Story of the Magic Snowman
It was the first real snowfall of the year, one that stuck and piled up drifts. It had snowed for three days straight, deep and firm snow, the kind that packed easily and made good snowballs and igloos. The snowplow raised four-foot ramparts on both sides of the streets, instant forts for children to defend, mountains to brave, great walls of China to explore.
The Babsley twins, looking like panda bears in their goose-down filled snowsuits, toddled after their sister Belinda. She was older by 2 and one half years. She was their idol, they adored her and followed her everywhere.
“Well, if you babies must come with me, then try to keep up. We will miss all the best coasting.” she exhorted the mightily struggling mites, who ran as fast as their chubby, padded legs could go to match Belinda’s pace.
Behind them they dragged tiny plastic sleds, miniature replicas of the real Radio Flyer Belinda pulled. It was her older brother’s cast-off coaster. He was in junior high school now, and coasting was beneath him. Belinda had happily claimed it from the garage rafters the night before and was anxious to try it out, before the best hill was rutted and scraped clean of snow, leaving only muddy sleet-snow that made your runners dig into the dirt.
“Come on babies, hurry.” she demanded as this thought crossed her mind.
But Belinda worried in vain. The hill was in perfect shape, and hilarious with children. Boisterous boys snowballed each other and acted the fool, showing off for girls they liked, who shrieked prettily and ran after them when they got snowballed. Tobogganers, sledders, coasters and here and there a snowdisk flew down the variously steep or easy hills and hillocks
Belinda first tried the smaller slopes where she had been last year, when she was much smaller, then the larger heights where the bigger children romped, but dared not attempt the biggest. The children called it the Matterhorn, a steep and icy run that only a few of the older boys (sometimes with a courageous girl’s arms around his waist) would attempt.
Tired of coasting with the twins on the baby lanes, Belinda looked wistfully up at the Matterhorn
She had gone on one of the moderately daunting hills, and fallen in love with the rush of speed, the wind blowing her hair back, the exhilaration and even the stab of fear when you reached the fastest arc of the hill, and you skimmed across the snow like a flat stone skipped on the water. It was freedom and danger. It was heaven, and she became intoxicated with the beauty of it all and the adrenaline pulsing through her veins made her eyes blaze with lust for the more dangerous fun.
The babies were uneasy, for they sensed her yearning, and they wished to help her, but they didn’t know how.
Belinda did not lack the courage to try the forbidden hill. Mostly she feared the scorn of the older boys if she even tried to make the ascent. Soon the smaller hills had lost all charm for her, and she sat uncoasting, disconsolately, watching the big boys and the lucky girls who rode with them. She of course was too young for any of the boys to offer her a coast, and she was too shy of them to ask.
Suppertime came, and parents or children whose houses were within hailing distance of the hills were shouted home. The early dusk of Northern late afternoon was setting in, the grey sky rapidly darkening. Belinda knew that she and the twins would be missed soon, and her older brother would be sent to fetch her. She had forgotten her parents were going to a party that night and staying over at a friend’s home in a near-by town. They wouldn’t be home until late morning the next day.
Her older brother, left in charge but employed with the diversions of teen-age boys left alone for the night, might remember the children before morning, perhaps.
Impatiently, Belinda sat blowing clouds of frosty breath as she waited for the gaily gadding crowds to thin, and finally the last high-school boy rode off on a final run, then coasting on down the path toward his warm home and a hot meal.
The twins were cold, and their feet were wet. They wanted their dinner and some hot chocolate. But their worshipful love of Belinda kept them from asking her to go home. They could sense she was waiting for something important.
Bracing herself up, Belinda turned and started trudging toward the Matterhorn, then up the slope slipping back a step here and there, but manfully making way to the top at last. The babies watched from the foot of the hill, out of danger to the side in the shadow of a giant lop-sided snowman some children had built and christened Mister Blizzard. The twins gazed upward at their sister’s ascent, mouths open in wonder and astonishment. Even as Belinda soldiered on higher, their infant minds could not comprehend she meant to actually coast that monster, the Everest of the sledders, the Matterhorn.
Belinda, reaching the starting point at the furthest peak, just where the hill flattened at the top, took only a moment to enjoy the anticipation of the coming rush, then kicked off.
As if in slow motion, the sled began down the mighty hill, seemingly holding itself back, gathering steam, then with a lunge like a springing panther, Belinda was suddenly hurtled ten times faster than any hill she had tried that day.
