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Snow Globe Policy

Second Place 2014 Fiction Contest Winner

An Ellis Island tableau, Victoria mused, as she slowly snaked her way through the airport security queue. Except rather than remove hats to prove a louse-free head, these huddled masses shed their shoes—no plastic explosives in these Adidas!—each awaiting the official clearance that would place them one step closer to their American Dream: the timeshare in Boca or the weekend in Vegas supplanting their ancestors’ vision of a cold-water tenement and fifteen-hour factory day.

It was her nature, her stock in trade, to make historic comparisons. She did it everywhere, and mostly to an audience of one; she had found that others did not always appreciate these historical connections. Her brother warned that this habit made her seem old and fusty, and she certainly wasn’t old, he reminded her, apparently leaving her fustiness for others to decide. She had simply mentioned to her fourteen year-old nephew as he sat slack-jawed and fist-pumping in front of the TV that his predilection for watching grown men in super-hero costumes pummel the crap out of each other was just the latest, electronically mediated iteration of what the Roman gladiators had done to the delight of cheering throngs.

While she didn’t think of herself as “fusty,” Victoria conceded that her Nothing new under the sun mantra might be taking its toll on her personal life by draining it of a certain immediacy. So she had signed up for eSoulMate—mostly because of her appreciation for the efficiency of the system: dispense with the mind-numbing getting-to-know-yous without so much as getting up from your computer, thereby avoiding the string of bad first dates with their interchangeable pasta dishes and cringe-worthy small talk. Her friends had teased that it seemed wildly out of character for her to try something so trendy—till she reminded them that matchmaking was as old as time. In fact, she had taken to calling eSoulMate, eYenta, first eliciting chuckles, and when she persisted, furtive head-shaking.

So when Victoria announced that eYenta had come through with a match she wanted to meet in person, no one believed her—not even her best friend in the history department, Ana. “You make fun of thees thervith,” she chastised. “I don’t underthand how you’ve thet athide your irony long enough to determine that theeth one is ethpecial.” Ana of the Castilian lisp specialized in Franco and the authoritarian impulse in Europe. And was decidedly un-fusty. “You’re the only woman in America for whom a speech impediment is a hot accessory,” Victoria liked to tease.

Ever since Ana had spent a Thanksgiving with their family, Victoria’s brother Dennis routinely treated his sister to “helpful” comparisons between her and her colleague. “You’re a great girl, Vic, but you talk about work all the time. Even when you’re not talking about work, you’re talking about work. Look at your friend Ana—no, wait—I’ll look at Ana. … She’s obviously super-smart and whatnot, but she doesn’t sit around over pumpkin pie going on and on about Mussolini or …”

“Franco.”

 “Sure. Franco. Whatever. She talks about stuff everybody can relate to.”

Victoria snorted. “What kind of twit doesn’t ‘relate’ to our history? Where we come from?”

Dennis sighed. “Well, all I’m saying is this twit—and his wife and son—sometimes like to laugh and scratch about the ballgame or just admire the yard. And we don’t feel the need to examine the history of baseball in America or the genesis of the suburban lawn. It’s not that we couldn’t—it’s just, we don’t want to.”

So Victoria supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised when “Get Ana to help you pack” was the only advice her dear brother had to offer when she told him she was flying to Florida to meet her mystery man. Not, “Gee, Vic, are you sure he’s not an ax-murderer?” or “Here’s a list of some good solo sight-seeing spots in the likely event this guy’s a total dud.” No, her brother (who—big surprise—had learned nothing from the ancient Greeks when it came to mixing romance and family) seemed most concerned that his sister get laid.

***

Victoria felt strangely calm about her uncharacteristic adventure and as they cruised at 35,000 feet she performed a methodical review of exactly what she knew about this Tom X. Shea. Well, she knew that Shea was pronounced like the stadium and the butter and that the X stood for Xavier, a shout-out to his Catholic forbears—a gesture on the part of his parents that she very much appreciated. She knew he taught painting in Miami and that his work was starting to get picked up by some galleries—a fact she had learned not through any unseemly bragging on Tom’s part, but thanks to a Google search she had run to ensure he wasn’t on anybody’s most-wanted list. She could gather from the one picture she had seen that he had long hair pulled back in a ponytail and deep, kind eyes. And he was divorced and forty-two—a year older than Victoria.

