The View From the WindowA Story by Kimberly Kublank
A younger brother's perspective of a snowy day, complete with squirrel.
The View From the Window
The view from the window:
The snow fell, barely visible, drifting like baby powder in the steamy bath after a cleansing shower. Birds flitted from the shelter of the fir branches to the seed-filled bird feeders, back and forth; wrens, finches, cardinals, grackles. Chirping and squabbling amongst themselves. Petty rivalries on display. Earlier they had fought their common rival, the lone black squirrel, for the coveted larger seeds. They chattered wild threats from the safety of the nearby fir. Blacky eventually abandoned the precarious perch for the larger swinging platform hung from the lowest elm branch and its prize of stale peanuts. He sat on his haunches and nibbled daintily, the peanut shell held in his tiny front paws. Squirrels always looked like theyd make a cuddly pet, soft fur to rub against a loving cheek; but one could see from the raucous fuss they made when the little dogs were let out the back and barked at him from their enclosed porch and grassy, now snow-covered, pen, what a dangerous wild creature he really was. No one would be able to tame him. He had teeth and claws he would not think twice about using on even the kindest soul who wished only to love him. One would have to love him from afar. Like the unattainable beloved, the unrequited lover.
Elliott wanted a ferret, a black one, as close as he could get to Blacky the squirrel. But Dexter said they smelled bad and he wouldnt have one in their room. There were, of course, the little dogs, but they belonged to Grandma Hedge and followed her wherever she went and slept on her recliner chair and in her bed. They were rarely interested in Elliotts advances, although they would sometimes chase their yellow tennis balls if he threw them for them. Then the challenge was getting them to give the ball back for a repeat throw. Bip hid the balls under chairs or behind the couch and Remy growled if Elliott put his hand too close to the ball clenched tightly in his little jaws. He couldnt have a cat because Harriet was allergic. He was growing too big to play with his stuffed animals, but secreted his old blue rabbit into bed at night, hidden beneath the covers where Dexter wouldnt see and call him a baby. He decided he was bored inside the house and pulled on his sweater and heavy socks to go outside even though he knew Grandma Hedge would most likely tell him to shovel the sidewalk since he was going out. He wouldnt be able to sneak past her as she was watching her programs from her recliner, flanked by the little dogs. He decided a little shoveling was not such a bad thing to do after all.
Dexter has shoveled the driveway just enough to get the car out so he could drive Harriet and himself to work at the restaurant. She was a waitress and he was a dishwasher and prep cook. It was where they met. Dexter had kept this job a long time because Harriet covered for him if something went wrong. Elliott figured she was a pretty good girlfriend for his brother if she could get him to straighten out and fly right as Grandma Hedge was always saying he should do. Grandma Hedge liked Harriet so much that she had let her move in with them when she had her big fight with her own mother and had come crying to Dexter, even though Elliott didnt know what the fight had been about. Dexter had eight years on his little brother and didnt tell him much. Mostly he just ruffled up his hair and called him crybaby or little twerp. Elliott adored Dexter. Harriet was alright. He was still a little afraid of Grandma Hedge after four years of living with her. Dexter called her a task-master among some other worse things and bad words that Elliott knew better than to repeat. He learned a lot about what not to say and do from watching Dexter get in trouble for saying and doing things.
Elliott dragged the heavy silver shovel down the dryer part of the driveway out to the sidewalk and started in on the snow. He knew to only fill the scoop up half-way, otherwise it was too heavy to heave over to the side and empty out. Dexter teased him about not being strong enough, but he could feel himself getting stronger. Thats why he didnt mind shoveling so much, it helped him grow muscles. He tested out how strong he was getting by piling more snow into the scoop and lifting it up. This powdery kind of snow wasnt so heavy after all. He was able to shovel more snow faster than last time when it had been so wet and dense he was hardly able to get half a shovel scoop full. But he had pushed himself hard to do it anyway since Dexter was out and might be watching him. He always seemed to catch him doing wimpy stuff. He made a note to himself to look in the mirror later and see how much his muscles had grown.
