By Dan Schwartz
A glacier appears in the middle of town. Nobody knows how it got there. We come out to see it—a tall rock, a mountain made of ice. It stands unmoving and looks the way it does in magazines. Whenever we walk by it, we feel colder, a relief in the middle of summer. It has all of us spellbound. Some people think back to old stories, others tell us about God. We look at it and see only metaphors.
We decide to make it a park. It isn’t hurting anyone, and we’re still fascinated. A plaque is built. The mayor holds a ceremony. Our children go out and play next to it. When it melts, we think we will make a fountain with timed jets. The kids will love that.
Some scientists from a different town have come by to study. They said they might have to stay for a while. We assured them it wasn’t a problem. They took over a nearby building for their own purposes. Nobody has much to do with them, but we’ve seen them heading to the bar a few nights in a row.
The mayor is happy about all the extra attention. The scientists are happy they have work to do. We’re all as happy as we’ll ever be. We wait and do nothing.
It’s winter now. The glacier is still there. When we walk by it, there is no water on the ground, but we see it collecting within. Nobody has touched it with their bare hands. We’re not ready for that yet.
It still fascinates us, but now it has become something familiar, something we see every day. Like a tall building, or a bird’s nest in a tree. We pass by and don’t notice it on our way to work. We rarely stop.
But we do like how, when the snow falls, it piles all around the glacier, and then it looks like it’s the glacier that belongs there and it’s the rest of the town that’s out of place.
Our once-boring home is now unique. “Come see,” say the brochures. Although we were worried about using carnival language—“never-before-seen,” “the one and only”—we ultimately approve. We like all the tourism. It’s nice to be noticed. It’s a strange feeling.
A girl is caught trying to vandalize it. She came by in the middle of the night with an ice pick. She was attempting to carve her name—or something saying she was sick of tourists—when a police car happened to be driving by. Although the eyewitness accounts are solid, she is released—there was no crime. That is to say, no one could find any scratches or marks on the pristine ice of the glacier.
The scientists sound the warning first. It’s been over a year, and they find that the glacier is not melting, but expanding. We respond that it was a rather cold winter, but we’re assured that this isn’t natural. We aren’t sure how worried we should be.
We check the weather reports and the almanacs. We decide to be cautiously optimistic. In any case, it gives us something else to be proud of. We truly have something one of a kind.
It starts to snow more often. Little by little—of course—the winters start lasting longer. If not snow then rain. Nobody can say why. A century passes, and we cannot tell one from another— the glacier, and our town. The air has gotten colder.
We are ready to touch it now.
We reach down and pick up the snow on the ground, feel it cold and damp in our fingers, place it on our tongues. The winter doesn’t bother us the way it did. We see something forming, just inside. We are waiting to see what else will happen.