And that was it. That was the sum total of anything concrete she knew about the man toward whom she was speeding to spend an entire long weekend. Victoria broke her own unwritten rule of hygiene and breathed deeply the recirculated airplane air, then sighed it forcefully out. She was expert at remembering the past with its long string of disappointing dates and botched boyfriends, but when she tried to see the future, to project herself into it with Tom X. Shea firmly at her side—or anybody else, for that matter—the picture failed to materialize.

Or at least a complete picture.

She had no trouble using the past as a template, so the part of the picture that included her, all alone, chin in hand at her desk in the history department, looking out over the ice-fossilized quad from her office window—that part came through clear as a bell. Her stomach leapt in sudden anxiety over the trajectory she was taking. What she was doing was unprecedented, and if there was one thing Victoria valued and trusted, it was precedent. She had no reason to believe this trip would amount to anything other than wasted vacation time. She second-guessed the wisdom of agreeing to meet on Tom's home turf. True, they were spending the weekend at a resort, not his place, but he would still have the home court advantage.

She wondered with a lurch what this Tom person thought he knew about her. Had he Googled Victoria? Seen the list of journal articles credited to her name? She could only imagine what he had inferred from those titles: Going Native: Sexual Mores of the First European Settlers. Or Fashion and Function in the Shadow of Plymouth Rock. Lord. Disaster loomed.

As the plane began its descent, Victoria worked to calm herself. After all, one of the many advantageous byproducts of studying the past was the knowledge of how good she had it; when you’re talking plague, war, famine, and pestilence, awkward silences over a Mai-tai really can't compete.

As she rolled her bag up the jet way, she wondered if she would recognize Tom. She doubted he would hold up one of those cardboard limo driver placards. From the lone photo she had studied, his hair looked pretty long. So unless he had gotten it cut in honor of her visit, she could probably just look for the lone guy with Jesus hair. As a cluster of airport shops came into view, Victoria’s heart hammered a little harder. She self-consciously pushed the sides of her neat bob behind her ears and wiped her free hand on the long floral skirt she had picked out over Ana’s insistence that she “do the Latin thing” and wear something short and leg-baring; Victoria had argued she would wait till later in the relationship to overwhelm the man with her decidedly un-Latin Upper Midwest-cultivated bioluminescence.

Hmm. No one standing expectantly in front of the Terminal D Starbucks; just a harried mother trying to hold her toddler while horsing the lid off a cup of yogurt. She pulled her bag out of the traffic stream and looked around. She would positively refuse to so much as entertain the notion that he had flaked out—for another five minutes, anyway.

And then, just inside the bookstore, she saw him—or his back anyway, recognizable by a long brown braid against a gray t-shirt. The braid was surprisingly appealing—especially on a man completely engrossed in a book. So far, so good. She breathed deeply and gave her hand one last furtive skirt-wipe before this man would grasp it for the first time. Already she could tell his hands would be dry and very strong. She adopted a pace that she hoped bespoke confidence while downplaying the stalkeresque quality of her approach. Stepping next to him at the “Staff Picks” table, Victoria pushed down her bag handle with an attention-getting click.

No response from Literary Samson, who remained absorbed in his book.

Oh, the awkwardness. Grabbing randomly at a book for a prop, she turned toward him and cleared her throat. “Good book?”

For a brief second she feared he hadn’t heard her, or worse, was ignoring her. But he slowly raised his head, and as though returning from 20,000 leagues under the sea, gradually brought Victoria into focus. A smile slowly dawned across his face. “Victoria,” he stated. As though finding her here in just this way were simply the anticipated natural order of things, but no less pleasing for it.

“Tom,” she replied, offering a hand, which he clasped, but only as leverage to lean over and gently kiss her cheek.

Yikes, Victoria thought, the blood pounding in her face. Definitely no precedent for this.

Sensing her agitation, Tom drew their attention to the book clutched in her hand. “From Tabernacle to Top 40: The Rise of the Osmond Family. Good read?” He raised a good-natured eyebrow. But before she had to defend her dubious pick, he turned and pulled a single flower from the straw hole of a plastic Starbucks cup. “For you. May we open ourselves to one another gradually, beautifully, naturally, just like this lotus flower.”

She choked down the strangled guffaw rising tightly in her throat. She knew she shouldn’t laugh; the look on his face told her he was in dead earnest. But who talked like that? “Thank you,” she managed, admonishing herself that simple honesty was what had drawn her to his profile in the first place. He gives me these completely guileless—almost childlike—responses to my questions, she had marveled to Ana. When she had asked if he had ever been married, he had written, “Yes, to a woman I will love forever but cannot share my life with. Our values have evolved in opposite directions.”

