The Little Match Girl: Brave Pretender
‘“She wanted to warm herself,’ the people said.
No one imagined what beautiful things she had
seen, and how happily she had gone…”
—Hans Christian Andersen
On a cold winter’s evening, the last of the year, she finds herself wandering about the city barefoot, penniless. Only a handful of matches to sell. No one wants them, no one looks her way. She might as well be a ghost—invisible, dead to the world.
At the crossroads of the city, coaches and buggies mill about—those on foot brush past her as formless shadows, faces stripped of color. She calls out to each one, brandishes her meager wares, each time unnoticed. A living girl drifting in a world of dead things.
They might as well be ghosts…so…cold.
She shakes her head to clear it of the growing fear and continues on. She is searching for something: a soul to care, or perhaps a light to claim as her own.
Passing through a market street, she observes tilted faces and twisted homes and tries to find some small bright scrap of self in this, with which to fashion an image, an identity, an ideal. A shred of hope to cling to. But the lights are going out along the streets, and the darkness is so thick, swallowing her small figure in shadow.
The faint specks of light that remain are now so much harder to possess.
Still, she is unfazed—no longer hoping to sell her wares, she will use them for herself! One match struck, and a golden spark is lit—barely a flicker.
No, a flame. And in that flame a fairy dancing!
She burns through three more matches—and beholds the vision multiplied.
More golden dancers to entertain me! Ah, look—they are inviting me to be a part of their fun! The stars are kind, to have granted me the company of such dear friends in this dark. Tonight, I think I hold heaven in my hands.
Dancing through the soulless streets with matches blazing, ignoring the protests of her frozen feet, she becomes one light among many as the matches, yielding up their fire, lend their bodies to the dance. The dancers bend and break, crackle and split and sigh. They die out one by one, consumed by the ravenous night.
Match by match by match she goes along, already nothing more than a faint smudge of light wavering against the backdrop of gray houses—more spirit than girl.
Ten matches gone now, and still the cold penetrates deeper. It seeps into the hollow spaces of her spine, constricts her blood vessels to the breadth of poppy seeds. Still, her eyes burn with inner fire, celestial light. She doesn’t notice that all her wares have burned through, their charred corpses circling her fading figure in the dust of the street.
Body numb with cold, she curls up in the snow to sleep—mind aglow with flaming visions—the brightest night of her life.
Tales From the Other Side
There exists a place unseen from normal eyes. A place not known to those who don’t already know it. A place filled with wonder and excitement, monsters and adventure. This place is known as the other side. No one knows how it came to be nor why its laws are what they are, but what the residents of that place do know is that once you find yourself past the walls of normalcy you can never leave. Now normally that would be a problem, a place with weird laws that doesn’t let you leave and yet no one who lives in that strange place ever complains about being there. They go about their days as normal peaceful citizens to their towns. Then it showed up, bringing with it discourse and chaos. The once peaceful lives of the villagers and townsfolk were thrown into disarray. The being took what it wanted, did what it wanted. Neglecting and ignoring any that it would inconvenience. Breaking into people’s homes, stealing their crops, killing the townsfolk without mercy. The world was already filled with beasts and creatures but up until that point the other side had never seen a monster of that caliber. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it, it claimed it was helping us, that it would help guide all those lost to this place home, and yet when told that no one wanted to go home it lured people into the woods never to return. Yet when the monster came back there always seemed to be one more tree in that forest from before. Soon the once bustling towns and villages were scarce and empty. The residents that survived hid from the ever-encroaching shadows that lured them into the woods which by this point had formed a prison around the towns, trees that touched the sky stretched for infinity in every direction. Hope was lost, fear ran rampant, and everyone lived their lives a little less than before, unable to mourn their losses as there were never any bodies to bury. Life went on for these people for centuries, the lives that were born were raised to fear the dark. As they had no idea that the monster was lurking in it, waiting for the chance to lure them away. Until the Other side found itself a new resident, someone from the outside, someone not versed in the laws and rules of this world. Having gotten lost with their sibling they journeyed across the land, through the woods and from town to town trying to find a way home, and yet everywhere they went they were told the same thing. Be afraid of the dark, the monster is waiting for you. Having come from the real world they didn’t believe in such things, sure the dark was scary but there were no such things as monsters. They were probably talking about a bear or something. Unfortunately, monsters were real and this one had its eyes on the newcomers. And the newcomers would soon learn that getting home would be the easiest of their problems. Soon they would learn of the problems awaiting them, and the tales that would be told about the place they were currently in. Tales from the Other side.
