Boys in the Snow
by Samantha Claire Updegrave
A thick snow spreads across the back yard. We play flag football, but really it’s the teenagers who play. I am seven, years smaller than any of my step-siblings or cousins or their friends. Too small to catch a football, pull a tube sock from a waistband, or score a touchdown.
I run, panting with lungs on fire, limbs feeling like tree trunks in my heavy pink and blue moon boots. The dogs join in but get chased to the sidelines between plays until they lose interest and wander off to eat snow and lap at their frozen water bowls.
Later, we build a 9-foot tall snowman in the yard, roll and roll balls of snow until they are two, there, four times as thick as my pudgy girl body. The dogs are back to huff and yelp and banter at the new excitement. I run in circles as the teenagers huddle around the belly sphere and heave it into place – lifting, laughing, snapping mock orders—“Hey, yo, watch it” —to each other; mimicking my dad’s command voice, their arms shaking under layers of wool and nylon. One of them pulls the long stepladder from the garage. From the different rungs, their bodies grow as long as a sprung jack-in-the-box, and towering above me. Two of them lift the head into place.
The dogs start chasing me. I dodge their ankle nips. It’s hard to breath, to keep ahead of them. My circles become erratic, frantic; I’m in the panic state between play and fear.
A sudden sting on my face. My whole cheek blooms into a burn. Another hard packed snowball lands on my face, launched from the ladder. Then another and another, but I can’t see where they come from. I collapse, a little girl pile in the snow, as one of the dogs mounts my fallen legs and starts to hump, pinning me to the ground.
“Stop! Stop!” My voice squeaks and cracks, but the dogs don’t understand little girl English.
And the laughter from the ladder and around the yard, a chorus of teenage cackles and snorts at the girl on the ground being fucked by a dog. I cry so hard it looks like laughing. For decades, I will cry when I laugh, and laugh anytime I cry.
Samantha’s writing career started in high school with cut n’ paste zines. Her recent work appears in Atticus Review, Ghosts of Seattle Past: An Anthology of Lost Places(a 2018 WA State Book Award nonfiction finalist!), The Rumpus, Bitch magazine, Seattle’s Child, High Country News, Literary Mama, and Hip Mama. She holds a MFA from The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and lives in Seattle, WA with her cool kiddo, where she teaches prose writing at The Hugo House, and is a cofounder of The Looseleaf Reading Series. This is essay is an excerpt from her book-length work in progress.