“Eeth he for real?” Ana had asked incredulously, and then advised Victoria, “You go grab him, or thomeone elth weel!”

He smoothly pulled up the handle of her bag and with the other hand guided her by the elbow back into the pedestrian traffic stream. Glancing over at her occasionally, Tom maintained a smiling silence as Victoria flailed about for something to say. “Imagine! A few short decades ago all those runways, the concrete—all of it was nothing but swamp,” she offered, gesturing toward the floor-to-ceiling observation windows.

“So it was,” he answered. “A great reminder that the only constant is change.” Again with the unflappable smile.

“Well, this is certainly a change for me, weather-wise,” Victoria chirped as they exited to palm trees and Tom lifted her bag into the trunk of a waiting cab. “I left seven inches of snow and a temperature that probably won’t break twelve degrees the entire time I’m gone.”

She was inane. An idiot. But Tom once again took in the pedestrian dross that driveled from her lips and effortlessly refined it into philosophical gold bouillon. “Marvelous, isn’t it? The competing realities that can coexist.” He closed his eyes and tilted his face to the sun before ducking into the cab, apparently reveling in the good fortune of his particular competing reality.

Victoria was sweating mightily; whether it was the unaccustomed heat or the herculean effort she was exerting to keep the conversation going she wasn’t sure. She was sure, however, that she was beginning to smell like a horse, while Tom, sitting closer than the cavernous back seat of the cab required, exuded not a smell, but a fragrance: of cedar and some kind of magical essential oil Victoria couldn’t quite put her finger on. As the cab jockeyed its way onto the expressway, Victoria turned her attention to the view, hoping her dogged absorption would relieve her of the responsibility to talk. The mile after mile of uninterrupted homogeneous swampland rendered ridiculous her fascination with the scenery. When she couldn’t take a second more of her self-conscious silence she turned back toward Tom, whose gaze, she noted with a visible start, was already fixed on her.

“Sorry,” he smiled. It was a word of pity for her discomfort more than an apology for staring. “I’m probably more comfortable with silence than I should be,” he said. “I spend a lot of time alone, working on my art and in meditation, so I guess I’ve lost the gift of idle chit-chat.”

“Oh, no—it’s fine,” Victoria said. “Frankly, I probably talk too much. You know academics—it’s all about wielding words.” She tried a light laugh.

“ ‘Wielding words.’ What an interesting way to put it. Like weapons.” He paused briefly, apparently in an attempt to probe his eyes directly into her brain. “So do you think there’s an aggression inherent in what academics do? Is there a sort of interpersonal violence you’ve had to get used to?” Oddly, Victoria could hear no judgment in his questions—just curiosity.

“Interpersonal violence,” she parroted, as her mind traveled back to the recent Association of American Historians conference and the murderous rage that had fueled her last day there. “Well, I think any time you have competition among colleagues you have the potential for … hard feelings.”

She inwardly cringed at this hysterical understatement as she recalled how W. Elmore Higgins, that pompous windbag from Columbia, had risen at the conclusion of Victoria’s paper and in his inimitably nasal whine, called into question her entire thesis about the cross-pollination between early women settlers and Indian squaws in the realm of functional fashion. She had been so caught off guard by his attack that her response from the podium had smacked of defeat and she had foregone the closing dinner to hole up in her hotel room, gorging herself on room service and watching PBS in her pajamas.

“Hmm,” Tom reflected with what already had become a predictable, even thoughtfulness. “To attempt collegiality based on competition. An oxymoron, really, don’t you think?”

To Victoria’s relief they appeared to be pulling up to the resort. The only way she knew how to engage in the sort of intellectual discussion toward which Tom was pulling her was to debate—argue to win. And her gut was telling her that to use such tactics now would be a colossal error. Unfortunately, what she was supposed to do instead remained shrouded in a swampy Florida fog. So she settled on an uncharacteristically chipper, “Oh! This must be it! It seems very … small,” belatedly hoping her description didn’t seem ungracious.

“Yes,” Tom replied, unfazed. “Its size is part of its eco-ethos.”

Eco-ethos? thought Victoria. He sounds like Ana.

“And I have to admit,” he continued. “And I hope you’re okay with this—but I was a bit selfish in choosing this place: it has the country’s longest continuously running meditation group. So any time, day or night, you can wander out to the zendo and find someone in sitting meditation. I’d love it if you’d join me,” he added, a bit shyly.

