Friday, November 21, 2014

A Good Snowball Fight

The snowball hit me square in the back between the shoulder blades, probably a lightly packed snowball, which didn't hurt at all.
I'd seen the man and the boy—maybe a ten-year-old and his young dad—throwing snowballs at each other in the sunny, snow-covered yard next to our apartment building, but I didn't expect to get nailed as I ambled cross the walkway to the building's front door on a Saturday afternoon.
I whirled and shouted, "Who threw that?" I was smiling. I hadn't been in a snowball fight since I left home six years ago—always my younger brother and I against the two neighbor boys.
From twenty yards away, the man trudged through the ankle-deep snow toward me. "I—I'm sorry," he said. "I had no intentions of hitting you with a snowball."
I loved his soft-spoken tone. We lived on the same floor, but had never stopped to chat or even say hello.
"I wasn't exactly in the line of fire," I said. "So you must've thrown at me intentionally."
"No, really.... I'm sorry."
The closer the man came, the more I realized how devastatingly handsome he was—ruddy cheeks and awesome blue eyes. "If it's a good snowball fight you want," I said, "you've found one."
Bundled up like me and wearing a  stocking cap, he stopped ten feet in front of me, the boy following, also bundled up and wearing a stocking cap, a snowball in each gloved hand.
"Look. I really, really am sorry...." The man's voice trailed off, and he seemed to freeze as he watched me pack a handful of snow into a snowball. Then his mouth dropped open as I blasted him in the chest with a perfect throw from point-blank range.
"She wants a snowball fight!" the boy shouted gleefully.
"I don't think this is a good idea," the man said. "It's—"
But he stopped when much to my surprise—and probably to his—the boy hopped through the snow to my side and added, "Wouldn't be fair, two guys against one lady."
With that he let fly with both of his snowballs, hitting the fleeing man twice in the back. "Got him!"
I don't know how long the snowball fight lasted. The man was clearly—well, outmanned. The boy had a good arm, and I'd played centerfield on my high school softball team, a three-year varsity starter. Keeping the man in a wicked crossfire, the boy and I peppered him with our missiles, even when he tried to hide behind the three oak trees in the yard.
Finally, I shouted, "Give up?"
From behind the biggest oak three, the man waved a white handkerchief. "I surrender."
All three of us laughing in a circle, plastered with snow from head to foot, we introduced ourselves. I met redheaded Patrick O'Brien, a widowed high school football coach who taught and coached at our local high school, and his eleven-year-old redheaded son, Michael. They were new in town this fall, looking to buy a house in the spring. I was Eileen Parker, physical therapist. It was Michael who blurted, "Are you married?"
Patrick shot his son a stern look.
"Not married," I said, smiling, feeling my face flush despite the cold.
"There, Dad, I told you—"
Clearing his throat, Patrick said, "I think it's time we all went in and got warmed up."
"My place I said. "Change into some dry clothes, and I'll serve up hot chocolate and cookies."
Patrick and Michael thoroughly enjoyed the hot chocolate and cookies, and when Patrick excused himself to go to the restroom, Michael whispered, "I threw the snowball. Dad took the blame. He didn't want you to think I was rude."
"I think your dad's a very nice man."
"He likes you."
I blinked.
"He watches you walk down the hallway, but I think he's afraid to meet you."
Michael nodded. "That's why I threw the snowball. " He looked a bit sheepish. "I think you're fun."
Fun. I couldn't ever remember being called fun.
When Patrick returned from the restroom, he pulled out his chair, sat down, and said, "Well, why so quiet? What have you two been talking about?"
"Um, I've been thinking," I said slowly, feeling my face heat up, "that if you guys like winter sports, we could go ice skating sometime."
"Like tonight at the Ice Palace?" Michael was beaming.
My heartbeat picked up. I waited for his dad's answer. Had I come on too strong? "Sounds like fun," he said. "But no more snowball fights," he added with a rueful grin.
Michael and I exchanged a glance. "No more snowball fights," I said.
"I don't know," Michael said, still beaming. "Sometime snowball fights are good."

The End

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