Anything But Pure

“There have been worse winters,” his grandfather told him, as they stood between snowbanks that towered above him, that rose as high as Grandpa’s chin in some places.

He couldn’t picture it, and he told Grandpa as much. So, the old man put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and told him to close his eyes.

The snow was only ankle-deep, Grandpa told him, but it was never the snow alone that made a winter bad. What made a winter bad was what the snow covered, what it sought to hide and to bury.

“Picture it,” said Grandpa, “snow atop crumbling brick and burnt timber, atop family portraits and toy trains and baby dolls whose pretty dresses were soiled now with soot and worse.”

The boy began to cry, but Grandpa didn’t stop. It was no use denying the tears, he told the boy. Nothing wrong with crying, even when you were a man, when the memory called for it.

“Picture it,” said Grandpa. “Picture what the snow was trying to hide from us as we stood there, looking at what our fighting had done. What a travesty it would have been,” said Grandpa, “if we had forgotten what lay beneath that blanket of white, if we had succumbed to the Devil’s call to see purity where there was anything but.”

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