The legs appeared on the sidewalk after a heavy November snow. Sean and I stood at the edge of our yard, inspecting the two limbs jutting out of the ground, feet aimed at the sky. He noted the sturdiness of the quads. I observed the careful sculpting of the toes.
“They look real,” I said.
“Except they are made of snow,” Sean said.
“But the shape—it looks like someone dove head first into a pool of white.”
“More like someone is lying on their back, sticking their legs in the air.”
We argued like this for some time. Sean claimed they were a teenage prank, and I insisted only a professional could carve such meticulous calf definition. We couldn’t agree on how to interpret the pose. We couldn’t settle on why they appeared.
“Do you think the person who made them is watching us?” I said.
We looked up and down the street. Mr. Miller peeled a newspaper off his driveway. A white Honda drove west.
“Why our house?” Sean said.
Every morning, we stood beside the frosty appendages, gripping our mugs of coffee, searching for changes. Even when the temperatures fluctuated, the legs didn’t morph or shrink.
“Wouldn’t they be fun to smash?” Sean said.
“Someone must have spent hours on them,” I said.
“They’ll fall apart, eventually.”
After a few weeks, Sean stopped accompanying me to the sidewalk. He said it wasn’t normal to gawk at a pair of bare, snow-sculpted legs. He said they didn’t mean anything, that my interest was obsessive. I pretended not to care and slipped out of bed in the middle of the night, so I could peek through the curtains, admiring the sheen of the thighs in moonlight. While Sean snored, I caught a flicker of movement, as if the legs were readjusting or sinking into a more comfortable pose.
I tightened my robe and sprinted outside. A few trees shivered in the breeze while I circled the sculpture, hunting for clues—a cracked knee, a drooping calf. I didn’t detect any shifts, but somehow the milkiness had drained from the feet. They had become translucent, the clarity of glass. I grazed my finger against a heel, expecting the surface to feel icy and slick, but it was warm, almost soft. Like flesh.
The next day Sean slammed doors and sulked near windows. I cornered him in the kitchen, asking if he’d join me outside.
“Were you touching them last night?” he said.
“You need to feel them,” I said.
“They need to go.”
“Aren’t you curious?”
Sean opened the fridge and pulled out a block of cheese.
“Please come,” I said.
Sean grunted. I walked out the door. I combed our street for anything out of place—a surprising scrap of litter, a dropped coin, a lost receipt. I scoured the sidewalks and found a paperclip. An empty Altoids tin. Two purple hair elastics. I stood in the middle of the road until a Prius honked. I paced back and forth until the Peterson dog erupted into vicious snarls. It was getting dark.
Sean stood in the window, looking out. I waved, but he didn’t wave back. Why couldn’t he see the appeal of the legs, the mystery? Why couldn’t he understand I only needed to find out where they came from, what they meant
After Sean turned away, I ducked into the car and cranked Mozart. I drove until the gas light flicked on. I’m not sure what I expected to find. Maybe I thought I’d catch someone in the act of molding a torso, a pair of hands, a head. Maybe I imagined stumbling across an entire colony of legs. Instead, I looped through one ordinary neighborhood after another, dotted with conventional carrot-nosed snowmen. Some armless, some half-melted.
When I pulled back into our driveway, Sean was scowling over the legs, thrashing a shovel in the air. He sliced through both knees, calves and toes toppling to the ground. He raised the shovel above his head and split a thigh in half. By the time I reached him, both legs had been flattened to misshapen lumps.
“Enough,” Sean said, “enough.” He flung the shovel across the lawn and went inside.
I had nothing to say and collapsed on the sidewalk, forming a snow angel with the remains. Sean shut off the porch lights, closed all the curtains. There were no neighbors passing through. No stars. A few thick flakes began to fall, and a tingle traveled up my quads. Silence was around me, but I burrowed deeper into the ground until I plunged through cement, my head and shoulders submerged. I dove until my legs sloped skyward and froze to snow.
“Snow Legs” by Abby Barker appeared in Issue 42 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
Abbie Barker is a creative writing instructor living with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her flash fiction has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Pithead Chapel, Atlas and Alice, and Best Microfiction 2022. Read more of her work at abbiebarker.com.