My fiction newsletter signup — the official handwritten welcome note

Every person who signs up for my newsletter gets a personal welcome. Some, it’s just that: a welcome. Others, it’s an excerpt from something I’ve written. Most, though, get a vignette I compose on the spot.


Reviewing them just now, I realized I could rearrange them to make sense as the introduction of a story. Almost.

Like this:

The film of snow over the scenery dulls the colors like wax paper over a photograph. Grainy wax paper, drifting and blowing and piling on everything. The flakes are too fine to stick even to the pine needles so the trees stay bare of white, except that which obscures them between the window and their colors.

For days, the fog softened all the edges, blurred anything beyond arm’s reach. This morning, the ground looks like a maudlin dessert, with far too little confectioner’s sugar atop. The snow on the lake slides and drifts across the ice, looking, for the first time this year, truly cold.

The geese waddling up the bank from the frozen lake looked frustrated. They’d walked the water’s, or rather, the ice’s edge, looking for a foothold.

The ice wasn’t holding on late, it was the sun coming early that confused things. Life wanted it to be spring, to use up the sunshine and warmer weather. But ice a foot thick takes time to melt, all the while insulating the water below which slowed the melt and kept the cycle.

But the geese really weren’t frustrated. Geese don’t get upset. They simply sit and wait.

The ice always melts, and they always go back to the nests they’ve always known since they mated for life.

Fog seems to have settled in for the day. Temps above freezing all weekend has melted the snow from our first early storm last month. Looking down the hill toward the lake you can see pools of melted snow atop the ice which belie its thickness: you could still drive a car on it.

Not that he would.

You can just see the surface of the lake through the mist and trees. Deceptively serene: it’s actually an inch of melted snow on top of six inches of solid ice; thick enough to drive a car onto. Not that this part of the lake is deep enough to lose a car in — but a mile northwest of here . . .

When you’ve seen a Ford F350 with dual rear wheels bounce across the snow on the unplowed portion of the lake to the city-maintained road up the center of the lake, it’s hard to get too nervous about it. Folks here in the frozen north are used to ice thick enough for monster truck rallies.

Driving into a snowy meadow and announcing you’re on a foot of ice over 30 feet of water scares the wits out of nonresidents, though.


Last month’s blizzard dump has all but melted. The frozen green grass is being dusted by the flakes of the coming fortnight: inklings and snips of the months of white white white.

At least the squirrels are bounding across the lawn instead of popping from the snow like grey bread from a white toaster.

It’s foggy out on the lake. Two warm days and the early snow is all but gone.

Nature lulls us into a false sense of security and then pulls the rug out.

Shuffling down the slope, the gravel slipped under his feet. Half-ran the last couple feet. Hard on his bad knee.

The wooden walkway out to the standpipe is missing supports where it crosses the creek. Bounces prodigiously. More on the knee.

All he had was a small glass bottle, no lid. Whatever he carried away was vulnerable to spilling and dirt and bugs. Drank his fill of the icy pure artesian spring water, and then headed up the hill.

Away from the highway. Into the woods. Back where he felt safe again.

Something darted through the dead grass by the edge of the frozen lake. A quick movement, then stillness.

It wasn’t a squirrel. When they weren’t hanging upside down trying to rob the birds’ nests, they romped across the snow, however deep, in the small clearing between the trees.

He crunched through the snow toward the small stand of aspen. On the steep bank by the lake, something red. Plaid, actually. Red plaid like hunters wore.

A sleeve. A bright red plaid sleeve.

Most sleeves have hands sticking out of them.

This one was no exception.

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