Excerpts from our Pushcart nominations
“Renewed Faith in Snow” – Zanda Pilate, appeared in Nivalis 2015 anthology from Fabula Press
My mom said that she found me in frost flowers. I was a little dancing snowflake. When I asked why I did not melt, she answered that, in those times, roofs were nonexistent. There were cars, houses, and stores without roofs; even castles and churches were short of roofs. In the winter, people slept on their tummies with their faces buried in their pillows so that their eyes did not get snowed on. In the morning, people woke up under a blanket of white, and they were smiling because the crisp snow had extracted all their bad thoughts and worries, leaving clean, bright souls instead.
I was born on December 23, 1988. My name is Juki, which means “snow” in Japanese. On the first day of school, the teacher asked all the children to say their names and the thing they enjoyed the most. I answered, “My name is Snow, and I like to weed umbrellas.” All the children laughed at me, and since then, they have called me Nutty instead of Juki.
My mom raised me on her own. I don’t remember my father; he left us when I was still a snowflake. My mom’s name is Rose. I love her deeply, and I adore her stories. I remember when we went to weed umbrellas. They were growing in her garden along with carrots, potatoes, and radishes, and she always made me weed them. I loved to touch the ground. Mom taught me that the ground was alive, that she heard everything we said, and that if we said bad things about other people or used curse words, the ground could destroy our garden and take away the vegetables and fruits that Mom was growing.
On the first day of school, I explained to the teacher that we had umbrellas in our garden, and she answered, “Shame on you! Who can’t tell the difference between edible and inedible things? You are already seven years old. You have dill in your garden—not umbrellas.”
I went home crying and kicking the ground, waiting for it to take away all our umbrellas.
“What’s happening with you, Juki?”
“These are dill, and I’m a fool. All the children hate me and call me bad names at school!”
“Now listen carefully. Please promise me you won’t let anyone make you disbelieve your beautiful world, which we have created together. You have a fantastic mind, and you are growing older and wiser. Most people do not see what you see, and this is your treasure!”
“Mom, I don’t understand!”
“Someday you will understand. I will help you to understand that the biggest treasure is to be different. Now, clean your nose and come to dinner. I made you cloud soup.”
I didn’t want to eat. I jostled the clouds around the bowl, watching them float in the milk, and I thought, Are these even clouds? I looked out through the window and tried to see the resemblance between the clouds in the bowl and those in the sky. I noticed that our neighbour, Loo, was walking slowly by the window. She wore a raincoat of a different color every day, and she had a long braid, which she twirled like a scarf around her neck.
“Mom, why does Loo wear a raincoat every day even when there’s no rain?”
“Because her hair grows in the rain. See how long her braid is? If the rain starts falling, her hair will start to grow, and she will get tangled in it and fall.”
“How come our hair doesn’t grow in the rain?”
“We have different genes.”
“What are genes?”
“They are the body’s memory.”
Mom opened the window and yelled, “Hey, Loo! Come inside and have some tea!”
Loo nodded and smiled sincerely. “With pleasure!”
“Maybe you can bring three teaspoons of sugar with you.”
After some fifteen minutes, Loo was back. In one hand, she held a sugar pack and in the other a plastic bag with water. I saw something moving inside it. Loo was Mom’s best friend. Loo was a painter, and my mom was an accountant.
“Hi, Loo. Thank you for the sugar, but we have enough water.” Mom was laughing.
“This is for you, Juki. Mine have reproduced too much.”
She gave me a bag with water and a shiny fish in it.
“Thank you, Loo! He is beautiful and seems very chatty. You are one loud fish, mister! I will name him Screamy.”
I placed Screamy in a jar, he told me that Loo had a fish tank that was the size of the pond.
“Screamy, do you know how ponds originate?” random thoughts pop in my mind.
“Frogs lay ponds!”
“You are one clever fish!”
This is an excerpt. To read the full story, get the Nivalis 2015 contest anthology here.