The Tragic End of Alexander the Ant
The sun rose very slowly over a large field of grass. It was a lazy summer afternoon. People were taking walks, having picnics, feeding the ducks, or just laying down. What they didn’t know was that right under their noses in the blades of grass was a little ant fighting for his life. Now the ant in question wasn’t in any danger, at least not yet, but he was fighting a battle between it and all the other insects in that field. Needle in hand and armor on, the little ant warrior was holding its ground–not letting any of his contestants survive. This ant was not alone because he had a partner who wasn’t nearly as into fighting monsters and was cowering underneath a tiny rock fearing for his safety.
“You know, typically when there are giant monsters we run away from them! Not go charging head first into battle!”
The knight ant just laughs.
“But then how would we win any glory? Come now, Clark, if we took the coward’s way out then someone would beat us to it!”
Clark just deadpans underneath the rock, his voice full of exasperation.
“Yeah but if you die, then where’s all that glory go? Have you thought about that Alexander?”
Alexander drives his needle into the head of a giant centipede and it falls to the ground, writhing as it dies. Once it does, Alexander sits down on its corpse and looks deep in thought.
“Where would all the glory go…? I do not know! But I am not dead nor can I die so that is a problem I do not have to worry about!”
Clark comes out from his hiding spot and carefully maneuvers his way through the battlefield, trying to avoid touching the scattered remains of other larger bugs until he’s made his way in front of Alexander.
“Please. You gotta understand that you aren’t immortal. You keep throwing your life at every giant creature hoping that by dying you secure more of a name for yourself but you don’t, all you do is put your own life in danger, why do you think I come on these horrifying adventures? It’s to be the voice of reason in your head that you clearly don’t have.” Alexander places a hand on Clarks shoulder and nods.
“I appreciate your concern, dearest friend, but you have nothing to worry about! There is nothing in this world that can kill me!”
Suddenly a huge shadow falls over Clark and Alexander, it falls over most of the land around them, they look up to see a giant pink monster. Its green spheres focused and centered on both of them. It lets out a booming roar. “Ant!” and a giant pink meat stick descends from the heavens smashing into the ground next to them causing the ground to shake intensely. Clark runs for cover.
“Shit! It’s a giant! We gotta go!” His gaze falls onto Alexander who hasn’t moved. “What are you doing? Get the hell out of there!”
But Alexander doesn’t move, instead he charges directly at the giant pink meat stick. Much to Clark’s fear.
“What are you doing?”
Alexander just laughs.
“Think of the glory!”
“You idiot! It’s like 400 times your size! You’re going to die!”
Alexander laughs again.
“I’ll only die if I’m killed!”
Clark shakes his head in confusion.
“Wh..What! That’s what being killed means, you idiot!”
Alexander had made his way onto the pink meat stick and the giant let out another loud roar.
“Mom! The ant is on my finger! I think it likes me!”
Clark continues to cower behind some blades of grass.
“It noticed you! You hear its war cry? Come down here before it murders you!”
