“Is that Dorothy?” Elaine asked as we turned up the driveway.
An old woman stood next to the mailbox. Her white legs with blue veins protruded out from a trench coat. Autumn had passed and it was beginning to snow.
“Yeah, that’s her. At least, she’s got a coat on.”
“I’m sorry. I should have stayed. Bobby is too young to watch her.”
“It’s okay, I’ll get her,” I replied, “go inside and check on Bobby. We’ll be there in a second.”
Trudging down the gravel road, soft flakes fluttered to the ground all around me. A snowflake dissolved on my nose and released a memory and teardrop.
It’s been forty years since my first day of school. Forty years since mom first walked me to the bus stop. Then every afternoon, from kindergarten until I graduated, yes, even during my senior year, mom walked out to the bus stop and waited for me.
Once, I was in ear shot I called out, “Miss Dorothy, how are you doing today?” She didn’t say anything. Hopefully, she didn’t hear me. Hopefully, today isn’t a bad day.
When I was an arm’s length away, I called again, “Miss Dorothy, is that you?”
She turned around and said, “Bill, what are you doing here?” Mom always said that I looked like Uncle Bill.
“Miss Dorothy, what are you doing out here?” I asked already knowing.
“Oh, I’m waiting for Danny. He’ll be coming home from school soon.”
“But Miss Dorothy, it’s snowing. Danny wouldn’t have gone to school today.”
Dorothy opened her mouth and then snapped it shut, “What was I thinking? You know you’re right! Danny’s probably in the house.”
I offered my elbow and said, “well, let’s walk on up there then.”
Dorothy took my arm, and I felt strength in my mother’s hands.
“Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm,” I started, and she joined, “hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.”
Then together we sang:
Snow’s here today.
No school today.
Ready, set, and play,
Today’s a snow day.
Mom-n-kid fun day.
Today’s a snow day.
Hip, hip, hooray.
“Danny, there you are,” mom said, “how was school today?”
“School was fine, but you know what mom? Today’s a good day because I found you at the mailbox.”
Squeezing my elbow she said, “I’m always there, silly boy.”
I looked back at the mailbox; the snow had already erased where we had been.
“I know,” I said, “let’s get inside, before the snow swallows us.”
Christopher Matthew Thomas is a US Federal Employee and former Army Officer. He completed tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt. He and his wife live in Yokohama, Japan with their turtle Edamame.
A beautiful story. So much depth and emotion revealed with such precision and delicacy. The best short story I’ve read I’ve read in a long, long time. Deeply moving.