I have a shovel made of gold. I’ve been crafting the shovel for many years, its creation takes up most of my thought and effort. The purpose of the shovel is, as you might expect, to clear away snow — the cold, the dark, the unhappiness of being trapped in one place. I want to go where I will with no obstruction. I’ve always believed my shovel to be the means to that end.
Last night I was proven wrong.
My shovel and I had spent a productive week polishing the sidewalk all the way to Beijing, down to Tokyo, over to London. Content with my accomplishments I was spending a quiet day inside, admiring the products of my shovel, viz. my antique pieces standing on my beautiful marble fireplace. A knock sounded on the door, so I roused myself from my cozy stupor and went to answer. There stood my younger sister, red-faced with cold, eyes wide, hair escaping her cap in every direction. I hadn’t seen her since she married that sleazy clerk and moved to Chicago.
“What do you want?” I kept the opening small to hide my precious shovel.
Lips tight, she held up a wreath of pine and holly, like those we used to make every Christmas. Not anymore; I have my shovel, my shiny shovel of freedom.
“Merry Christmas,” she says, and under her coat I see a small bundle, tiny toes escaping worn socks.
Did I know of her kid, or remember how long ago I heard of her husband’s fatal accident?
On Christmas Eve, I was all alone, again. Maybe it was the holiday spirit, maybe it was that the shovel had, of late, been turning cold in my hands, but I felt my chest tighten.
“Merry Christmas,” I whispered, taking the wreath from her cold fingers. I led her inside, leaving the unneeded shovel to wait by the door: all my snow has melted.