitting and bothersome. The collar too tight. The buttons and zippers all wrong and broken. If most could they would have burned the artifacts of their past, or found a closet so deep and dark that once the detritus was shed and thrown in there it could hardly be recovered. Getting at those things required a few to sift through ashes, to get dirty, while still others groped in a seamless lacunae for threads, for articles they could don to with assuredly disappointing results. Going there, doing that excavation at our prodding, meant temporarily, at least, each and every one of them had to face their own mortality. For if not now, when. Pastor Reimer had said everyone had to “face the cross.” By examining the past it brought to relief the texture of time, its relentless scree, how much had changed and in this recognition how all that really was, was in the here and now. How faulty the mechanism of memory then, a device of the brain, wrought by God, whose sole purpose was to remind its owner of its impending death. Cara will always be back there, but also here, in the present because we carry within ourselves those locked closets, those slag heaps of the past. Cara was in there, in each of them, we asked them to produce her. Sarah was only too obliging. She had a hard core, but we could tell the stone cold guise she gave to the world was the result of that winter’s freeze, but it was not one she shared with us. We actually thought our inquiry helped her in some way. If we’d not asked questions as teenage detectives, maybe she’d never have decided on creating a sculpture called “Thawing Cara.” One time, outside a drug store, she’d told us she was tired. “Being notorious is hard work.” Her work as a sculptor was just beginning to make waves. She created impressionistic life-size naked sculptures of the rich and famous. Her first was historical.

Kingdom of Snow 176 Connolly Sarah created a larger than life nude sculpture of Lincoln. It was a commissioned work Sarah had won by competition. The eleven-foot fall statue ended up being surrounded in panels of concrete because of public complaint. It still sits on the bank of the river, across from the state house, in a park frequented by gay prostitutes. The naked Lincoln controversy simply brought Sarah more work and more notoriety – it made the cover of a book that carried the thesis Abraham was gay. While the money was good, she said, it wasn’t enough to make her overly wealthy. “To keep my street cred’” she said she retained her Dobbler Street apartment and her rundown Studio on Cross Fork. That’s where she told us what happened that night, when Cara went into the dark and never returned. Sarah’s invitation to the unveiling of a Cara sculpture was the instigator of our present investigation.

Peck allegedly died in a hotel fire eight years ago. To the best of our knowledge, he was dead before the fire consumed him. “My son was a junkie. He threw it all away. Utter debauchery,” said his mother. We have numerous reports of Peck sightings: staggering along railroad tracks; sleeping in the library; darting between buildings. There was that long suicide note discovered by Ford, which we were given a copy of for our records. We were able to recover a few of Peck’s journals from his family, but little else. “He’s a mystery,” Sarah offered. The last time she saw him, he was planning to run away to the west coast. There was fight that last time, but Sarah couldn’t recall what they had fought about. They were both stoned. “Little of anything makes sense when you’re talking about Peck.”

Kingdom of Snow 177 Connolly We gave most of our information, copies mind you, about Cara’s disappearance and death to Martin Ford of the ‘Trib, when we found out he was checking into her case too. We thought we were the only ones who cared about what happened. Apparently not: “When I got the invitation. It triggered my memory about the case. I took out one of my old files. The hotel fire,” he told us, “I thought of the Cara Neufeld case, and Sarah Redekopf and then this Peck guy. The hotel fire was the key to unlocking this thing for me.” It was the fire Peck died in, and where the letter he wrote was discovered by Ford in the refrigerator. “Peck did it,” he said, “He went back that night and made sure the sheepshank was on her tight and then he…” He what? Ford couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation beyond Peck drugging Cara some way. Drug tests were never performed on Cara. Ford wasn’t sure. And we really didn’t buy that Peck killed our sister, believe us, we loved him dearly, but it doesn’t blur of judgment as master detectives. No; we prove Peck didn’t do it: We asked him straight out.

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Nine We found Larry Tchaikovsy living on the west coast. We love the Internet – a few QWERTY strokes and you can find anyone. We dialed his studio – the police would never have done this because they were looking for a little girl and her killer, not a gay artist embarrassed by his church. At the studio, a young man picked up the line. “Peck,” we said. The line went dead, of course. We took a train out there and staked out The Tchaikovsy Studio for a few days and soon enough our dreamboat naïf turned up: Quid pro quo handshakes all around. In exchange for Peck’s explanation of his part in Cara’s life and his own afterlife arrangement, we agreed to keep secret the whereabouts of his pearly whites. The suicide note was Larry’s idea. It helped give Peck and him a new start, out from beneath small minds. The body in the hotel? The fire? Peck’s new teeth? That came from the Van Man.

Peck wouldn’t allow us to tape record our conversation and we were not given permission to take down notes in our cute Rhodias. He assured us, Cara didn’t die because of him. He felt badly that he used her death as a way out of his life, but he felt like he had been given great mercy and wanted to live his life, his own way and had no other course of action. “Abba, have mercy,” he said. So, for better or worse this is what Peck told us:

Kingdom of Snow 179 Connolly “My grandfather had just died. Cara was missing. My family life was going to shit,” Peck said. “When we were forgiven, not just the once, but again when Cara was found, it was like a new life began to fill my body, my soul.” This newness meant he needed a new life. He had to get out of the house, so he began hanging out at the New Quantico bus depot. There, he met a fellow sojourner by the name of Slavo “Shenanigan” Federkevich: The anemic street-kid with the bad teeth and the dis-ease death sentence.

Since our discussion with Peck, we’ve checked out his story; we took to the New Quantico streets and asked a few questions; we found the places he’d mentioned, some long ago razed, and determined what he told us was plausible. We imagine Peck leaning his head against the bus window as it traveled across the bridge heading into downtown New Quantico. An unlit cigarette dangles from the side of his mouth. He sits up in clear view watching scores of people combing the riverbank for our sister. He told us they looked like dots and specks crawling across the drifts of the republic of snow.

He’d written that down in the black journal, one that he had opened on his knee when he talked to us. His grandfather gave him the book for his last birthday. The book had been pulled from his grandfather’s shelf, where he’d kept a series of journals. He pulled it out, looked at it and gave it to Peck. “History.” It was before his grandfather got sick, before he began to dwindle before their eyes. They had been talking about Russia, where his grandfather was born.

Kingdom of Snow 180 Connolly “If you know your history, your own story, in here,” he said pointing at Peck’s chest, “they can never take it away here. Name it and it’s yours.” He touched the boy’s forehead. “Do what you want with it, but never forget it or else, you’re doomed.” Snow drifts. Peck filled the journal with tiny drawings, pictures he made by dotting the page with thousands of blue ink pinpricks, and dots Peck saw when he squinted. When he gazed squinting, he could see the shape of things, their ghost patterns, and their history. Swarming noseeums, microscopic flying insects, formed into claymore-wielding dragon slayers. Haze became a mountain. To get ideas Peck went to the library at school or the one downtown and randomly picked a book from the shelf. Anything at all, anything out of the ordinary caught his attention – it was as if he thought part of the universe was hiding from him and he only need find it to unleash its power. He would write down whatever caught his eye and drew pictures to capture what it was. When he couldn’t account for what he was reading, couldn’t picture what it was that was being shown to him, he simply wrote down the words, the phrases. He made lists of them. Nautical terms, geology, botanical Latin, racehorse names, lines of poetry, excerpts of journalism, unique and complex words. He compiled these into sensible and insensible successive lines. The universe was what he named it. And the universe could be unpredictable. The old man’s health turned bad, quickly. He caught pneumonia and never appeared to snap out of its deep fog. Something went in, thought Peck, but it never came back out. On Sunday afternoons he visited his grandfather prior to his death at the convalescence home. One time, while his father stood looking out the window Peck was

Kingdom of Snow 181 Connolly examining his grandfather’s blank expressions when suddenly the old man spoke, his voice full of rumble and phlegm. “Kalita, Donskoy, Ivan the Terrible.” The sound scared Peck. It was the sound of something crazy, detached. The voice was not that of his beloved grandfather. He tried to will his grandfather back to normalcy, to quell the strange voice, to fuse freeform dots into what he remembered, less than what he witnessed. It didn’t work, the fog bellowed and gurgled. Mad eyes, clenched fists, drool. “Dad?” Peck asked feeling out of control. His thoughts filled with discontinuity, with a maelstrom of nothing, but static, disorganization. No shapes. “It’s nothing.” His father said, nonchalantly, moving unhurriedly over to the bed. He watched as his father touched his grandfather. He combed the old man’s wispy, silver hair with his hands and asked patting his forehead, “Do you want anything Dad?” The old man, his mouth yawning silently, opened his eyes, searching, but not looking. “Who are you people?” The voice had changed again. As this was happening Peck wrote down the names that the old man croaked. He didn’t care whether the names were spelled correctly; he just wanted to get them down. It took him some time to find them again at the school library. The men the old man had blurted out were Russian royalty. They were The Grand Dukes of Moscow. “Daniel, Yuri, Ivan I Kalita, Semeon, Ivan II, Dmitri Donskoy, Vasily I, Vasily II and Ivan III The Great.” His father looked at the list in his son’s black journal at the dinner table some time later. He didn’t need to ask about the list, where it came from or why Peck had written it down. He just said, “Your grandfather was a historian, like me.”

Kingdom of Snow 182 Connolly “But why…” “It’s the old timers. It’s gibberish.” On another visit, with his mother, Peck read the list to the old man, who was withering right before the young boy’s eyes; his grandfather was the only one who truly understood him, the only one to say that no matter what he became he would always be a “Simons, strong and brave.” His history was withering, disappearing down a sinkhole of madness. “See, you got most of them, you just missed the order.” He tore the pages from his journal and taped to the wall near his grandfather’s bed. This way the old man could just turn his head and see right there the names and the order of The Grand Dukes of Moscow. Peck’s grandfather looked him with his watery eyes. His mouth opened, his lips dry and cracked white. “Papa,” the old man said in a voice that sounded agitated, his arthritic fingers frantically gathering the blanket on his lap. “It’s getting cold, Papa.” The voice had changed again. “Silly man, he doesn’t even remember how much he hates,” Peck’s mother said cryptically, half to herself, ignoring the voice changes and the strange things he was saying. She steadied the old man by fluffing his pillow, ironing the front of his stained night shirt with an open palm and pulling the covers up beneath his quivering chin. Back in the bus making its way across the bridge to downtown, Peck opened the journal and turned back to the missing pages. He had since re-written the list of Russian Dukes. He felt along the jagged edge of what had once been there – a break from the past. As the bus tumbled over the bridge across the river, he read aloud, softly, the royalty of Russia’s

Kingdom of Snow 183 Connolly past. Over his shoulder, behind him then, through the bus window the snowy, rolling banks of the river were visible. The outstretched branches of trees rose up bony and stark like his grandfather’s gnarled knuckles. Between those branches, those arthritic fingers, the search party silhouetted, looking for Cara appeared; it might have even been us, with Lorne and Principal Skinner’s lesson on nothingness. We appeared alternatively, to Peck who turned to look through the fogged window, as if noseeums, dots of morphing hemoglobin, or a single word and then as sentences moving across the crisp, white page of a large volume of history whose pages had been well thumbed in the past. Then, they were gone.

He phoned home that day just to hear his mother’s breathing. “I’m okay,” he whispered and hung up. Peck was at the bus depot. He had used the pay phone to call home, just to let his mother know he wasn’t with Cara in any shape or form. Over at the bench, Peck had staked his claim. There sat his knapsack, a few newspapers (thrown, discarded) and his black journal. This was nowhere now, time was nowhere had familiar faces. Nowhere had always meant Larry’s place and his ratty couch. But, Larry’s apartment had been emptied and he was gone, long gone said the landlady. He was nowhere to be found. “Moved out to the west coast.” “Where?” She shrugged. “You his son?”

Kingdom of Snow 184 Connolly With his back on the cool marbled wall he was able to be on the phone and keep an eye on his world. After discovering his friend had moved without telling him, Peck thought of Cara. She had only wanted to be his friend. After speaking with the landlady he had spent the following days searching for Cara. He spent some time too, just going over that night when they placed her in the tool shed, how he secured her with his hockey skate laces, how… Red, white and blue rubber balls, taffy bars and tiddily-winks; “The mom or the dad would put all this stuff on a tray. Scissors, cotton balls, paper clips, a broach, a blue balloon… Just stuff.” “Peck, yah” a boy called out. With us sitting across from him on the west coast, Peck looked off into the distance where the sea shimmered to conjured up the street kid they called “Shenanigans,” on account of his demeanor and unpronounceable weird East European name. Peck told us he preferred to call him Slavo. He squinted. Back then, those many years ago in the bus depot, Peck turned to see Shenanigans making his way through the crowd. When the boy was closer, he asked, “Hey man, still here, yah?” “Hey Slavo. Yep, still here.” Peck tried hard not to look at Slavo’s teeth, which were gray and ugly on account of his illness. Slavo had told Peck his blood was no good, a dis-ease, and that he’d be dead before he was legal. They had met at a rave party. “Have you got any money, yah?” He sat down. “No, I just spent my last piece of change.” “Whatcha going to do, yah?”

Kingdom of Snow 185 Connolly Peck thought for a moment, and began to tidy up around him. He’d been thinking of a plan, too, while he was searching for Cara. He could get some money and buy himself a bus ticket for the west coast. Slavo had told him things the night before about a way to make money. Slavo had mentioned this place where they could both make money, good money – millions. “Head to the Basement like you.” “Oh man, not in the afternoon, yah. Later, yah.” Peck agreed to meet up with Slavo later that evening.

We’re reconstructing here, you understand. You’ll have to trust us: Just as Slavo had told him, Peck faced the brick wall with the others when Van Man came. “Basement,” Van Man said in a flat voice. The back alley behind the bus depot was dark and quiet. Peck could feel the energy change. With his eyes clamped shut – as he was told to do or risk being beaten – he saw millions of dots floating, it must be his blood. The man walked down the line of boys and one little Indian girl. He tapped the shoulders of the ones he chose; Peck could actually hear the man tapping this kid and then another. As the man tapped, another man blindfolded; Slavo had mentioned that part. Peck was tapped and a black blindfold of soft cloth was tightly wound over his eyes. He was herded into a van with the others. The drive was short and uneventful. No one spoke. Peck had been told the Basement was “nowhere and smelled of nothing” he’d ever smelt before. Stepping out of the van, into the cold briefly, Peck could see beneath the blindfold that it was a wooden dock of some

Kingdom of Snow 186 Connolly sort. He was gripped by the arms and led into the building. He smelt a sweet smoke in the air. It smelt like a church. “Remove.” Someone helped Peck undress. “Safety.” He was doused with warm water and dried, his eyes still blinded. A straitjacket of rubber was put on him, with his arms wrapped behind him and bound at the small of his back. The blindfold was removed, and replaced with another. For a split second he saw the dark room, men in black, more boys and a few girls. “Mouth.” His mouth was pried open, wide. Someone blew smoke into his mouth, which Peck tasted briefly before it was replaced by a plastic ball. The ball was forced into his mouth, and he gagged slightly. The orb was attached to a mask with straps that were done up at the back of his head. He could not breathe and shudders ran through him. “Breathe through the nose.” His hands, loose and not uncomfortable, were formed into a cup. “Like this.” What felt like a single flower was placed in his hands. Peck was warm, perhaps even a little hot. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His clothes and knapsack were placed at his feet. “Transfer.” He moved with the others from the dark room to what felt like a large open room. Peck peered from beneath the blindfold, but it was no use the room was sparsely lit and

Kingdom of Snow 187 Connolly featureless. He could hear that one by one the boys and girls were led to individual spots. Peck was led to his: A step up. “Serenity.” A large door, sounding like a metallic garage door, was shut, and a low hum began. The energy in the room changed; it was heightened. Peck’s bones vibrated, his skin broke out in Goose Bumps. He was standing on what could only be a small platform, which he figured placed him about three feet above the hard, black floor. The low hum was a trance. There was no other sound. A light shone from above his head close enough to warm him. He tasted marijuana smoke on his tongue now; he thought of Larry; he’d smoke grass with Larry once. He was woozy. His body was made of pinpricks. He tried to peer beneath the blindfold, but there was nothing he could see. Slavo said it would be better that way. Someone touched his penis. Later, he would say it was “the first” one. The first touched his penis, lifting it with cold fingers. Peck flinched, slightly. The first eased it back in place, ran a finger along its shaft. A second, with soft hands, cupped Peck’s testicles and caressed his thigh from behind. The second lingered, a warm hand on Peck’s inner thigh. It was a gentle touch. A thumb moved, caressing back and forth and around the leg. The kisses began on his naked toes. The second lingered the longest and when leaving took Peck’s flower; the others came and went without registering an much of an impression. They were a blur; he lost count. One mumbled something near him, which sounded familiar, the tone of it, but Peck could never figure out from where he’d heard it before. Perhaps two hours went by, maybe three. Children, a boy here, a girl there, cried out; Peck moaned once uncontrollably sounding like his grandfather. There was a low

Kingdom of Snow 188 Connolly hubbub of shuffling feet, groans and gasps. A single bell intoned and the room was emptied. The children were herded back to the dark room. The rubber jackets were unclipped and taken off. Plastic wristbands bound their hands behind their backs. “Water.” They were doused with hot water and foam. The towel drying was vigorous and scratchy. “Powder.” Light, fragrant powder was applied to their bodies. They were led to their standing positions, near their belongings. He could feel his knapsack at his feet. There was silence accept for the sound of shoes on the smooth concrete floor. The shoes inched closer and closer to Peck and stopped. He could feel the person was beside him, standing in front of him, inspecting him. His knapsack was lifted and unzipped. He could hear his journal was being opened, the spine cracked, and the pages being turned slowly. Peck could smell his journal; he often pressed his nose in its pages, he knew how it smelled. A page was torn out, slowly. The shoes leaned into Peck and hovered at the left side of his face. Shoe’s breath was hot against his ear. “Vasily,” the shoes whispered in a slight accent. The journal was placed back in the knapsack, which was zipped up. The shoes walked away, through a door, and the door closed behind him. “Dress,” came a different voice. He bent down, still blindfolded, and dressed. Once dressed the boys and girls were placed into the back of the van. Frequent stops were made the back doors opened and closed, and one by one the children exited the van. He was one of the last to leave.

Kingdom of Snow 189 Connolly Peck was tapped on the shoulder. He stood and a hand guided his head through the back of the van. The air was cold and sounds filled his ears of birds, traffic and the sound of water. “Count to twenty-five, when I say,” a voice said. The plastic wristband was cut and his hands and arms swung freely, aching slightly; they felt alien to him, outside his body. “Begin counting.” The van left spitting gravel at Peck’s feet. He counted to twenty-five and took off the blindfold. He was beneath an unfamiliar bridge in a part of the city that was foreign to him and it was then morning, yet dark. A crisp fifty-dollar bill was pinned to his jacket. It billowed in the slight wind. He felt lost. There were two Caras then: one a missing girl, a person he’d been responsible for, moaning in a suit of leather, and the other was on the west coast creating landscapes out of blue noseeums.

Peck said he searched, after the parents had been told Cara was put into the Cannabis Cathedral tool closet, hoping to find some clue as to where she went. All throughout the day in conditions both pleasant and clear and extremely cold and dark. Peck trudged through the snow, hiked under bridges, pool halls, and grain elevators, along the riverbank and into warehouses. A shock of flesh, a hand, an arm sticking out of brambles, skin where there should not be skin, her raglans coat. Her singing. Anything. But he found nothing. For two days he searched for Cara, but could not find her. It was a game,

Kingdom of Snow 190 Connolly where at one time all that was available was placed on a tray, then a blanket of snow, then a thaw, and then something was missing, something was missing, and something was… Her name no longer sounded like her name. Peck had yelled it out so often and so forcefully, half in will and half in a need for it to bend and dip into small dark corners and hovels. Ubaruben’t yubou dubead yubet? He headed back to the bus depot, tired and feeling dejected. At least he had some money. When he got to the depot, he saw two police cars parked outside. He decided not to go in, maybe his parents had called the police and they were looking for him. He turned and walked away. Across the street from the depot, up four escalators, was the library. In the back, in the quiet area, Peck scanned the book titles, and flipped open books at random. He came to one, and it had a quote from a small boy. Dhammapada was the boy’s name. The boy was a reincarnated something-er-other. The quote was about radiant gods, and how happy people can be, how happy they can live, with nothing. Peck had nothing; nothing but his dots and his secrets. The boy says the radiant gods devour bliss, and that the rapture that comes with nothing allows mere mortals to do the same: feed on rapture. His chest carried a burning he could not explain. He wished his life were back to normal, back to a time before they kicked Larry out of the church, before his grandfather sunk into the hole, before Cara became more than one little girl. Peck wished he were dead and that he could be reincarnated into a something-er-other, a new him perhaps. Vasily. What could he devour to get there? Peck went back to the Basement, of course, because to him it was easy money. But the Basement wouldn’t have him.

