Flip Flops

     Like most things, it started as a joke. And like most jokes it ended with a good laugh. It was our routine, a cycle of sorts. Every January the three of us—forever friends—would meet, spend the day together, a good portion of the night, and then the following long day. By that point we’d find each other’s company so oppressive, we’d wait a full year to get together again. This year, I was hosting.
     Natalie rattled on about her job. Promotions; demotions; those promotions that seemed like demotions, but eventually became promotions; and demotions that never quite became promotions. I smiled; frowned; smiled and quickly frowned; and then frowned and quickly smiled until I frowned once again. By the second hour, I wished she had quit, gotten fired, or at least brought more wine.
     A difficult act to follow, but Katie managed. Without pausing, she chronologically (actual dates) reeled off the annual list of each of her four kids’ latest achievements. I never realized awards were given to kids who use napkins, kids who don’t bite dogs. The clock on the bookcase showed almost midnight. Time for bed? Instead, we talked for two more hours, then promised to continue in the morning.
     Day 2. It snowed again during the night. Another three inches added to the four on the ground. We were all up early. Natalie couldn’t sleep: lumpy mattress edges. Katie couldn’t sleep: Natalie snored. Three years ago, I could swear it had been the reverse. I was up early too, excited I might get a chance to speak.
     We sat in the kitchen, eating pancakes made with frozen blueberries which Katie insisted still tasted frozen. With their mouths full, I told them about my gardening plans, how this year I’ll have eleven tomato varieties, five kinds of cucumbers, and at least six different peppers, not even counting the hot ones. I described my problems with early blight, late blight, the details of bottom rot. At that point, both Natalie and Katie excused themselves. Natalie said she had blueberries stuck in her teeth and Katie needed to check if the dog remained unbitten.
     When they returned, the conversation shifted to politics, to books, to wrinkle cream. Through the bay window we watched heavy snow topple gently off old sagging branches. The yard glistened white. With rolling drifts, Katie thought it looked like a ruffled wedding gown, lacey snowflakes veiling the earth. Natalie and I snickered, kicked each other under the table. I suggested we go outside. Natalie suggested a snowman. “A snowwoman,” Katie corrected her. Like snakes, we all smiled. It was the last frontier. We’d be trailblazers!
     Off we ran—for parkas, boots, hats and gloves. “Skip the carrot, top hat too” Natalie shouted. Then she giggled. “How about a bikini?” So, we chiseled and we sculpted. We carved and we contoured. Our snowwoman wasn’t just two round balls. She had long, long legs, a fine oval head, a neck. There she stood, between two Douglas firs, sporting a flamingo-pink bikini, matching sun hat, and flip flops.
     We stepped back, admired our work. We hugged each other. We hugged Snowwoman. We took pictures. Then clump, thump, clump, together we marched back into the house, our own version of “Soul Train.” With steamy mugs of hot chocolate, we toasted ourselves, our creation. As we watched her through the window, a group of guys from the local college came running by. Wearing identical navy beanies, they must have been on some kind of team. They were loud. There was laughter. Off went their sweatpants. More laughter. Then like tongues stuck to ice, male parts became attached—glued to Snowwoman. Stuck! Wild screams came from outside, wilder laughter from inside! Eventually Katie surrendered to compassion. The fire department arrived and hosed them all down with warm water. That loosened things up. Their screams subsided, but our laughter continued–each of us thinking about next year.

Karen Goldstein is new to writing and has found her niche in flash fiction.  She was nominated for the Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellowship 2020. When not writing or reading, she enjoys gardening and birding.