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Silly Grandma


Lorraine Zaleski

A movement from the corner of the room caught her eye. Something changed. What was it? Couldn't be a bug, nothing had been alive for months in this long hard winter. But. . . something.

There was the book she wanted to read before turning in. On top of the straw clothes hamper, just a few quick steps...she stopped. She backed up and flicked the white cotton curtain aside to see the swirls of snow falling thick and fast against the window glass.

From the blurred light of a lamppost at the end of her street she could see how much snow had already fallen, at least four feet. It was beautiful and sterile and that much snow was not good, not this late in the season. Who could survive in such cold? She rubbed her arms. It must have been all that swirling that made her think she'd seen movement in the room. A trick of the light.

Before sitting down on the edge of the bed she looked at her mirror over the dresser. There was an image...of the snow globe.

A lady. In white. Inside the globe.

She swirled her white ermine cloak It covered her legs. She floated by the trees, in front of the white birch slowly, slowly, then toward the first of the black trees. The seven trees had many branches with no leaves. Her hands were tucked inside the folds of her cloak.


The voice sounded like a wood instrument as if the wind sighed her name. She shivered from her shoulders down her back. Did she hear that? Was it out loud--here in the room or in her head?  She had tried to keep busy since her husband died five years ago. She had her sewing projects, especially the quilts. In the spring and summer her garden was her pride. In the evenings she'd read the latest mystery novel from the many she chose in the library.

The lights blinked once, twice, then permanently went out. Lines must be heavy with snow and down all over she thought. In the dresser she and her husband Donald shared for forty years she found the emergency candle and a match. Would the phone be out too? She lit the candle. The phone was on the lamp table and easy to find. There was no sound in the receiver. The shadows were thicker against the walls than the frail light she carried.

All right, the kitchen, there was a battery radio. It would at least be a comfort to hear the weather report. Just to hear the sound of a human voice. She went into her kitchen still smelling of the disinfectant she always used. She sheltered the candle as she walked and found the radio. Would the world ever become warm again? She remembered her husband saying the winter was so bad that July Fourth would be snowing even while the fireworks went on. Of course that never happened.

Laocadia carried the radio and placed it and the candle next to the snow globe. She looked into the globe. The snow swirled slower now, but the lady in white stood there looking at her. She felt her pulse throb in her neck. She picked up her sweater. The place cooled rapidly as the electricity that powered the furnace was off. It was a drafty old house. Not the outer cold but an inner one crept up her legs. She turned the radio on; no sound. She turned the knobs faster but no sound came out. She blew out the candle and sat on the edge of the bed. She could think of nothing more to do. In the dark room, Laocadia asked, "Who are you?"

"Marzanna." The wind sighed.

"Lady Winter." She kept her voice steady and reasonable. "I've heard of you." From Polish stories told to her by her Babci. Marzanna was winter, cruel and cold and lifeless.

"I am Death."

Laocadia stood and relit the candle, too uneasy in the dark. "Whose death?"

She couldn't swallow; fear gripped her body in a spasm. She'd always thought death was a man dressed in black or a skeleton with a sickle, not a beautiful woman in white ermine walking in a forest inside a snow globe. She wanted to call her daughter or son in law, but even if the phone worked, could their automobile make it on roads with over four feet of drifted snow? Was there no one, nothing of comfort?

She was 67, not terribly old, but her heart was not strong. She was careful since she tired easily to not overexert herself, to not lift anything heavy, to not stress herself. Her name Lao was lion and cadia was heart. She was Lionheart. Surely a Lionheart could stand up to the Lady in White.

She watched the candle burn down. She felt alright, certainly not ready for death. She worked her quilt most evenings, something new she was trying, the technique called watercolor, a freeform of flower fabric from blue to lavender to pink and then white. She truly wanted to enter it in competition, see how it might do among the other quilters. She wanted to see the grandchildren grow a little older as well as her child Celia. When she died, would she see her husband again; her parents, Edward and Gene view, grand folks, relatives, all the ones who went before her? Or was there simply nothing. An eternal nothing.

Did they know when death approached them or were they caught unaware? Did they feel its chill? We never talk of it, Laocadia realized. That which is closest to us, most personal and important, our death, we face alone. I've never discussed it with my husband. Or with my mother, father, with Babci. And someday my daughter will face it. Alone.

Out of nowhere, a moth flew past her and toward the candle. Her first instinct was to swat it

A moth.

The first life since winter began in that last part of October. She laughed with relief and pleasure. Before she hated bugs especially moths who were forever getting in her flour, her wool clothes. This was the most precious sight she'd seen in a long time. She watched its flight about the room, circling the lighted candle.

"Winter is over, Marzanna," She crowed with delight. "Your time is ended. See the moth? Its over. Life has begun again." Even the tiniest life knew the world had begun its change. The moth flew about into the shadows above and back toward the light.

The overhead light flickered on in Laocadia's eyes. The furnace kicked in at once with a roar in the previous silence of the house. The false dawn approached as the light out her window became less dark. She was not tired rather, more relaxed and hopeful. She would do some sewing and later make cookies. Her hands no longer hurt because the snow stopped.

Later after the snowplow went through, her daughter Celia and her two grandkids came tromping in.  "Anybody hungry?" Laocadio loved seeing them this day. "I have cruschikies and hot cocoa."

"Look, a moth." Celia pointed out. "Where'd that come from?" The moth flew around in a circle then headed to the sunlit window.

"Don't kill it. That's a friend of mine." Laocadia said. And always will be, she promised herself. Celia and the children laughed at the thought that a plain old moth could be someone's friend.

Silly Grandma.

The End

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