Kingdom of Snow 191 Connolly “Someone wants you out,” the Van Man whispered and leaned into Peck, the Van Man and pinned something to Peck’s coat. When the van drove away, Peck read on the note an address of an apartment – it was the apartment of Vasily Pasternak. He met Vasily Pasternak there a few days later. Vasily wouldn’t tell Peck who wanted him out of the Basement. “We take oaths.” Vasily was a dentist who ran his practice, an illegal one mind you, out of his apartment. On Peck’s first visit Vasily showed him the office with the drills and everything else. When Peck saw a painting on the wall, a Chagall-like creation, he knew that Vasily knew Larry Tchaikovsy. “I can help you find him,” Vasily said. “In exchange for…” Over the next year or so Vasily’s apartment became a hang out for Peck and his street-friends, mostly Slavo and a few others. It was in the apartment one early morning that Slavo cried out in extreme pain. Vasily gave him some morphine and Peck held Slavo in his arms all night. “Make me something,” Slavo said at one point. Peck didn’t know what he was talking about. “Slavo?” “Make me into something more than this. I see you draw. I see you write notes, yah. “What would you have me do?” Peck stared down into Slavo’s sullen face, his rotten teeth. “Make me you.”

Kingdom of Snow 192 Connolly Vasily helped hatch the plan. Slavo would become Peck, only when he was dead. But the exchange would exact a cost out of Peck – his teeth. “Do you want this new life you’re always talking about?” Peck looked over at Slavo, in bed adrift on painkillers. “Yes.” Vasily dialed a number and handed the receiver to Peck. It was Larry Tchaikovsy. For a few weeks Vasily had Peck rent a room in a Skid Row hotel. It was just enough time to give people the impression Peck lived there. Vasily instructed Peck on how to set a fire in his room. When Slavo died, they had little time. “My teeth,” Peck said and before our very eyes pulled out two sets of dentures – an upper and a lower. “We gave them to Slavo.” Vasily helped Peck with the body. They took the back entrance way and pretended to be stumbling drunks carrying a buddy up to his room. There Peck alone with Slavo prayed over his friend’s body; he deposited the suicide note as Larry suggested and lit the fire. Peck left by the back exit and went straight to Vasily’s apartment where he stayed until morning. Vasily took him to the bus depot and made sure Peck got on the bus for the west coast. “Thank you,” Peck said. “For what?” “This.” “You earned it,” Vasily said. The bus door closed and Vasily turned disappearing into the New Quantico gloom.

Kingdom of Snow 193 Connolly Though we tried, to this day we have been unable to locate this Vasily. The apartment Peck stayed in, on the street he said it was located, was never found either. But we saw with our own eyes, Peck pulling the false teeth from his gaping maw.

Of course we had to tell someone.

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Ten “Carbon!” Sarah was the only one from the neighborhood that still called us that insipid nickname – and we allowed her to do it since from her it sounded vaguely affectionate. We’re not exactly alike. We’d gone to her studio upon our return from the coast and we were dying to tell someone that Peck was still alive. Of course it heightened our suspicions. There were a few things he’d said we wanted to check out for ourselves. He’d assured us that Slavo “Shenanigans” Federkevich had no family and that he was dying of his “dis-ease.” Sarah’s studio is a work of art itself; always looking as if it had been rifled through by thugs. It is dark, either too cold or too hot; books and magazines are stacked in precarious piles. There are old pieces of over-stuffed furniture, office equipment and two large mid-sternum-high tables covered in jars, implements and muck. Every time we’ve gone there we’ve been surprised that she’s able to get any work done, or find anything. Over the years whenever we’ve come back to New Quantico it’s one of the first places we visit. Jazz is always playing from black speakers installed near the ceiling or from the earphones dangling on Sarah’s shoulders. Sarah’s a Coltrane fanatic – she sends prayers via e-mail to that Coltrane church in San Francisco. That night we went to her studio to talk about Peck, she was alone in the studio. Her son, Ben, was with his regular babysitter, a next door neighbor. She’d been working when we knocked on the studio’s back door.

Kingdom of Snow 195 Connolly “Carbon!” she said opening the door, which we nearly kicked in with our banging and knocking. “Wait right here,” she said and disappeared into the bowels of her studio. “Wait, wait, I have to cover Cara back up. It’s just a model but…” We stepped in the studio, both of us bursting at the seams to tell Sarah about Peck. When she returned she had beers in her hands. Sarah handed each of us one and invited us in. She sat on the floor near the stove. She patted some fat pillows there and we obliged plunking down our bags and our exhausted bodies. We told her about our renew investigation, which didn’t surprise her; we told her we’d been out to the coast to see – and before we said his name, Sarah blurted out loud, “Peck.” “How,” we intoned. She leaned into us, “Once a Dot, always a Dot.” But then by that measure, Lorne Penner would have been in on the secret – “Uh, no,” said Sarah, “we left him out of this one.” We sipped our beers. I’m A Dreamer Aren’t We All from Coltrane’s The Stardust Sessions played. We told Sarah what Peck had told us about his faked suicide, the apartment, and Slavo. At some point she turned a little white. We gave each other a look and thought of getting out our Rhodias. Usually when people turned that color, it was about the dead. Sarah said, drawing out her words: “The apartment? The apartment… It wasn’t owned by a Russian by any chance? A Russian dentist?”

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Sarah took us downtown to look for the apartment, not saying why. “Does this have to do with Cara,” we finally asked. “Here?” Sarah said and we turned down a corner onto a tree-lined street. It was dark and through the darkness windows shone with yellow illumination. We looked up at the street sign. “That’s what Peck said.” “Yes, this is the…” “Sarah what is it?” She said slowly as if awakening from a dream, “Oh. The apartment had been right there…” and pointed at a large building with several windows through which rich golden light shone onto the street. We eased her down onto a nearby bench in front of the building. She looked like she was about to faint. “Why do we insist?” We shook our heads. “Insist on?” “Things remaining as they were.”

Sarah always knew she could turn to Peck – if she could find him. Late in the summer after our sister’s death, just two months after Lorne and his family moved to Ecuador, Sarah tracked Peck down. “I’m pregnant.” Sarah had lost her virginity to Lorne the last night they were together.

Kingdom of Snow 197 Connolly Peck told her he would take care of everything. He had a place downtown; he knew where to go, who to talk to. He had someone who would do the right thing. He wiped tears from her cheek. Sarah pointed to the building in front of them. “In exchange for helping me, he said, ‘I had to let him go,’ that’s how he put it.” “I came to this apartment to recuperate. I remember inside, inside there was in one of the rooms was a full dentist’s office, with the chair, the equipment, everything.” We said, “Vasily Paster…” “Pasternak,” Sarah said looking at the building. We turned to see what she was looking at. We were seated in front of the Vasily Pasternak Memorial YMCA. “Through those doors,” Sarah continued, “up the creaky stairs. The wood banister was smooth with age. Up three floors to the first apartment, to the right, at the landing.” “Does Lorne know?” “No. I got a strange letter from him a few weeks after he left. Something about a flaming sword… I just thought I’d never see Lorne again. My Lorne. He moved back, to Springfield, but we’re not in touch.” A man walked out the building. When he stopped to cinch up his collar for the falling snow we saw that it was Martin Ford, the newspaper editor we’d talked to about our sister’s case. The one who thought Peck probably killed her and so killed himself. He did a double-take. We get that a lot. “You’re the artist aren’t you?” the man asked looking down at Sarah sitting beside us on the bench. The Cara commemorative sculpture had Sarah in the news again. “Martin Ford, I’m the editor of The ‘Trib. My colleague Cecil Youngblood wrote the profile on you…” He then noticed us.

Kingdom of Snow 198 Connolly We looked up, “Hello Mr. Ford” “Cara Neufeld.” “Right, have you gotten anywhere?” “No I don’t think... What are you doing here?” “We were just admiring the building.” He turned to look at the building. Turning back he asked, in his reporter-voice: “Why?” We lied.

We agree to meet Sarah the next morning down at the sculpture site. She was still keeping the look of the sculpture to herself. Ben, Sarah’s six-year-old boy, was with her when she arrived. “You can run around, but stay so I can see you…” And off he went squealing and throwing himself through the snow. “There’s so little left,” we said. Looking across the field it was impossible to tell a number of buildings of Dahlsip’s Yard had been there. All that was left was a few concrete pads – one of which was the foundation of the Cannabis Cathedral. “That’s why I’m doing it here.” “You don’t have to do anything, Sarah,” we said. “You didn’t do anything, wrong.” “Well okay. I know that. But we still need to,” she said and knelt. She was praying. We got down on our knees too and thanked God, Selah. “We still miss you, Cara,” we said. “Amen(s).”

Kingdom of Snow 199 Connolly Sarah was still kneeling looking at something just above the gray concrete slab. The foundation looked like a tombstone to us. “I don’t know if I told you this,” she said getting to her feet. She was looking around trying to situate herself. “Sarah what is it?” “The wall there,” Sarah said pointing to a memory. “Peck and I saw. We came back here and we saw…” “Saw what?” “That the wall boards could be easily parted. From the inside.” “Inside – inside the tool closet?” We had not been in on this little piece of information. Somehow this was not in our Nike shoebox marked “Cara Case,” or was it scrawled on a torn piece of paper? She nodded silently, deep in thought. We all held hands. “She could have gotten out. She got out – then what?” Across the field Ben’s silhouette danced through the kingdom of snow and memory.

We double-checked our notes. No one had mentioned the loose boards before. “We always thought she got out,” Sarah said. “But how did she get into the shed?” We asked. We always pictured it dark and the wind is blowing, our cold sister being tossed to and fro; she clutched her book bag to her chest, a bulwark against the blizzard that

Kingdom of Snow 200 Connolly night. The storm disorientated her and Cara stumbled through the maze of buildings seeking shelter, finally selecting the shed. Wait. But she couldn’t have clutched her book bag. Her hands were still bound behind her back. Still, in this way, Cara pried apart the boards, got out, tried to get herself home, but sought shelter from the storm – but the storm was too much. It was Old Man Winter. He pointed her in the direction to go, but Cara exhausted and cold just gave up and chose the shed. Any place out of the wind and the snow. In she crawled, covering herself with her school coat, somehow and she fell asleep. “Going out through the door or out the back doesn’t matter then does it,” Sarah offered. “I guess we’ll never know.”

Memory is the color and consistency of snow. We reside in this place mesmerized by its brilliance, but also blissfully ignorant to how handling snow does little but wet and sting our fingertips while it melts away. In the end, no matter what you do, memory falls and is gone. There are games and tricks you can play, but they’re not always very effective. Some of those we spoke with had incredible long-term memory, but no facility for short term recollection. Others had it the other way around; nothing beyond their immediate days stuck with them. Everything was gossamer. We are fallible. All of us will forget.

Kingdom of Snow 201 Connolly All of us dip our hands in pales of paint. And all of us wonder at what beautiful color it is… But then what, Selah, then what?

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Eleven A few days later at the urging of Sarah, Lorne arrived in New Quantico for the ceremony. We hooked up with them at a local coffeehouse and sat in a booth on the second floor away from the hubbub. Lorne’s hands were rough when he took ours. He didn’t hug us, like the others had and he kept his eyes downcast when he spoke to us. He smelled faintly of cigarettes. He seemed distracted and kept turning around to look at a loudspeaker in the coffeehouse behind him that kept cutting in and out. After a little chit-chat and he showed us pictures of his two daughters, we asked him about our sister. “Cara, em, what a girl,” he offered and looked down into his black coffee. “One of the most pivotal moments of my life; praise Jesus, em, what we did.” His large hands were shaking. He gripped the cup in front of him. “The greatest gift,” he uttered, almost inaudibly. We hovered over our Rhodias. Sarah pushed her coffee cup around the table, a clove cigarette in her mouth, unlit. “When your parents said what they said, did what they did. Mercy comes to even those, em, who least deserve it.” Quite unexpectedly a child came to the table and stood before the pastor. A parent exhausted followed. “Sorry. His grandfather was a priest. He wants to…” “Go deliver a dare, vile dog!” the little boy said triumphantly. The parent gathered the child by the shoulders. “Geez, palindromes; my father loved palindromes. He’d tell Nathan one every Sunday. And, you look…”

Kingdom of Snow 203 Connolly Pastor Lorne leaned out the booth and set his feet to the side. Then he stood, grunting a little, to stand tall before the boy. The pastor looked down at the boy still in his mother’s protective arms. He stooped then, gathering up his black pants at his knees, and came eye to eye with the little tyke who was by now smiling, beatifically. “Palindromes, em?” Everyone held their breath. Lorne said, “Some men interpret nine memos.” The little boy laughed and clapped his hands. Pastor Lorne held a finger up to indicate he was not done. He crouched before a rattan chair, at the table next to our booth, and using his right hand gripped the chair’s leg near where it sat on the floor. Slowly, calmly, Lorne moved the chair away from the table and lifted it up from the ground and into the air, holding it above his shoulder like a circus performer would entertain an arena crowd. Holding the chair aloft the pastor turned and looked at the boy saying precisely: “Do geese see God?”

Pastor Lorne told us much the same story we’d heard from others, particularly from Sarah. “Your sister’s death changed my life,” he offered. “I realized there is evil in the world and that we must be vigilant in our guarding against it. God is a good chain.” Sarah and Pastor Lorne’s memory of that night was patchy to be expected. We got the impression there might have been some paint added to their memory after an initial coat had already been applied. We found generally that people tended to speak highly of themselves, or, bent over backwards in self-deprecation. We couldn’t say for sure which was more laudable in the long run, the people who lied or those who simply interpreted their own lives with much rosier glasses than most.

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“I remember, em, having to cover my eyes: Snow,” Lorne offered and raised his arm. Black clouds formed on the black western sky. The night was becoming dark, “a Bible black.” Peck’s journal continued several drawings of starry night skies; of bizarre rock formations rising from a void of white we took to be snow. He drew rings of hell, too, indicating to which ring some parents, teachers and church leaders were assigned. Again, we had to rely on the translation of his mother, and in some cases that of Sarah; Peck’s writing was atrocious – perhaps in an attempt of concealment we now knew to be his modus operandi. Lorne was swinging Sarah around, we heard from a few sources, eyewitness accounts, although he never admitted to as much when we talked in the coffeehouse. Mr. Mukherjee, a resident of Tinker said he saw Lorne swinging Sarah around by her waist and could see two others off in the distance, walking. He watched from his living room window. We have our doubts, given the light at that time of the day and the distance from Mr. Mukherjee’s home and the field. Windows can become quite viscous in wintertime.

“We did a wrong. But the quality of mercy, em, is not strained,” Pastor Lorne Penner told us. Sarah began to protest, then thought better of it. She had invited us back to her Dobbler Avenue apartment for drinks. We were walking rather briskly the winter air clear and cold. “We did wrong, em, we were forgiven. It was the sinner that was forgiven, em, not the sin. Me. Sarah and Peck.” “Lorne, we did nothing wrong.”

Kingdom of Snow 205 Connolly As a full moon sat bloated in the sky, Lorne’s bulky frame cast a long and ominous shadow on the sidewalk. His hands were clasped behind his back. He walked with his head down and we followed close behind. The pastor remembered Cara by Bible passage. He could recall what he said, what passage he offered, more than what he did that night. His details are sketchy and we know it. It was difficult interviewing him. Most interviewees looked us in the eyes. Not the pastor – he was too busy looking down at his feet or over his shoulder. Most of our questions, if at all possible, were answered. Not with Lorne. He spoke flat out, like giving one of his sermons. He spoke in a halting cadence, as if he’d written out his response and rehearsed it. We stood for a moment, the four of us, on a corner awaiting a green light. He said without looking at us, “You have to remember. We were just kids. You don’t perhaps, em, understand. “I was heading straight home. I had a hockey game the following day. Hockey players need their rest. Em, a scout was coming. I was going to the big leagues. It was really cold. I was walking, as I say, straight home with my head down, like this, head, em, down. Minding my own business when Sarah called out. Em. She needed me to carry something for her. You know how girls are. I told her I couldn’t. Em, she insisted. I had to get home. Straight home. My parents, were, em, expected me.” The light turned green. We crossed the road and Sarah indicated we needed turn the next corner. “Take the next right. That’s such bullshit, Lorne and you know it,” Sarah said her breath hanging in the air.

Kingdom of Snow 206 Connolly Lorne rounded the corner first, and said, “I continued straight, as I say, home but she kept after me like a stray dog. It was her school bag, em, you see. I looked at it and I knew it wasn’t really heavy or anything. You know how girls are. I threw it over my shoulder and motioned for her to lead the way. We needed to get home. I might have muttered, em, as I do, under my breath of course, Psalm one, Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly… Ms Redekopf had a bit of a reputation back then, em. Oh, and now I under…” He suddenly stopped – he was looking for or at something we couldn’t see. “Pastor what the fuck!” Sarah thumped Lorne on the shoulder, but it didn’t register. The street was empty of anyone but us. There were the apartment buildings, their windows lit up against the dark; there were a few parked cars, but nothing else. Stark trees. “Do you see that?” he asked. It was the strangest thing. We looked, but really, there was nothing. We said as much. But Pastor Lorne Penner stood silent, stood erect finally, his hands holding us back as if danger loomed. He squinted into the sodium lit street scene, into that empty landscape. “There,” he said pointing. Then, “No, nothing.” He continued to walk, stooped, head down, talking. We thought of what Peck said in his letter, that he was haunted by something – maybe he was talking about Lorne.

Sarah let us into her apartment and we sat in her living room. She was serving cocktails when Lorne suddenly said, “Peck had gotten strange. I’d known him all those years,

Kingdom of Snow 207 Connolly since we were baptized, but still then, he suddenly got all strange. Looking back on it I knew it had to do with his grandfather passing away. That, and his home life, well, that wasn’t a, em, godly home.” Penner stopped and removed a small stone from his vest pocket. “Peck was a collector. He was always picking up something, stones. Mostly stones. …and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows… Part of Genesis, chapter twenty-eight, verse eleven. I don’t know why Cara was with him that day. I remember they were holding hands.” Penner pocketed the stone. “Peck collected the weirdest stuff.” “They began walking with us. It was all very, bizarre. I mean, I don’t remember asking them to join, em, us. I tried walking faster in fact. I could do that, walk, em, faster. It was Cara’s idea that we go to the, em, Cathedral – you know the hangout. I said no, right away. No. My righteousness I hold fast. But children, you know. Mob rules. They ran ahead. I tried to stand my ground. But…” He looked at us finally. “I ran after them. That bag. Sarah’s bag was still strapped to my back. I remember I had to shield my eyes: Snow. ...because of the blindness of their heart.” We have the weather reports for all of the days Cara was missing. That first night a storm blew in shortly before five in the evening. “Peck could have cared less, and you,” he said pointing at Sarah, “Well, you know the story. Cara staying did not make much sense. I kept thinking about her singing voice. Wasn’t it just too cold out there for her, for that throat...I said a little prayer.” Lorne said he stumbled through the snow following the path Cara, Sarah and Peck plowed. He’d heard of the Cathedral by then, but had never been there before that night.

Kingdom of Snow 208 Connolly They all ran into the building and stood briefly taking in the strange sight of it. Lorne said it felt evil what with the graffito, the walls of warped wood vandalized by lighters and spray paint. “What is missing from chrch,” Lorne said it read. “You,” he said somewhat triumphantly. There were other sayings on the walls, but Lorne didn’t highlight those. He walked in and dropped Sarah’s bag at the entrance, he told us. They sat on a landing inside the building and listened to the wind rattle the structure. “We’d better...” Lorne said he began to say. They all really needed to get home, out of the storm. But, he said, they smoked dope and it all down hill from there. They put Cara in the tool closet, left and that was that. “Sorry, em, I can’t be much more help.”

It is said for a good memory two things are required – places (loci) and images (imagines). Greek lyric poet Simonides of Ceos was the first to create an art of memory using these two requirements. He came by this art through the deaths of many; he’d been at a banquet reciting poetry. He stepped out of the building, briefly, only to witness the banquet hall roof collapse upon the guests. When relatives came to take away the corpses buried in the ruins of the banquet hall, the mangled bodies could not be readily identified for burial purposes. Simonides, a poet who memorized his poetry so he could recite it, used his remarkable talent to show the mourners which bodies belonged to whom. He was able to do this by recalling where each member of the banquet was sitting in the hall. He pictured in his mind where they sat, loci, and their expression as he recited his poem, imagines.

