Word Prompt: Stories | Story Prompt: from the book “Split Tooth” by Tanya Tagaq

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“The permafrost is living under everything, slowing time and preserving what would normally rot. Kamiit help feet deftly navigate the slip of the ice, the crunch of the snow, and the depths of the drifts. The sealskin is warm, but I have lost the blood my feet carry. The Cold has scared the blood out of my toes. Our feet have built in memory of which tendons to curl to prevent falling on all different kinds of ice. The Snow would sometimes slice the surface of the ice in half with a drift, and try to trick us into falling. The Snow could crunch underfoot or chase you loosely. The Snow could hold your whole body weight or decide to deceive you and plunge you into the down underneath.

Snow is fickle. Snow picks itself up and goes wherever Wind tells it to. One element controls the other in a cyclical oblivion. Weather is just the earth’s breaths. Wind is the cold bearer and the death bringer. Streetlights hold halos of swirling snow; rainbows appear if you look at the streetlights and squint. My footsteps the only sound of any human being, I continue the hollow morning walk to school.”

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Excerpt from Pop! – MEC 2018

Cathy sat across from a homeless man in the subway car. He was sleeping; she could smell him. A rancid, stale, sweaty smell that made her sit back in her seat. She guessed he’d been on for a while, riding the rails to stay out of the weather and to sleep it off. She usually read novels on public transit to help dissociate herself from the masses, but today felt different. She looked again at the man across from her, shamelessly studying him as he slept. He was perched on the thinly upholstered seat as if to take up as little space as possible, knees into chest with both feet on the seat, socks with holes worn inside ratty sandals, and torn, filthy jeans. He had at least two jackets on, and a plastic bag stuffed with God knows what was bunched under his head as a pillow against the window. The rocking subway car had everyone swaying from side to side, and Cathy wondered how he managed to keep himself on the seat.

Perhaps it was the energy of the storm bringing her a new awareness, or perhaps quite simply she saw how easy it would be for herself, alone in the world, to be in a similar situation. As unsavory as he appeared, she slowly began to see him as a person. He was, at the very least, someone’s son, maybe also someone’s brother, someone’s father. A real human was gradually revealed under her curious gaze in the warm yellow light of the subway car. He slept through her scrutiny.

The car clacked through the tunnel and entered Dupont, Dupont Station, her stop. As she gathered herself to go, she had a sudden urge to help this man. She hesitated only slightly before tucking $40 into the unzipped breast pocket of his jacket. She gave the zipper a quick tug in an attempt to secure the money, and as she did so, he blinked his eyes open and looked up at her. She saw herself reflected in the most startling clear blue eyes she’d ever seen. She softened and then froze as the lights in the car and on the platform outside flicked off. The hum of electricity was abruptly silenced. In the inky darkness, his hand grabbed her wrist in a tight squeeze. A short scream popped from her mouth.

The hum returned as back-up lights snapped on along the floor of the car, and along the station walls. She looked down in a panic at strong, dirty fingers with yellow, broken fingernails encircling her small, brown wrist, and then back into his sea blue eyes.

“Thank you, Miss,” he said, and released his grip.

Cathy found herself standing on the platform as the subway car whizzed away, the wind lifting her hair and gradually subsiding. She stared at the mural of a white flower blooming on the station wall.

***

How are you doing as the winter begins to loose it’s grip on the northern hemisphere? Do you find yourself eagerly waiting for signs of spring, sure to begin now that the daylight warms the earth for longer periods? Or are you finding you are not yet ready to release yourself from hibernation? What stories are you hearing in the slow, gradual change of season from winter to spring? Share your thoughts below!

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