Far from being frightened, she was elated and thrilled in her heart, full of a fierce prideful joy and the giddy rush of speed as she was seared through her parka by the wind. She let out a triumphant whoop of victory as she hit the fastest, iciest part of the slope.
Now she flew like a bird as she left the well-packed snow of the upper slope. Her light, frictionless weight and the extreme slickness of the lower part of the hill drove her to a greater speed than anyone before her. The many riders that day had first melted the lower part of the run, then as the temperature had suddenly dropped at dusk it had turned to pure ice. She was racing faster than anyone, even the high-school boys, with their highly-polished runners, had ever zipped down that big hill before. She was merely a blur in the dimming light, like motion without substance.
The twins were agog at the spectacle. They sat pop-eyed and stunned at Belinda flying down the hill. Their eyes fairly bugged out of their heads as the sled left the contact with the ground, hydroplaning out of control, then spinning, rolling, crashing toward them so fast they could only stand there stupidly in the way as the girl crashed toward them.
Belinda was shocked with fear and nearly hysterical as she flailed her arms helplessly, trying to stop herself. She felt a sickening jolt of pain as she spun into the twins, throwing them all into a thick oak tree, the sled bouncing off the cold fire barrel, it’s flame long dead. The girl and the twins careening off the tree into a concrete bench and finally coming to rest halfway buried in the lop-sided snowman.
Belinda felt warm blood run down her foot, and was sick to see she had broken her leg above the knee, the broken bone just below the skin. She felt sick rise in her throat and she forced herself to calm down and take stock of the situation. One of the twins was lying twisted unnaturally on the other side of the snowman, crying loudly and screaming for Mama. The other was beneath Belinda, and though mute with fright and shock, appeared unhurt except the wind knocked out of her. She gasped and thrashed in claustrophobic panic until Belinda rolled off her and she got her breath.
The pain was almost more than Belinda could believe, but her fear for the safety of the twins gave her a burst of strength, and she dragged herself and the girl twin out of the snow pile she had erected in her willy-nilly slide and gathered the stricken toddler to her.
His little arm was broken, and maybe his collarbone as well, but he was too far in shock to realize the pain. The other twin sobbed and hiccuped forlornly, sucking her thumb, frozen tears and baby snot gathering on her cheeks and lips. Belinda felt her feet going numb, and the pain was only slightly dulled by the intense cold as the sun disappeared behind the giant hill.
Gradually the pain broke through the shock and past the numbness of the cold. Sharp spears of agony began shoot up and down her leg until it burned like fire. She moaned with despair, trying to think what to do. The unhurt twin was too small and scared to be sent for help alone, and it was probably a quarter mile to the nearest house, she’d likely just get lost in the snowdrifts.
Belinda broke down completely in helpless pain and miserable frustration.
“Don’t cry, everything will be all right,” said a kind, deep voice.
Belinda was too relieved to be startled, and grasped the straw of security the voice offered.
“Please help us, sir. I am hurt. Where are you?” Belinda gasped out.
“I am here. I have always been here.” It was the large snowman, whose coal eyes glowed red with concern and strength. “Do not worry, I will watch over you until help arrives. I will ease your pain for now.”
Belinda was not even amazed to see the snowman gather up the injured twin in his arms and lay his great snowy paw on the toddler’s arm, setting it right. The baby stopped crying and smiled up at the gentle, snowy face looking down upon it. The other twin stopped sobbing and crawled closer to the snowman, putting her little arms around Snowy and burying her head in the snowman’s shabby greatcoat.
“And now you, Belinda,” said the Snowman tenderly.
He slightly shifted his massive bulk, and somehow came up under her, lifting her onto his great snowy lap. Belinda was not surprised he was not cold at all, but warm and comforting as a feather bed. He engulfed her in his arms and her pain lessened, then disappeared completely. She cuddled her head to his breast, and sighed with relief. The babies were both asleep, and all three of them were held easily in the Snowman’s strong and gentle arms. She thought she could hear him singing softly and it felt as though he was rocking them gently as they all fell into a peaceful slumber.
An early coaster was out just as the sun was breaking the big hill the next morning. He was so horrified he could only stand frozen in his tracks, mouth open, eyes wide to see the ice covered faces of the three children, blue, peaceful and smiling, their bodies half-covered with snow, sticking out the the remains of a ruined snowman.