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There was once a cathedral, painted and valorized now razed. In there, the story of our sister’s demise is about the same, although my now it’s obvious memory is not data – it is highly subjective and in some cases, fictional. We are all unreliable narrators.

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Twelve Lorne told us it wasn’t until a few weeks later, long after they’d gone back to the cathedral to check on Cara and found her gone; long after the meeting with the parents that he saw his two friends again. They all seemed to traveling different paths. Lorne had his hockey, even though he’d been playing terribly lately. Peck had his books, his journal, and his life elsewhere no one was told about. Sarah kept to herself in her room, drawing and doing her homework. He’d talked to his girlfriend a time or two, but that was it. She sent him a love poem, which Lorne read once and then ripped up and flushed it down the toilet. When he walked around the school that day, he could see Peck and Sarah standing there awkwardly and quiet. Lorne walked up without saying a word. Initially every one looked at their feet, their boots in the dirty schoolyard snow. On a nearby telephone poll posters asking “Have you seen Cara?” fluttered in the slight breeze. Lorne thought it only Christian and right of him to speak first, to break the silence between friends. “Where have you been?” Peck looked up at Lorne, his eyebrows rising. He shrugged. “Nowhere, really.” Sarah reached out and took Lorne’s gloved hand. “Come on guys let’s go.” They walked the same route they had for the past year. They took the same route home as the one they took the day Cara went missing.

Kingdom of Snow 211 Connolly For a change the day was not terribly cold, nor was there snow blowing in their faces. The sky was beginning to darken and the night was starting to consume the day by sucking up all the light from the snow. “How have your parents been?” Sarah asked Lorne pulling him in closer. She was always asking about his parents, because his parents said Sarah was their favorite and Sarah liked that. “Good, supportive. We’ve prayed.” “Mine have been all but dead. I think they’re praying I’d just up and leave. But, really, praying doesn’t do anyone, any good…” He felt Sarah tugging on his hand. “I know it doesn’t make sense to everyone, but it does to me. Things happens when I pray.” Peck was lighting a cigarette, he didn’t seem to care any more that his parents forbade it and that the smoke clung to his clothes in the cold. He was, instead, staring off at something flying in the air. “Pigeons.” “From Pigeon George’s.” Lorne pictured the gray board barn, the junk cars, the farm machinery and the old sagging house surrounding by the apartment blocks and convenience stores. Pigeon George was a Jew, one of those “camp survivors.” There was something about him Lorne considered strange. His father had said something about the Jews not understanding Jesus. Who could not understand Jesus? “Someone should check that place out.” “Yeah,” Lorne said directly after Peck. “For what Peck?”

Kingdom of Snow 212 Connolly “Cara.” “The police already have,” Sarah said. “It was in the papers, my mother read it out to me. It said the police checked there because the neighbors had complained about the mess.” “Come on who lives like that?” “We all did at one time?” Sarah said in typical teenager upspeak. “There’s something wrong there,” Lorne said. About the Jews not understanding Jesus. “How is Daddy?” Peck asked Sarah with a hint of malice detected in his voice. Lorne could see his friend was champing at the bit for a fight and he had to admit his own stomach was burning for something. He felt this way sometime on the ice during a hot shift during a game. He thought of his Bible back home on his bed, open to words in red. He wanted to come to Sarah’s honor. “Leave it alone.” “No, it’s okay. My father’s a prick. But really I won’t know because he’s been gone for a few months now. There, are you happy? That doesn’t get Cara back.” Peck shot back, “Neither does praying. Our church does fuck all for those it doesn’t really want in the first place.” “Hey,” Lorne protested. “Hey, how do we know, how do we know we won’t get her back? She’s not dead yet.” Peck mumbled musically, “Ubaruben’t yubou dubead yubet?” “What?” Lorne and Sarah asked in unison. Was Peck now speaking in tongues?

Kingdom of Snow 213 Connolly “Nothing.” There were two Caras then: one in spirit, clinging to their clothes as if smoke, the other a stone cold body wrapped in darkness, muted, her body never really straining for freedom – yet.

A decade later we sat in an apartment with Sarah and Lorne. Sarah’s place was a disaster in so many ways. Clothes, variations of black, white or gray, were laying everywhere; coffee cups, crushed juice boxes; books and compact disc diamond cases were piled in all available areas of the small apartment. There was an unidentifiable odor. Lorne, covering his nose, tried hard not to let his disgust show – it didn’t work. Sarah had no sense of cleanliness nor had she invested any money into furnishings. For all intents and purposes, it was a studio apartment. She threw her coat and his parka onto a table that sat near the door. “Right. Bathroom,” she said pointing. Lorne had to urinate from the coffee drunk at the coffeehouse. We slumped down on two nearby chairs and watched Sarah prance around the apartment searching for something. “Ben still at the sitter?” Sarah nodded. Pastor Lorne returned stepping gingerly over piles of indiscriminate clumps of clothing and magazines into the living room. A stereo, somewhere, was playing while Sarah frantically moved from room to room carrying a wine bottle, an empty glass and her unlit cigarette. The television was on. When Pastor Lorne returned he cleaned off a section of the couch, and sat down, folding his hands neatly on his lap. He appeared not

Kingdom of Snow 214 Connolly to know what else to do. The television played Japanese anime silently, while the stereo left on in the apartment screeched out jazz. From an open window the city bleated and buzzed. It was the dead of winter and the woman had a window flung open as wide as the day it was born. Lorne cinched up his collar, tightened his wool scarf around his neck. Pastor Lorne took in the apartment moving his glare across the crowded room of discharged clothes and other sundry piles of detritus. He raised an eyebrow at us. We sat a little dumb. “Sarah…” he said. His voice came out like a little boy. He turned up the volume: “Sarah.” “Yeah?” “Are you going to sit down?” “Oh. In a minute, as soon as…” Sarah said and then disappeared into a room. We then heard her exclaim, “Matches!” She returned and plopped down on the couch beside him, placing the wine bottle and glasses on the table in front of her. “Coffee’s brewing, Lorne.” “Thanks.” He eyed us. “Friend of Bill W.,” the pastor offered. We asked how long he’d been off booze while Sarah poured us and herself big glasses of Chardonnay. “Sober. Three years.” Sarah lifted the glass to her lips, “Why did you quit?” “Oh the usual.” He wasn’t all that interested in talking about it; we could tell. He went on to say it helped that he was a pastor; most people assumed not drinking was part of his job description.

Kingdom of Snow 215 Connolly “So your theory,” we began, “Is that our sister crawled out the back and stumbled through the snow to the other shed.” Pastor Lorne nodded. “Totally our fault.” “Everything in our notes suggest…” “I don’t think so,” Sarah said and rose. She went into the kitchen and returned with his cup of coffee. “Our sister was…” “Taken to the shed… By whom?” the pastor asked. “She couldn’t do it on her own. Her hands were bound behind her back.” “She could have crawled,” he said. “What about the book bag?” Sarah walked into the living room with a cup of coffee for Lorne, “Black?” Lorne nodded and accepted the cup, chipped and stained as it was. After sipping his coffee, he placed it down on the table in front of him. Sarah lit another cigarette: “I still say, we didn’t do anything wrong. Someone else got to her.” He leaned forward, to catch her eye, and said almost inaudibly: “No. We did.” Sarah turned, slowly to look at her smoldering cigarette. “But not that, not that.” “Then what?” She was silent. Smoke curled itself around her in the hazy light. Sarah turned her face toward him, regarding him, quietly. “This guilt must be for something.” “Peace is the will, em, of God.” She laughed. “It’s His fault.”

Kingdom of Snow 216 Connolly The pastor laughed silently, letting his chest rise and fall. To our eyes he seemed to straighten, to light up. “We all, em, fall short, sometime, someplace,” he responded. A few hours later, a little tipsy and high, we left Lorne and Sarah to return to our mother’s house to sleep. We never did get back to discussing the book bag.

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Thirteen We didn’t rise early the next morning. In fact, Wanda woke us up saying, “Come. On. Eleven. O’clock. You’re not. Children.” She reminded us that she had a reading and a book signing that night at the mall and that our father would be there too. The book was her latest, a series of stories on missing children that had been found. By the time we got ourselves out of bed and down to the kitchen for coffee, our mother was gone out the door. We sat hunkered over coffee looking through our bags for our notebooks when we noticed one of them was missing. “Sarah’s!” When we rounded the corner to Sarah’s apartment, we saw Pastor Lorne Penner standing on the sidewalk. He didn’t see us. We held back. The pastor stood for a moment on the sidewalk. He shook his head, glanced down one side of the street and then the other – then stepped off the curb. We followed close behind. The pastor cinched up his collar and walked briskly. We had to almost race-walk to keep up. When he went around a corner, we heard: Woof, woof. He was standing stock-still on the sidewalk and glancing around him. The dog’s barking came from down a side street. And he turned toward it. Woof, woof. Woof, woof Woof, woof Woof, woof… We watched as Lorne came to where the barking dog was, behind a fence, chained up to a concrete doghouse. He just stood there looking at the dog. We stood near a tree on the sidewalk, concerned for Lorne. We could see the dog’s chain was rigid and strained. Its neck and shoulder muscles shuddered, shiny and

Kingdom of Snow 218 Connolly black. Lorne stood at the wrought iron fence, his fingers wrapped around a quiver of iron arrows. He asked the dog, “Want my throat?” The dog was simmering, its bone-jutting jaw clenched, lips curled back and blood black. Its spiky ears were thrust back, legs straight and taut. Every muscle seemed encoded to tear at the carrion in its sight. If it were to break free and lunge at him, Lorne would have had no defense other than to fall back, his hands up to stave off its jagged fangs. He would have had nothing but the quicksilver, gibbered prayers in his head. It would have been an instinctual maelstrom of animals engaged in supremacy, the reflex to kill and eat, to taste blood, to run loose and without code. The incessantly growing growl vibrated our bones. Pastor Lorne loosened his collar, leaned over the fence and into the heat of the dog’s breath yelled, “Fuck you.” Spittle escaped from his mouth in a spray. The dog recoiled, then…blinking. Woof, woof Woof, woof Woof, woof… Lorne turned on his heels and walked away across the street. We waited briefly, watching the pastor head down the street toward downtown. The barking grew distant, but didn’t go away completely as we trailed Lorne.

We headed downtown with Lorne ahead of us about half a block. Suddenly, we saw him duck into a building. We hurried ahead and stood before the building. It was a lounge. We could see through the window, Lorne, sitting at the bar, flagging down the bartender and ordering a drink. We stood there aghast watching the pastor downing one shot of after another shot of what looked like scotch. He sat at the bar with his elbows propped up. He lined those shot glasses up. We couldn’t think straight. Did this explain his

Kingdom of Snow 219 Connolly behavior, his lack of memory. Was this the pastor trying desperately to douse that flaming sword he nattered on about in letters and conversations? What was he drowning?

Sarah called. “Hey Carbon, did one of you leave a notebook behind?” We met her at the coffeehouse near her studio, up stairs in one of the booths facing the street. “He’s had a problem in the past,” she said when we told her what we saw, “and you heard him last night. He told us he was sober. It makes sense.” We looked puzzled, and beautiful no doubt because passersby gave us the look. Sarah read our expression. “His wife called. Told me to be extra watchful of her pastor. But she didn’t elaborate. I sensed a little jealousy.” Sarah made a face. “That time has come and gone – I didn’t have a heart to spell it out to her. But I still consider Lorne one of my dearest friends.” Sarah said she cruise by the bar and see if the pastor was still in there. She then split and said she see us tonight at Wanda’s book signing at the mall. “Is the sculpture done?” we yelled after her. “I think,” Sarah called back and went down the stairs and out of sight. We sat in the booth going over our notes. We’d gathered quite a lot of information, but few answers. We got all the interviews we needed, a few we couldn’t because people had died; we read all the police reports, reenacted Cara’s walk home and gathered up all the archival newspaper stories and school paraphernalia would could – but one thing, one piece of the puzzle eluded us: Cara’s book bag, the big beige one she had all her library

Kingdom of Snow 220 Connolly loaned books in, the one that Lorne and other said our sister spilled when she fell on the sidewalk that afternoon. That book bag was no one to be found. We thought that if that bag had been located it would be at the place where we would find her killer. Our theses would be on crime and memory – how it fades and how it tricks us. We’ll write about how unsolved crime teach us that its first victim is truth, its second the unfortunate actor, and lastly how unsolved crime tempers lives and kills memory’s fitness like snow on a suddenly bright spring day in the kingdom.

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Thirteen We thought we saw her ourselves. She’s below us in a hair styling place called “Cut Loose” in what looks like a Rolling Stones T-shirt. This Cara-other, older, and with breasts to speak of, clips and cuts a woman’s hair, moving around her like a piece of art; there are times when we picture her as flecks of paint; infinitesimal filaments of luminance excited light. We know that when we look away she is a wave of vibrating string. In our memory, she is a wave, washing, ebbing, and bringing with her songs. Cara is our sylph, with dark European eyes, white skin and a two-tone colored short hair. We coveted her for the shortest of time – an evening as she scampered across the kingdom of snow. She seemed dangerous and different, then. We want so badly to remember her that way. We are across the street and on the second floor of a coffeehouse here in New Quantico’s seedier sides. Our view is of the road to the west and the road south, across from which are shops – one hundred, two hundred feet away; a lifetime; leaves of a book; fields of lilies and sunlight; gravel underfoot. She is cutting hair in a salon. Maybe she did escape unharmed. Cut Loose. The sylph cuts loose. The memory girl. While bending forward we can see the sylph has a tattoo on the small of her back. From this distance we see that it is script, a single word perhaps, but can’t really make out what it says. It is a word, not an image. We know from our studies that words are

Kingdom of Snow 222 Connolly merely symbols. Jacques Derrida hides behind all of his thoughts with a pink eraser, freshly sharpened pen and a notepad. Jean-Paul Satre is nearby too. Kierkegaard too. And the figure dodging behind the trees – be it stone-carrying saviors, cosmic aberrations or dead girls. Shadows are blue because they are lighting by the blue sky. The figure, our figure haunting us, is a blue sylph; a wave. We rose from our table and leaned our chairs to peer out the window silver with afternoon refraction. We all have these specters, these hanging around ghosts. If we’re lucky there’s only one or two of these intriguing people from the past. Right now, we don’t know if there are more or not; we think perhaps there are… Wave, wave, figure, disperses, waves, string, figure disperses… These are portals, faces, the embodiments of time when we were not yet who we’d become. We were stepping through, but were not quite there yet. Stepping through. From where? The ancient entrance; the sublime exit. From what to what? Light unto light. These blue haunts open the door open for us to walk through, to cross the threshold. Cutting us from the present to a future – cutting us loose: All from a girl cutting hair across a busy street. Powerful is the desire to rise up from our chairs and go through that door. The street. The infinitesimal luminance. We rise from our chairs. Pack up our cigarettes. Drink the last dregs of our coffee, walk out the coffeehouse to cross the street. Of course, a car misses killing us by the smallest of margins of error. Wave. There is too much light on the window. Then she is gone. Hang on to the moments as they pass. What happened was right now is gone.

Kingdom of Snow 223 Connolly For us, like so many others, everything that has happened is particle; everything in the future is a wave. We stumble, and then hold onto to one another, closing our eyes in prayer. Our Cara returns, briefly at the window and we stand to stare. The blue sylph, a reminder of our sister, her back to us reaches forward, arms akimbo with scissors and comb, and her black T-shirt lifts up like a curtain exposing her lower back. There on her skin an inked blue tattoo says brazenly: Believe. She turns, sees us, and waves.

I am found to be swifter than fire or wind. I travel to unknown worlds which mortal eye has never seen and change them around in the twinkling of an eye.

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Part Five—A Meditation Gospel of Snow

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When it snows… I almost forgot the taste of snow; almost couldn’t remember the way it felt and sounded crunching underfoot; or the way snow glowed at night when there was nothing around save the bright moon and an expanse of white. But I can. I can recall the slight taste of stone after eating a fistful of snow. I remember distinctly the movement of snow beneath my snow boots, the way it made a crunching sound like the sound made when pressing upon a piece of Styrofoam. The glow by day or night is quite magical to a child alone turning the landscape into moon terrain or an escarpment of Mount Kilimanjaro. My blood contains traces of snow. I recall, walking home after delivering newspapers one crisp winter night, lumbering as if King Kong atop the craggy and momentous snow banks made when the plows came through. There were snow angels on the ground nearby. These were outlines left in the snow of what looked like angels with wings. To do this you fell backwards into a soft snow and moved yours arms and legs through the snow in short sweeping motions – like you were flying and spreading your legs. Then you got up carefully – very hard to do – so as not to disturb the snow. The impression left made it look as if from a body’s shoulders and legs there were wings and flowing white gown, respectfully; the shape of what looked like an angel. Almost as ubiquitous were snow forts of myriad architectural and structure ingenuity. I recall the silence, my cheeks burning, I recall being alone, but not lonely. I was a beast hulking among the traces of others, snow ruins and scalene angels with broken wings or torn gowns.

Kingdom of Snow 226 Connolly At catechism I was instructed that the communion wafer placed in my mouth was a body and that it was Jesus. The grape juice was His blood. It made no sense. It is one of the mysteries. It could not be explained. On my way home I ate some snow thinking surely the Christ was there too, and could only taste stone. I was in a kingdom of snow, but the king was no where to be found. My teacher told me later the stone I tasted was the rock rolled away from the mouth of a cave when Christ escaped as a ghost. I had to be careful. There was, of course, yellow snow – not to be eaten – because it was either the urine of a dog or a drunk drizzling on a snow bank. Snow was never boring this way – you could eat it, you could make it into a fort, and there were legends about it. There were the supposedly four hundred Eskimo names for snow. There ice crystals and snow flakes – no two alike we were told. One winter, when I was in the third grade the school yard became a vast snow playground where twenty-foot high piles of snow were created by plows clearing school parking lots and sidewalks. At recess I would scamper outside in my snow suit with my classmates and play “King of The Hill,” whereby the victor was the one person standing at the top of one of those massive snow heaps having the balance and strength to remain atop amid the pushing and shoving of all the other combatants. The zeal for snow games continued into the construction of snow forts, warrens excavated from those same snow hills the plows left behind. The forts became elaborate labyrinths of rooms and lookout points; they became bases for warring factions – of what now I seem to recall – comprised of illogical demarcations and Darwinian playground selection. Snow ball fights fueled after school hours and at night stealth sorties by interlopers and invaders meant damaged forts, smashed in rooms and next day

Kingdom of Snow 227 Connolly reconstructions. The first time it happened, shock rang through the playground. This was war! This was, however, the beauty of snow – building materials could be molded and readily found. Overall, the snow battles became so serious a campaign, after all the war in Vietnam was still a nightly talking point of television newscasters and evangelists, because that was how the world was run. Each night the tribes began setting up watches in a bid to stop damage to its fort. I pulled a shift with Pat K. a smart Tom Boy whose crush for me was well known. Pat K. had once sat on me and forced me to say I loved her to all within earshot. She wasn’t particularly big or strong; Pat the Tom Boy had boundless, insane, energy she let loose in ways unique for a third grade female. During one particular reading period, all of Ms Carter’s third grade class on the floor in front of her as she read, Pat K. showed me the crack of her ass – and her devilish smile. I knew Pat to be a little strange. I’d been over to her house, where her mom ran a seamstress business and her father sold insurance. It was Pat’s birthday and she’d been dancing rather wildly to “Popcorn,” knocking down lamps and upending TV dinner tables with her sweaty whirling dervish spin. Her parents had to calm her down; they said Pat was a little hyperactive, the nomenclature for attention-deficit-disorder before it was coined. One night, Pat and I sat in our fort, under the darkest of winter nights, noses running, cheeks reddening and each of us twitching from the merest of sounds that reverberated its way into our snow hovel. It was silly and cold, sitting there awaiting danger. “We could be home watching Ed Sullivan.” Nothing happened on our watch, but the next night our representative was not so fortunate. The following night dark forces struck, running amok over our fort, which had been dug deep into one of the massive

Kingdom of Snow 228 Connolly snow hills. They smashed in doorways and covered up topside lookout ports and in the process of ransacking the fort buried our sentry. School the next day crowds of students stood agog and buzzing like bees before our crushed fortification. Pat stood atop the snowy heap that had once been our fort and dug into its roof. She dug with great urgency until she pulled from the snow the arm of our sentry clad in a blue jacket. The schoolyard fell silent. “Look what you’ve done,” she yelled out holding out a red mitten taken from the limb found poking through the snow. The bees scattered as the school bell rang. From that day forward, the schoolyard skirmish ground to a halt. Snow forts were abandoned. Snow balls fell silently back into the ground. Every one kept largely to themselves. As alliances broke up and grudges thawed the victim buried alive in our fort became everyone’s next seat over classmate – a bland and featureless snow person everyone took a turn building. After school the day Pat dug our guard’s mitt from the snow hill, we returned and working together exhumed the jacket stuffed with rags Pat had buried there, from its cold, trampled, grave. “Say you love me,” Pat K tauntingly sang as we pulled the dummy from the crushed fort. “Say it.” “Oh Pat, you know I do,” I said, beginning at an early age to know that love comes in many guises. I helped her carry the resurrected body home. And I can’t recall ever seeing her again. Maybe she moved away. Maybe she just disappeared like the snow. Catholics are told “Take and eat; this is my body.” This is the whole risen Christ in the Eucharist – an inexhaustible mystery that the church can never explain in words.