“That sounds … interesting,” Victoria replied, trying desperately to conceal the panic that seized her innards when she thought of sitting in total silence and staring at … what? A white wall? The insides of her eyelids? God, the horror. If she could somehow finagle a way to stare at Tom the whole time, it might be worth the existential nightmare, but she seriously doubted the … Zen Master? Silence Keeper? … would allow such frivolity.

As they approached their bungalow, Victoria’s misgivings momentarily lifted as she absorbed the otherworldly beauty of the place. She squinted up through the deep-green vegetation to catch a glimpse of the feathered or furred creature squawking its greeting from the canopy. Tom offered, “They built this whole complex without cutting down a single tree. And they have their own waste treatment facility—not that we have to explore that too fully—unless you want to.”

Victoria yelped a nervous little laugh. “No, no that’s okay. This is really beautiful. It’s probably the closest we can come to experiencing what old Florida was like—you know, in the ancient Pre-Retireezoic Era.”

Tom chuckled amiably and grabbed her hand. “Come inside. I want you to see where we’ll stay.” He pushed open the wooden door into a smallish, roundish room furnished with two twin beds, a rattan bedside table and two cushioned rattan chairs. The concrete floor was adorned with a simple woven throw rug. A straw broom rested in the “corner” behind the door. “We do have our own bathroom,” he offered hopefully. “With a composting toilet and a solar shower. And I’m told these twins can be converted to a king pretty easily.” Victoria looked sharply over at him, her Creep Radar suddenly at full attention. But she detected no innuendo, no inappropriate assumptions; just the facts, ma’am.

Victoria mustered an uneasy smile. The place was charming but T-I-N-Y. As if reading her mind, Tom sat down on the edge of one of the beds and indicated that Victoria should do the same. She sat down on the bed opposite, her knees awkwardly bumping his. He solemnly took both her hands in his and pressed his knees more firmly against hers. “Victoria.” He uttered her name carefully, like some sort of exotic incantation, as though unintended consequences could result from merely tossing it around. “We are giving each other a remarkable gift.”

Oh, are we now? Victoria thought, an inner eyebrow rising sky-high. But before she could muster any pseudo-virginal protestations, he continued. “It’s the gift of three precious days—three days of nows that we could have chosen to experience in any number of ways. And we’ve chosen this. Thank you. It’s a gift I won’t squander, I promise.”

As if yanked by some neurotic elastic band, Victoria popped to standing, whacking her kneecaps against his. “Ouch! Oh! Sorry! So … composting toilet! How does that work, exactly? Sort of an indoor outhouse?”

She marched a purposeful two steps over to the minuscule bathroom and peeked her head in. Hearing no response, she glanced back over her shoulder. Tom remained stock still, perched on the bed with perfect posture, only now his eyes were closed. After a few more uncomfortable beats of silence he slowly opened his eyes and, ignoring her question, rose to standing. “Should we check out the beach?” His voice was light, but Victoria detected a tiredness in his eyes.

***

Tiny geckos skittered to safety as they hiked the path to the beach, and the only sound to relieve the awkwardness was the distant cries of birds. “Did you know that early Spanish settlers thought the iguanas they saw were immature dragons?” Victoria blurted. “But then once they’d been here long enough to realize they weren’t getting any bigger or more ferocious, people began keeping them as pets. They became a status symbol of sorts.” Tom simply nodded his head, so she continued with a knowing chuckle, “It makes me think of the problem Florida has today with people keeping exotic animals that then escape into the wild.”

“Yes, I suppose it is a bit like that,” Tom responded, a polite smile turning up the corners of his mouth.

He was certainly courteous, but Victoria was already exhausted by the burden of keeping the conversation going and wondered a bit peevishly how, exactly, this duty had fallen to her.

“Well, this is it,” Tom announced as they crossed a footbridge over the dunes. He stretched out his arms as if to embrace some giant sand monster and turned his face to the sky. Despite the breeze blowing across the sweat circles she could see under his arms, the only smell that reached her was the salt air mingling with the same appealing Tom-scent that had wafted up to her the moment they met. Impressive.

She stood, arms akimbo, waiting for Tom’s moment of ecstasy to end. “I would love to sit in the sand and watch the sun set,” he announced, his arms dropping abruptly to his sides. “Does that sound okay to you?”

The sun was getting low in the sky, but Victoria guessed its actual flame-out was at least an hour away. An hour, without so much as a margarita or a breadbasket to fiddle with.