But Clark’s pleading fell on deaf ears as Alexander was already making his way up the arm of the giant dodging hands and holding onto dear life when the giant shook its arm trying to get the ant off. By this point the small giant had started to panic because the ant wasn’t getting off their arm and had called a much bigger giant to come help. The bigger giant towered over the smaller giant. And was also trying to remove the ant. And yet Alexander evaded every attempt made. Which bewildered the large giant as they had never seen an ant move with such efficiency and skill. Throwing itself further up the giant’s body, unable to be squished. From Alexander’s point of view, he was unstoppable, they were no match for his speed and skill. And he was going to make his way up to the top of that giant. Meanwhile Clark, who had been watching the whole thing, stood there in shock. Alexander had done it. He had reached the top of the giant. Clark, full of disbelief, was stunned for a moment. He had done what was seemingly impossible. Clark’s mind raced with both excitement and worry. His friend made it to the top but wanted him to be safe on the ground again as soon as possible. Clark calls up to him again.
“Okay, you did it! You climbed the giant now, please get down here before you hurt yourself!”
But Alexander wasn’t done. He had climbed the monster and now he was going to slay it. Taking up his needle he stabs it into the top of the giant’s head causing said giant to wail in pain and start running in a direction. This causes Alexander to let out a triumphant cheer.
“I’ve got them on the run now! They’re as good as dead!”
Due to his triumph Alexander chooses to not come down, and due to the giant running away it separated the two ants from one another never to be seen again. A few hours later Alexander was found by a doctor and killed. Clark made it home safely, grieving the fact that he got separated from his friend. They sent out several search parties and all came back empty. They deemed Alexander dead. However, that wasn’t the end of his story as all throughout the ant kingdom stories were sung of the warrior ant that felled a giant by himself. And through those songs Alexander lived on.
Valentine’s Day was always the weirdest holiday. Especially in elementary school, when on February 12th you would drag your mom to CVS to pick up some corny cartoon-themed Valentine’s cards and a bag of those hard, chalky hearts. It was fun in theory, until you arrived back home and you had to start filling out all of the cards with the same fake message aside from adding a little additional love to your “best friends.” Maybe you would add an extra piece of candy to your crush’s card, but other than that it was repetitive.
It was always interesting showing up to school on the 14th with a bag full of cards and candies. There was such palpable energy in the room—everyone knew they were getting something, but when would the exchange happen? Normally the teachers would wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day and immediately jump into the lesson. Business as usual. Maybe you would try to slip your friends their special cards with the better candy, but it would always fail. The chalky hearts were always hit or miss; the white and pink ones were always good but the green had a weird flavor to it. Purple was either grape or some bizarre flavor they cooked up. They really lost their appeal when you graduated elementary school; now they were only good for display purposes, showing off on social media that you had gotten a valentine. As you got older you received roses on Valentine’s Day—tasteful, but when done in big bundles, tacky and far too fragrant. With the roses came a cheap bottle of red wine and maybe a big box of chocolates that you’ll eat your favorites out of before they go stale in the pantry.
I wish Valentine’s Day was the same as it used to be. I want a little Spongebob card and a heart shaped lollipop that tastes like strawberries. I want to feel giddy again about this weird holiday. I wish I could go back in time and be in elementary school exchanging Valentine’s cards instead of thinking about how capitalistic Valentine’s Day really is. I would love to see Saint Valentine roam the streets and look into people’s windows on this Valentine’s Day. I would love to see the look on his face as he takes in how weird this holiday is—how it has devolved. I wonder if Saint Valentine would like the chalk heart candies or if he would find the smell of roses awful or if he would eat all of the chocolates before they went stale.
Ruby lips descending into salty brine. My lips. Bright light yielding to dark, fathomless depths on a midsummer’s eve where the sweltering heat of the sun still lingers in the damp night air of the goldfields. Eighteen years of growing up in each other’s company, budding feelings finally confessed—only to have the last night marred by the shattered delusion of something we were never meant to be. A first date gone wrong.
That day—the day you watched me die,
what were you thinking?
I know. You were feeling sorry for yourself, for the loss you would have to suffer so early on in your youth, and for having to conjure up an explanation plausible enough to avoid scrutiny: “My Darling Clementine, drowned!”
Does my death yet haunt you? Very well, poor dear, console yourself. Exchange one woman for another; touch is all the same. Rest your brow upon my little sister’s breast—see if it helps you to forget. Forget me. Forget you. You forget yourself.