Kingdom of Snow 229 Connolly St. Ambrose said, “If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to bring into existence things which were not, then a fortiori those things which already exist can be changed into something else.” Another saint, Thomas Aquinas said it was possible for the wafer, the wine, to be body and blood. The Eucharist, he offers, is the “substance,” of the bread and wine which is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the “substance” of the Body and Blood of the Christ. But at the same time the “accidents” or appearances of the bread and wine remain, said St. Aquinas, meaning that what appears to be superficially bread and wine in every way in fact is now a body, now blood in the deepest sense. Christ does not say, “This bread is my body,” but, “This is my body.” Snow was everywhere when I was growing up: On the streets at night when I played games of road hockey beneath pyramids of streetlamp light; snow blanketed all the rough edges of boulders, trees and fields; drifted, thin as paper, and stuck to my eyelashes. Snow was cold and wonderful. But now, as an adult snow has become that wondrous remembrance, but a fleeting thing – a blanket or wisp here and there, never again an all-encompassing reality. Today, I know the Eskimos have no more names for snow that any other tribe or race of people. Today, I know that snow kills and snows create hazards for homeowners and drivers. And yet today, I know still that if I eat a fistful of it, I will taste stone and remember how magically snow appears and disappears and how it made me feel as if I was the largest animal on the face of the planet, beating my chest atop a craggy ridge of immortality – king of the hill. And how it can bury and end things bringing to a close one season while clandestinely nourishing the hope of another.

Kingdom of Snow 230 Connolly I remember Pat’s rosy cheeks. How smart she was; how misguided in her love for me; and how she pulled from a battlefield a truce its banner the color of a red mitten, the color some bibles use to highlight the words of Christ. Hyperactive Pat K. Wherever you are – I am because you are. When I think of snow, sometimes I think of you. No two snowflakes alike. Say you love me. Say it. Oh Pat, you know I do. And the kingdom whose king leaves traces in the vanishing meander amid destroyed hovels and phantom limbed angels, alone, but not lonely, traces I followed home after I’d delivered the evening news in the town where I grew up.

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Part Six—Now and Forever, Amen Ubi'm Cubaruba Nubeufubeld

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One Winter never dies. Ubi'm Cubaruba Nubeufubeld. Ubi’m dubead.

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Two When I was six or seven years old, growing up here, I would save up my pennies for weeks, storing them in an old glass mason jar. Once the jar was full, I’d asked my mom to buy me a roll of new pennies, shiny ones, from the bank. From the roll I’d peel off a new penny and hide it for someone else to find. I wasn’t terribly ingenious when it came to hiding places; it was like I wanted people to find them. I would cradle a penny at the roots of a tree or place a new shiny penny right smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Then, I would take a piece of chalk, sometimes pink, sometimes yellow – never boring old white – and starting at either end of my block I would draw these huge arrows and signs: Treasure ahead! Gifts ahead! This Way! I was always terribly excited thinking about the first passerby who, regardless of what they’d done that day good or bad, would receive a free gift from my universe: a precious penny unearned, but still theirs. The thrill for me was that I had to imagine all this, because I never stayed around to actually see what happened. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, oh, months later perhaps, I would find myself on the sidewalk, chalk in one hand and a handful of new pennies in the other. This is like that. I mean where we’re going and what I’m going to be saying. It’s like I’m drawing these arrows, writing up these signs, and hoping when I’m not around you’ll find one of those unearned gifts. I hope this helped.

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Three Ubi'm Cubaruba Nubeufubeld. Ubi’m dubead. By now you’ve heard of me and know what happens – I’m murdered on November 30th, and left in a shed. I’m a dead girl and only two people know what happened exactly. But do you really know me? I was thirteen, my father was Barry and my mom was Wanda – I still hope that one day they will get back together. I had twin brother and sisters – twins to the core, if you know what I mean. I went to the school around the corner. I sang in the choir. I had my own language – Ubbi Dubbi – say “UB” before every vowel, more or less. My boyfriend was the most popular guy in school. Pubeck. I wasn’t his girlfriend though. And he didn’t kill me. And it wasn’t Sarah or Lorne either. But I know they think they did.

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Four My face was all over the city that winter. I was on flyers handed out in the neighborhood and taped in store windows; my picture was in the papers, on television. I was so embarrassed. It was a terrible picture of me. I wasn’t really smiling and my hair looked all greasy and flat. And that shirt! Everyone was looking for me. No one thought to look in that shed until the old guy went looking for that tool. Thirty-two days I was in there. Don’t worry I wasn’t “awake” for it. But when the door opened, and I saw the look on the old guy’s face I wanted to hug him, but I couldn’t move. I tried, but I couldn’t – it was like those nightmares when someone is chasing you and your legs won’t move. Lubike thubat. It looked like he saw me, there, above my body, but the air wasn’t very clear. He had a look, but I couldn’t tell what it was exactly. It wasn’t good. He threw his arms through me.

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Five I know who put me in there now; it was a bit of a surprise. And, I still wonder why, though, I think I know now why, even if it makes little sense to me. When he was trembling, alone, in that light, much later, I held his hand – I knew where he was going and knew that it could be scary. He whispered in a low, quivering voice, “Forgive me.” He was looking past me, still. “Do you hear the ice cracking?” he asked, cryptically. I think he saw me. But I’m not sure. I know he could feel me, because he squeezed my fingers. I sang. I sang my favorite song – “Friends,” by Michael W. Smith. I hoped it helped. It helped me.

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Six Now, a few things. It is years ago, but there are times when it can be right now – Yubou knubow. I get to go back there and take you; whenever I’m thought of it’s like I’m there hovering with them, in the thoughts that are in the air above them, inside them; I can see everything, I hear their thoughts; my bones are wires. It took some getting use to. At first I was scared and I didn’t understand. There was so much I tried to do, but found out I couldn’t do things the old way. I mean I couldn’t just push someone with my hands, or pick up a stone or something; it takes a lot of willful thinking. For a while I hated it, because it was all pain and sorrow, everyone crying and the things I saw weren’t pretty. But soon enough, I looked forward to it, seeing them again and hearing their voices. I can’t go of my own volition though. I can’t will myself to be there – in a way, I have to be asked to be there. I can go wherever and whenever I’m thought of. If I am in the thoughts of more than one person, it is my belief that I can be in two or three places at a time. I once saw myself from a distance, hovering near Sarah, while I was with my mom. It was incredible. But, there are limitations of course. The further ahead I go from the day of my death the less I can see with my eyes. I can’t see the future, you could say. I’m slowly going blind. Like memory. The dead cannot see much past their deathdays; it’s more about what is felt. It’s a little hazy.

Kingdom of Snow 238 Connolly The days back then went by bizarrely, numbly. And it wasn’t because of the cold. I’m always cold now, as you can well imagine. No, it was as if I was constantly moving, my dead body flying through the air with the snow – that was the bizarre and numbing part; I half expected to remain cold. So time became this measure I found in others, a sense that the more it went by the more tricks it could play. People changed before my very gaze; seemingly one minute Peck’s hair was long, than it was short and his hands were one-second ink-stained and the next clean; Lorne went from standing tall to slouching and Sarah’s skin has been most fascinating – tattoos are drawn on her skin by an invisible hand. It’s been great to see Charon and Carmichael grow up before my very eyes, weird too. They turned out to be so beautiful. I just wish they’d lay off the weed. My parents have changed, of course. Their hair shifts from a lush darkness to shades of dust. Their faces and bodies change slowly, then suddenly as if playing tricks on me.

My father, Barry to you I suppose, sat on the edge of my bed trying to make sense of my vanishing. I told him over and over again I was okay, that he needn’t cry, but it didn’t help. I told him where I was. I screamed it out at the top of my lungs. But it did no good. Had I been gone then a week? He kept thinking that I would come back. I did, but not the way he wanted. Fiddly time drew out in moments deep, it seemed so amazingly slow, but then the hours and minutes seemed to zip by in the speed of light. It was torture; I mean it was like staring at the ordinariness of a clock’s face; the voice of the television, family, friends; the reports from the police as boring a ticking clock. None of it brought me back.

Kingdom of Snow 239 Connolly It was frankly annoying and then it became sad, and finally I found it oddly interesting. I took mental notes. My father couldn’t just sit there. He had to do something. Barry drove around a lot, the heater on, the windows down looking for anything at all to tell him where I’d gone, what had happened to me. As he drove, I hovered at the open window; a winter fairy, a sylph (My English teacher, Miss Fields, once praised me for using sylph in a poem I’d written for class. I read the poem to the twins back home and they look at me with their stunningly gorgeous eyes). My father sung to himself as he drove to keep from steering himself into oncoming traffic or off the road with suicidal rage. He drove peering into the darkest of corners and the most complex brambles and twists in woods and fences; the world was a landscape of hiding places. Often he would stop, get out of his car, and walk over to push aside a loose fence board, or peer through a thicket. He’d find himself standing unaware of how long he’d been doing so until I wished a wisp of snow into his face or asked a kind bird to flutter past his vision. I saw my father fall to his knees and in rage pick up fists full of snow. I’ve come to be most grateful he didn’t find me.

I died almost right away. I mean I was dead that night – I didn’t really feel a thing, I mean pain-wise. From that point on, I was able to get around, hang around I guess. It happens less now. When I’m thought of now, it’s all foggy. It’s like I’m looking through sheer curtains like the ones in my old bedroom. I’m on one side and they’re on the other. But no one ever made like they truly believed what they were seeing. I heard them think they did. Some have reached out and attempted to part the curtain. And I’ve tried, too. I

Kingdom of Snow 240 Connolly tried to get their attention. They must see something else. The curtain keeps getting harder and harder to see through; now, it’s almost all shadow, a sort of gathering gloaming.

Kingdom of Snow 241 Connolly

Seven My father walked every day through our neighborhood looking for me. He meticulously examined every garden shed, derelict building, and empty field. He was so vigilant in his search; he was absent from work almost every day the first week I was missing. As the searching entered the second week, he lost his job. He walked every inch of our little community. He was on foot when he met her – the other woman, the one who really broke up our family. It was a bitter cold day, Day Ten of my disappearance, when he walked on Pigeon George’s land. Every town has a Pigeon George. Every town’s got the crazy man who eats children and keeps a dog in the basement to lick the bones, that kind of thing. His house was ugly, unpainted, its yard filled with old cars, buckets and rusted lawn furniture. On Pigeon George’s property, which had once been a farm, stood an old, gray-board barn home to hundreds of pigeons. The police had been there several times, checked out the yard, the barn and Pigeon George’s house, which legend said was filled to the ceiling with newspapers, old maps, catalogues and books – and the half consumed children, the rumors went. My father, looking for anything to tell him where I’d gone, had seen something in the window, a curtain moved and there was a small hand – he was sure of it. He banged on the door. I was behind him, to his left. If George answered, Barry was going to storm in and to find the one who was connected to that hand. It might be

Kingdom of Snow 242 Connolly Cara. It might be her, my father thought. It’s possible that the police missed, they have a lot to think about. The police could miss a little girl. Bang, bang. Is she in there, is she…come out, come out wherever you are, wherever you are… Bang. The door swung open and standing there, making Barry suck in his breath, was a woman with long blonde hair, white skin, and the bluest of eyes. He immediately wanted to say he was sorry, that he was intruding, but –. “Have you…” “Cara Neufeld. Are you her father?” I have to admit, she had a nice voice. I didn’t think she was as pretty as my father thought almost instantly. He just shook his head, his chin wouldn’t work, his lips wouldn’t move. He just stared into her eyes, pools deep and warm. “Come in out of the cold. Come in please. Warm yourself up. Have some coffee.” She led him in taking hold of his arm. Gently she led him out of the cold and into the warm, overly warm, house, which was alive with cats and dogs, and radios and TVs all going, all moving and mewing, moaning and nudging him. “Come on in the kitchen, my name is Marta.” She was a little too pretty, to be honest. So I screamed at him to turn around. I kept screaming I was right there right behind him couldn’t he ssee me, me, memem. I was his daughter; I was the one missing after all: “Have you seen my daughter?” He simply opened his mouth and it was the first thing out.

Kingdom of Snow 243 Connolly My mom was equally hard at work in the days of my vanishing. I watched her struggle with what to do and where to go. I heard her mumbled words of prayer, the way she took to her knees and begged God for help. She found it hard to say anything, and then, it was all she could do, had to do, was say the words. “Have you seen Cara?” What else could she say? What could she do, but be vigilant. The blur of days and a lack of sleep through the endless nights since my disappearance made my mom physically ill; she looked anemic and suffered migraines. But she kept going. It made no sense that her daughter had not come home, that someone had taken her away. It made her all the more protective of my sister and brother, Charon and Carmichael. The first press interviews were over the phone. Soon the reporters, with notepads and tape recorders, and still others, with television cameras and lights, came to the house to speak with her. Wanda’s picture, my pleading mother, was on the front-page looking out our living room window, looking for me. Complete strangers recognized her on the street or at the mall a few days into the campaign to find me. “We’ll keep our eyes peeled for Cara,” they would shout across the mall walkway. Wanda would wave and smile, like a minor celebrity. My mom had become popular. She never declined an interview. Wanda was accidentally becoming a media star. Her efforts differed from father’s. He continued to drive around the community. He was up early and out the door. Wanda had done that the first few days, but then frustrated and getting angrier by the hour, thought she needed to get a message out to her girl or to the people who’d taken her. Wanda’s thinking was: if the perpetrator – what else could have taken her daughter? – could see her face, a mother’s face, and hear

Kingdom of Snow 244 Connolly her plea, he or she would let me go free. It did not cross her mind much that I might have simply run away. She rarely spoke of that aloud, knowing, somehow in a mother’s soul what her daughter was capable and incapable of doing. As the minutes and hours of my incredulous vanishing increase, the more and more Wanda was assured evildoers were at large with her daughter. On most days Wanda could be seen out in public with a special sweatshirt with my ghastly school picture on it and on the back “Have You Seen Cara?” emblazoned in black letters; she’d be handing out bright, neon pink flyers with my face on them. There were so many interviews and speeches in the beginning, she could not even remember saying much of what she said. Words and pleas just rolled off her tongue, “like incantations,” she told Elizabeth Skinner, the principal’s wife. I believe Wanda thought her words could weave magic and bring me back. She prayed, as she did every day, special intercessional prayer for guidance not only for herself but also for anyone who spoke to the media about loss. She felt the light of her notoriety was double edged though. There were times when the attention was too much. She wanted her quiet moments too. In those quiet moments, she heard herself. It was not the words she spoke to the media about asking the perpetrators to let me go, or in the way she described the life of her little girl. The words that came back to her, when the media lights had dimmed, were the six little words she spoke to me on a Friday night in November. “Lord take those words back. Snatched them from the air. Keep. Them. Never let them. Go.”

Kingdom of Snow 245 Connolly And then, her eyes shut, her hands gripped in prayer she’d say, “Walk home; the twins need me.” Six harmless words uttered with the brevity of a mother’s impatience; my sister and brother could be quite a handful. I knew this. The twins were outside playing detective – and I know now about the card they made how they were lurking around us that night. But my mom didn’t know this; she was a little frantic about the twins. And, dinner had to be made. It wasn’t that far. Walk home. If only. Then it was too far. The farthest point between a mother and a daughter was when men come in between them, she often said in those days. God came between Wanda and her daughter. Where was the personification; where was Jesus? Out looking? At first there were the silent prayers fumbled forth with numb lips, quivering fingertips plying, prying out the words; the intervention of a parent seeking a favor from the world: bring back my child. Behind squeezed-shut eyes, the snow had thawed, the ground grew warm and I still walked upon the earth. She tried to shut out the horrific, the worst-case scenarios offered by the police and well-intentioned friends. “She’s with God now.” God became this worst-case scenario, this end game piece of hardness coming between me and mom. It became a wedge, an expanse, forgetfulness, and an unforgiving ache in the head by Day 11. This hardness where once lay great compassion, took hold, but was kept covert to the outside world. Its roots could be felt in her toes. She gripped the ground upon which she treaded. Wanda would not rest until she covered the distance to bring her closer to understanding how incessant silent prayers can go unheeded, how

Kingdom of Snow 246 Connolly a child can go missing so close to home, how the bonds of marriage can be worn thin, fray and tear. My parents fought. “Why didn’t you go just go pick her up?” “It was just from school. The twins needed me here – where were you?” Missing. But there were no missing words. She said them forcefully and often… “Heavenly Father, please…” And she became the spokesperson of the family and of other families of the missing; Wanda personified anyone who had a child go missing, of anyone who had been a victim to the horrid empty spaces between what they thought their lives would be and what it actually was. She felt her soul change over the days, her words the language of her transformation. “This isn’t like her.” Day 12. Day 13: “The school is just around the corner.” “We’ve talked to all her friends.” Day 14. “We’re not going to stop until we find her. Until she’s safe at home.” My mom could not understand how she could be saying these things. It made her pause so often it impacted her speech: “Everyone is looking. For Cara. All her friends. The school, the church. We pray. She’s just lost.” Day 15: “We still believe. She will. Walk through that door.” “We pray that she’ll still. Come home.” “We pray. Whoever has her doesn’t. Hurt her.” “We pray that if. She had come to. Some sort of harm that it was. Quick.” “I just want to say to those holding her. We will find you.”

Kingdom of Snow 247 Connolly “We just wanted to say. To Cara’s abductor. Or abductors: ‘We forgive you. You are. Forgiven.’” Day 16: “She’s with God now.”

In that time of my absence, my father was absent too. Wanda didn’t notice, until it was too late, didn’t understand that her words had damned him. When she found out, I could barely watch and listen to them talk about it. I felt guilt, I felt responsible. But I could not leave. I just hung there. “Damn you,” Wanda said laced with so much venom I could taste it, “How could you?” She wanted to beat Barry for what he had done; being with another woman while their daughter was missing was unforgivable. Barry stared off into the distance. Rage boiling inside her she stood and she slapped his face; Wanda would make sure he knew how much it had hurt her and the twins. “Did you think. People. Wouldn’t talk? It’s disgusting. That you would do. This. Now. Now. Of all times, Barry.” She filled his silence with her own words. “Pigeon George’s daughter. Barry? While you were. With her. I was out there. Asking anyone who would listen. If they’d seen. Our daughter.” Worn, frayed and torn. The distance between two ends of a sundered bond is forever. Other things fill the gap. My mother filled them with words. She would tell the world of her Cara. She would

Kingdom of Snow 248 Connolly tell the world of her God. She would tell the killer or killers, the ones that took her baby that she had the words to bridge whatever expanse lay before her. Each word was a step towards forgiving herself. “Please forgive me, please forgive me,” she muttered at the kitchen table. She stared for hours at the space before her on the table, lit by the window. The space before her, between her and her Father, she felt, was of her own doing. She’d turned her back on Him and while doing so was carried away by a river of doubt. She recognized, the rock in the current had not moved but she had.

It got to the point she no longer knew who she was talking to; she just kept talking – swimming against something invisible. “Have you seen Cara?” It was reporters with notepads, reporters with microphones, reporters with microphones and accompanying camera people. There were police and social workers, pastors and principals. My teachers all turned out to search and Wanda spoke with them too. And she talked to God, again and again. “Have you seen Cara?” The letters began to pour in; some went to television stations where she’d been interviewed. People sent cards and wrote letters. They sent prayer cards and they sent money. Wanda began to keep them tacked to the refrigerator with magnets, when there became too many she began to pin them on the walls of my bedroom. Soon the room, with its walls covered in cards, came to look as if filled with butterflies, sleeping off winter. With all that, she thought, someone had to have seen something?

