A MONSTER FOR ALWAYS

 

hat night there were frostquakes and thundersnow and the whole house shook and swayed like bombs were dropping, like an army was down the street clearing houses the way we've seen it happen in movies. In fact out the front window we saw cop lights, blue and red swivels patrolling the neighborhood, looking, we guessed, for the Snow Man we were hiding in the shed out back.

Meghan said, If they come to our house we can't say anything because they'll take him away from us and do all sorts of tests on him and stuff. We were in the front sitting room we never used, ducked below the windowsill so no one on the street could see us and only every once in a while sitting up to look out. I didn't know any better at the time so I just said, I know, and sat back up to see whether the police car had turned down our street. He had, and I ducked again under the red and then the blue as the lights took turns crossing through the window.

They think he's a monster, she said. That's what the papers were calling him, anyway—the Snow Monster. But really he was just a man, or at least an animal no different from a bear or our dog, Sitka, and we'd never call Sitka a monster except for the times she'd get into the garbage while we were gone. Even then, she was just impatient and wanted us to get home and you can't really blame something for needing its people.

Meghan and I were out in the forest near our house when we found him. It's not a big forest -- just a square block in the middle of our subdivision -- but when you're in it it seems like it goes for miles. The trees were all bare and sick-looking and there were thin trails of white snow piled on the branches from the last time it had snowed. School was off and we'd decided we wanted to make a movie that day. We'd thought up a story about two adventurers lost out in the middle of a big woods and making all sorts of discoveries. The trees there are all pretty thick and I was trying to shake the trunks to make the snow fall, to make it look like it was snowing, for the camera. But it wasn't working; they were too thick to move. Meghan kept filming anyway and that's when she shouted, Holy shit Sean there's a great big something behind you.

We were afraid at first and he was too -- he roared something fierce—but he looked nice enough and I shouted, We won't hurt you, and that seemed to make him calm. He saw what we were trying to do and stood off camera and shook the tree for us and it started snowing just like for real. It was one of the best movies we've ever made.

He followed us home and we showed him the shed. Mom never went in there after Dad left and it was supposed to be cold that night so Meghan said, You can stay here whenever you like, just make sure nobody sees you. He reached out toward her with his big white paw, maybe to shake her hand or something, but she gave him her head and he patted it softly. He had snow on his claws and some of it melted on her and water dripped down her face and I laughed. He was the first big thing we'd met in a while that was nice to us without wanting something back.

Anyway at some point walking around the neighborhood he must've been spotted because somebody called the cops and there was a whole big thing about him on the news. Meghan and I went out to the shed to see him and he was feeling pretty bad about being seen. I think he thought he'd really screwed up. It's okay, she said. It'll all be okay. There's nothing time can't fix. It was something Dad used to say. But you better stay in here. People are looking for you.

And that was the night of the frostquakes. Mom said it happens when the moisture in the soil freezes and starts to expand and it cracks the earth, just like a real earthquake. It sounded more like explosions and then there were the booms of the thundersnow too and the whole night was just scarier than anything. Meghan said, Don't worry I'll take care of you, which was something Mom had said earlier, though she was out on a date with some guy from her work and told us not to expect her until late. Still I was worried, less about Meghan and me and more about Mom. The street looked tough to drive on. There was snow coming down and I knew there was a sheet of ice under the snow. I thought she might have a hard time getting back to us.

The cop car was going slow and over an hour or two he must have passed our house three times, each time with the snow getting taller until it was almost up to the door of his car. And then we just happened to be watching on the fourth time he was coming around the corner. Except he did it a little too fast and his back wheels slipped and the back of his car went spinning into a tall bank of snow at the end of our driveway. He revved the engine and it roared like the Snow Man. Smoke came up from the tires he was gunning it so hard. But the car wouldn't budge. He stopped and it looked like he was trying to get out but the driver's side door was blocked by the snow.

I hadn't realized Meghan wasn't next to me while I was watching this and I looked over to the front door and she already had her jacket on and was putting on her boots. We wouldn't be much help, I said. We can't push a car out of the snow.

She said, I know, and then went through the house toward the back door. I put my boots on real quick and followed her out across the yard to the shed. The Snow Man was there, asleep on the air mattress we'd blown up and left for him. Meghan told him about the police car, about how the cop was trapped inside and how no one else was home who could help. It'll be dangerous, she said. But we're supposed to help when people are in trouble and Mom's still out there. And also, maybe if you do it they'll see you're not a monster. As soon as she said it, I think we all realized it wasn't true. Once they decide you're a monster, you're a monster for always.

Even so, he was out of the shed before she finished talking, out around the side of the house. He was faster than us, better at walking through the snow, and when we got to the front yard he was already in the street pushing the car out of the snow bank. The cop looked scared even after he saw what was going on and he had his gun out inside the car. There was a loud frostquake then, a loud whipcrack just as the Snow Man pushed the car loose. The cop's foot was still on the accelerator and the car leaped forward down the street with the snow still falling and the Snow Man in the rearview mirror off running in the opposite direction down the street, back toward the forest.

A minute or two later, the cop had the car turned around and he headed toward the forest, after the Snow Man, with his lights on and swiveling red and blue through the neighborhood.

Then the street was empty again. The quakes kept going and so did the thunder and the snow kept falling, like maybe the thunder was just shaking the snow from the clouds and the ground underneath us was shifting from the weight of it all. There wasn't a moon that night and it would've been pitch dark except for all the white snow falling, which made it seem like a different kind of dark, lighter somehow. Meghan and I stayed outside for a while thinking maybe Mom would be home any minute and we could be the first she sees of the house, that she could see we're okay, and if her car slipped on the ice into the snow at the end of the driveway we could at least try to help.
 


Born and raised in the square-mile suburbs of Detroit, Matthew Fogarty currently lives and writes in Columbia, South Carolina, where he is fiction editor of Yemassee. He also edits Cartagena, a literary journal. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Passages North, PANK, 14 Hills, Smokelong Quarterly, and Midwestern Gothic. He can be found at www.matthewfogarty.com.