Not I, though—I will never forget.
Clusters of lanky ash trees lining the brine pools before us bear mute witness as you snake your hand around my waist, seizing me with clammy fingers.
Clementine—kiss me. I can’t contain myself—I love you. You joke, surely, I think, until your fingers fix themselves under the hollows of my jaw, vice-like. I meet your gaze, alarmed by what I see—not the face of a friend, but something strange, twisted.
Your mouth is shaping lovely lies—deceit etched into the corners of your smile. Something heinous lurks there, heretofore unnoticed. I see it clearly now, reflected in your features, some hidden urge burgeoning to the surface. In your eyes a manic glee. Your tongue, a serpent’s tongue, moving to ensnare mine.
If this is love, I want no part of it.
Let go of me—are you insane?! You’re hurting me—
A gasp of breath, a stifled scream, a stumble and a fall. Followed by splashing, flailing. Silence. All at once, the mania flees your face. Not so very bold now. I recognize you again, but it is with
changed eyes. You pause in horror for a spell before departing, thinking I am lost and gone—for good.
I am not lost. Still here, fighting in that one suspended moment where you watch me drown and whimper to yourself, clasping your hands tightly around your arms—arms that were all too quick to release me—or was it push, rather? —as I tripped and fell. I struggle to keep my head afloat as the weight of my woolen dress pulls me down.
Yet, be it the work of some sick miracle or sheer force of will, I can still see your figure—clearly outlined—as my eyes lapse under the slippery film of the water. With piercing scrutiny I trace every movement in your face—those frantic eyes, that pale, trembling jaw…
Why do you tremble so, and not I?
Book Review: Anxious People
Book Review: Anxious People
A Clumsy Mischaracterization of Anxiety
Tully Mahoney ’23
Fredrik Backman is a multi-time bestselling author, making his novel Anxious People utterly disappointing and tacky. The premise of the novel is a bank robbery gone wrong that turns into a hostage situation in an apartment complex in Stockholm, Sweden. Simultaneously, it is a tale about how all of its characters’ backgrounds intertwine into a single storyline, which is outright predictable. A few themes that Backman highlights are generational differences, second chances, compassion, anxiety, and the difficulty of the human experience.
The premise of Anxious People is unfortunately unrealistic. For instance, its clumsy police officers are a father-son duo who quarrel about family drama and walk on eggshells around each other throughout the investigation. In real life, if father and son police officers could not properly interview suspects due to their underlying drama, their station would likely not allow them to work together. Furthermore, stations do not typically assign partners who are related because there are too many factors that would simply make them poor partners. This is just one example of Anxious People’s plot that is genuinely not feasible.
As its title suggests, the novel is about anxious people. However, its characterization of their anxiety is completely stereotypical, leaving Anxious People with a lack of depth. The novel delves into each character’s background, but each character is portrayed as having experienced some traumatic event in their past that made them the person that they are in the present-day setting of the novel. This commonality comes off as unrealistic to readers as well as a tasteless portrayal of anxiety. If the point of this novel is to illuminate the anxiety that plagues so many people, then the origin of each character’s anxiety should not be nearly identical to one another. The truth of anxiety is that some people have it genetically and others develop it due to certain events. Furthermore, everyone’s anxiety presents in different forms, and Anxious People fails to show such depth to the people with anxiety and anxious tendencies.
In addition, the characterization of each figure in the novel is cookie-cutter and flavorless. Each introduction of a new character is written identically, which makes the first 100 pages of the novel quite tough to remain engaged with—and there are too many characters to follow in the first place. Moreover, Anxious People consists of far too much narration and not nearly enough description. Backman does not give any attention to details, making the reader feel like an observer rather than a participant visualizing the action. This level of narration makes the novel’s plot confusing, as it is hidden under so much background context.
