…in which Will and Mary make a snowman.
Will and Mary raced. They tore past ragged nandina bushes at the lot line, scattering red berries in the snow. The crimson dots filled their footprints.
“We’re gonna make his nose out of a carrot,” yelled Timmy Wragg, far across the broad snowscape next door.
Timmy played Sisyphus, pushing a ball of snow half his height up a long slope. The snowball made a trail around the yard. The meandering path might have spelled something, a word or a phrase in cursive, but Will couldn’t figure it out. His and Mary’s second-grade class had only just started “real writing,” as Mrs. Alexander, his teacher, called it.
“Help me make a snow angel!” cried Mary, a little bird in her voice.
“Snow angels are for girls!” yelled Will, galloping ahead.
He muscled in beside Timmy. Their waist-high snowball wobbled, picked up speed. White clots dropped off, but the round mound slowly swelled to the size of a cartoon boulder as they shouldered it along, laughing and panting and grunting and yelling.
Mary picked out a spot where snow still shone clean and undisturbed. First, she carefully sat down – even with all her layers, the cold against her bottom knocked the breath out of her for a moment. Then she settled onto her back and began moving her arms and legs up and back like windshield wipers. She had seen people make snow angels on a TV show. Her face glowed with joy.
The boys pushed their giant snowball in no particular direction until they finally ran out of strength and flopped down, puffing smoke from bright red cheeks. Beautiful kids, one bold, one faded.
“Perfect! The perfect spot!”
Mr. Wragg trundled up.
He carried gravel, toed from the snowy bed of a railroad track on the far side of the road, a spot where bare hardwoods and cedar trees marked the frontier of yet another tract of Mr. Wood’s vast properties. To reach the rail bed, Mr. Wragg had climbed a short barbed wire fence and slipped across a frozen mudhole stubbled with frozen cattails. The kids could see the trail he’d made coming and going.
“Here! Y’all take these!”
Will and Timmy collected cold slag from his mittens. Mary, the entire back of her jacket white and fluffy as a rabbit, held out a gloved hand too, but Will grabbed quickly at the last stone and snatched it.
Mr. Wragg didn’t care. “Use these rocks for buttons and stuff!” he yelled. “And make some snaggle teeth!”
As he caught his breath, Mr. Wragg admired Mary’s snow angels, twins like she and her brother. He then turned again to the boys and their big ball of snow.
“Y’all need to roll up another snowball now, big as that first one,” he instructed. “We’ll make the top part of old Frosty with it …”
Will wondered if everybody, even grownups, always hollered when they played in snow. He wondered if people named every snowman Frosty. Always Frosty. He wondered if he could make a T-Rex or some other cool dinosaur out of snow, or if anybody ever made anything with the white stuff except round men named Frosty.
He’d like to make a monster. Hey, maybe he could make the Abominable Snowman!
“Daddy!” Timmy said. “Will you help start us another snowball like you done the first one?”
Mr. Wragg drew up, and he started to give some sort of lecture. Then he stopped and pointed.
“I ain’t got to, son. Look a there! Look at that pretty young lady!”
Mary worked on her hands and knees. A strand of her red hair had loosened from the hood she wore, and it dangled almost to the snow. Her nose glistened, running faster than she could sleeve it away on her jacket. She rolled a little football-shaped snowball, gathering more snow, growing it in size.
“You boys gonna let that little girl beat you making a snowman?” Wragg jeered. “You go, Mary! Show these sissies how it’s done!”
Oh, the snow that flew! The boys hustled and packed and pushed and grunted. Their second snowball looked like an egg too, at first, until Will took over, muscled it, flopped it end-over-end longways, all by himself, for twenty determined feet. The egg collected enough new snow to round off and roll like a ball.
Mr. Wragg took a few long strides over to Mary. He squatted beside her, both knees popping. Bright blue eyes gleamed in his bright red face. He had a funny pointed top lip like a goat’s. Mary could see it twitch under a light blonde moustache when he spoke. A twitch every word.
“Sweetheart,” he said, “that one’s big enough just like you got it.”
With blazing determination, Mary glanced at the boys – their snowball dwarfed hers – then back at Wragg.
“But I want mine bigger!” she insisted. “Big like theirs!”
“No,” corrected Mr. Wragg. “No, you don’t.”
Mary felt confused. Why was Mr. Wragg staring that way?
“Know why, you pretty little thing?”
Mr. Wragg’s grin spread across his whole stiff red face. His goat lip twitched as if it had a mind of its own.
“’Cause sweetie we’re gonna use yours – just this size right here – for old Frosty the Snowman’s HEAD!”
Mr. Wragg bounded away to help the boys, and Mary’s smile of delight chased him across the churned yard.
It wasn’t long before the male trio, yelling mightily, hoisted a second fat snowball. They balanced it shakily, then squashed it down atop the first one. All at once, Frosty’s torso stood taller than either of the boys and reached almost to Mr. Wragg’s shoulders.
In a few more minutes, Frosty lived.
Lafayette’s newest snowman wore a handsome row of railroad gravel down his front like buttons on a vest. Mary found a serendipitous piece of Christmas tinsel magically dangling from a bare limb. (Mr. Wragg declared it was draped there by a crow, a bird known to steal shiny objects.)
That tinsel turned into the snowman’s scarf.
The children jabbed two garden rakes into Frosty, one on each side, two long skinny arms reaching for heaven. The splayed tines dripped snow from trembling fingertips.
Mary’s snowball did make an excellent head. It turned out to be a little proportionally small – Frosty became Lafayette’s first pinhead snowman – but when Mr. Wragg set a real fireman’s hat squarely on top, who cared? The hat belonged to Mr. Wragg himself, proud captain of the Lafayette Fire Department.
Frosty’s nose dropped into the snow a couple of times before the clamoring children got the fat carrot finally frozen into place. For eyes, they went for an Asian look – broken pine sticks, angled. Pine-needle eyebrows.
The children also made a shouting, round mouth, over Mary’s protests, with a Vienna sausage can.
From a few feet away, Frosty looked more like a Halloween creation – a snowman with steel teeth waving strange arms and hollering at the whole world.
“He looks scary.”
Mary found the transformation from snow in a yard to this effigy a mix of mystery and spookiness.
“Yay! Scary! Good!”
The two boys danced around and around the snowman, joyfully kicking up snow. Stray flakes swirled from the trees.
“He’ll scare away monsters!”
Will actually yelled those words, his handsome little face set and sure.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.