For Round 7 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that have a character come to town and someone leave town.
Marion's wife was obsessed with snow villages. She had begun collecting them three years prior, after their son entered rehab for the fourth time. Now miniature neighborhoods and ice skating rinks and churches sprawled across every table-like surface of their basement, including the wet bar that Marion had fully intended to employ one day, once he got around to installing the plumbing. That dream, like so many others, was long perished, swallowed up by what his wife called "the happiest place on earth."
Marion could hardly stomach it. He dreamt of smashing the village apart with his golf clubs. He envisioned the villagers' painted-on expressions shifting from contentment to terror. This, he would tell them, is what life is really like.
Snow Angel Boy arrived just as the winter holidays ended. He lay supine on a white ceramic plate with his legs and arms outstretched, like the limbs of a starfish. He wore an expression of utter joy, an expression Marion just barely recalled his own son having during similar exploits in the backyard. A collector's dream, his wife gushed. She kissed the thing's face, cradling him in her hands like a precious living thing.
"He'll love the snow village," she murmured, eyes shining.
Marion granted her a low grunt of agreement.
"And he's so beautiful," she whispered. "He's just perfect."
Marion winced. These were the same words she had once used to describe Marc, some 30 years ago, when he had been an infant in their arms.
"Help me welcome him to the village," his wife said.
Marion shook his head. He went into the den to watch football.
His wife didn't rise from the bowels of their home until hours later. She was exhausted but happy. Marion listened politely as she spoke to him from the doorway, but he sighed in relief when she finally said good night.
Alone in the quiet house, Marion descended to the basement, overcome not with curiosity but with his ever-gnawing desire to fully picture the village's demise. The basement, obscured in darkness, appeared empty and unused, but when Marion flipped a switch on the wall, the entire snow village glowed.
Lights twinkled, soft tinny music played, bells rang at two separate churches. Next to the busy ice-skating rink, surrounded by other well-adjusted children, Snow Angel Boy lay at the foot of a hillside, carving his perpetual snow angel. There was, Marion had to admit, something beautiful about Snow Angel Boy's expression, as though he were blissfully alone despite the surrounding cacophony.
Marion reached down and touched Snow Angel Boy's face.
When he lifted his head, he found his son watching him from the stairwell.
"What are you doing here?" Marion asked calmly. He was never, at this stage, surprised.
"I'm in trouble," his son said. "I need some cash."
"You're not supposed to be here."
But already his resolve weakened. He wanted to pull Marc into him, to smell his unwashed head and to weep into his bony shoulders. Instead, he pressed Snow Angel Boy into his son's palm.
"He's worth plenty," he explained.
His son studied the item doubtfully. "This stupid thing?"
Marion shrugged. "Last of his kind."
It was enough. Marc nodded and left. Marion followed him outside to see which direction he took. As always, he went left.
It was snowing again. Marion stood in his slippers in the soft stillness of it. His eyelashes thickened with fat flakes. He blinked them away. The town's dark corners shifted, gleaming now, and clean.