Short Story: A Thousand Days in the Ice


It will be Joshie’s birthday on Saturday. Carol and Lily will be coming over and there will be cake and ice cream and probably, because it’s Joshie and Lily, there will be fighting and some tears and when we have finally got them to bed Carol and I will settle into a bottle of wine.

He will be four, Joshie. Four years old… a little boy… pale-faced and huge-eyed like the pictures your mother once showed me of you at his age. He isn’t the baby you left behind. I wonder if you can imagine him. I wonder if you can have any concept of how like his Daddy he is. I wonder if you ever think of him at all.

He doesn’t ask for you. He doesn’t remember you. Surrounded as he is by other lone mothers, to him a Daddy is an exotic creature, something almost mythical, like unicorns, or extinct, like dinosaurs.

He is growing up, making his way without you. His first word was mine all mine. “Mama!” spoken only to me, at bath time. He spoke it into the soapy suds that he clutched in his chubby fingers and he laughed so hard at my expression that he fell backward and had to be rescued.

He walked without you. Took his first tentative waddling steps straight into his Grandad’s arms. My mother phoned me at work to tell me and I shut myself in a cubicle in the loo and cried silently into a wad of toilet paper for 10 minutes.

I cry a lot. Ridiculous I know after all this time but I do. No one knows. I have perfected the art of getting through the day with apparent confidence and good humour. Sometimes I am astonished how easily people are fooled.

If you were to ask my colleagues they would undoubtedly say: ”May? Oh May is a good laugh… good at her job, patient, kind.”

That’s me… I get the job done with a smile on my face. No one seems to notice that May isn’t really here at all. Someone took her and froze her and now… there is just a May-shaped space that she used to occupy… before.

My mother sometimes looks sideways at me when she comes to visit. We call it our baked bean delivery service because she always brings baked beans. She brings other things: cheese, eggs and other treats left over from the café.

It’s different every time, except for the beans. Friends say I am the only person they know with a whole cupboard full of tins of beans.

She says to Joshie: “You can’t have too many beans, Joshie” and he rubs his tummy and laughs your laugh and when teatime comes he carefully loads his beans onto his little fork with his chubby fingers  and smacks his lips with pleasure.

He is full of pleasure, our son. His loves are wide and uncompromising. He reaches into the world and grasps handfuls of whatever he can find, as though he knows that one day what you love may be gone from you, so clasp it now and savour every bite.

Joshi loves trains, and dinosaurs and swimming. He is enraptured by waggy dogs and slithery cats. He devours books as though there are not enough images in the world to satisfy his hunger for life.

One day we found a picture of a man preserved in the ice, and while Joshie marvelled at the man’s footwear (he wanted moccasins just like the ones the man had worn when he set out on his journey), I looked into that ancient mummified face and thought: “That’s me… that’s me stuck in the ice. I have been here for a thousand days. He has been there for a thousand years.”

I imagined packing the things he was carrying in his animal skin bag, things he would need, a bone needle and some thread, tinder and flint, a knife, dried fruit, a single flower as a token.

I would have done that for you, packed the things you needed, your money, your phone, the chocolate raisins that were your favourite, a photograph of us on Tenby beach in the autumn… if I had known you were leaving.

If it were you and you had got trapped in the ice… and I would have known, I would have come after you. I would not have rested until I found you. I would have lifted you up and rubbed life into your bones and kissed the breath back into your dear heart so the blood would flow in your veins and you would love us again.

Sometimes I imagine that is what has happened to you. It’s the reason you haven’t come back to us. I see your face looking up at me, eyes wide and begging me to cut you free, but then I remember… it’s me, not you, who is frozen. You left us behind and you didn’t look back. You were too careful watching where you placed your feet to fall so far.

It was me, I am the one who got lost. I stood waiting, hoping for your footfall on the path to my house, hoping for the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand, the warm tender softness of your lips on mine, and somehow the ice overtook me, encased me, froze the better part of me, the living loving part of me. It froze me into a shadow of May, a block of May.

A thousand days in the ice and still counting…

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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