Missy woke up excited. The Peter Rabbit clock on the wall said it was past the time she normally woke up for school. The wind outside howled and moaned and, thinking about the night before when the snowstorm began, Missy jumped out of bed. Giant snowflakes streamed past her window.
“Cool,” she said.
Missy threw on longjohns, jeans, a turtleneck shirt, and a sweater. She brushed her teeth and brushed out her long, raven black hair. On the kitchen table was a note her mother had left before going to work.
No school today! You can go outside
but STAY NEAR THE BUILDING. And try
to be with a friend. Things are SCARY.
Missy wolfed down a bowl of Count Chocula cereal and threw on her snowboots and coat.
Things are SCARY. Mommy had been talking about the baby who’d gone missing from the lady on the first floor yesterday. The police had been at their apartment building and everything last night, asking everyone if they’d seen anything. Of course, no one had.
“If we didn’t need the money,” Mommy had said between cigarette puffs, looking at the snow beginning to fall. “I’d stay home with you tomorrow.”
Missy called Kathy Chambers, her best friend, and told Kathy she’d meet her at the outside back door. A few minutes later, they met.
“Did the police talk to you?” Kathy asked.
“Yeah,” Missy said. “They asked if I’d seen anyone suspicious around the building.”
“What did you say?”
“I told them the truth. I said no. What about you?”
“Daddy wouldn’t let them talk to me. He said they might frighten me. He lied and said I wasn’t outside all day because I was punished.”
“The cops believed him?”
“Yeah,” Kathy said. “He was drunk.”
Missy nodded as if that explained everything. They worked together to push open the back door against a snowdrift. Wind slashed at their faces as they walked through the snow, into the small yard. The snow was six inches high and counting.
“Whattaya wanna do?” Kathy asked.
“I dunno,” Missy said. “Wanna play house? We can pretend we’re Eskimos or something.”
They trundled through the snow and howling, biting wind. A wooden fence across from the building blocked off a vacant lot. Missy tried to push a loose plank out of the way.
“Help me,” she grunted. “The snow’s making this hard.”
Kathy helped Missy push the plank open and they squeezed into the vacant lot.
Snow covered old, abandoned furniture and trash. The girls went to a shed and opened the door. Peeling blood red paint sprinkled on the virgin white snow.
“The wind sounds funny here,” Kathy said.
“That’s ’cause it’s between buildings,” Missy said.
“I know. It still sounds funny. Like people crying.”
Missy pushed aside an old, rusted trashcan.
“Is it still there?” Kathy asked.
“Yep,” Missy said and pulled out a black garbage bag.
“I wanna be the mommy,” Kathy said. “You were the mommy yesterday.”
“Okay,” Missy said and pulled out the little baby they’d stolen from the lady on the first floor.
The baby had turned blue overnight, his eyes had frosted white, and icicles hung from his chin and nose.
“Keep your gloves on,” Missy said. “I saw someone on TV go to jail because they left fingerprints.”
“‘Kay,” said Kathy.
And the girls began playing house.
Copyright © 2003 Bill Gauthier. All rights reserved.