We went over to the pastor’s house for dinner, and after the meal I sat in an armchair by the bay window in the front room and I watched as the snowfall tapered off and the traffic hissed by out on the wet road and the last light of the day broke through a frosty cluster of rose tinted clouds. One of the pastor’s sons came up to me, his second oldest, the blonde one, a little leaner and gawkier than his brother, a little more troubled around the eyes. Around the table after dinner he had heard them mention that I liked to write, and he told me that he wanted to write as well. I turned from the window to listen. Maybe the kid had some real ideas. But he just made some sweeping gestures with his hands and spoke vaguely about the feelings engendered in him by dozens of books he’d read and movies he’d seen. He had the necessary passion, but like me, he was still struggling to find something to say.
I nodded along until it got too dark to keep sitting there in the front room. I got up and passed restlessly through the house. In the back there was a dim little mud room with a vinyl shade pulled down over the window in the door. All the shoes were lined up there in a row along the wall beneath the coat rack. I pulled on my coat and went out back down the snow covered steps. The back yard was encroached by a dense woods of stark grey trees, and there was a basketball hoop at the very back of the yard. There was a smooth depression in the ground in front of this basketball hoop, and I could tell that there was pavement under the snow. This small court was lit by the crossing glow of the back porch lights of the neighboring houses. The net and the post and backboard were all covered in snow. Only the white outlines of things remained, thicker shaped and softer around their edges.
A long shadow stretched across the snow as someone came out from the house next door, and a basketball came silently sailing through the air towards the hoop. It dropped through the net, barely brushing any of the snow off of the rim. The ball left little dark divots on the pavement as it bounced away from the hoop. The pastor’s oldest son had slipped out the door behind me without a sound and he leapt at the ball, catching it mid-bounce. The snow began to fall again as he spun in the air, reaching the ball out towards the net. It dropped through with a whisper and the neighbor kid caught it from underneath before it had a chance to hit the pavement again.
I brushed off one of the deck chairs that had been left out on the patio, and I settled down to watch. It was really the snow that made it something, slowed it down, gave it a certain grace. The pastor’s two youngest kids came out from around the corner of the house by the driveway, and they stopped to gawk and stare at the game for a second before they turned their attention to consulting over tiny discoveries in the palms of their mittens and rolling the first tentative lumps of a snowman along a strip of ground by the fence where the frozen soil of their mother’s flower garden was buried.