Kingdom of Snow 249 Connolly Her friends from the church helped her search during the day, they arranged for flyers to be distributed and tacked up in stores and community centers. These friends baked cookies and made meals, my mom could put in the freezer and take out whenever she needed to feed her family. Her part-time employer, a history book publisher, allowed her to take days off when she needed them. The publisher paid for the flyers and produced them in their own facility. It was as if the entire city was behind Wanda. When Wanda said on television that she forgave the person who was holding her baby, she became the talk of the town. She couldn’t go anywhere without having people stop her asking questions about the search. Wanda spoke at schools, in church halls and shopping malls. She spoke on street corners and in front of shops. At the end of the day her throat was raw, her jaw ached and she felt utterly exhausted. She could barely speak with the twins. It came that there were no longer words to describe her feelings; she stumbled about for the right words to say. Often consolation is for the sympathizer more than the consoled. She know longer felt she had private thoughts. “You said this?” my father would ask standing in the kitchen a newspaper splayed open on the table. They were still talking; they had to for my sake. It was as if they could step in and out of the marriage bubble, when it was needed. “When did you say this?” She would glance down and not recognize herself or the words attributed to her. It seemed like an alien had been imitating her. The words sounded bloodless. She would turn white. “I don’t know.” It was then she began to write letters to me, filling pages and pages of a blue, spiral school exercise book she kept in the kitchen amidst the cookbooks. Every night and

Kingdom of Snow 250 Connolly every morning she would sit with her coffee and stare out the window look at the empty spaces of winter, and write her letters. Wanda took to carrying the notebook with her, a pen in her purse or behind her ear. She would attend search party gatherings and news conferences with the notebook. People asked what the book was for and she would just scrunch her nose and defer. “It’s nothing.” She would walk the route I took home from school and take notes placing down her thoughts whenever the moment arose. She followed footprints in the snow; Wanda entered abandoned buildings, peered into dank and empty railway cars – something she never would have done previously. Down by the river she made notes near brambles only to be startled when a single dark bird, a chocolate brown pigeon a fleck of white on its tiny head, I flushed from the hedge burst out and flew up into the air. Wanda scrambled up the bank of the river, her boots slipping on the wet snow. The bird flew high, but not high enough to disappear completely. Wanda was able to spot it. Once or twice she lost sight of the dark bird, but it always swooped back into her line of vision as if wanting to be followed. The bird took her through our neighborhood and even before she reached the pigeon’s perch, Wanda knew where she was going as would anyone seeing a pigeon in New Quantico – Pigeon George’s. What she wasn’t prepared for was when she got to the property where the unpainted barn and house stood, where farm machinery and lawn furniture turned to dust, where in summer the grass grew to your waist and in winter the snow softened the blemishes. In all those images that came to her mind of broken down vehicles, metal, corroded barrels and pigeons, Wanda was unprepared to see my father, her husband of

Kingdom of Snow 251 Connolly the past two decades, when he should be at work, his hands on his hips standing there. He was standing before the open hood of a truck. From the road she said, “Barry, what are you doing?” He turned as if automatically responding to her voice. From where she was standing she could see, and I could see, his face, its look of shock. His body twitched as if piqued by a volt of electricity. Then he froze.

There’s a lot the dead can and cannot do. The deceased can do a lot, but none of it solely on their own. As in life, we cannot get by on our own. We help one another. Or, at the very least, we can influence others to do our work for us. I realize that sounds sinful, evil perhaps. But that’s not it. Just because something is unknown, unknowable does not mean it is something to fear, and that that fear should be evil. Sin, I believe, is a missing of the target. My friends were aiming for one thing and got, received, quite another. They couldn’t have known.

To influence is not an easy thing. I’m small, always have been and always will be. And, now that I’m nearly blind, really, I need help more than ever. Oh, you couldn’t possibly know! Sight is the first thing to go. It’s no longer important anyways.

Kingdom of Snow 252 Connolly

Eight Mostly I whisper. I don’t whisper out loud. That would be what Miss Fields, my Grade 7 English teacher used to call an oxymoron – a big stupid lie. That’s how I remembered the term for grammar class: oxy-ox-big; moron-stupid-not true-lie. Oxymoron. It is not hype nor is it bull – hyperbole. So it’s not really a whisper either. It’s a suggestion, inkling, a seed planted. I repeat the whisper, like a song. “The ties that bind you will undo to free me.” But even before the dead can influence people have to think of us, the dead. They must think of me. It was always sad. It was always dark there, except where the curtains parted, slightly. The light came through there, or light went through there. I could never tell who was the light: them or me. And now it’s all getting darker and I don’t know why. But I know this; the inkling was a light in a dark time. I try for light. I try to tell my friends it’s okay: they sinned, but they are not the sin. They simply missed the mark. To call them evil, well, that’s just one big lie.

I could never call Peck evil, I mean even after all I came to know about him. In days of my disappearance he was lost too. His grandfather was dying, and would be going up to heaven in only a matter of days. His family was still hurting from the Tchaikovsy episode. And Peck was really struggling with who he wanted to be, who he needed to be. In a way, I really admire him for not caving in, for doing his own thing. Yes, that meant leaving his life behind to start a new one, in secret partly. Peck was full of secrets.

Kingdom of Snow 253 Connolly One of his biggest secrets was that he loved God and the church. I know that comes as a surprise given what he’s said and the way he acted. But he did. Every day I was missing he stopped by the church to pray. He sneaked in the back door, often with the cleaning ladies, and just sat in one of the wooden pews thinking and praying. He was thinking of me, and so I could be there with him and Jesus the Sunbeam! Peck would sit and pray for all sorts of things, not just for me. He prayed for his family, he asked God to make the church see the error of their ways when it came to uncommon people. He prayed for Larry. God was asked to save Peck, to give him some kind of direction. Of course, I helped. Anything for Peck. I led him to the library one time and got him to walk down a few aisles of books. It took a lot of work and I was exhausted afterwards. But it was worth it. I had Peck walk down the aisle and then just as he came to the place where the book I wanted to read was, I asked God to move the book from the shelf, to push it off the shelf and for it to land in front of Peck. I prayed about it until my temples ached. And then it happened. The book fell. The book slide from the shelf, and it landed in Peck’s path. He stood there and looked at the book not knowing what to think. It was a book on Renaissance painters and how they lived their lives. He sat down in the aisle and consumed the book. As I was moving away, slowly, he turned briefly and I’m sure of it, he looked at me… But then I was gone. There were other books, other times.

Kingdom of Snow 254 Connolly There was something else, Peck kept secret. Every where he went with whatever he had he made shrines out of tin or paper boxes. He decorated the paper boxes with black dots in wild flourishes and imaginative drawings. He’d place inside pieces of sparkling glass or buttons; sometimes he wrote little poems and pasted them inside the lid or door of the box. And into every box, every single small tin box used for mints or cough drops; in to every box of matches he placed a miniature photocopied picture of me. He left these little shrines in the bus depot, in our school and our church. He placed them on grocery store shelves, in the library, and in abandoned buildings. He gave them away to anyone on the streets of New Quantico who wanted one. He emptied his pockets of all the things he gathered, hoarded and gave them away piece by little piece. Peck gave it all away.

I know that they feel that it was a mistake, a missed opportunity, a mishap my disappearance, my death. I know because I’ve been there, in their sad times when they are frozen to the core, unable to understand why anyone could possibly love them now or every again. I have whispered to the back of their heads, praying. I have come to them, as they lay awake at night, shivering, rocking in pain. I have cinched up their blankets, in my own way; I have drawn the blinds and turned off the lights. Wrote my name on frosty windowpanes.

Kingdom of Snow 255 Connolly I was there with Lorne in Ecuador when the storm came. The Penners had moved there after my disappearance to do missionary work for the church. They had been there less than a month, when a hurricane lashed the countryside where they lived. It was at night and Lorne was in his bedroom looking for what wasn’t there, as his father had told him before and so I came into his mind. He was praying when he felt the chill and the strangeness of the night on his back. He turned on his knees; his hands clasped together and looked out his bedroom window. A silver moon hung high and its rays shot glory from the shifting heavens. “There is a plan for me,” he said and closed his eyes. Lorne prayed hard, pressing his hands together until his knuckles turned white. His eyes were clamped down and his words of intercession hissed through his clenched jaw. When the house began to move and the rain came rapidly, it did not shake his determination to find God in the pit of his pleading. “Be there,” he said. “Be with me.” When the windows blew out and the tiny bedroom filled with glass and rain, he could hear his mother screaming; he could hear his father’s yelling out his name and that of his brothers. There was something sucking at his heels. A hunger, a swelling cold hunger. He turned to see that the bedroom wall was missing and that his bed, his dresser, his desk and chair were being swept up in a deluge of water. A shudder of incredible intensity ripped through his entire life, as it slipped beneath the torrent, the glass, the whirlwind of detritus and determination. He remembered succumbing. He remembered not ceasing his prayers. When they found him, his legs were broken, a rib or two also snapped, and he was suffering from a concussion. What amazed his rescuers was that they could not get to him until a pack of dogs were chased away. They were circling around him as he lay in a fetal position

Kingdom of Snow 256 Connolly beneath a briar patch. They were circling, as if one dog was connected to the other by its tail. When the rescuers got to Lorne they could not pry apart his fingers. “Miracle,” he heard. “I am here,” he heard. Lorne’s fists were still clamped in humble equipoise. He shivered, in his wet clothes, but felt warmth he could only describe with a muted smile. He did not mention the dogs had been there to take his soul. He did not mention me amongst them. He did not mention that he was a dog.

When I found out about Sarah, about her sacred contract I mean, I remembered the time she stood outside the church kicking at the clay. And it made sense, to me, as it might not yet to you that Sarah was digging into her future. I think I played a small part in her finding her vocation, finally. It wasn’t singing, although she loves music and is always listening to it or humming along to some composition. It was sculpting. Sarah’s an artist. She was walking downtown, one day when she was fourteen. Sarah was alone and had left the house to give Lily some time to sleep another bender off. She was thinking about me because in some store windows there were still posters of me, old ones long ago forgotten, needing really to be torn down. She saw my face and suddenly I was there in amongst her thoughts and I knew she didn’t know where to go or what to do – so I sent her to Madam Schotzche. “That was my friend,” Sarah said and pointed at me on a faded pink flyer in the window of Schotzche Art Supply. The lady behind the counter turned and looked at the flyer. “Bring it to me.” Sarah went to the window and arced over a display case to get at the tape holding the poster to the front window. She picked at the tape and got the old poster slowly off

Kingdom of Snow 257 Connolly the glass. The paper smelled of sunlight. Sarah held my picture close to examine my face, a face that was in her memory too? “Girlfriend,” Madam Schotzche asked. Sarah turned, “Yes, from high school. I knew her.” “I’m sorry for your loss.” Sarah stood there for a moment in the sunlight coming through the front window. The store was empty and filled with hazy sunlight and shadows. Madame Schotzche sat behind the glass counter, glasses dangling around her neck, smoking a cigarette. I whispered in her ear, but I think it was just a split-second before she was about to say: “Child, bring it here.” Sarah took the piece of paper to her and Madame Schotzche motioned that she should sit on a stool at the counter. Sarah watched the old lady lift her glasses to her eyes and look at me there in faded pink. “Cara Neufeld. Heard she could sing like an angel.” “That’s right.” “Your friend,” she said again, letting the paper rest on the counter. Sarah looked down and nodded. “Do you sing?” Sarah laughed. “Well, I really, really wanted to, but no I don’t. I’m a hummer my mother says, a life-long hummer.” “Not so bad.” Madame Schotzche placed a pad in front of Sarah and gave her a pencil that has been stuck in the bun of her hair. “Close your eyes and draw.” “What, no I can’t.” “Yes you can. Close your eyes think of your friend and just draw.” I told her she didn’t want to upset an old lady. Sarah took the black pencil in her hand and began to firstly make circles and strokes of hair. She heard the old lady say, “Don’t think. Let it all go. No one’s judging you.”

Kingdom of Snow 258 Connolly It was a mess, but there was something there. Sarah peered at her strokes and the pencil marks trying to get them to mean something. “It’s a start,” the lady said. “Come back tomorrow.” For weeks Sarah returned most days to the art supply store and every time she did Madam Schotzche would place the pad of paper on the counter and place on top of this the pencil. “Don’t think of drawing. Think of your friend,” she said as Sarah took the pencil in her hand. Again the circles, the strokes – Sarah tried to remember my eyes. “Think of her singing. Can you hear it?” I sang softly in her ear. And it was then Sarah stopped, turn over a new page and began to move her hand about the page in broad strokes from one corner of the page to another, broad strokes of my hair, my profile, a picture emerging not of me on an old “Missing” poster, but one of me, that Friday night, that time when I stopped and sang. “God Walks The Dark Hills.” After several attempts Sarah had drawn a picture of me singing. “This is good,” said Madam Schotzche and smiled. She tore the page from the book and threw it into a nearby waste basket. Sarah protested with a voiceless breath of squeals and noise. “Okay, now do it again.” Sarah was shocked and a little hurt, but she did more determined this time and she was able to re-create my profile and me singing. “Better,” Madam Schotzche said and placed atop the drawing a brick of clay.

One Saturday Madam Schotzche showed Sarah how to throw clay. She threw the clay in her hand onto the wheel with a thwack. Sarah instantly loved the sound of the wheel and the feel of the clay in her hands as she centered the glob of clay and began to work it on the spinning helm. “Good, child, good,” said Madam Schotzche. Sarah worked the clay

Kingdom of Snow 259 Connolly forcing it down with her palm and then back up using both of her hands. Over the week, Sarah made an impressive pot. Madam Schotzche fired the clay pot and Sarah painted it. When she was done Madam Schotzche asked, “Child, this isn’t what you want to make though is it?” Sarah nodded and opened her sketch pad. “Show me how to do this.”

Madame Schotzche gave Sarah four pounds of modeling clay, six inches of cardboard squares, a set of what looked like dentist tools and Popsicle sticks, saying “You are going to make the Votive bust of a Woman, yes.” She handed Sarah a sheaf of paper with the picture on the front of a beautiful woman – a clay bust. “Like this?” Yes, Madam Schotzche nodded and set up near the table an easel with Sarah’s sketch of Cara on display. “Like this… but in the round.” “What is that?” “Life-like. Realistic. As if she were here and I could walk around her,” she said this walking around the easel with my picture on it. “But where do I start?” Holding up a finger, old and bent: “Wait. And listen.” I whispered for Sarah to first find my nose. She did. It took a month and a half for Sarah to finish me in clay – and it was remarkably like me in every way. It would be this very bust she’d use as the cornerstone of the sculpture she was planning to unveil in my hometown in a few days. The very one. But Sarah would need to go into a freezer to do most of the work.

Kingdom of Snow 260 Connolly With the unveiling of the sculpture in two days, I feel it is an opportunity, a chance to say goodbye, to tie up some loose ends, and cut some others that bind unnecessarily. I seem to be in several places at once. It feels like distraction, so I try to pay attention to whatever is weighing most heavily upon me. There are times when I break free and find myself alone, but this doesn’t last and I discover I am near one of them, and I have such an urge, the kind of which I’d never felt before, an urge to move them, to release them, to free myself.

Lorne, oh boy: When my brother and sister left their post outside the lounge looking at the pastor through the window, he stayed at the bar. The bartender was a little worried about Lorne because he kept mumbling my name over and over again. That brought me there. A dead girl on a barstool. Lorne kept mumbling my name and how much he wanted to be sapped of all his strength. He drank two more before leaving. On his way out Lorne pocketed a book of bar matches. He gave a thought to the idea that if I’d been given some matches I could have lived through the storm of that night. His little match girl. As he walked down the street away from the bar, he lit a few matches, woof, and watched them burn up. “Cara,” he said and walked his gaze on the match head. He had this running movie of me in his head, running toward them, my book bag swinging crazily on my arm. He saw me falling; he saw the books flying through the air. A few more blocks and closer to downtown, Lorne went into a hotel lounge. He chose a table near the window this time. “Whiskey, neat.” Woof, woof, the jukebox went,

Kingdom of Snow 261 Connolly woof, woof. The drink came and Lorne paid for it with a fifty. Before the server could turn, Lorne tapped the fifty and said: “A bottle please, when you get a moment.” “Absolutely sir.” Soon he was joined by a woman. “May I join you?” Lorne turned to see her standing there. She was a fake ash-blonde, on the tall side, with purple lipstick, dark eyelashes, and a thin, Heroin-chic, body I’ve seen in those glamour magazines at the library. He gestured across the booth and she sat down lighting a cigarette. “Stephanie,” she said and exhaled a plume of smoke. Woof, woof Woof, woof Woof, woof…traffic outside sped down the road. Lorne took her bony hand from across the table, glancing out the window quickly on the lookout for parishioners and friends, and shook it saying, “Peck.” That was the last thing I heard, until…

The taxi skidded into a snow bank with a soft thud. “Merdé,” the driver muttered as he got out. Lorne and Stephanie climbed out of the back of the taxi, Stephanie face bloodless; she was obviously shaken. I was above the taxi and to the left. “We can help push you out,” Lorne said in French to the driver, then to Stephanie in English, he asked, “Can you get behind the wheel? Are you okay? You’re as white as a ghost.” He pictured me, dressed in my school jacket in the snow. “I don’t like driving in winter.” She climbed back into the taxi, behind the wheel, without hesitating moving and with the facial expression of one who had been dared to

Kingdom of Snow 262 Connolly do so. The two men took up positions on either side of the front fender and dug their heels into the waist-high snow. “Un, deux, trios…” “Okay,” the driver yelled. Stephanie threw the car into reverse and the two men lifted and pushed the car, which rocked for a moment on the spot. “Cara…Push,” Lorne yelled and he and the driver gave the car one last shove as it escaped from the snow bank. Stephanie backed up the car, put it into park and got out. Exhaust from the car hung around them in the newly draped darkness. “Merci, here,” Lorne said handing the driver a fifty-dollar bill. “We’ll only be a few minutes.” He turned to Stephanie. “Are you all right?” “Yeah, why?” She began to walk away from him. “You looked positively terrified there in the car. Why don’t you like winter driving?” “It’s so unpredictable. I mean, you don’t know what’s right beneath your feet until you fall on your ass.” They walked gingerly through the snow. “When I was seventeen I had a bad car accident.” He nodded and walked on; perhaps the discussion was over and done with. But Stephanie wanted to say more. “I killed a man.” Lorne turned, his breathing rising around his head like smoke. “The accident?” “I couldn’t stop.” He took her gloved hand in his. She continued, “I hit him. And he died. It was my fault. You don’t know what’s right beneath your feet.” “It was an accident.”

Kingdom of Snow 263 Connolly She stared at him, “But something tells me accidents just don’t happen. And the worst of it, the worst part of it is that I have never been punished for it, and yet all my life I’ve felt horrible for what happened. I just wish someone someday would just say that I was horribly wrong to be driving, when I was so young. She just turned to me and said, ‘it was an accident, don’t blame yourself.’ His wife still lives in the house next to my parents. I see her every time I go to visit. Every time I get behind a wheel of a car, in winter, I can see his face, and I can hear her voice.” “Car… Stephanie, it was an accident and it was a long time ago.” “That’s the second time you’ve called me Cara.” The color in her face returned. She withdrew a cigarette and lighted it. She smirked. The instant she said it, he knew he’d done it. Still, the words came out of his mouth as if he had no control over them. “Did I? Oh. Sorry, old, old friend.” “You don’t do this too often do you? “What?” “Drink with strange women.” He nodded. “Somebody has to steer sometimes, and other times some have to be the passenger.” Lorne knew he was being cryptic, “It’s like the Sermon To The Birds…” “I’m not just a dumb blonde. I know that one. St. Francis of Assisi.” He had to admit he was surprised. “We don’t wonder we just know that He provides…” “Strange women.” “If needed. Beware the sin of ingratitude.”

Kingdom of Snow 264 Connolly They trudged through the snow to a chain link fence, through an opening and onto the open Alsip’s yard. It was getting colder in the dark. Lorne moved quickly. He had given her all the details about me. Of course. There was nothing left to see. He felt it in his throat. The cathedral was gone. The building, the place I was discovered, the place the local teenagers used to smoke dope, drink beer and make-out, the resting place of all his guilt, was gone. In its place, blonde junegrass, snow and some black rocks. Stephanie handed Lorne a flask. It was peppermint schnapps, which he hated, but he took a drink regardless. Beware the sin of ingratitude. “So what are we looking for exactly?” “I don’t know, I mean…there used to be this theory. I think it was Plato, or maybe it was Aristotle. Sorry one minute I’m talking about St. Francis and now Greek philosophers… I must be a huge bore. When I was a kid people were always telling me I was going too far…” She tugged on his arm and gave him a look that indicated to him that all was fine. It was a look he’d once seen in his wife’s face. “Anyway, the theory was that in the natural world there were shapes for fire, earth, for air, for water. And all those shapes had their natural resting places.” “Yeah, so.” “This feels like a natural resting place.” “For what?” “I don’t know, something. A memory. A moment in time, I wish I could get back. An act of God…forgiveness.”

