Winter’s Melt by Nicole L.V. Mullis

I pull on my heavy boots and an old sweatshirt. I haven’t walked in the woods since Thanksgiving, when the ground was still warm enough to melt the Canadian snow. It is half past Easter now – technically spring, actually winter.

I crunch through islands of snow, slip on hidden ice, sink nearly a centimeter in ground just starting to give. The earth is a pound of ground beef left to thaw on a counter.  If I hold still and breathe deep, I can smell both life and decay.

The trees crack. My knees crack. Labor pains? Death rattles? It’s too early to tell. I see hints of green but the woods are mostly blah. I climb the long hill, the one that makes me dizzy in August’s humidity. I climb until my boots feel like saunas and I want to peel off my sweatshirt. I crave cold water.

I stop at the grey rock that faces west. I like this rock. Puddles dapple the top, snow wreaths the bottom. I sit, out of shape and out of breath. My ten extra pounds of sugarplums stretch my skin, my jeans, my self-esteem.

The stone’s chill works into me slowly as if uploading winter, file by file.  My sweat turns cold.  My hands needle up and my bottom goes numb. My throat, however, still burns. I scoop up some snow and place a cold pinch on my hot tongue. I close my mouth.

Ahh, winter’s melt.

Nicole Mullis

Nicole_Mullis-Winter's_MeltNicole L.V. Mullis is a Battle Creek Enquirer columnist and a Stage of Life contributing editor. Her work has appeared in Mount Hope Magazine, The Broken Plate, Aspiration Ascent, and Epiphany. Her play, “On Bended Knee,” was the 2013 recipient of the Robert J. Pickering Award winner for Playwriting Excellence.