J.T. Glover has published short fiction in Makeout Creek, The Children of Old Leech, Underground Voices, and Front Porch Flash Fiction, among other venues. By day he is an academic research librarian specializing in the humanities. He can be found online at www.jtglover.com.

The Doubtful Wonderland

J.T. Glover

The old man sat on the wrought iron bench, a perfect gentleman: bushy sable collar, manicured beard, and monocle. The girl beside him wore a yellow dress with a white pinafore overtop, and she sparkled like a gaslit snowflake. They had been watching couples circle for an hour, cheeks flushed as their skates sang against the frozen surface of the pond. Busied with the vulnerabilities of skirts and modes of trouser ingress, the skating lovebirds barely noticed each other, let alone the old man and girl.

“Do you see the fellow in the shabby tweed, Miss Allie?” the old man said, waggling the tip of his ebony cane at a lad, solitary and otiose, struggling through the banked snow on the far side of the ice.

“Yes, Mr. Gor?”

“I don’t think he quite belongs, my dear. Do you?”

The girl squinted across the pond, marking how the boy’s every step ruffled the feathery mounds.

“No, Sir,” she said, eyes alight with mischief, "but I'm not sure that he makes it so much worse.”

With a grumble in her direction, the old man wiggled his fingers, tossing a pinch of gray powder into the air. It was still floating there in a cloud, gravity barely taken hold, when the lad veered off and soon disappeared among the white-frocked alders.

“There now, isn’t that better?”

The girl studied the ice and admired the skaters' symmetry, even as hands snuck and slipped where hands ought not in public. There was now about the scene a certain despoiled purity, and the girl warmed inside as she thought of the hours to come, couples grasping blindly as they convulsed under sheets, behind taverns, in the backs of carriages.

“I suppose,” she said airily, turning to look at a lamppost just as a traitor rush of saliva spilled from one corner of her mouth.

The last of the gray granules drifted to earth, echoed by a low, barely audible cry from the trees across the pond.

“Oh that was simply grand,” the girl said as she applauded, the clap of her mittened hands like the thump of snow falling from a branch to seal the burrow of a field mouse.

The old man made no reply, only smiled.

Steel rang on ice, sweet and sharp and cruel, all the while they sat there. Evening passed into night and eventually it came time to leave. Hand in hand, the old man and the girl walked into the soft and powdery shadows.