Backman also attempts to make Anxious People highlight fundamental truths of human existence. However, the revelation of these truths comes across as forced because the author deliberately tells readers the deeper meanings rather than revealing them through descriptive imagery. Some lines that exemplify this disappointing revelation are: “we are asleep until we fall in love,” “love is wanting you to exist,” and “personality is just the sum of our experiences.” These truths are not ground-breaking, earth-shattering epiphanies. Instead, they are reminiscent of advice a grandmother tells her grandkids while looking back on her life. Since Backman lacks depth in details and descriptors, he is unable to make these truths come across naturally in a way that would make the reader feel like they stumbled across a new revelation.
Backman’s style of writing has a learning curve for some readers. Chapters range from a typical writing style to a police officer’s investigation notes. Backman uses humor throughout Anxious People and, sometimes, his writing appears to be a stream of consciousness. Despite the novel’s shortcomings, Backman succeeds in producing a connection between characters and readers through his ability to create sympathetic characters. Indeed, the novel has the potential to make readers feel less lonely—since it ultimately seems to be more about lonely people than anxious people—and realize that their human experience is not so different from that of everyone else. If there is any lasting impact of Anxious People, it is certainly this.
by Sarah McLaughlin ’23
Why do I always end up wanting to punch myself in the face after making small talk?
This new girl comes into work, and I ask her if it’s still raining because I’m leaving, and she says no, and so I stuff my raincoat into my backpack, awkwardly crouching over in the desk chair and sort of holding the backpack up with my feet and I say something dumb like “guess I won’t be needing this anymore,” and laugh as if it’s funny, and she sort of laughs too but in a way like she pities me, and then I say something about how I wish we would get fall weather soon and how I hate the summer, and that’s true, but why do I say hate? It’s such an aggressive and unnecessary word in that context, and then she looks at me and says, “Well, I think you’re alone in that, Dillon,” and I’m just left staring at her like an idiot wondering how she knows my name.
And then after I stare and she turns away to sit at a desk and her small gold hoop earrings swing a little and glint under the ceiling light, I remember she was in my freshman-year writing seminar; she was the girl I thought had a nice voice and said thoughtful things about everyone’s essays, and I always caught myself staring at her just like I am now. I can’t for the life of me remember her name.
But I can check the schedule. It’s Lexi.
I’m not surprised she works here. I remember now that I read her narrative essay in our seminar. She wrote about growing up in South Dakota and having a crush on the quarterback of her high school’s football team. It should’ve been so silly. But, somehow, she made it captivating. I wish I could remember it fully.
When I was in first grade, I hung out with a group of girls who liked to sing Taylor Swift songs while we maneuvered our way across ladders and beams and monkey bars. I can’t remember if I got into her music because my dad put it onto the old MP3 player he gave me for my sixth birthday or because they liked it first, but I learned all the lyrics to the songs we’d sing either way. Spring rolled around and a sign-up sheet was put on the bulletin board in our classroom for the talent show. I thought about writing my name down because I had just started learning guitar. Then I saw the four girls walk up to the wall together and pencil their names one at a time. When they came back over to sit at our shared table, I asked what they were going to perform. For some reason, in my head, it was going to be four individual acts. But then one of them said they were going to sing “Love Story” and explained how they were going to dress up, the taller two in suit jackets and ties that belonged to their older brothers and the shorter two in white dresses with their First Communion veils. After that day, they spent most recess periods rehearsing on the blacktop how they would hold hands and spin each other in circles. I started sitting with a kid named Tommy who would hide in the corner by himself and organize his Pokémon cards.
I remember some girls used to see me and Tommy in the corner of the cafeteria and ask if he was my boyfriend. I didn’t have a concept of what that meant except that he was a boy and gave me his duplicate Pokémon cards so I supposed he was a friend. But I knew that word meant something different—I knew from the smirks on their faces, the way they’d flash their new adult front teeth I didn’t have yet, the way Avril Lavigne sung about a similar word—girlfriend—in another song I had on my MP3 player; I just didn’t know what. So I shook my head and didn’t say a word and neither did Tommy, and I just hoped they’d leave us alone.
