We only had that one afternoon in the snow. We left the flat and meandered up to the park on the hill. Totally unprepared, of course. Me in my old trainers with the hole in them. Neither of us with gloves or scarves. Not even a hat. I remember at one point your hands were so cold you shoved them into my pockets and on we went for a while, joined at the hip, you walking backwards, me keeping an eye on what was up ahead.
We heard them before we saw them. Squealing and yelping: dozens and dozens of people – mainly kids – shooting down the slope on sledges. Some sledges were wooden, most were plastic, almost all were red. We decided we’d improvise. We began peering into the undergrowth along the edges of the park. We found a cardboard box and flattened it and ran, giggling, me nearly falling over twice, to take our place at the top of the slope with all the other children.
I laughed when you lay down on the cardboard. I can’t push you like that, I said. So you sat up. Even though you had your back to me, I could tell you were smiling. I placed my hands on your shoulders. Your breath lingered in the cold air, not wanting to be separated from you. Ready?, you said. I ask the questions round here, I said. And when you’d stopped laughing, when the time came for me to push, I couldn’t help but notice how easily you slipped away from me.
About the Contributor
James O’Neill has written comedy and drama for radio, TV, stage and the page – as well as advertising copy and travel guide fillers. A first novel, Sturgeon Landing, won the TLC/PenFactor award, and his first childrens’ book, The Wolf Who Cried Boy, has been longlisted for the UKLA awards and shortlisted for the Eugenie Summerfield Prize. He lives with his wife, their two boys and an over-friendly dog who has never ever barked (except for that one time in his sleep). James is originally from Ireland.
More from Issue Nine:
- The Place That He Can Never Return To
- The Cyclops
- The Girl with Many Names by Kristin LaFollette
- Three by Deb Scudder
- The Mourner by Louise Burgess
- Margot by Marni Appleton
- Pebbles on a Shore by Lynne E Blackwood
- blindfolded minds by Rachel Hawkins
- Phantom habits by Blakeley Bartee
- Dementia’s Mantra by Mike Ferguson
- Pack Animals