Icy Woods, Wealthwood
Icy roads are dangerous. Muddy roads are dangerous. They’re both very tricky to drive on. That’s why, when my dad took me out for a drive on Saturday night through our woods, I thought we were going to crash into a tree at any moment.
It was warm all day, warm enough to walk around in just a t-shirt and grow warm in the sun. It was still warm that night, and the ground was wet on the surface, but frozen. The mix of half-melted slush and frozen ground sent our SUV skidding all over the trail.
The Suburban fishtailed and almost sent us into the underbrush. I gave up sitting normally and was hanging onto the dash. I don’t think Dad’s expression changed once, not even when we got a little stuck in the mud.
It was very dark out in the woods, unusually so, because even when there’s no moon, the stars are so bright that it’s usually easy to see. But the cloud cover overhead blocked them out, so we could only see the leafless, twiggy branches by the light of the Suburban’s headlights, especially when we almost crashed into them.
I wondered if we could sneak up on some deer, which is possible even in a vehicle, but I never saw any. They were smart and probably bedded down for the night, not tramping through the muddy woods like a certain pair of idiots.
If we got stuck in the mud, we’d have to drive the big Massie tractor to drag the truck out. But knowing our luck, we’d probably get the Massie stuck, too. We did that before, a long time ago, and in a swamp. So, it is possible.
We made it out of the woods and back across the pastures to the house. There were swimming pool-sized puddles we had to splash through first because the little ponds that grow frogs in the summer swell to the size of Mille Lacs during the spring, and they spill over the roads. It’s almost necessary to swim to certain places after the snow melts.
I didn’t relax again until we were parked in the relative safety of our driveway. I still can’t believe we didn’t get stuck. Or hit a tree. Or both.
Toasty Beavers, Bemidji
It’s 12:00 a.m. when we’re dropped off at the bar. The air is a frosty thirty-one degrees and ice covers the ground in patches. I don’t frequent bars, so my companion is my friend Yami. She’s here because I don’t like people, especially drunk ones. Yami lights a smoke. We stand outside the bar as groups of drunken people exit. She smokes. I write.
A man in his mid-thirties comes shuffling out of the bar. A beefy, tall man with an unkempt beard tells the first man he can’t have the drink outside. The man doesn’t listen. So the security guard, in a neon green shirt, whacks the drink out of the guy’s hand. I guess some people can be an ass at work.
A woman comes out of the bar laughing. She’s too drunk to drive. She yells across the street that she just had a baby six months ago. Yami and I exchange cocked eyebrows. All this commotion and we haven’t even been inside.
We show our IDs to get in and pick a table in the corner. Yami buys two screwdrivers. It’s $4.50 a drink. We sit down and look around. The table we sit at has two empty Coors light bottles on it and a napkin. The floor sucks my shoes down. The walls are covered with sports paraphernalia. There are two televisions with hockey playing. It’s a dirty place where people drink to escape.
A drunken guy wanders behind the bar and is shooed out. There’s a game of beer pong being played near the televisions. A glass breaks behind my shoulder and someone finally does some cleaning in this place. The speakers play country at one point and “Gangsta’s Paradise” at another. They are lost as to what genre to play.
A black guy joins us at our table. He sits next to Yami and talks. He doesn’t leave. There’s not a lot of dancing in this place. It’s all socializing. People surround the bar just trying to get another drink. The smell is toxic. It’s a pungent mix of alcohol, musky cigarettes, and body odor.
The man at our table keeps talking. We sip our screwdrivers and laugh appropriately. It’s one o’clock and time to go. The guy was talking for at least an hour. We make to leave. He wants to give me his number. Not interested couldn’t be clearer on my face. Somehow I’m a bitch for refusing. That’s fine by me.
We go outside and Yami calls our ride. There’s a parade of misfit bar patrons coming to take our place. Random groups of black and white people. Some guys are dressed with cowboy hats and the girls have sparkly headbands. One girl slurs as she talks, wondering why bars close at one. Some friends recognize me. They want me to take a drink out of a prosthetic leg. It’s difficult to say yes to that. There’s no way I’m drunk enough to enjoy this.
Outside Linden Hall, Bemidji
I go where the smokers go. A tiny place meant for outcasts of my dorm on the edge of campus, where the sidewalk meets the road. The slow death of winter leaks into gutters and washes away. At last. The endless mounds of snow have started to shrink. The scent of wet earth is uncovered, and that sensation warms my mood some.
Winter’s chill lingers on this spring like a thin sheet of dust. I call it spring, for that’s what the calendar says, and I clutch to that with my hands still buried in my pockets. A headless snowman still exists, one arm stretching upward although in agony, eerily aware that it is dying.
I want it dead.
I’ve tried smoking once. Once, I lit a cigar and took puffs until my eyes itched. “Go big or it’s nothing,” was my thinking. It’s always my thinking.
My sister smoked once around the time our grandma died. It helped with the stress, but she stopped, saying that she didn’t want to end up like our dad, who smokes and who is always stressed.
The trees across the street seem taller in the dark, and the lake is still white, cold, and vast. Whenever my eyes find that lake’s horizon, I feel small, a childish, helpless sort.
I spy a tiny puff of breath before I head back inside.
Kori Flowers is a writer from the northwoods preparing for her last year of college. Candice Spitler delivers her dry wit as she writes real world experiences. Lilly Igbokwe is a Philadelphian studying writing at Bemidji State; she is graduating this year.