The Freeze

I hung up the phone and held my head in my hands. The dark walls of my apartment felt like a tomb as my mom’s voice rattled around in my head.

“Your father’s frozen.”

Sounds dramatic, but I had a hunch about what had happened. I’d dumped the brunette for a blonde, only the brunette turned out to be quite vengeful. I shut off the Nintendo 64 and picked up the phone.

“Natasha, you’ve got to undo this thing.”

“What thing?”

“Look, I know you hate me, but…”

Click.

She stopped answering the phone. Then she changed her number. A restraining order followed. Then she vanished. To this day I tell anyone who will listen, never date a witch.

Out of guilt I moved home and we tried make things work. And yes, Dad was frozen solid but he wasn’t dead. When the weather turned hot we carted him out to the front lawn in hopes that he’d thaw. The neighbors stared. I felt terrible. Worse than terrible. I’d brought Natasha over for dinner a few times and she and Dad had butted heads. This was all my fault.

But Mom wouldn’t hear it, she made the best of things. In typical Mom fashion she sat with him every night, watching Jeopardy, her vodka and cranberry resting in his lap to keep chilled.

Five years passed. Mom carried on conversations with my father as though he were a few degrees away from responding. I worried she was losing it. We all were. My dad was frozen.

Mom swore she could see a smile on his hardened blue lips when the Cubs were on. I nodded along. By then I’d hired an investigator but it seemed Natasha had dropped off the planet. Life went on. Somehow I got engaged to a sweet girl. I waited to tell her about my dad. Maybe he’d come around.

By year ten, Mom was still going strong. Both of us were excited about the whole global warming thing. I’d introduced Julie, who after fainting, stuck it out with me, even when we bought the house next door. There was no progress on the Natasha front. She’d taken her broom and bolted.

Twenty years. I was 42 and had a nine year old son. My poor dad’s mug still frozen in time, which was weird because time and worry had crinkled my mom’s pretty face. But she still held hope, making more than one inappropriate joke about his stiffness.

A local news station caught wind of a frozen man and I thought the lid was going to blow. A neighbor had come over, screamed bloody murder and ran off telling anyone who’d listen. Mom fended them off, but the sharks were swarming. So when my phone rang I braced myself for another journalist sniffing around.

“Hello David.”

The husky voice prickled my ear. “Natasha?”

“Long time.”

My blood charged, rippled through my veins and I fell against the wall. Julie watched with a hand clinging to her mouth.

“I’m getting married and I feel it’s time I let you off the hook.”

Then she was gone again. I dropped the phone and Julie dove to my side. We heard a shriek. I bolted out of the house, next door, rushing inside to find my father on the floor shivering, his t-shirt and pants soaking wet and clinging to his sides. I glanced at Mom, her face ashen and her breathing heavy.

“It’s….so….cold….”

We got Dad changed and covered him with blankets and towels. I gave Mom a tearful account of Natasha and what happened. Julie stood in the doorway with our son, her mouth hanging open.

“I can hardly tell you two apart.”

My Mom turned to me and then to my dad, her cloudy eyes filling with the horror and shock of losing a husband and at the same time gaining a son. Trembling, Dad looked over to me.

“Twenty years, huh? Well, did the Cubs win a pennant?”

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