On my street there was a kid named Zach, who I think was my age but was at least twice my size. There is a little creek that runs in the patch of woods behind my house, and I liked to catch frogs. In the spring, especially, they weren’t too hard to find. Catching them was the tricky part, but it is a skill I’d mastered over the years.
I think it was that same spring when “Love Story” was all over the radio when I caught a frog and decided to make a little home for it in a Tupperware container—without the lid, of course, but I picked one with sides tall enough that it couldn’t climb out. I put a little mud from the creek bed at the bottom and plucked some grass from my yard. The frog seemed to like it—at least, after a few minutes, he stopped trying to escape. I was so proud of my little architectural creation that I felt a desire to show it off, for somebody else to see it and appreciate it just as much as I did. So I did something I didn’t do often and brought the frog to the front yard, away from the creek, and down to the sidewalk. I sat cross-legged there, and the sun beat down on us, but I wore a baseball cap and the brim of it kept the frog shaded.
Minutes later, a few kids on bicycles and Razor scooters rolled along the street, almost passing me without notice, but they stopped and stared down at the girl with grass stains on her knees and mud caked under her fingernails holding a Tupperware container.
“What the hell is that?” one of them asked, and it felt like someone had dropped ice down my shirt; my mom had told me to never use that word.
I lifted the container up to show them and probably shyly mumbled something, too, although who knows if they were even listening. They stared, and smiles grew on their faces. I smiled, too.
“What are you gonna do, kiss it?”
They laughed in chorus. And that’s when Zach tossed his bike to the side, reached down into the Tupperware, pulled out the frog, and in one furious but careless motion threw it onto the ground with a wet splat and squashed it under his foot.
I don’t remember how it looked. I know my eyes were open, but it’s like time has censored the image.
When I step outside, letting the heavy door fall closed behind me, it isn’t raining—Lexi was right—but it’s misty, and the gray clouds shielding the sun make it impossible to tell if it has already set.
Batman: The Long Halloweekend
by Aidan Lerner ’22
October 30, 10:30 p.m., Pinehurst Avenue, Providence RI 02908
Jack Ryder shuddered as he hustled down the cracked sidewalk of Pinehurst. Even by New England standards, this was one of the colder October nights in recent memory. Jack paused to push his phony glasses up the bridge of his nose and looked up to see three hooded men slink out in front of him.
“Before we take everything you own, what’re you supposed to be?” the biggest one asked.
Jack, stammering, replied, “A-uh r-r-reporte-er.”
The men chuckled amongst themselves before closing in with menacing leers. Jack closed his eyes and braced for the impending mugging.
Suddenly, Jack felt the woosh of a cape and opened his eyes to see a flash of movement with a figure, cloaked in darkness, at the center of it. Batman! In a flurry of fists the Batman reduced the would-be crooks to a groaning heap. He turned, the whites of his eyes becoming visible under his cowl.
“Stay inside tonight,” Batman growled.
11:00 pm, The Flame, PC Campus
Director of Public Safety, Gordon, lit his cigarette and frowned. The Bat Signal was fully operational next to the Flame and the light shone against the full moon. Batman rarely responded to the Signal directly, but Gordon hoped that tonight he would show. This night, of all nights, Providence College needed The Bat.
A voice from nowhere called out, “Activity on Pinehurst. Taken care of now.”
Gordon’s eyes adjusted to take in the hulking figure of the Caped Crusader.
“That’s the least of our problems, Batman. I’ve heard rumors that Scarecrow is on the prowl off campus tonight.”
Batman stared at Gordon, impassive. “Well, what is public safety going to do about this, Jim?”
An exasperated Gordon responded, “We are doing all we can. We have a bus that drives people around now. But what can we do against the likes of Scarecrow?”
Gordon looked around, realizing he had lost sight of Batman.
Jim Gordon shook his head. Batman had slipped back into shadow, gone.
Gordon spoke into his walkie-talkie, “High alert tonight, everyone! New protocol: when people show up at the gate, we need to ask them where they are going and glare at them. Godspeed.”
