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Ice and Otherwise

by Pavelle Wesser

Minnie stared around her at the circle of ladies that comprised her group of friends. Who are they? she wondered, distractedly fingering her teacup.

She shuddered at the thought of all the decades she’d spent in this town, occupying this house, all the years that had telescoped into this single moment in time that felt utterly meaningless. A chill traveled up her spine as a new thought entered her mind. I wish that time would freeze. It was all moving far too quickly.

Indeed, that very morning, she had failed to recognize her own face in the mirror. An ageing woman stared back at her. “Grandma?” She’d extended a wrinkled hand, pressing tentative fingers against the cold glass, the horror slowly dawning. Where has my life gone? How much is even left?

Who was she, and who were these women she’d invited over for tea once a week for more years than she could recall. She cried out in pain as hot tea spilled from her trembling fingers onto the parched flesh of her arm. With a clatter, she replaced the cup on its saucer. Only then did she hear the satisfying clink of ice on the liquid’s surface. Finally, she sighed as the woman beside her turned and smiled.

“Minnie, my dear, what’s going on with your latest medical scare? I’ve been meaning to ask.”

Who are you? Minnie stared at the sagging flesh on the woman’s face, marred by deep lines. Her smile struck Minnie as ghoulish, or was that the effect of her yellowed teeth. What medical scare was the woman referring to, anyway? Her own mind was the scariest thing she had to deal with, as far as she knew.

“Chilly in here, isn’t it?” replied Minnie instead, perhaps by way of conversation, or then again in the possible hopes of terminating any emerging discussion. She noticed that the woman’s yellow teeth were chattering and that the shade of her saggy skin was becoming increasingly blue.

“Have you considered turning up the heat?” the woman hissed. “Or is it your intention to freeze us all to death?”

“How right you are,” muttered Minnie, “I retain the image of a frozen tundra in my mind’s eye.”

“Was that to be the focal point of our discussion today?” the woman barked. “You had mentioned in your e-mail that we’d be covering the topic of orphans, or was it—”

“Aren’t we all widows?” another woman piped up, “and can’t we talk about that?”

“Speaking of which” — Minnie tried to work through the sludge of her mind — “after my husband Howard froze to death ten years ago on this same day, I had him interred in Antarctica. I’m sure some of you remember that episode.”

“Froze to death?” someone interjected, as all eyes turned on Minnie — accusingly, she thought.

“Didn’t Howard die of complications from—”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I thought,” another callow woman piped up.

“Well, the point is,” Minnie paused to bring her teacup to her mouth, which ended up sticking to dry ice. Removing it from her lips, she tore delicate skin, and the blood that might have otherwise have flowed instead congealed in the frigid cold, which was quite unsightly.

“The point is what?” the woman snarled. “Are you experiencing a brain freeze?”

“Sorry, the point is that my mind is telescoping on a single incident, leaving me unable to focus on anything else.”

“What is the incident?” the woman asked, brushing frost from her shoulder.

“It concerns us.” Minnie might have smiled engagingly had her lips been working properly.

“Do tell.” The woman now waved a frost-bitten finger through the air. Her gasping breath emerged in puffy clouds.

“It pertains to the here, the now, the ice, our mortality,” Minnie explained, as though this was obvious.

“Oh dear,” exclaimed a woman who’d just chipped a tooth on frozen tea. “Perhaps we ought to reconvene on a warmer... I mean, at a later date.”

“Oh no.” Minnie shook her head. “We’re about to be frozen together for all eternity. Later is now; time converges right here.”

“Were we never to discuss widows, then?”

“Who brewed this, for God’s sake? Iced tea is one thing, but this is too much.” The woman’s speech slurred as words froze in her mouth. Milliseconds later, the rest of her followed suit. The other ladies might have passed comment had not they, too, entered a deep freeze.

It was Minnie who first broke the silence as she split in half with a resounding crack and crumbled in chunks to the floor. The other ladies remained undisturbed, teacups raised in honor of their last breath, their conversation suspended in the arctic chill that left them blissfully unaware of all things ice and otherwise.

Copyright © 2015 by Pavelle Wesser

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