“It’ll be probably forty-five minutes or so,” Tom said, apparently reading her mind. “I would appreciate the uninterrupted time with you…and all this,” he swept his hand toward the horizon, and Victoria worried that he would once again succumb to some kind of beach-induced trance.

But before more gnomic silence could descend, they looked up to the sound of boisterous laughter. Stampeding in their direction came a gaggle of six young children, plastic buckets clattering against their legs, rainbow-hued shovels waving like swords in their hands. Against the enormity of the oceanic backdrop, their little limbs, their tiny pale faces struck Victoria as inadequate to the task. Playing against the greater silences, she thought but for once managed to keep to herself. She would follow her brother’s advice and assume that Tom wouldn’t want to channel Auden at the beach. But she still marveled at the blithe naïveté of the children’s assumption: that they could traverse that expanse of beach and safely return to their parents.

“We’re being invaded!” Tom quipped. “There’s a Disney-type resort down the beach a ways and I think it gets pretty crowded,” he surmised, squinting toward the direction from which the children had come. Victoria followed his gaze a bit longingly to where myriad colorful dots lounged on rainbow-hued rectangles on the sand. What from here looked like little fancy-drink umbrellas poked up every few feet. Teeny kites sailed overhead. She imagined the babble of it, the anonymity of the crowd, and she found herself pining for a place she had never been. Not more than ten feet from where Tom and Victoria had sat down the little visitors set to self-organizing, assigning jobs, and getting down to the task of building.

“How old do you suppose they are?” Tom asked, an expression of absorbed interest lighting his face. “Look how they just focus on the present moment. How do we lose that ability?” he marveled.

Victoria gratefully grabbed the non-rhetorical question: “I’d guess maybe six or seven.”

Tom, already completely lost in observing the children, glanced at her as if she had just tossed out a complete non sequitur: Y’know, morel season is so short!

“I’d love to join them,” he declared, hopping to his feet and offering Victoria a hand up. “What do you say? What a gift to absorb all that pure, present energy.”

Victoria didn’t know the first thing about pure, present, energy, but she knew an alternative to pure, present, awkward silence when she saw one. Grabbing his hand and leaping up with a vigor that surprised them both, she gamely instructed, “Put me to work!”

Tom’s face melted into a relaxed, open smile that Victoria couldn’t help but notice held a hint of relief. He took the lead, approaching a tall, tow-headed boy who seemed to be more in charge of Project Sandcastle than anyone else. “Hi there—my name’s Tom and this is Victoria. Can we help you with your sandcastle?”

The boy dragged his attention away from industrious bucket filling and packing to give the two adults a brief but somehow thorough-feeling once-over. Apparently deciding they looked harmless enough, he nodded his head and said matter-of-factly, “Sure. But we don’t have any extra buckets. You can collect sticks and stuff for the wall.”

“Great!” Tom responded, already turning to get started on his task. But Victoria, crouching down to the boy’s level, said, “You know, if you want the castle to be more realistic, like castles in the middle ages really were, you might want to use stones or even stone-like shells for the rampart. They would have never built a rampart out of wood in that time period.”

Without pausing in his work or even looking at Victoria, the boy responded, “We’re making a wall, not a rampart. We’re going to use sticks. We always use sticks.”

 “Oh, well a rampart is another word for

Tom interrupted with an uncharacteristically sharp, “Hey, Victoria! Come take a look at this!” His smile as she joined him at the water’s edge morphed into a tight thin line that didn’t reach his eyes. “What are you doing over there?” he asked. Victoria heard condemnation in the studied non-judgment of his tone and frantically cast about for some inkling as to why he would be upset with her.

“You mean … what do you mean?” she asked, puzzled by the obvious change in Tom’s mood.

“I mean we’re the students here—these children are our teachers. If you start telling them what to do, you’re going to change the energy, and suddenly they’ll be looking to us for direction. We’ll lose the gift of their precious imaginations—and eventually, so will they.”

If Tom actually had it in him to be agitated, Victoria realized she was probably seeing it. How on earth had things so quickly devolved to this level of absurdity? She felt her face redden in righteous indignation. “Actually, Tom, I’m a teacher—and I studied many, many years to become one. That’s a fact you should have picked up just by reading my bio on eYent … eSoulMate.”

Tom backed up a step, closed his eyes briefly, then replied in a hushed tone that Victoria thought better suited to a funeral home, “The best teachers know when to humble themselves and receive wisdom from other teachers.”