11:30 p.m., Eaton Street
The Boy Wonder had grown accustomed to spotting his mentor in the shadows.
“I know where Scarecrow is hiding,” Robin declared. Batman revealed himself and turned to question his ward.
“It couldn’t have been that easy,” he remarked.
Robin replied, “There’s a house on Eaton called Gotham. That’s where he’s hiding.”
“How do you know that?” Batman asked.
Robin was enthusiastic to make his point known. “There were mass groups of kids stumbling outside, totally lost. Many of them cried about their emotional fears. They looked like they had no idea where to go.”
Batman stared at his protégé. “Robin, those parameters apply to every house in the immediate area. This is a college.”
“Well, I also saw a bunch of Fear Gas emanating from every window, and I heard Scarecrow laughing.”
Batman pulled out his trademark bat-a-rang. It was time to work.
October 31, 12:00 a.m., Harkins Hall
“Another night, another win for the Batsy crew, huh?” Catwoman whispered with her typical purr.
The Dark Knight smiled for the first time all evening. “Scarecrow is taken care of. Off-campus is safe again, for tonight at least.”
Catwoman smirked. “Why do you do it? Who are you under that cowl?”
Batman strode away with a flick of his cape.
“Who am I?” the Bat repeated, “Who are we? One heart. One heartbeat. One community.”
Catwoman gasped. She knew exactly who Batman was.
A Girl named Phoebe, a Boy named Avery, and a Man named Clyde
by Taylor Maguire ’24
The walls of the wooden cabin shuttered as if the ghost of Halloween’s past drifted through it. Everyone else inhibiting the lodge fell into a deep hushed tone out of fear that any loudly exchanged words would cause us all to be consumed by snow. The wall by the kitchen of the lodge was lined with various postcards from America, and there was a record player in the corner that quietly played Frank Sinatra songs. I sat in the corner alone, beside the window, watching layers of snowflakes fall with an old copy of Little Women I had discovered in the library around the corner.
Avery suddenly appeared at the bottom of the staircase. Avery was my best friend from college. We met in a Greek Classics class where the two of us would make fun of the statues we read about in Art History books. He walked over in his pajamas and curled up on the brown ottoman beside me.
“You seem worried,” he says.
“Oh I’m fine, the snow doesn’t scare me,” I reply.
“You are from Michigan,” he says.
“You didn’t get snow like this in California?” I ask.
Avery lets out a chuckle.
“What does Clyde think of everything?” he asks.
Clyde is the owner of the lodge where we were staying. He has a long, thick white beard that curls around his face, and a pair of cherub pink apple cheeks. He rents out rooms to travelers for a cheap price, and always makes anyone a cup of chamomile tea with bread and butter. Avery and I have stayed here a little over a week and in that time we have gotten to know Clyde quite well considering travellers typically stay here for two nights tops.
“Clyde believes it’ll pass, he’s more worried about keeping everyone warm,” I reply, turning a page in my book without really absorbing the words of Louisa May Alcott.
Clyde comes over and drops an armful of sweaters on the table in front of us. They’re wool and are woven into specific storytelling patterns.
“Don’t worry my youngest travelers, they’re clean, they belonged to my father years ago,” he says. I picked up the red one with a lion sewn on the front of it and put it over what I was wearing. Avery put on a forest green one that made his eyes appear to sparkle deviously.
“What was your father’s name?” I ask.
“Seamus Murphy. He was a fisherman. He left Ireland when he was seventeen and joined a bunch of other rugrat sailors. Met my mother in Switzerland and he built the lodge here with his own two hands for me and my four sisters,” Clyde replies.
“Clyde, you never mentioned you had sisters,” I say.
“Oh of course. There was Saoirse, Roisin, Clodagh, and Gracie. We all grew up in this cabin. You know, we were all very close. When we were kids we would run around the field and they would pretend to be fairies and I would play the Tolkien evil shapeshifter known as the Pooka. We were all guided by our fearless leader Roisin who had this wild imagination. Roisin was the one who tucked us in to bed each night and would read us classic American literature before we would fall asleep. She sewed us each stocking caps to wear in the winter, and she even taught me how to tie my shoelaces,” he sighs.