After he shoveled the front sidewalk he carved out a little path from it to the house, trying to follow and uncover the round stones laid out as the walkway. Then he leaned the shovel against the garage door where Dexter could find it and finish the driveway when he got home. The driveway was his job like the sidewalk was Elliotts. He was warmed up from all that work and not yet ready to go back inside. He waded through the snow into the backyard, startling some birds at the feeder so that they flew up in a noisy rustle to land in some trees further away in the next yard. Blacky didnt seem to be around. The peanut ledge was empty, of squirrel and nuts. The snow beneath the feeders was covered with seed hulls. He went over to the little garbage pail by the back door and lifted the lid. He took a scoop of peanuts out using the old tin peach can and emptied it onto the swinging platform. He returned the tin to the can and replaced the lid. Then he walked through the fresh snow in the yard a good distance away from the feeders so he wouldnt scare the birds anymore and flopped down on his back. The cold of the snow seeped slowly through his winter jacket and cooled his skin the way a popsicle cooled your mouth on a hot summer day. He reached out a gloved hand and grabbed a fist full of snow, then smeared it onto his lips and felt it melt-drip into his mouth. It made him shiver - cold, cold, brr. He moved his arms and legs in a sudden impulsive motion and unwittingly made a snow angel. He tried to peel himself carefully out of the picture so he could see the perfect impression of an angel. It was pretty close, only one boot print out of place making the edge of the skirt uneven at the bottom hem. He smiled. Dexter would tease him about it, he knew. Maybe it was a babyish thing to do, but he was still a kid after all. He couldnt remember, of course, but he bet Dexter did some childish things when he was a kid too.
Elliott felt cold now, cold enough to go back inside. But as he turned to walk back around to the front door (the back door was always kept locked unless Grandma Hedge was in the back yard herself) he caught a glimpse of Blacky the squirrel scampering up the backside of the tree. He stood stock still and watched intently. Blacky made the leap from tree trunk to platform and set it to swinging. He stood on all fours while it swayed. Then, as it lessened its movement, he snatched up a peanut, sat up on his back haunches and started to eat. Elliott crept silently closer to get a better look. Blacky didnt seem to notice, so Elliott crept closer still, and closer. He got pretty close to the tree when the squirrel looked up and stared the boy in the eyes. Elliott kept himself as still as he possibly could, not breathing, not batting an eye. Please dont run away, he thought. Blacky cocked his head and twitched an ear. Elliott tried as hard as he could to keep perfectly still, but couldnt hold his breath anymore. His inhale made a squealing noise. Oh no, he thought. For sure this would frighten Blacky away. But the squirrel didnt move, didnt drop his peanut and scamper away across the yard or further up the tree. He stayed where he was, and eventually, as Elliott breathed and smiled because he was so close to his animal friend and hadnt frightened him away, Blacky went back to the task of shelling peanuts and shoving the morsels in his jowls.
The snow kept falling and the hour grew later. Elliott had been outside for a long, long while now. The sound of his shovel scraping concrete had long since stopped. Grandma Hedge disturbed the little dogs sleeping on her legs and lap by getting up out of the recliner and looking out the front window. The snow was already covering again the clearing away Elliott had done on the front sidewalk and path. She clicked her tongue at the half-baked job Dexter had done on the driveway before he left for work. At least he had work, she thought and sighed. Elliott was a quiet boy, small and young for his age, but smart, she thought. She hoped she would do a good enough job raising him, tired as she was after raising her own sons and losing her husband just before retirement would has allowed them to get to know each other again. She missed him. Of course she did. Her dogs were a comfort. Elliott was a comfort. Dexter and Harriet were a challenge, but she loved them all the same. She tried to puzzle out why Elliott was still outside as cold as it was growing. She made her way to the back door, the little dogs trotting right along at her heels. It was probably time to let them out to do their business.
Usually, she would just open the door and let them tear out into their pen to yap at the wildlife. But for some reason today she parted the curtain of the nearby window first and looked out. There was Elliott, standing quite still very near the squirrel feeder on which that oddball black squirrel sat eating peanut after peanut without a care in the world. Very softly she tapped on the window pane to draw Elliotts attention. Slowly he turned his face towards her, grinning like a fool. He pointed at the black squirrel and grinned even wider now he had someone to share his triumph with. Her heart leapt a little bit in love and she smiled back at him. Then she opened the door and let the little dogs run out.
Kimberly Kublank/Ironworks Publishing at Focus Fine Arts 2008
© 2008 Kimberly Kublank
Added on March 19, 2008
AboutI'm back with some new writing after a rather long hiatus due to undergoing treatment for breast cancer - still in the midst of it all, but feeling pretty good right now. I've spent a lot of my time .. more..