Kingdom of Snow 265 Connolly “Forgiveness? But you didn’t do anything wrong. Any kid would have done what you and your friends did…” Lorne turned nearly falling in the snow, “I tell myself that all the time. So why do I feel this way? Why is there this guilt?” Stephanie took a sip and screwed the flask cap back on before putting it into her purse. “You don’t know what’s right beneath your feet. Come on it’s getting cold, the taxi’s waiting. And you have to get back to your friends.” Lorne couldn’t move. Is guilt stuck here, all glaringly white, chained to this concrete? They did not notice the woman who was trudging her own way through the snow behind them. Stephanie looped her arms through Lorne’s and leaned against him. The ground cover of snow was glowing in the new moonlight. Shadows lengthened, gobbled banks of snow. “It looks like a headstone…” “Excuse me. Excuse me,” a shrill voice said from behind them. “What?” Lorne turned and for a moment was perplexed thinking perhaps it was the French cabdriver. He began to straighten up, to iron the front of his coat, to clear his throat. Please, let it be a stranger, please… Once his eyes adjusted he recognized her. “Oh.” “Are…Lorne? Pastor Lorne Penner? Oh goodness. Gracious.” “No this is … Pastor?” Stephanie asked tugging at his arm. It was my mom. “Mrs. Neufeld. Wanda, so good to see you,” Lorne said disengaging himself from Stephanie, who nearly fell back into the snow. Lorne hugged Wanda.

Kingdom of Snow 266 Connolly “Pastor Lorne. So good to see. You. What are you guys doing? Out here now, eh? Who’s this?” she asked taking Stephanie’s gloved hands in her own. “Stephanie Grover. Lorne, pastor. Pastor Lorne Penner was so kind to bring me here. I had asked him for some guidance and we got to talking and one thing led to another. I should go. You’re the TV talk show lady aren’t you?” “Do you watch?” “Now and again. I have to go now. The taxi’s waiting. Pastor Lorne,” she said kissing Lorne on the cheek, “thank you so much. Goodbye.” Lorne fumbled through his coat pockets as he watched Stephanie stepping gingerly through the trail of footprints in the snow back to the taxi. When the car left he turned to Wanda. “Peppermint. Schnapps?” Mom inched closer. Lorne coughed bringing his hand up in order that he could throw a mint into his mouth. He was not interested in explaining himself to her. “It was her perfume, I’m sure,” he said and rolled the mint over his tongue. He wondered if he was swaying. Wanda looked at the concrete slab. “I come by.” She bent down and touched the slab. “For Cara.” She paused for a moment, the night filled around them with darkness and cold. And me. “I should go.” It didn’t feel right. The last time he was in that exact spot, standing in the company yard, he was inside a building, with Peck, Sarah and all their parents, the school principal and the local pastor. I was there too; they just didn’t know it. “Don’t.”

Kingdom of Snow 267 Connolly “I really should, good to see…” “I wonder sometimes…” “…you.” He was walking away from the slab where my mom was standing. He was getting angry. He was thinking about birds, about the way they carry insects in their mouths, how they feed their young. He was thinking about dogs too, those chained up and angry and how they feed their appetites. He was growling, inside, he was straining against a chain that has him hooked to some natural resting-place he didn’t want any part of. There’s nothing here, of course. Woof, woof, went the wind through the trees. He was thirsty. “…about that time and what was said, and how it all went away but never did. Your daughter died here and I had some part in it so why should we play around it. I want to get down on my knees and scream sometimes. I want to cut myself. It is so cold. And there are others times when I feel the grace of God as hot as… It does not deny what happened. It happened. And I am so sorry. We were just kids. I wish I could change what we did and what happened, but I can’t. I wish I could but I can’t. We were just kids. You both, Barry and you both knew that if you went to the police, if we said anything…” A little pain ran over her face, she closed her mouth, her red lips covering her perfectly capped teeth. I tried to console her. “You didn’t do anything. What were you really forgiven for…” “There wasn’t anyone else. You know that, Barry knows that.” They were silent for a moment; the night’s silent winter ebbed in.

Kingdom of Snow 268 Connolly Lorne said softly at first, “Cara did not die in vain. You are an example of that, look what you’ve done. You forgave us.” My mom gave this some thought. “It was more Barry. Than me. I was angry. Didn’t know what to do with myself back then. I just couldn’t believe. You kids… here. Someone had to have done this to her, not you, not Sarah, not Peck that weird little kid, God bless his soul. But here. Here, something happened. To Cara and there are only two people. Who know exactly what: God and the killer. Cara died there.” She gestured at the concrete slab. It never got easy, hearing this from them, but I stopped crying about it long ago when I realized it was done, or rather, a part of this was done but that I still had a journey to make. Lorne wanted to argue the point, but he felt if he said anything more, or moved toward her, he would tear out her throat and eat her larynx. No one questions a pastor. He wanted to point toward something there floating above the slab, it was me of course, but he didn’t. It was too dark then and with this realization, something receded. “I must be going.” “It was a night just like this.” His blood curdled. He looked around the vacant yard, the snow seemingly glowing in the strangeness of winter moonlight. Off in the distance headlights glowed and huddled silhouettes moved along snowy sidewalks. For a brief moment Lorne saw himself, with Sarah, Peck and Sarah, silhouettes, bounding through the snow. “His wondrous kingdom.” Gone for Good. Blue sage.

Kingdom of Snow 269 Connolly What’s missing? The blue balloon? Chrysanthemums. Woof, woof, woof… An oil-stained railway tie. A closet of ice. Oh God what have we done? “Yes,” he said cinching up his collar. He was staring…Chained to the concrete… at a new penny inexplicably stuck in the snow at the tip of shoe, which must have fallen from his pocket. But had really fallen from mine.

It doesn’t end up being too much responsibility. The dead always find that just when they’ve given all they can give, they realize, they can always give a little more. We give and disperse. It was only the living that, by giving, is made more alive. When the living work together there is much accomplished. The dead can only help. But what the dead can and cannot do could fill volumes – I guess that’s one right there for the books.

Kingdom of Snow 270 Connolly

Nine I tried talking to my father, but it did no good. I tried and tried and nothing. He glanced up once, I think, but he was distracted. I would be above the garage, among his pigeons nearly screaming my head off – nothing. Then, as if cut loose from an anchor, I would begin to drift away.

Back when I was first missing, Barry frequently stopped to talk to passersby. Talking to street people and teen-agers downtown he learned a lot, but not about me. But he kept up his vigil. He didn’t trust the police to find his own daughter since they seemed to have other priorities. He drove his car day and night. That’s where he met her. She said at the door, “Sorry, no. We’ve told the police each and every time that they were here that we have not seen your daughter. If we had not been shown her picture, we would have never known who she was…” Barry asked, “We?” “Papa and me.” He sat down at a large wooden kitchen table. Her back was to him as she poured cups of coffee. “Are you George’s wife?” “No, I’m Pigeon George’s daughter.” “I’m sorry, I, Pigeon George,” he said laughing somewhat, embarrassed. My father wasn’t one to call people names, especially disparaging ones.

Kingdom of Snow 271 Connolly “If you don’t tell anyone that he likes it, the name I mean, I’ll give you a few of these cookies.” I floated in the kitchen’s hazy light. I felt myself going away; my father had me in the back of his mind, now. Barry felt like he was all of ten years old. He stared at the plate of cookies Marta was holding in front of him. He took off his gloves and retrieved a cookie from the plate. She placed the coffee on the table and sat down opposite him. He smelt cinnamon in the air. Their conversation came easily, as if they’d known each other for years. “Anything new?” “Nothing. Nothing’s showed up. I am beginning to mourn her, but I want so desperately to…” She straightened her back and took the coffee into her cupped hands. Barry looked at her fine boned hands, white and beautiful. “It’s very, very hard to talk about it, no doubt. It’s personal, terribly personal and…” Barry leaned back, the coffee cup in his hand. I was on the table, eyeing the cookies. “My Papa is in the barn. I had thought you were him coming through the yard.” She smiled broadly. “Your father…” Barry was picturing the old man in his plaid shirt, buttoned up to his chin come rain or shine, his green work pants, his black boots and the farm machinery baseball cap. The muttering as he walked down the street in his strange stride, his eyes downcast. “It was the war. The second one that was supposed to be the last war to end all wars.” “You seem to know…”

Kingdom of Snow 272 Connolly “What people think of my Papa? That he’s a nut, that he lives in such filth he could possibly abduct little girls and keep them in this house?” That stung. I did a double-take. “No…” She stood, “Sorry, no that was the wrong thing to say.” There was a flutter at the window, which I and the cats and dogs noticed by moving about the kitchen. Barry hadn’t noticed how tidy the kitchen was until that point. There was no doubt the house was old, but it warm inside and well kept. “Would you like to meet my Papa, he’s out in the barn?” Barry nodded. They walked together through the labyrinth of old machinery, cars, and barrels in the yard to the barn. At the door, she knocked twice, a staccato knock and opened the door for Barry. He went into the barn and was temporarily blinded. When he got used to the light, a diffuse, dusky light streaming in through open windows and cracks between the boards, Barry was stunned to find the barn, from floor to ceiling, lined with cages and perches. Hundreds of pigeons, their eyes blank, their small heads turning, gazed at him. They flew in great sweeping circles in through a hole in the barn roof, through the open window, which at one time must have served as the hayloft. A chocolate brown pigeon with diamond-shaped white patch on its head landed on my father’s shoulder – and had a good look at me. “Oh, shit!” He staggered back into Marta who held him briefly. The bird simply rose and flew up and onto a wooden perch, where I followed and sat. “That’s Lady, the friendly one.” “I’ll say.”

Kingdom of Snow 273 Connolly “Come over here.” Marta said taking Barry by the arm. He could see the old man now over at a workbench, a pigeon on both his shoulders. His back was to them, a radio was playing and he was singing low. “Papa,” she whispered. He didn’t turn. “Papa…” “Helium, helium…” he was muttering, or at least that’s how Barry heard it, “helium…helium…” “Papa!” He turned. The corners of his mouth rose. “Shalom…” he said and there was a great pause, filled with the cooing of birds. He looked Barry over. “Mr. Neufeld have you found your daughter yet?” Barry shook his head and I ascended from the rafters. The old man held a pair of scissors in his hands. He was wearing his plaid shirt, his work pants, and his black boots. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. “Thank you for asking. But no, nothing yet. We’re looking...” Pigeon George seemed to contemplate this. He looked about the barn at his birds, swooping, cooing. He muttered something and turned to place a rolled up piece of paper on the leg of one of the pigeons. He handled the bird firmly, but gently. He cupped the bird in one hand while placing the paper on the leg. Without uttering a word he turned and gave the bird to Barry. He motioned for Barry to hold it like he did. Holding the bird, he looked at Marta and then back to Pigeon George who bent at his waist and threw open his hands up and into the air. My father did as he was instructed. He bent his waist slightly, crouching, the bird cooing in his hands. He leaned upward and opened his hands and released the bird. It rose and the bird’s talons scratched the palms of Barry’s hands. The bird circled the expanse of the barn

Kingdom of Snow 274 Connolly ceiling once, found the opening in the roof and flew out. I raced with it to the opening and stopped when my father said: “And they come back?” “They always come back, unless…” Marta began. The old man had returned to the workbench and was affixing another paper note to the leg of the second pigeon. He turned and released the bird, which circled as the first did and exited the barn through the same opening, flying right past me. Pigeon George smiled briefly and walked past Barry. When he was near him, he patted Barry on the shoulder. He left the barn, mumbling something low and constant. Barry watched the sun swallow the man as he opened the barn door and closed it behind him. He stood there for a moment with Marta watching the birds. She cleaned up the workbench, replacing tools to their proper place, piling paper in a stack in a tray. She picked up one rolled up piece of paper from a small pile of similar rolls, and gave it to Barry. “Here, open it.” Barry unfurled the small paper roll as I peered around his waist. “Have you seen Cara?” was written on the paper in pencil. “It’s not much. But Papa believes we all can help in our own way. Thousands of eyes, thousands of hands are better than but a few. There is strength in numbers.” Marta paused and took in my father. He looked so understandably exhausted. “Come back and see us any time you want Mr. Neufeld.” Admittedly, Marta was hard to hate.

Inevitably, my father would find himself back at Pigeon George’s home. Day 12, Day 13. It would be after a long walk, one he told my mom he was going on to look for me. And

Kingdom of Snow 275 Connolly he did, he looked for me ceaselessly, but hunger would arise, or thirst and he would turn and find himself too far from home and close to Pigeon George’s. Often the old man was in the yard, rummaging through piles of sheet metal or looking through crates, muttering and murmuring to himself. Barry would walk up to him and say hello, but Pigeon George wouldn’t turn, wouldn’t stop his low words, his rummaging. Barry couldn’t tell what he was looking for… “Helium…helium …” it sounded like and the searching, his ungloved hands continue to pry, to disturb, to move among the imaginary brambles and confusion in crates and buried beneath burnished sheet metal. My father would turn and find Marta at the window, the curtain held aside by one of her fine white hands, gesturing for him to come in. “He can be out there for hours… and never catches a cold. Look at him. Only that hat on his head keeps the warmth in. Listen to me, come sit down at the table.” He would bang his feet on the mat and walk across the wide plank wooden floor to the kitchen table, long and heavy and thick feeling as if he’d entered another country, a European one with hearty soups and freshly-plowed fields. The place harkened back to another time. It was part frontier, and part European given all the accoutrements. The air was different in the house too. She would place a cup of coffee in front of him, and a plate of cookies or soup, depending on what time of day it was. Marta was a nurse. She had been away living with relatives in Ohio and had only returned a year ago to her father, who was dying of what she never said, but I knew was cancer. She’d gotten a part-time job at the New Quantico Regional Hospital. The money wasn’t important, they had enough. The house was paid for and a well-to-do aunt

Kingdom of Snow 276 Connolly covered all of their expenses. She was an only child. Her mother, George’s wife, Yael, had passed away when Marta was a child. When she was five Marta was taken from the house by relatives fearing George could not care for himself, let alone a small child. And all those pigeons, they were a health hazard and made the man all the crazier, they rationalized. She returned summers, often, for brief visits with her Papa. She sent him report cards, pictures she drew and when she was older, letters. He had them still, she told Barry. “He keeps everything because he’s lost so much.” Eventually my father would feel guilty sitting there in a stranger’s house sipping coffee and talking when he should have been out looking for me. I had to admit once or twice I tapped him on the shoulder and cleared my throat. And so, he would suddenly rise, excuse himself and leave. Outside his breath would come begrudgingly. But he would be back, Day 14, 15. Time was so confusing. Nothing made much sense. But Marta would be there, at the window, seemingly waiting for him. He liked that: the white hand, the blond hair, her fragrance and her care of him. The old man was on the periphery; all murmur and moving, searching, pigeons in the sky above him. It was a foreign place to Barry and it did not lie within his normal routes to work or for winter walks. He found an excuse to be there. “You must let me rebuild that old truck near the barn. It looks like it still has all its engine parts.” She nodded and handed him a cup of coffee, with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. “Of course.”

Kingdom of Snow 277 Connolly She caught him singing. My father was under the hood, a lamp in his hand, steam rising from his work, and he was singing. It was Day 15. “You have a nice voice,” Marta said. She was standing behind the truck in her winter jacket and boots. A large floodlight on the garage lighted the yard. He rose from the engine and turned; Barry continued to sing. He threw open his arm dramatically and grabbed Marta by the wrists. Soon they were dancing and singing in the snowy yard, round and round in a circle. They stopped in a cloud of steam made by my father’s singing. “Come from a long line of singers in my family,” he said. “Cara is the only one now that sings…” I covered my mouth. There was a pause and then she asked, “Anything new?” He shook his head. Barry turned and began to gather up his tools, and closed the hood of the truck. Suddenly he felt he needed to be out in that dark night, calling out my name, walking the streets, peering into shadows, or through walls. Mom and the twins were at a church function. He should be out searching not working on an old machine. He coughed into his hand. “I should…” “Come inside for a moment, there’s something I want you to hear…come.” He hesitated for a moment, scanning the horizon with his eyes as if there might be a sign there for him – there was, but he couldn’t see me. When he saw it was nothing more than the usual darkness and distant lights, he shrugged. Barry followed Marta into the house. It was only just after eight in the evening and already the old man had put himself to bed. Kerosene lamps dimly lighted the house. Wherever they went their long shadow rippled and smothered, rippled and smothered.

Kingdom of Snow 278 Connolly Barry took off his jacket; it was stiflingly hot in the house. “He likes it that way,” Marta said, guessing at Barry’s thoughts. They walked into the living room. Marta threw a fresh log on the fire and stoked the embers. She motioned for Barry to sit in a chair by the fire. She offered him brandy, which he thought at first was too extravagant, and then thought was perfect for the dark winter night. After she filled two glass tumblers with brandy and handed one to Barry, Marta dropped to her knees and began filing through a stack of record albums. She pulled one out, opened it and put the disk onto an old turntable. A voice rose slowly, angelically from the scratchy record. It was opera, light opera. It was a sweet, but strong voice. “My mother at an arts festival in Krakow when she was sixteen.” “Such an incredible voice.” “Of course I never heard it from her, only this one record, only this one song. Over and over again.” She got up. “I though you would appreciate it. You ever think of singing on stage?” He nodded. “Only all the time. For as long I can remember, I dreamed of walking out from behind one of those velvet curtains and standing there center stage, singing.” This shocked me. I had never heard him say this before. “Why don’t you?” “So much has gone by… I was hoping Cara would be the one to have the singing career. Opera, perhaps, or…” “It’s not too late.” “Well,” he said, embarrassed. He hadn’t talked about his dreams for a long time.

Kingdom of Snow 279 Connolly Marta swayed in the flickering light from the fire; her brandy cupped close to her chest, her eyes closed. The undulating score rose and rose and her mother’s voice sweet warbled like birdsong. Barry put down his brandy and stood on his uncertain legs. He held her in his arms and he danced with her, in the melodic warmth of the song and fire. They danced holding each other closely. Tears on her cheeks held light as if amber. First he let them fall onto his fingertips pressed against her subtle cheeks, and then he tasted their salt when he kissed her cheeks, her nose, and her lips. She returned his favor; she kissed his tears too, the ones he didn’t even know were there to sate her. I turned away.