“I would love to see these female versions of you, Clyde. Where did they disappear to?”
Avery always had a knack of getting someone to let their guard down. He could get anyone to willingly divulge their buried secrets. It was a talent of his that was very similar to witnessing a car crash. It was too awful to ignore; you couldn’t look away out of fear of missing what would happen next.
“The dynamic of our relationship didn’t survive the burden of life’s adversities. Shortly after my father died from a heart attack, Gracie wandered off into the woods during a night like this. It destroyed my mother, but Roisin was never the same after Gracie’s disappearance. We stopped frolicking around fields, and began cleaning plates and sweeping floors in between schooling. She left home less than a week after her 18th birthday and I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Saoirse and Clodagh moved with my mother to America where they send me postcards every month or so,” he says.
“It’s a shame really. For such a beautiful home created through a parent’s love for their children to be abandoned completely in the alps of Switzerland,” Avery says. There’s a hint of suspicion in his voice that rings louder than I believe he intends it to.
“Beauty can be a misleading facade, Mr. Avery. Besides, if the tragic history of this home had not occured, I wouldn’t meet the strangers of this world like your charming self.”
“It is funny though that you picked out Little Women to read, Phoebe,” Clyde says, turning to me.
“How come?” I ask.
“That was Roisin’s favorite,” he replies. He stands up now.
“Well, duty calls. If you both get cold, I have some nice long stockings that you can borrow. Will make you look very dashing, Avery,” Clyde says, giving me a wink.
Clyde blows out a series of candles that linger around nearby tables, leaving the fireplace to serve as our only source of light during the storm.
by Kate Ward ’23
The painting had been sitting across from the Greek statue for the past 50 or so years, and she had never grown tired of looking at him. His body was strong but not in the ways women liked now; he was strong like a field hand or someone with a particular knack for swimming. His hair was wavy and, despite being frozen in time, she could’ve sworn it moved from time to time. It was as if he had been chained or was frozen in place and plaster was poured over him and occasionally his movements would break the plaster form. People were drawn to him like moths to a flame, maybe because he’s one of the only statues in a room full of paintings, or maybe because the whole museum was full of paintings and only a handful of statues.
She liked watching how the people “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed, and mothers smacking away children’s hands if they got too close to touching his smooth flesh. She was sure he wouldn’t mind if they touched him; he had a kind face, so she was sure he would be okay with a child. The family came to her painting next, the little kid pointing out the lamb that lay beside her, his head in her lap. The kid looked up at his mother and asked if she thought the lamb had a name, the mother shook her head and continued reading the panel of information next to the frame. The lamb did have a name, Kritios, in reference to the Greek sculpture “Kritios Boy.” She named him that when she discovered that the statue was Greek.
She had never heard of Greece or where it was, and she couldn’t pick up much information from the people passing by the frame and the thick coats of paint that smothered her made it difficult to hear. A lot of the time she would only understand if someone was pointing and looking to another for guidance like the child and his mother. She wondered what she could learn if the museum ever took her off the wall and transported her to that far away place. Or maybe she was there and didn’t even know.
The seasons came and went and visitors began to dwindle. She noticed the lights stayed off more than they were on, and the paintings across from her were taken down and packed into wooden crates. She looked down at Boy then back at the statue. She could’ve sworn his expression was more glum than it was normally. She hoped that wherever he was going she could come along and get to gaze at him a little while longer. The day arrived when her frame was lifted from its mounting and her vision was obscured with cloth and layer upon layer of clouded plastic…bubble wrap, she thought she heard someone say. With one last gaze, she saw that her statue was still rooted in place. Clearly there was no intention to move him. She was set inside a nest of shavings and other squiggly objects. Something slid over her, large and heavy, and then she was moving, and she knew she would never see her statue again.