toboggan

The day of glorious silliness by Jill Waters, Hysteria 2021 category winner

Jill Waters is the winner of the Short Story category in the 2021 Hysteria Writing Competition. You can find her story, along with the other finalists from each category in the Hysteria 8 anthology.

Listen to the recording

Read by Caroline Brewer during the Hysteria 8 launch party.

Read the story

Georgie lay in bed, psyching herself up to open her eyes. January 6th. Twelfth Night. Christmas 2020 had come and gone with not so much as a whimper. Restrictions and guidelines meant plans had fallen apart, and celebrations were cancelled at the last minute.

She hadn’t received a single gift. Not one. Small wonder she was feeling a little lacklustre. In her head, she knew it wasn’t anybody’s fault. But her heart hurt. Christmas was a time for family gatherings and office parties, but home had been her office for almost nine months and was two hundred miles away from family. Ugh. ‘Come on, Georgie, buck up,’ Mum would say, ‘There’s always somebody worse off – just got to get on with it.’

Prising her eyes open, the light in the room seemed somehow brighter. Whiter. Pulling back the curtain, Georgie gasped. ‘Oh! Snow!’ she said to no-one at all. As if it was yesterday, she could hear the screams of her brother and sister, scrambling to find coats and wellies, and taste the porridge, sweet yet salty, that Mum insisted they ate before setting foot outside. But mostly she felt the tingle of cold as they opened the door. An icy blast that stole their breath and filled their lungs with excitement. Everyone loved a snow day.

In the street below, children were already playing, shrieking with delight when a snowball found its target. Homeschooling was forgotten as they embraced the novelty of the magical white landscape. Key workers dodged frosty missiles as they struggled to clear their cars. Even they were laughing, knowing they would have an adventure to tell when they finally got to work. The inconvenience didn’t seem to matter at all.

Eight o’clock. Georgie knew she should shower, eat breakfast, and log on to her work portal but, today, working from home could wait. She found her warmest clothes and set off for the park. Lockdown had closed her usual coffee shop, and she found herself longing for the chocolatey stream of love that was her mum’s cocoa. Never mind, she had marshmallows and chocolate indoors – a reward for later, when her fingers and toes were devoid of all feeling, anaesthetised by the cold.

She heard the sounds before she reached the park. The entire community seemed to be shrugging off the strait jacket of the last nine months and stretching its limbs. Behind the scarves and snoods, the upturned collars and festive hats, everyone was smiling and laughing, engaging with each other in glorious silliness. Dogs were pulling sleds full of duvets which, in turn, concealed excited toddlers. She watched an elderly couple putting the finishing touches to a snowman, discussing at length what they should use for buttons.

Walking on, she was almost taken out by a flying toboggan that spilled its passengers at her feet. ‘Oh, God, sorry, no brakes!’ said a woman, reaching to extricate her child from a snowdrift.

Georgie smiled. ‘Isn’t this just wonderful? It’s like nature knew we needed some fun.’

The woman handed her the toboggan, ‘Go on, I dare you!’

Climbing the snow-covered hill, Georgie looked around. So much laughter and joy. The World, her world, hadn’t gone away. It was simply hibernating, waiting to re-emerge, to reconnect when the time was right. In that moment, every person in the park was both physically distant, yet emotionally close. United by snow.

As she sat astride the toboggan, Georgie just knew, for the first time in months, that everything would be alright. She pushed off and her excited scream froze in the air.

———–

Jill Waters is a retired special needs teacher who started writing to exercise her brain. She exercises her body by playing tennis and her patience by supporting Norwich City! Instagram account: @landofthebluerinse

(Image courtesy: https://pixabay.com/users/planet_fox-4691618/)

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