His calm hit her with greater force than if he had raged at her, called her names. And what he was calling her, when it came right down to it, was an insufferable know-it-all. Her eyes stung with tears. “Where’d you read that? A fortune cookie?” she spat.

As soon as the words were out, she knew it was over. Tom would be too good, too pure to walk away from her, to abandon her on the beach. But he was too enlightened to keep banging his head against her expertly constructed rampart. She waited, breath held, to see how this one would end.

Tom stood, head bowed slightly, focusing on his toes, which he swept back and forth across the sand. When he finally looked up at her, he smiled. Not a protective, constipated little smile like the one Victoria wore, but an open, friendly beam tinged with sadness. “I’m sorry you felt you had to resort to sarcasm,” he said. “And I apologize for whatever role I played in getting you to that place.”

Eeth he for real? Ana’s incredulity returned to Victoria like a prophecy. The children, noting a change in the light, abandoned their efforts and scampered back down the beach before the sun set, their calls trailing behind them, fading, until the adults were alone, nothing but surf and self-consciousness to fill the void.

They stood silent, the ocean spread out before them, inky-black and impartial to their mortal flailing. For the briefest moment Victoria allowed herself to succumb to the trance-inducing motion of the waves. The repetitive roll, rise, crest, and the inevitable noisy break on the shore—the circumscribed history of a wave—calmed her in its predictability. Or was it numbness that she had begun to mistake for calm? Suddenly she wondered, shipwrecked yet again, observing as if from a distance the predictable rise of her hopes, the foamy, frightening realization that they were higher than reality could sustain, and then their preordained, violent crash onto the unforgiving shards of her expectations.

***

The rest of the weekend spooled out before her like a movie watched too many times. They would eat, they would drink. Tom would temporarily abandon his ideals in order to grant her the mercy of small-talk and banter. She would grease the otherwise grinding wheels of time with her wry humor and encyclopedic knowledge. She would even sleep with him, because tempus fugit, and no one has to tell her that her tempus for such comfort is fugit-ing faster than she cares to acknowledge. He would be gallant and gentle and good-humored, and would wear his disappointment lightly but visibly, a cashmere hair shirt of dashed hopes. When the weekend finally exhausted itself (and them), he would drop her at the airport with a fraternal kiss on the cheek. She would toss out the requisite “let’s keep in touch” to which he would have too much integrity to respond, other than with a friendly wave.

Methodically emptying her jacket pocket of loose change and Kleenex lint to make her way through security, her fingers close around a smooth orb, tiny and unfamiliar. It is a snow globe—no, a sand globe—tucked into her pocket by the ever-thoughtful Tom as a souvenir. She pauses by the conveyer belt of shoes and laptops and diaper bags to shake it and finds herself unable to move forward, so transfixed is she by the improbably tiny woman inside the glass bubble. Invincible in her minuscule red bikini, arms raised to the sky, her little face tilts to the imaginary sun as the sand flies, pelting her tender white belly, collecting in the little depressions that stand in for eyes.

“Ma’am? Ma’am!” From behind the conveyer belt, a uniformed woman in latex gloves interrupts Victoria’s reverie. “You can’t take that on the plane, ma’am.”

Victoria stares back blankly. “What, this?” she asks, doubtfully displaying the gumball-sized sphere.

“Aren’t you aware of our snow globe policy?” the woman demands, in evident disbelief of Victoria’s ignorance.

 “Snow globe policy,” Victoria parrots, bursting into hysterical laughter. “Are you aware of the snow globe policy?” she turns to the elderly couple in line behind her, whose alarmed expressions suggest that snow globe-wielding strangers are indeed deserving of special sanctions. She wags her finger at them and, voice shaking, warns with exaggerated concern, “I hope you’re not wielding any snow globes!” Part of her is aware she is making a scene, but something, a rusty hinge somewhere deep inside, has finally given out.

She turns the snow globe in her hand. Not waving, but drowning, Victoria thinks. She takes one last look at the tiny lone figure before handing it over to security.

“You could get out of line and mail it to yourself,” the guard suggests. But Victoria is already halfway to the gate.

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Contributors

Jennifer Sauer grew up in Ohio and holds degrees in English from the College of Wooster and Georgetown University. In a former life, Sauer worked as a writer for a large professional services firm. She currently teaches at EAGLE School in Madison, Wisconsin, where she has lived with her husband and two children since 2001.

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