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As he crossed off each day of December, Henry wrestled with the dread of what the 25th represented. But on Christmas Eve, like a miracle, the doubt dissipated and he finally felt his burden lift. Everything was ready and working out as he had planned it. He left a letter explaining what he wanted done with his effects. Aside from the farmhouse and car, everything of value he had was in the art studio out in the old barn. The electric kilns, wheels, and pottery tools would be worth something. He had written in the letter that he wanted them donated to the University ceramics program. It was somewhat comforting to think of the tools going on to another life. There was also the unsold pottery. Half of the studio was filled with glazed plates, and mugs, pitchers, teapots, jugs, even sculptures he had made. It was Marilyn's idea to set up a little shop. They'd get one or two people a week that would stop in and talk to him for thirty or forty minutes before buying a pot or mug for a few dollars. He used to sell some on consignment at shops in the city too, but when Marilyn got sick he couldn’t keep up with it. Now he was determined to enjoy his last day and then be done with it all.
He set about making the kinds of cookies that Marilyn made every Christmas, dozens of sugar cookies cut into Christmas trees, reindeer, and fat Santas covered with white frosting and red sanding sugar. He found himself marveling that she had managed to do this last Christmas. She had been so weak then, wracked with pain, the cancer working insidiously to time itself out perfectly. The thought took his appetite. That night the snow was heavy. The weatherman forecast two feet by Christmas morning. Henry had some drinks, wrapped himself in a furry blanket, and drifted off in the recliner. In the morning he'd go ahead with his plan.
At dawn Henry woke to a loud banging at the kitchen window. He looked groggily only to see a shadow through the frosted glass. Before he could get out of the recliner it was gone. The lights he had left on were all out and he was chilled. "Power must be out," he murmured. And then he thought of the heavy snow snapping a power line somewhere along the road. He ran to the window. Everything was buried in snow which was still coming down. Footprints headed up the driveway to where it cut through a copse of pine trees. Henry rubbed at the frosted window, and then he rubbed his eyes. There on the edge of the woods was a tall figure covered with gray fur. Its arms seemed longer than they should be which made it look… ape-like. It stared back.
Henry dashed to the door, slid on his boots, and grabbed his red flannel coat. As he made his way into the yard, the snow was already filling in the footprints. The creature was gone. When Henry reached the pine trees, he looked further down the driveway. It met the county road a couple hundred yards on. There was no sign of the creature, only its trail. He shoved his freezing hands into his pockets and continued on. The wind was howling and the cold made his ears burn. Henry slipped, plunging his hand into the wet snow. He cursed himself for not grabbing a hat and gloves.
Finally he made it out to the county road. And then the thought occurred to him. What if that thing was what he thought it was? What if he actually caught up with it? That thought, along with the cold and snow made him feel desperately alone and helpless, feelings that haunted him and that he hated. Henry looked to where the footprints led and then he noticed a short distance away a faint red glow. He shambled a little further through the snow and then realized he was looking at the tail light of a car half buried in the ditch.
Henry started a fire in the pot belly stove in the art studio. The young woman sitting nearby in a heavy gray parka with a fur-trimmed hood, still looked disoriented.
"Won't be long now… Carly,” he said, cautiously using her name. “That fire will get started and the room'll warm up real nice. So, where were you headed?"
"I was supposed to spend Christmas Day with my brother, his wife, and my new nephew, but I got off work early and thought I’d surprise them on Christmas Eve.”
"How’re you feeling?" he asked.
"I'm… starting to warm up." She was distracted, tapping at her cell phone.
“It’s tough to get a signal out here,” he said. "We'll get you warmed up, and then I'll take you over to the house so you can call your family. With the power out it’ll be warmer in here with the stove. And it'll probably be awhile before they plow the road."
"Oh… I don’t mind. They probably won’t miss me anyway." she said with a smirk. After an awkward silence she looked around the room. "These sculptures, did you do them? Or your… wife?"
“It’s just me,” he said. “My wife died last year.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
"You’ll have to tell me about these." She said, trying to change the subject. "These are quite good."
"Ah, thanks," he said. He put more wood on the fire.
"It’s funny. I actually work for an art gallery,” she said. “It’s quite a coincidence… that an art dealer was rescued by an artist. I mean, if you hadn’t come along, I’d have frozen to death. Maybe it was a miracle.” She pondered a moment. Then her expression became sober. “To know for sure I guess we’d have to ask the Bigfoot that I nearly hit with my car last night."
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