Peering out the window, I could see the snow was still falling. The flakes were fat and soft, accumulating at a fast pace, adding to the two feet of compacted snow that had been the norm since mid-December.

“Last call for grocery items!” I hollered to no one in particular, shoving my feet into fur-lined boots. I listened for a response but heard only the normal sounds of my house—so much quieter since the kids had gone to college. The dog’s toenails clicked across the hardwood as he made his way to meet me at the door. “No, it’s not time for a walk,” I told him, cupping his greying face in my hands before kissing his wet nose.

Charles rounded the corner from the kitchen, his glasses askew, his favorite mug in hand. “World’s Okayest Dad” it read, a testament to the teasing, loving, nature he shared with our oldest daughter, now 24 and off volunteering with the Peace Corps. Surely, Candyce was tanned and warm, enjoying the rainforests and heat of Costa Rica.

“Are you sure you want to go out in this?’ Charles asked, interrupting my thoughts. I followed his gaze out the window, where the just-shoveled driveway was quickly becoming a blanket of white.

“Yes, yes, of course,” I waved off his concerns and kissed him briefly on the cheek. “Your mom needs her meds and I really want to taste that chicken curry you’ve been promising.” I gave him a wink of assurance and pulled my wool hat over my ears.

The windshield wipers slapped away the snow as I made my way down Lake Shore Drive. The treetops were beginning to bend, and the wind was picking up.


Charles turned up the news so he could hear the weather report while he washed the dishes. His mother was asleep in the guest room, but her old age meant she could hardly hear what was said in the same room, never mind what was on the T.V. She had been living with him and Nancy since last September, and it had been an adjustment—first the kids leaving, he and Nance finally had some time to focus on their marriage and retirement plans—then his mom fell ill, and rather than placing her in a nursing home, they had decided she should live with them. It was a difficult arrangement, but doable. As long as he and Nancy still found time for romance….

His thoughts trailed off as he put the last dishes away. “A blizzard warning has such been put into effect for all of Thurston County,” he heard the meteorologist say. “All residents are advised to stay indoors.”

“Shit,” he thought, hurrying to find his phone to call Nance.

He thought he heard his mother groan from the other room.


The parking lot had only two vehicles—a souped-up Ford truck, with KC lights mounted on the roll bar, and an old green Subaru that looked like it’d been there awhile.

I pulled the collar of my jacket up to my ears, pushing my shoulders up to prevent the assault of snow and wind. The automatic doors opened, and I felt the relief of warmth.


The reprieve was short-lived as Nancy looked around. The supermarket was eerily quiet. Not one other person was in site. As she took in the scene, it occurred to her that she was shivering, but it wasn’t from the cold. Around her, the store seemed to be frozen in time. Boxes half-unloaded were stacked in the aisles. Abandoned carts, piled with groceries, were parked in odd arrangements—several were grouped together near the potatoes, as if a magnet had pulled them there. A freezer door was ajar, a gallon of ice cream wedged at the seal, chocolate leaking onto the floor. At the front of the store, check stands were lit and open, with no checkers anywhere, items lay half-bagged.

Her eyes landed on something on the floor near Checkout 9 and the chill drove deeper into her bones.

She blinked hard. When she opened her eyes, she knew she wasn’t imagining it. She definitely saw movement. A pile of blankets was stirring. She could hear a faint sound, almost like the mewing of a kitten.

She looked both ways, searching for another soul to help her explain what she was seeing, but met only the face of a clock, its hands posed at 4:12, the second hand, she noticed, wasn’t moving.

She made her way toward the sound, her heart quickening.

She gingerly pulled back the blanket, not believing what she saw. A perfectly healthy, chubby pink baby lay there, fists pumping and drool glistening on its chin.

Instinctively, she scooped up the child. Noticing the new calm that had taken over, she purposefully strode toward the pharmacy, baby over her shoulder, the infant cooing and gurgling, seemingly enjoying the ride. Nancy’s eyes flew over the labels in the pharmacy cupboards until she found what she needed: Clozapine.

Satisfied, she stepped over pile of spilled apples, and with one fist wrapped around the pill bottle, she continued down the aisles, picking up the curry and some jasmine rice. She turned into aisle 9, pulling diapers and formula off the shelves, grabbing teething rings and baby wipes along the way.


Unable to ring through to Nancy, Charles focused on wiping his mother’s brow, which was beaded with sweat. Her face contorted into something he couldn’t recognize, and a low, guttural growl escaped her lips. He indeed had heard her groaning earlier, and now, he believed he was watching her die. He’d read about the “death rattle” before. Based on this noise, and a deep intuition, he knew it was his mother’s time.


Leaning into the steering wheel, the baby nestled on her lap, Nancy turned her sedan toward the freeway, a white light of snow blinding her through the windshield. She leaned on the gas. Toward the brightest and whitest experience she’d ever known. Until it enveloped her into oblivion.

When she came to, Charles was wiping her brow. She lay under what felt like a thousand blankets. “The baby …” she whispered.

Charles didn’t respond, but instead fed her an ice chip.

August 01, 2020 03:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.