Things would change over the years. Marta and my father never truly had a relationship and it eventually petered out, but their time together was part of the reason why my parents divorced. Now, Barry lives alone in an apartment downtown, a short drive from his garage. Just now, the night before Sarah unveils her sculpture, fresh from his shower, wrapped in an enormous white terry-cloth bath towel my father, heavier now, rumbles through his cavernous apartment his footfalls sounding like thunder. He thuds from room to room, eating, drinking, and drying himself all the while a pigeon is perched on his shoulder. The pigeon is oblivious to my father’s movement, but seems to notice me from time to time. Barry is going out to a book signing my mom is having at the mall, the book another collection of children found stories is being released with an essay about me on account of it being now a decade since my disappearance and death. The air in his apartment is filled with blasts of opera, dry sparks from the furnace and his blunt monosyllabic cussing. It smells of baby powder and strong aftershave; Old

Kingdom of Snow 280 Connolly Sailor, a splashed-on afterthought that stung him to high heavens and he yodeled. He roams the apartment, agitated and worried. Barry hasn’t a thing to wear! I find this hilarious, don’t you, I mean he’s a guy… But he can find a thing: Not his one tie, his one corduroy coat, even his favorite dress pants were, “MIA.” It’s an outfit he used to wear a lot. There was a time, but it’s not now, his thoughts go. The bedroom’s walk-in closet is a bottomless vortex. Not only does the closet hold his clothes it is also houses assorted boxes, piles of laundry, disused clothing (picked over), curling brooms, bowling balls and other detritus of a divorcé. There are three pairs of grease-stained overalls hanging in the closet. He continues to dig, sweat pouring off his brow. He is going to be late. The pigeon continues to sit on the broad perch unperturbed, but blinking. Puccini pounds from the living room as if in competition with Barry’s thunderous weight on the hardwood floors. The music is so loud he almost misses the ringing telephone. He picks up the cordless receiver while maneuvering into a pair of slightly dingy boxer shorts. He throws the receiver up on his shoulder and onto the side of his head, which he uses to squeeze the earpiece in place. He sighs through his nostrils—and waits. “Barry?” It’s a Fred from the curling rink wanting to know when Barry was going to get there for Friday night drinks. “Gra..(ah)..Wanda.” He walks into the bedroom and continued to search lifting piles of rumpled clothing with his one free hand. The pigeon bobs without a squawk. “No.” He then hangs up the receiver. The call reminds him he was dying of thirst. A half-spent rum and Coke sits on the edge of his nightstand, a wet ring slopping onto the

Kingdom of Snow 281 Connolly surface. He picks up the glass and throws the remaining liquor down his gullet. He belches. Gross! “Amen,” Barry says to the crucifix attached to the wall near his bed. There was a time, but it’s not now. There are times when it is not me, but them. He continues his search, lifting half-crushed boxes and piles of clothing, until he unearths a box with his own handwriting on it: “Dress-up clothes.” He lifts the box up off the closet floor and turns to leave when something at his foot catches his eye – he snaps his mouth closed, takes in air through his nostrils in a gasp. He exhales slowly, and scratched his forehead. “Cara?” He puts the box of clothes down. Beneath the box he had just lifted is a school picture, still in its gold frame, the glass cracked and coated with dust and grime. Black and white? It is her last school picture; that’s odd. He picks it up and takes the picture out of the frame. He turns it over reading in faded ink: “Wanda Grimes, Grade Six. 1971.” “Oh.” He looks on the ground for glass and finds there another picture. It’s a picture of him and me. It too is coated in grime. The glass is cracked. It is as if he’d stepped on this stack of pictures, or piled so much garbage on them the sheer weight was too much to bear. He takes this picture out of the frame too. Paper, folded and placed behind the picture, falls to the closet floor. I know what it is, of course and it surprises me still. Barry picks it up and unfolds the paper, instantly recognizing my handwriting. The page is filled, line after line, with one word: chrysanthemum. It makes no immediate sense to

Kingdom of Snow 282 Connolly him. He places it on his desk and opens a drawer to get a tack. He tacks the pictures to the inside of the walk-in closet. He touches me light, the me on his knee in the picture. You could sing like an angel. You were heaven-sent. You would light up the stage. People would pay to see you come from behind the parted, red velvet curtains… On his shoulder, Albatross the pigeon turns to watch inside the walk-in closet me, a shimmering aura, a light, as if a cloud, quiver amongst the hanging clothes. Those blank eyes see. Barry picks up the piece of paper with my handwriting on it. Thinks about it for a second and places it in a drawer. It is just a little girl’s playing. Opening the lid of the box he marked “Dress-up clothes.” He sees that his entire outfit, along with a few other clothes, have been squeezed into the box. The entire outfit is the one that was on his mind the minute he thought of going to see Wanda at her book signing. The jacket, the tie, the pants were the ones he’d worn when they were married and when they’d go out for dinner and a movie; it was right where he left it – folded and put away – largely unused, sitting in a box in his dark closet. He lifts the items out, and smells other times. There was a time, but it’s not now. Why? Why God? Why her? “Albatross. Off.” The obliging pigeon flutters away, out the bedroom, down a short hallway, cutting through the living room, and then through its open window. Albatross soars up into the purple night sky, followed closely behind by me the shimmering aura, which I

Kingdom of Snow 283 Connolly think my father saw out of the corner of his eye, mistaking the light for flutter of a bird’s wings.

My father inches his way through the crowd at the mall, carrying his winter coat in a fist of grease-stained knuckles, his eyes set toward the podium. I’m just behind and to the left making my way easily through the throng (I’m still amazed my feet don’t touch the ground). “Crowds,” he says to himself and continues his way through the gathering. While I enjoy seeing all the faces and feeling the bustle of people; my father hates crowds crowding in on him and he tends to battle through like a bull. As he angles his large body past a baby carriage he nearly knocks over a display with a large cardboard poster of mom’s new book jacket—Lost And Found: Mothers’ Stories of Lost Children and Found Faith. Wanda smiles from the book jacket with the twins at either side of her. It’s a toss up who’s more recognizable some times my mother the writer or the twins, the models from everything from clothing to automobiles. Up ahead my father sees the makeshift bookstore podium where Wanda is seated behind a table, a stack of books to one side, signing. For a moment he thinks he sees Sarah Redekopf and, he could have been mistaken, Pastor Lorne Penner. He’s right of course, and I’m with them too not at all torn in two or confused. I can do that, be in several locations at once. I’ve never come to meet myself, thankfully, but I have caught glimpses and it makes me shiver. To me it feels like it’s just now and just here.

Kingdom of Snow 284 Connolly Barry moves through the gathered crowd filled with mixed emotions. He wants to be there at the mall for Wanda's book signing, but another part of him does not. He’d rather be home in his sweatpants and old sweatshirt drinking rum and Cokes and watching hockey on TV or at the curling rink with the regulars trading stories and drinking rounds. His clothes are not helping the situation. Even the thought of his comfortable sweatshirt, all pliant and smelling of him, makes his brand new dress shirt stiffer – he bought it on the second floor of the mall, and put it on before leaving the store. Barry's not the kind of guy to dress up for an occasion. The outfit in the box was a disappointment. The pants were barely doable; he kept the top button undone behind a wide brown belt and cuffs rose to above his ankles. The shirt found in the box was a definite no-go. Thankfully, the jacket fit, somewhat – he just can’t raise his arms above his shoulders without tearing the sleeves from the shoulder of the jacket. He cannot button it. “Barry?” He turns to find a regular customer from the gas station, a real chatty Ukrainian everyone called Moe on account his last name had practically every letter of the alphabet and was unpronounceable. He is chewing on a sandwich stuffed with meat and laced with mustard. There is a drop of the yellow stuff on the belly of his shirt. Moe wipes his hand on his pants and extends it. Barry doesn’t shake his hand. “Hey, who died?” the guy says this, his mouth bulging with what looks like sauerkraut. Barry looks down at himself at his black shoes, white socks, stiff off-gray shirt, and black/gray jacket, unbuttoned, stiff like concrete.

Kingdom of Snow 285 Connolly “Kee-Rist, is that perfume?” “After-shave.” “Got a date? I was only joshing yaw about the funeral part.” Chomping on the sandwich, a squish of mustard that falls to the ground. The smell of it fills the space around them. People are pushing by; the place is a fucking zoo. Cara loved the mall, his thoughts go. Yes, I did. “Wanda,” Barry said pointing over to the podium. Moe turns, still chewing, and squints in the direction of Wanda. He picks at his teeth with his baby finger. “Your ex?” “Yeah.” “Well you look like you’re going to propose to her all over again, you’re so done up and clean. And that smell. What is that? I smell, I dunno: baby powder, plastic and patchouli? Man did you ever spray yourself.” “Thanks.” “Hey how about a beer over at the sports lounge, there?” “Later.” “Oh, right, gotta go?” “Yeah.” Barry begins leaving, but Moe places a hand on his jacket sleeve. He leans to whisper. “I tell you buddy, once you start dressing up for the exes you’re a dead camper. That’s long gone. When Irma left me for that fucking…” “Hey.” “Sorry, I mean…”

Kingdom of Snow 286 Connolly Barry shrugs his shoulders. He keeps looking over Moe’s shoulder at the podium where Wanda is signing books; he might be catching a glimmer of a light there, which is probably me. From where he’s standing he can see if he squints her face that way it remind me of me, around the eyes. “When Irma left me for that guy I took everything that ever reminded me of her, took it out in the backyard, loaded it, stuffed it really, into the burning barrel, soaked it with barbeque fluid and lit a match. Gigantic-Fing-bonfire!” “Great.” “The only way over is through, we use to say in the army.” “Right.” “But you’re not through.” “What,” Barry said irritation rising in his throat, hot and thorny. He is just about to walk around the dumpy Ukrainian, when Moe grabs his arm again, this time tighter. “You’re not are you?” Moe chews the remaining piece of the sandwich wedged in his mouth and continues talking. “You still in love?” “Nope.” “Then what?” “Nothing.” He jerks his arm free, as much as he can with the stiffness of the jacket to contend with, and walks away. He eyes the podium. There was a time, but it’s not now. From behind the parted red velvet curtain… He hears Moe from behind saying, “No man, it’s something.” He wipes his face with a white handkerchief. He wishes he hadn't worn the jacket. It feels as if it is cutting his arms off and striking his back as if a lashing whip. The sweat

Kingdom of Snow 287 Connolly drips under her shirt and feels like blood. His armpits grow moist and cake with powder. Gas churns in his stomach still heavy with meat lover's pizza sloshing with rum and Coke. He rushed to get here; he dressed. As he said this to himself he is unaware his gesturing nearly hits a woman passing by in the face. Was he not over? Crazy. Chrysanthemums? He remembered the school picture thumb tacked inside his closet. Chrysanthemum? Hey, who died? He keeps on thinking about me and my mother, the way we look very much alike. Cara had been her mother in every way. Cara was in color; that was the only difference if looking at baby pictures of both mother and daughter. Cara was in color. Cara was all colors. He had never seen anything so beautiful in all his life. Her memory brings a flutter to his chest, a pause in his breath; it was where I placed my hand briefly. He wants to shout out my name, stop the passing stream of people, hold them in his attention and tell them about me...even now, so many years now. There was a time, but it’s not now. Whenever he sees Wanda, behind the face is a shimmering me, a trace of my face, the way her nose rises, the hair falling over her forehead when she laughs. He has often said and is thinking it now that he must see Wanda to see me again. It is a body of water that face, a surface, and beneath its clear waters, just below, if he is able, he dips in his fingers to once again caress my check. He thinks of my cheeks, still. It was an accident. It was. They didn’t know what they were doing. If he had only been home that night, instead of…

Kingdom of Snow 288 Connolly Hey, who died? Why. God, why her? He must have piled too much on those pictures. Careless. We forgive you. It was an accident. It was. You didn’t know what you were doing. We should have… Wanda makes eye contact, and Barry gives her a little wave. His tongue feels thick and dry. His legs wobble and his body aches. What he wouldn’t do for rum and Coke, the night sky, his pigeons. Nothing. The pictures from the closet bring back a lot of memories that he hadn’t counted on and it is making him a little sick to his stomach. Maybe there is something? Wanda’s head is back down, signing one of her books. He stands off to the side of the stage, his hands in his pockets, and leans against a wall. Something: For a moment he imagines it was him on that stage and instead of the podium there’s a microphone. He is dressed in a tuxedo. Where there are the milling shoppers, Barry places a symphony. When he closes his eyes he is Giuseppe Di Stefano and from his throat is not a mumbled cough and air, but the thrusting aria salvo of “Avete Torto” from Gianni Schicchi. In real life, he puffs up his chest slightly for the high note. His arms began to rise involuntarily. The Italian rolls off his tongue from the depths of his diaphragm. His hand, open palm, is up at his chest and thrust out. Others are beginning to watch. His mouth hangs open. His eyes remain closed; the world is gone and all that remains is the music, his voice rising, and the sound of applause coming from a lone member of the audience. He turns and his arm knocks over a stack of books. Barry opens his eyes and sees me, no; it is only Wanda on the back of the book

Kingdom of Snow 289 Connolly jacket with the twins. He picks it up his head filling with blood. And it hits him. Hey, who died? The parted red curtain had been for him. He had been living his dream through me and then when I died, so too did his dream; Marta had told him that. People would pay to see you come from behind the parted, red velvet curtains… That lone member of the audience is still clapping, somewhere. But she is six, and it is summer in the backyard trimmed with Chrysanthemums. There was a time, but it’s not now. He places the book down and turns to see a woman walking toward him, smiling. She moves with an urgency Barry assumes, inexplicably, has something to do with a car in his garage. Occupational hazard. “Barry?” the voice sounds vaguely familiar to him. He coughs to clear his throat. “It's Elizabeth Skinner, Skipper's wife...” “Yes,” he says holding out his hand – the same one he’d a minute ago used to raise his pretend operatic voice. She is dressed elegantly, as if she were off to the theater or the opera. A fur wrap is draped over her shoulders and forearms. A fur hat sits atop her head. Her perfume fills the air. She fills the space before Barry, who can no longer see anything other than this woman standing before him. The woman he still cannot place. He tried: “How's Skipper?” “Oh, Stephan has passed on. He died just around Christmas,” she said in a pinched tone. “Sorry. How?”

Kingdom of Snow 290 Connolly “A stroke. He woke up with chest pains. They just got worse as the day went along. At first we thought it was heartburn. He died on the way to the hospital.” “Sorry.” Barry tries to remember where he knows her from and why the name is so familiar. “The school board is renaming the new extension on the school after him...” “Wonderful,” Barry said finally remembering Principal Skinner; everybody called him Skipper on account of his love for boats and sailing. He had organized search parties for Cara; he spoke at the funeral. Why couldn't he remember that? Some parts were still a blur. “Memory…” he said and made a vague gesture with his hand near his head. “Sarah Redekopf called me recently.” She touches the arm of his jacket theatrically. “You know...” “Yes.” “She told me she’d spoken to you and Wanda… She gave me your phone number. I called earlier tonight, but the line was busy and then… Anyway, it got me thinking. About…you fix cars don’t you?” He never really liked when people said that, that he “fixed” cars. He works on engines. “Pardon?” “After he died. Well, I had to go through all his belongings; the papers, the letters, all his files in the office at home, the garage. You know Skipper had a 1954 Chevy Malibu. I can't get it going I don’t know a thing about it. Hasn’t run for years, now. Why don't you come by and... Hey, I just had an idea.” Her words come in a rush; I’m terribly confused and I wonder what she’s doing. She is breathless and excited. “Come tomorrow

Kingdom of Snow 291 Connolly morning and it's yours, take it away. The whole kit and caboodle.” Her eyes wildly dance about. She appears to be waiting for his response. “No,” he begins. “The car's yours. I have no need for it; there are no children now... It hasn't run in years as far as I know. It's all dusty; it's just taking up room. I'm moving out of the house this spring...” “Couldn't.” “Wanda! The star!” she says and looks over Barry’s shoulder. Wanda is at his arm, a book in her hand. “I thought that was you Liz. You look fabulous.” “Yes, thank you. I was just talking to Barry about Skipper's old Malibu...” “Barry can fix anything,” Wanda offers. “Work. Engines...” “I said he could have it. In fact, I insist. I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Florida. My sister has been inviting me down there for years and this year I've decided to take her up on it. The car...” “That's so generous of you. Barry you could probably fix it up and sell it...” She presses forward, her mouth forming the words within inches of Barry's face. “Yes. Listen, I have to go. I leave for Florida in the afternoon. Barry why don't you come by in the morning and I'll let you into the garage. The keys and everything are right there.” “Sure?” Barry steps back finally leaning into a store window. She backs off, her hand on her chest. “Nine.”

Kingdom of Snow 292 Connolly “Good, we'll see you then. Listen, you’ll be taking it off my hands, that’s a lifting of a burden I don’t have to worry about it and that’s payment enough. Wanda, I didn't know you were so popular.” She turns and walks away. She appears to not know where she is going, turning several times before finally ducking into the crowd. Barry turns to Wanda and smiles weakly. She has one of her books open. Her pen hovers over the page. Her face for a moment is me, and then it slackens, before disappearing completely before my father’s eyes. “Have we got something to tell you.” They turn: It’s the twins. And yes, they reeked of pot.

Kingdom of Snow 293 Connolly

Ten Before my mom’s reading Sarah spent the day with Lorne. After speaking with my brother and sister earlier that day about what they saw, Sarah knew she had to help her old boyfriend out and confront Lorne. Sarah returned home; I was with her because she was obsessing over her sculpture unveiling the following day. Sarah was climbing the third flight of stairs when she heard a commotion. Her hallway was filled with people, and they were staring out the back window. “Sarah come here, you’ve got to see this,” one of the milling residents said. They were all taking turns looking out the back window. What is it?” she asked walking up to the window. “Some guy, down there sleeping in old Carver’s yard with those dogs” Sarah heard a jumble of words unable to compute their meaning. She leaned against the window, her forehead on the glass, and looked out over a back alley and a large snow-covered yard. Several dogs were circling a reposed man. It was Lorne. Fast asleep it looked like. “Must have been some binge,” a resident said. “Wait till he wakes up.” “We called the cops,” someone said as Sarah ran down the hallway. “Hey do you know him?” Sarah scrambled down the stairs and I thought I clearly wasn’t a the top of her thoughts, because I found myself suddenly above Lorne in the dog yard, hovering there

Kingdom of Snow 294 Connolly with him. He was semi-conscious and muttering something about the cold and me and god knows what else. Sarah was at the gate and unlatching it when the dogs turned, growling and strutting on their paws. Lorne sat up, snow caked down one side of his face and body. He was a little disorientated. “Where.” I whispered in his ear to look at the gate where Sarah was… “Sarah?” “Lorne,” she cried out. “What are you doing in there, get out!” “What am I,” he looked around him at the dogs. “No, here, here” he called the dogs over and tried to use them to stand. He felt weak and still intoxicated. His stomach roiled and the world swum in circles. Finally he found purchase atop a stake in the ground and propped himself up. “Lorne, I’m coming in to help you…” “No,” he said and held up his hand. “I can make it…” The dogs, three black Mastiffs, followed Lorne to the gate, circling him, almost guiding him. I patted one on the head as I moved with Lorne. He got to the gate and stood there, fog rising from his open mouth and nose, the bright morning air lighting everything in white and blue. “Lorne,” Sarah said mournfully. “I was just thinking of Cara…” “We have to get you in…” “And, remember that day, when she fell and her books went everywhere, remember.”

Kingdom of Snow 295 Connolly I nodded. My library books. “Lorne that really was a long time ago and we have to get you…” He got down on his knees, and acted out picking up my library books, “And I picked up her books…” “What?” He looked up at Sarah. “Her books. There were four of them…” “Lorne. Get out of there…” He shook his head, “I have to tell someone.” Lorne picked up four imaginary books out of the snow near him. He placed three books of air into a non-existent book bag. The pastor held an imaginary one in the air before him and looked at it as he spoke. “The books, all of them, were about dogs. And this one,” he said shaking the one in his hand was called “How Dogs Think.”

Sarah was finally able to get Lorne back up into her apartment. She told him to strip and have a hot shower. While he was showering, Sarah made fresh coffee and toast and set it up beside her bed. When he came out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, Sarah sat for a moment on the edge of her bed and stared at him. “What?” “Where have you been, what have you been doing?” Lorne shuffled over to the edge of the bed and sat there, looking out the bedroom window. The day was bright and clear. Sarah took Lorne’s hand. “You know I love you. And I’m here for you.”

Kingdom of Snow 296 Connolly Lorne turned and smiled, meekly. His head was full of rocks and he felt nausea churn in his stomach. He didn’t know where to begin. He lay back on the bed, to think, to ease the pain he felt, and soon he was asleep.

It is rare, but possible that a day in early January can be unusually warm. Everything was melting, the sky a bright azure, the sun seemingly closer. New Quantico’s extreme weather made its citizens amnesiacs – a warm winter day always trumps months of nothing but cold and snow and a rainy cold summer one cancels out all of dry, hot weeks of harvest. The weather here is Job incarnate. Sarah tisk-tisked aloud and then laughed at the watery world outside her apartment window. She thought about her sculpture, the one she had made in memory of Cara, the one she has invited everyone to come and see. The unveiling was to be tomorrow; she prayed for colder weather. Tonight the sculpture would be delivered by laborers and placed at the Cara memorial site on the banks of the river not far from where she was found. Armed with the two cups she bumped her hip against the door to open it. Lorne’s got his baby face on, the one he was born with, angelic and unharmed, half-smiling: blissful. Sarah stood watching his body rise with each breath, the way the light gilded his hair, his glow radiating warmth. “Lorne,” she whispered stepping closer. “Lorne, sweetie…” A little too softly. A little too…not enough. “Pastor,” she said, a little louder, into the shards of dancing, infinite dust moats showering him. “It’s very difficult to keep the mind between the past and the present,” she said half to herself placing the mugs down on the nightstand. The sound of the cups on the wooden table awakened Lorne. One eyelid, then another, fluttered and slide open. He blinked, surprised.

Kingdom of Snow 297 Connolly “Hey sleep head.” “What time is it?” Lorne rested on one elbow. “Just after noon.” “What, already?” He stared down at the coffee. “Just like we’re married.” “Yes, just like.” “I was having the craziest dream.” Lorne looked up at her and shook his head. He picked up the mug and cradled it on his chest. He turned to stare out the window. “Wow and wow backwards.” “Everything’s melting.” “Spring in January…” Sarah began to leave, “I’ll just…” “No, no stay, sit.” She sat down at the edge of the bed. Her tongue moved but her teeth refused to part. He said, “Maybe it’s time…” Sarah nods. Outside everything continued to thaw under the unusual warmth. “To talk about… it.”

