Doug Skinner: An Archive on Your Gizmo

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The Snowman Three Doors Down

January 14th, 2018 · No Comments

To whet your appetite, here’s the beginning of the title story from my upcoming collection, The Snowman Three Doors Down. It entwines several subplots, and is the only story I’ve written that uses prosopagnosia as a comic device.


“What’s that picture doing here?” Brick asked, indicating a photo on the wall.
“That’s Hermes, the messenger of the Gods,” his sister Graciana replied.
“No it’s not,” Brick objected. “It’s Mr. Redbean from the hardware store, with a hippie wig.”
“Men wore their hair long in Bible times,” Graciana said.
An hour later, Brick and his parents huddled in the crawlspace under the porch.
“It’s uncomfortable here,” papa complained.
“It smells like mice,” added mama.
“Quiet,” whispered Brick, “or she’ll hear us.”
“What if she did?” papa snapped.
“We have no secrets,” mama said.
Even as she spoke, Graciana’s voice wafted from the back yard.
“I hear voices,” she said.
Her hidden family immobilized, fingers at lips, holding their breaths.
“That’s odd,” Graciana continued, her voice fading as she wandered off.
“She put a picture of Mr. Redbean in the hall upstairs,” whispered Brick.
“From the hardware store?” papa asked.
“He’s a nice young man,” mama said.
“He’s older than I am,” papa objected.
“Age isn’t everything,” simpered mama, squeezing his arm.
“Do you think they’re serious?” asked papa.
“It’s not that,” whispered Brick, “it’s that Hermes business again.”
“Not again,” mama sighed.
“Last month it was some kid from the supermarket,” papa remarked.
“You shouldn’t have bought her that wig,” Brick said accusingly.
“We didn’t get her that,” mama said.
“Then where did she get it?” Brick asked.
Three doors down, Chicky and Chalky lounged on the back porch, snacking on sugar clots and cocoa pickles from a paper bag, and gazing up at the blue August sky.
“I’m bored,” said the latter boy.
“We could throw baseballs at the tree,” suggested Chicky.
“We only have one ball,” objected Chalky.
“We could throw it, pick it up, and then throw it again,” Chicky said. “Taking turns, of course.”
Chalky swallowed another sugar clot. “That sounds boring,” he said.
“I thought you liked boring things,” riposted Chicky, rooting in the bag for another tidbit.
“Often I do,” Chalky replied. “I enjoy repetitive music, for example, and formulaic movies. In the former case, I find the predictability soothing, particularly if I’ve had a trying day at school. And in the latter case, I can identify with the hero without worrying that he’ll do something unexpected that might compromise my sympathy. But in both cases, my role is passive. If I’m performing an activity myself, I prefer more stimulation.”
“I hear you,” answered his confidant. “Well, we could build a snowman.”

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