Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Snowbathing

C

laire is snowbathing. It’s the only way she knows how to protest over the weird-ass weather we’ve been having. As far as she’s concerned, global warming sucks polar popsicle.

It’s not entirely clear who suffers more: Claire, or The Multinationals, with their evil-hearted excesses of Freon and centrally-heated boardrooms, but either way, she’s out there now on the flat roof of her city-centre tenement, sunglasses frosted, getting a ‘whitey’ while the snowflakes fall.

So what are the best-dressed arctic-activists wearing this holiday season?

The height of polar chic is almost certainly Claire’s two-piece bikini with snowmen on it. She made it herself with a cerulean-blue, hipster tie-side from La Senza, on which she painted snowmen (and snowwomen) with Tippex for bodies; black bull-marker for arms, eyes and buttons; and a little orange nail varnish for carroty noses.

Surprisingly, none of her friends want a ‘snowkini’, even with this cheery design, though Claire hopes it will be a ‘grower’ once word of her ‘direct-action cum zero tolerance over isobars’ is championed by the press. I mean, who else could be this cool, right? So far, the broadsheets are as empty as the horizon, but she has high hopes.

She lets the white flakes drift down and settle on her tummy. At first they simply fizzled out into droplets of water, but now they are gathering as little islands with a flake of ice in the middle, and where the islands meet, larger archipelagoes are forming. Her bellybutton is a small, chilly lake, entirely filled with melt-water and a few particles of grit, while the material of her bikini-top is growing an ermine, fluffy trim. She’s fifteen minutes away from being crowned Miss December – this month’s polar play-bear.

In the meantime, luxuriously, she’ll contemplate flipping over and doing her back, loosening a few straps – it wouldn’t do to get a frost line. At this angle, staring down her front, she can see plenty of fine, blond hairs pulled upright as her flesh turns turkey. Soon, she may have to slap on some of her homemade SnoTan – goose fat mixed with a healthy dash of antifreeze – because really, chipping oneself off a sun-lounger with an ice pick isn’t much fun.  Last time, she ended up with a partial Monet stuck to her behind, trailing lounger springs.

By her side, a radio is playing Christmas favorites. Beside this is an alpine skiing magazine suggesting a few, seasonal treats – though it’s turning fat and pulpy, like a paper lasagna, as the melt water gets at it – and an icy-blue cocktail made with crushed ice and a cobalt-blue liqueur, that could be hydraulic fluid cut with a ‘V’ of sky.

Despite hacking away at the glassy surface of this cocktail with a twizzler and a frosted cocktail umbrella, Claire has had to boil a kettle, just so she can put her lips to the thing. There has already been one skin-flensing incident of ‘lip stickage’ and a trip to A&E. She should probably use an antifreeze mixer, like one of those dodgy Austrian ‘alcopops’ she read about. Those in the know say diethylene glycol has a pretty smooth finish.

An eddy of snow blows up onto the roof, and few feathery clumps drop onto her cheek and shoulder. Her towel is turning a little soggy under her backside, while to her sides, it is becoming a spotless, white blanket – like one of those fluffy white bath towels you get at health spas; so soft, that you want to disappear into them and have the staff dig you out with a snow shovel and a sniffer dog.

On her sunglasses, frosted flowers are growing. Her eyelashes brush the underside of the black plastic, where the ice is rough and undulating. Languidly, she slides the glasses up onto her forehead, scraping up a slushy wedge of snow. Most of it dribbles and wanders away down the back of her scalp.

Now flakes of snow are tickling her eyelashes, making her blink.

The radio starts singing ‘the weatherman says it’s snowing’, and she smiles a deep smile of satisfaction, wriggling a little into that freezing moisture on the towel, finding that perfect spot of relaxation. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself while waiting for a few more signatories to the Kyoto Climate Treaty is there? Or that personal apology from those more reticent ‘Annex I’ countries?

Better keep the thermometer close, though, in case of a snap thaw – then it’ll be a flip-flopped stampede inside for a stretch in the chest freezer, cradling a butterball turkey. Slushbathing isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.

6 comments

1 Joan { 02.07.11 at 3:56 pm }

Wacky sort of story. Topical, though, and the wackiness draws attention to the global warming problem. As I read on, I wondered how Claire could keep on snowbathing – very cold, etc – but it’s cool, right?
A story with a social conscience, and well done.

2 Stephen Hewitt { 02.07.11 at 11:32 pm }

Hi there Joan — wacky indeed. I think my brain works in strange curves. It came from an original draft in December (December 13th, in fact), though while there’s still the faintest whiff of snow around, I figured I could still get away with it. I was kind of intrigued to know how snowbathing would actually work.

And as for her surviving, I just told it like a fairy tale and blatantly ignored that detail — she’s still out there, while the snow lasts 😉

St.

3 Harry B. Sanderford { 02.08.11 at 1:59 pm }

The nutty cool craze that is sweeping the winterlands! It’s silly to worry about the possibilities of possibility in something so obviously out there in the bizarrosphere. Funny and quirky good stuff Stephen!

4 Stephen Hewitt { 02.10.11 at 10:34 pm }

Hi there Harry — rather nutty, very chilly. Definitely a resident of the bizarrosphere — somewhere in the foothills, I think. Glad you liked it. 🙂

5 John Xero { 02.09.11 at 8:04 am }

Very cool, Stephen. (sorry… ;D )

Really enjoyed your playful approach to language. Something of a cautionary tale too, the dos and don’ts of snowbathing.

6 Stephen Hewitt { 02.10.11 at 10:56 pm }

Thanks John — Ah yes, I wouldn’t try sunbathing at home unless you have your sun-lounger set on defrost. 🙂

Thanks for popping on a comment. St.

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