Lorne held Sarah in his arms, an embrace of sibling love, and it was a memory of a feeling he no longer knew was apart of him. It was as if time and space had bent and he was somehow bent along with it, bent back into a form he long ago was, a boy holding a girl, a future as yet struck divine, the call not yet sounded, nor if it had been, heard. It was before Ecuador, before the miracle of his survival, before his return, the light that kept the dogs away. He rocked her while she wept silently into his arm. “Did I ever tell you about the dogs?”

Kingdom of Snow 298 Connolly She shook her head looking up at him. “Did I ever tell you about the all-white giant?” Lorne was the most sober drunk in the world. “I have always felt that I was one of them,” he began, “Evil and vicious.” “When I was a young girl an all-white giant man, with a satchel of stones, saved my life.” They took in each other’s faces, and each other’s stories. “When Cara died I thought the dogs were coming from me.” “When Cara died I thought the giant had left.” They were silent, then I whispered into Sarah’s ear and she said, “Maybe the dogs were sent to protect you.” And I whispered into Lorne’s ear and he said, “Maybe the giant is only seen when you believe.”

They talked sitting together on the bed facing one another; they talked about dogs and chains; they talked about stones discovered in the memory of snow; of forms rising from the clay; of light permeating the darkness. The talk turned to grace, to me, to gifts and ice, and the kingdom of snow. “The books,” Sarah finally said. Lorne shook his head like he didn’t know what she was talking about. “You had mentioned books, when you were in with the dogs in the alley where I found you…” “Oh, Cara’s books?” “Yeah those ones. What did you say one of them was called?”

Kingdom of Snow 299 Connolly He thought for a moment and then raised his head toward the light coming in the window, “How Dogs Think.” “How Dogs Think?” “Yeah, why is that important?” “I’m not sure, but I think it’s something we should tell the twins.”

Charon and Carmichael met Pastor Lorne and Sarah at the Van Buren High School library. They spoke with Douglas Hacker, the librarian. They told him the title of the book to see if it was still in the library. “Oh sure,” he said, and took them on a short walk to the stacks where the book was, still on the shelf. “What’s going on?” Everyone was silent as Charon pulled the book from it the shelf. If it had been one of Cara’s library books she was carrying that day, how did it get back to the school? “Can you tell who takes this book out and who returns it…” “That’s private information. Technically of course, the computer record goes back about five years of borrowing and returning…” Carmichael hit Charon on the shoulder, “Dummy, this book is older than that and our sister used it over a decade ago…” “But how did it get back here?” Pastor Lorne asked. “Well that information,” he made a made a face of disgust, “is a little less private.” The librarian took the book into his hand and opened it turning to the back cover. “Books used to have these cards in the back, the card… see right here, it’s still

Kingdom of Snow 300 Connolly there. The card has the date of when the book was taken out and when it was returned. If a book was overdue, a librarian would initial the return, and…” The librarian was concentrating on the small card he’d pulled from a small folder attached to the back inside cover of the book. “That’s odd,” he said. “What?” Sarah asked. “I don’t recognize the initial… I’ve been here for thirty-two years and…” Charon and Carmichael looked at the initial and wrote in down in their notebooks, “SS.” “Wait, that’s,” Hacker said, and it was then that a something fell from the pages of that book and fluttered to the ground at their feet. I knew what the note said, and I could hardly wait for them to read it. Charon picked it up from the ground and carefully unfolded the small note for everyone to read. “What’s missing from chrch?” “I think I know…” Charon began. “…Who killed our sister,” Carmichael finished. Hacker said the name out loud and they all stood there looking at one another in shock. I clapped my hands with glee.

Kingdom of Snow 301 Connolly

…And, I’d find myself at my old bedroom window, staring in at the sewing room that it has become and a lady sitting there in the closet staring at my engraved initials. Or, I’d find myself alone in the church with the cleaning ladies, humming a sacred song I’d learned in the choir. But mostly – and for this I’m happiest – I find myself in the library. I think I’m there because on the shelf, in the True Crime, non-fiction section, there’s a book about me – or rather, there’s a book about my disappearance. It can’t be about me, because I’m missing in the time frame of that book, the one my mother wrote. “Have You Seen Cara?” No. According to the book, and everyone that checks it out, I’m always lost, and then found frozen to death. A thousand times over, I am lost and frozen to death. So by weak association I am drawn here, because I am missing and then discovered here, dead and dead again. I keep leaving impressions on those around the book about my disappearance. I do this so they’ll help me with the curtain or talking to my sister and brother, my parents. If they’d only listen, they would know what was truly missing in that book. This gives me some pain; it’s a pull in the shoulders, as if from behind. A part of me wants the book to be finished and another doesn’t. The book doomed me. I am doomed again and again, by the past. It is written in stone. It was – and is no more. Being free of the past can be wondrous, but it can also unhinge you from what makes you in the first place. Perhaps that’s an oxymoron too?

Kingdom of Snow 302 Connolly

Eleven Let’s talk about truth. You get two stories, sometimes more, but most of us get two stories. Two stories are told at your funeral. One story told by your family, your friends. Their memories, their pictures, and their words. The second story is your own, only you don’t get to tell it. Not really. Your lips are glued together. And you can’t speak. But you do, you do. No one’s listening. And when they do, they don’t believe it. There are two stories here. One from me a dead girl. Yubou cuban trubust mube.

Kingdom of Snow 303 Connolly

Twelve I can sense their sadness. I have tried to move things. Because there are tired of me, sometimes it can get confusing for them and me. It is confusing because while I can live only in the past, they want me present. So another me goes: A faint one goes in my place, sounding and looking less like me as winters come and go. I’m hazy.

I wish for the freedom of choosing when to go, and when to stay. That is not my decision. When they think of me, mostly I am there. Sometimes only a part of me goes; I know this simply because a part of me feels missing. I find things easier now because I’m constantly looking without my sight. My family and friends miss so much, because they’re looking for me. But I’m missing right?

Because I’ve lost a good portion of my sight, I mostly eavesdrop on audio books, on conversations. I can hear people reading to themselves. There are some people I can get to read to me aloud – mostly children, sometimes Peck, my boyfriend. He’s still adorable, but his tastes are not what I had expected. If he wants to know about the dead, he needs only to ask me.

People seldom listen. They rely on what they see or think they hear.

Kingdom of Snow 304 Connolly There was a lot I didn’t hear when I was alive, that only now seems to resonate in my bones. It’s all sacred music now. It all vibrates now, all that remains disappeared and considered, again and again, long gone.

Kingdom of Snow 305 Connolly

Thirteen Ubokubay, rubeaduby? It’s decades ago and I’m singing. That’s me there…crawling out the back of the Cathedral. I couldn’t open that damn door inside, when I opened the door just a crack I knew I was in trouble. There was a huge board there. There was no way I could push it open. So I looked around, and wow and wow backwards, the boards were loose. I crawled out and someone was there to help me, Selah. It was Principal Skinner.

He was silent. A look on his face told me it was bad. He turned me quickly and placed a handkerchief over my mouth. It stank and soon there was nothing else…

When I awoke, I was dead.

Kingdom of Snow 306 Connolly

Fourteen David Ebbers found me. He stunk of beer and cigarettes. He tried to grab me, throwing his arms and hands in the air as if trying to catch a butterfly. He didn’t tell the police this of course, he thought he was it was the booze. The booze told him I was there, floating above my body. And I was.

When I saw Wanda I broke down, but couldn’t move. I wanted her to hold me, and she tried, but I wasn’t there for her. Yet, she stammered, “Oh. Cara. Baby you’re. Home. Now.” My father stood stock still, struck dumb. Charon and Carmichael were enfolded in his arms. They were weeping, silently. I sang, God Walks The Dark Hills. And then they prayed.

Kingdom of Snow 307 Connolly

Fifteen My father and mom; my brother and sister and Sarah and Lorne drove to Skinner’s house the morning of Sarah’s sculpture unveiling. They’d discussed what they should do about the book information, about what they thought.

Barry made everyone stay in their cars. He said he wanted to do this, “Alone.” The house didn’t look like Liz Reimer had lived in it for months. The entire yard and home was covered in snow. A lone trail to the front door was no wider than a foot; the snow there looked as if someone had simply kicked his or her way through to the house. A rusted “for sale” sign jutted out of the snow, as if surfacing from a long burial. To Barry the house looked stale, its windows greasy with old snow. The garage, where Liz said the car would be, was out back of the house, behind a snowdrift. My father trudged through the waist high snow to the garage, which was gray in color and smelled of dog shit. The rusty garage door wasn’t locked. She said it would be open. A putrid wave of dog shit and oil hit him in the face when he walked in. He stood briefly, a hand at his mouth. The car was there, half covered in an off-white, stained tarp. Why did he agree to do this? What did he actually think he’d find here? I stood near him, willing him strength. From floor to ceiling the garage was stocked with boxes, bicycles, lawn furniture, barbeques, model boats, rope, tools and a fake Christmas tree. Around the car was cleared like a path.

Kingdom of Snow 308 Connolly Barry noticed first that the trunk was open. Out of habit he placed his hand atop the trunk and pushed down. It didn’t latch; it popped open. He tried again and again it popped open. He took both of his hands and using all his weight, he pushed down. The trunk yawned open. “Fine,” he said lifting the trunk hood. He checked the latch; maybe something was stuck in there. When he lifted the hood he could see there was a wad of newspaper jammed in it. He took the newspaper out and cleaned the latch with the tip of his finger. He threw the newspaper on the ground. But then out of curiosity – he thought there was a spark of light, but he couldn’t be sure – and it was me of course pointing to it. Barry picked the newspaper ball back up from the dirt garage floor and unfurled it. It fell from his hand. “Cara Neufeld Found—Frozen to Death.” No. Her picture. My picture. Cara? The garage spun and Barry nearly toppled. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe and his limbs felt as if they would buckle. He began to moan and turned to hold himself upright by grabbing the trunk; he threw his arms through me and I tried with all my strength to hold him. His head fell and he leaned into the trunk at the point of retching. It didn’t at first register. It took his mind a while to understand what his eyes were seeing. His heart was racing; bile filled his throat. An enormous pressure on the back of his head pushed through to his eyes as if forcing him to recognize. Inside the trunk, amid a viper’s nest of coiled rope, sailor’s knots, was my beige book bag. When he allowed himself to think it, he said it. “That’s hers. Oh Jesus, that’s her book bag.” Why was Cara’s book bag in Principal Skinner’s car?

Kingdom of Snow 309 Connolly My father walked with the book bag held to his chest, out of the garage and to the street. Everyone turned as he walked back to the cars. And he held it high into the air, as he fell into the snow.

“That bastard,” Wanda screamed. “At least now we know exactly who to…” Barry began. “But why?” Sarah asked. They were all sitting in her studio, in the various chairs and on the floor. I sat on a ceiling rafter watching the proceedings from above, as it were. “That’s the question,” said Pastor Lorne. “We forgave the wrong people, Wanda.” My father took Wanda’s hand in his and she turned to face him and then both turned to look at Sarah and Lorne. “We put her in that situation,” said Lorne. Sarah interjected, “What happened afterwards…” “We don’t know,” said the twins, each saying a part of the sentence. “We can guess,” Wanda said. “She crawled through the back of the Cathedral and he was there… “Waiting,” said Charon and looked at Carmichael who offered, “He probably used some sort of anesthesia?” “And his own daughter?” Lorne offered, “Lord Jesus.” The room fell silent. “We’ll go to the police, of course,” my father said, “But first we should honor our daughter, your sister, your friend. What you’ve made Sarah.” “The ceremony must go on,” Wanda said.

Kingdom of Snow 310 Connolly Sarah shook her head, but the room filled with consenting voices. She said finally, “It’s just as well. The sculpture is right at this moment sitting on the banks of the river. I had it delivered there last night.”

The field has been plowed cleared of snow and partitioned with rope and bright yellow ribbons. Cars lined the street and the field near the entrance to the ceremony. Cameras are up on tripods and are being worked on; reporters speak into microphones and check monitors. Photographers peer through their cameras, switch lenses and refocus their attention on a platform ahead which houses a large object draped in gray tarp. Police, although largely unnecessary, mill about. Invited guests are required to show a special badge the city developed for the event; no media is allowed past a certain partition save only Martin Ford of the local paper, an agreed upon condition put forth by my parents. Pastor Lorne and Sarah are in a taxi watching the proceedings. They see my mom arrive. They see her stop to sign autographs. They see some of their former classmates. Some dignitaries arrive, including the mayor who receives a light round of applause. School officials, former teachers and administrators, arrive and walk solemnly together as a group to the small stand set up near the sculpture. Sarah wonders about her sculpture. “Can you believe how warm it is today?” Her tone is flat. “What about the sculpture?” She doesn’t turn. “It’s just meant to be. Actually it’s going to be okay,” she smiled. “Is that Greta?” Lorne looks over to see his wife and the girls standing near the podium. The back seat of the taxi is silent except for the low din of the crowd outside. “Yeah.”

Kingdom of Snow 311 Connolly Sarah touches Lorne’s s arm, “Are you going to tell her everything?” “The only way…” Sarah nods and turns to look at her old friend. He smiles meekly. “There is so much to do I don’t know where to start. I thought maybe I could simply go back and make everything all right again, to wash my hands of everything. Life is on my side, right.” “God is on your side.” “Where was He for you, Pastor Lorne?” She doesn’t say this with malice, but carefully. He stares out the window, his head leaning against the glass. “We are all tested in our own way. The quality of mercy is not strained. I was always forgiven, I just had to accept the gift, not deny it. I think now the dogs were there to protect me, to let me know there’s much to that – accepting and denying, it can take a lifetime. Have mercy upon me…” “There is just too much.” Sarah’s eyes fill with tears. She thinks of me, singing in the darkness. “Give it all away. …O Lord heal me; for my bones are vexed. Give it all away…” “Everything, even that?” He touches her on the knee. “I am always yours, you know that.” “I gave up our child. I had an abortion when I was fourteen.” It was intended to trump, but it did not. She can’t understand why she blurted it out, but she has and now it’s out there. “You are forgiven. But you don’t need me to tell you that.” She sits up her senses telling her Lorne has known for a while about her abortion. “You knew?” “Peck could never keep a secret.”

Kingdom of Snow 312 Connolly “He lied to me…” “Forgive him.” There is a knock at the taxi window. It is Barry. Sarah rolls down the window. “I took the bag to the police, told them how I got it. We’ll leave it in their hands.” Barry pauses, and smiles. He lifts a small cage of pigeons for Lorne and Sarah and me to see, “Shall we,” he says. They walk the path that has been sliced through the snow to the opening where the sculpture awaits its unveiling. The crowd gives a murmur, and then with the sun shining down, everyone watches as my parents join hands to walk toward the podium. It was dark and I couldn’t see that well. When the door opened, I thought it was Peck. I hoped it was Peck. But it wasn’t. It was a man, and he was taller. In a voice I had never heard before, but still sounded familiar, he said, “Come on, let’s get you home.” He extended a hand and I pulled one from behind my back. Peck’s knot wasn’t even cinched. I gave him my hand. He took it and pulled me up and out of that darkness. The wind had really picked up and the cathedral was filling with snow. He pushed me ahead, and as I walked forward his hand came around my face. He forced something onto my mouth; a cloth of some sort. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t breathe. I turned as hard as I could. I needed to see; I needed…I… Jumpy eyes. Whuby? May God have mercy on his soul.

It is as if she can feel the earth rotating; Sarah teeters a little bit uncertain of her steps. Her feet shuffle in the snow around the tarp. All eyes are on Sarah. Even as my mom, the

Kingdom of Snow 313 Connolly master of ceremonies, begins, the artist knows everyone’s gaze is upon her and the cloaked sculpture. Words float over the field and through the stark trees. A band begins to play music and Sarah feels the weight of the moment. I am hugging her, trying to hold her together to give her comfort and strength. She moves to the tarp. Lorne, at her side, is gripping her hand. “What is going to happen here?” Sarah is now behind the sculpture, untying the ropes that hold the tarp down and secured. She tugs and the knot willingly loosens, and the two strands of rope fall away. Rough tarp is in her hand in a ball, and she begins to pull. In her mind, she reads the stones that the all-white giant left her that day when she was a small child in the snow without clothes or hope of living. One stone, warm to touch beside her reads: “Remember.” Another, she has grasped and huddled her small body around reads, “Love.” The rocks are hard to read, their words requiring special attention, shifting from recognized patterns to mineral striations before her memory’s eye. She sees a hand clutching a rock upon which, briefly, the word, “hope,” appears. It is me, there, in her mind, a shining bright light, a fist, her fingers, the fading in and out of a word, “hope.” The tarp is still in her hand. Time is no longer heavy with doubt. She pulls, she yanks and the burlap slips off the opaque sculpted shard of ice. People gasp. But I know. A bust of my head is encased in ice, in two interlocked loops of ice resembling a sheepshank. Slowly the ice will melt, the sheepshank will fall apart, and my face will emerge. There is a round of subdued applause. It is uncertain how to react to the sight of two loops, thick and strong, knotted together. Barry stands near the sculpture his hand inching up to touch it. Sarah feels Lorne behind her, his hands on her shoulders. The applause, muffled by winter gloves, continues. The sun moves from behind a bulwark of clouds and surrounds the two loops in resplendence. The air is still. “Ties.”

Kingdom of Snow 314 Connolly It is Sarah and she has broken the silence. Her voice is crackle dry. Beside her my father eyes well with tears. Wanda is there too, staring in wonder as the sculpture, under the sun’s scrutiny, begins to shine, sparkle off its opaque core and turn into something new. “Where?” Barry is saying to Sarah, who is now beside him, they fall together to the snowy ground, on their knees. Sarah’s arms are over my father’s shoulders. “It just came to me… A vision,” she said. Now Lorne and Wanda are kneeling too and in the small group has formed one indistinguishable mass of people. “Ties. We are so tied to her, all of us. And we’ll never…” Sarah says. They are hugging one another, weeping and squeezing. “We need to let her go,” Lorne adds. “We need to untie her,” Sarah says tentatively. “And let her go. We need to untie her and let her go.” Barry and Wanda embrace, wiping each other’s tears away. “If we don’t untie her, we’ll never let her go. She is as tied to us as we are to her. We will never forget.” “Allow forgiveness,” Barry says looking at Sarah, at Lorne and Wanda before staring up at the sculpture. Under the intense sun the sculpture will probably last a day or two; Sarah knows this and that is what she had hoped for, it was the substance of her hope that it would melt away. Sarah stands and returns to address the audience, but she doesn’t speak, she begins to sing, “Packing up the dreams God planted…” It’s my favorite song, “Friends,” by Michael W. Smith. “…In the fertile soil of you…” Barry stands, holding Wanda. Lorne folds Sarah into his arms. They stand, all four, singing as the sun continues its thaw. “…Can’t believe the hopes he’s granted. Means a chapter in your life is through. But we’ll keep you close as always. It won’t even seem you’ve gone…”

Kingdom of Snow 315 Connolly My father struggles to rise. He does so and through his effort, they all stand. My father opens his cage of pigeons. They rise in unison up, swooping, towards the river. On each foot a single pink note is attached, “Have you seen Cara?” He is on the banks of the river, with Wanda, my brother and sister, Sarah, and Martin Ford of the paper, Lorne and his wife Greta. The ceremony is now over and the crowd has dispersed; Lorne and Greta’s children home with grandparents. They are sitting on Sarah’s tarp. “It’s time,” Wanda says looking at him. He is staring at the horizon where his birds have flown. He feels weightless, as he too was soaring. Barry settles down on the tarp. There are kingdoms of dust, of water and sand. This is the kingdom of snow. The four corners of the earth you will find in your hands the wonder of God’s creation. You find in there love and acceptance; denial and hatred; mercy and pride; you’ll find yourself looking out. I am found to be swifter than fire or wind. I travel to unknown worlds which mortal eye has never seen and change them around in the twinkling of an eye. It’s a dream. How do we prove to another of our dreams? How do we prove that each of us are made saints and sinners. I did not die in vain. When God made me, He made me for the kingdom of snow: beautiful and tragic. He made me for you. I called you here. You know of my account. You will embrace your children now more than ever, not confuse them for angels. You will cultivate memory. You will sing. And you will find in snow, in the kingdom that which you are looking for.

Kingdom of Snow 316 Connolly And maybe pennies. I won’t be around, but you might hear me singing. God walks the dark hills and I am not alone in my rising. That which you seek. Take. And eat…from the kingdom of snow.

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