Contest #23 shortlist ⭐️

Zenobia Harsch Has No Idea She's Dead

Submitted for Contest #23 in response to: You go for a walk in fresh snow. Suddenly you realize you're not leaving any footprints.... view prompt

4 comments

Submitted on 01/04/2020

Categories: Fantasy

The snow’s out again. Like a huge stupid blanket that insists on suffocating all mankind. Zenobia Harsch has always hated the weather. Winters, she wants the heat and the lemonades. Summers, she begs for snow and hearths and haute chocolát.

Pull and complain and do it again, that’s Zenobia Harsch’s motto. She is a tall and imposing woman with raven hair and smeared eyebrows that pull on her face and make her look a constant frown. She noticed people’s feet first rather than their smiles or the way their noses crinkled.

Zenobia Harsch used to live in a tiny little harsh houseboat on the Rhine river and hate every minute of it. Most days she’d walk all down the city and berate the commoners’ shoe choices, buy a sack of raw potatoes in the morning and gnaw through the entire three pounds by evening.


That snow gets up into the nostrils and it isn’t even the type of snow good for making snowballs to throw at people’s bad shoes. Zenobia Harsch grumbled her way into clothes that morning, complained all down the docks in Bonn, and grouched the paths to her favorite early-morning pub in Bonn. The wet snow slogged her down and swirled away her hat.

“Morning, Ms. Harsch,” the bartender cried. Or, rather, “Morgen, Frau Harsch,” der Barkeeper weinte.

However, that is not how Zenobia Harsch heard the words, for, to anyone fluent in a language, it makes sense, and so the words shall remain in Englisch.

“Shut up, Freick,” Zenobia Harsch barked back.

“The usual, I suppose, Ms. Harsch?”

“Obviously, you imbecile,”


And so one day Zenobia Harsch died.


A yell and a flash of burly car and a bystander’s scream. And the crumpled spirit of Zenobia Harsch picked itself up out of its mangled body and walked home, complaining about milk prices.


“Gottverdamt,” she grumbled to herself that January afternoon, “These stupid people have again forgotten to leave out the buoys for me to moor my boat.”

Of course the stupid people hadn’t.

But it certainly seemed that way to Zenobia Harsch. She leaped off the railings of her houseboat onto the dock and tried to pull it in. Securing the moor ropes to the claggs, Zenobia Harsch looked up in surprise as she heard a rather childish shout from the other end of the dock.

A young man with freckles sprinkled like gnats across his skin and red hair peeking out from his woolen winter cap came howling down the dock with a pack of raggedy friends in his wake.

“Look at that,” he bawled to a pink-faced boy behind him, “Looks like that houseboat’s slipped its moorings!”

“It certainly hasn’t,” Zenobia Harsch snapped at him. “It’s tied up nice and proper like it always has been. Now would you kindly leave me and my poor battered houseboat in peace!”

But the young man and his dockhand friends didn’t leave.

“I think you’re right,” the pink-faced idiot said to the carrot-top. “Whaddya think we ought to do?”

“Tie it up I guess and go ring the owner. Look it’s leaning side to side, just drifting. Who’d leave it like this?”

“Well who’s the owner?”

Carrot shrugged.

The boys then proceeded to lay their grubby hands on Zenobia Harsch’s perfectly find houseboat, yank it into the dock and tie it very loosely to the claggs without a buoy to protect the sides of the boat from the docks, and then high-five each other in that idiotic way youngsters tend to do these days.

“No! No!” Zenobia Harsch shrieked at them, stamping her foot. “No! No! Leave me be! I am fully in charge of this boat!” She drew herself up tightly and pinched her nose at the boys. “And I must say that your shoe choices are absolutely abominable.”

“Hey, Glem,” said the pink boy, “How’re we supposed to find the owner?”

“Dumb boat doesn’t have a name on the sides,” replied Carrot, “So…”

He jumped nimbly from the dock onto the shaking deck of her beautiful houseboat. Zenobia Harsch, unheard by anyone save herself and God, let out a piercing scream. “Off! Out! Get off! Get out! Leave my lovely home alone!”

She leaped after him, tried to tug and berate him off her boat, but he ignored her. “Gahhh,” she gasped after him as he disappeared into her quarters belowdecks. Zenobia Harsch flapped her arms at him like a great big ugly bat shrieking away the predators from her cave. The boys stood, hands on lean hips, looking around the quarters.

“What we need,” said Carrot decisively, “Is some type of identification. Like certificate of ownership or approval to dock in this marina.”

“Yes, you damt imbecile,” Zenobia Harsch scoffed at the back of his head, “But you could also turn around. There’s all the identification you need.”

In disgust she went above and knitted her brows. “These stupid boys, how worse can the youngsters get? There must be something wrong with them.” She tapped her head knowingly, looking disapprovingly out at the cliffs along the Rhine. “Maybe they’re moronic.”

The boys came chattering back above, heavy winter boots clumping on her slender little ladder. She balled her hands into fists and prepared the winter storm of fury. But as she was about to let the thunderclouds break and rain, the boys were gone in a whirlwind of laughter and shrugging regret that they were unable to find the proper identification.

Zenobia Harsch followed after them, cursing and stamping under her breath, ready to speak to the superiors about her boat’s mistreatment at the hands of these childish young dockworkers. Not to mention disrespectful ignoring of her person as well. The boys headed toward another boat instead of the marina, and she sneered at them, telling herself they’d get their due after she’d spoken to their employers.

As she stomped through the snow up toward the steaming marina building, Zenobia Harsch turned and suddenly noticed that she was not making any marks in the snow. The insufferable white quilt was perfect, without her prints.

“That’s odd,” Zenobia Harsch said incuriously, and continued on her way.

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4 comments

Aj H-r
02:27 Jan 18, 2020

I really like this! Nice job

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Zilla Babbitt
20:35 Jan 18, 2020

Thank you! Oh, by the way, I noticed this when I reread my story-- the word claggs? I made it up. I couldn't remember the word for whatever it is you tie a boat up to, and claggs sounded like it was believable. So, there you go. Claggs.

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Kalina Ivanova
01:19 Jan 18, 2020

Dear Zilla Babbitt, You have no idea how much I was enjoying your short story! Absolutely original, funny, innovative and well-crafted. I would definitely like to read some more of your work.

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Zilla Babbitt
20:31 Jan 18, 2020

Thank you so so much! Most of the short stories I write come from Reedsy, and therefore most are on Reedsy. Thanks again!

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