Burning Cold

Sam walked through each room, making sure everything was unplugged: floor heaters, coffee pot, Christmas tree lights. It was after New Year’s, yet the Fraser fir remained decorated. He watered it each day. It gave him something to do.

The living room seemed smaller with the tree, less empty. The quiet was unnerving, like an abandoned playground. Cobwebs draped his prized twelve-point buck mount. Under the tree, an oversize snowflake gift bag was flopped on its side and covered in dropped pine needles. Inside the bag were the winter boots Sue had bought him. He grasped the bag by its jute handles, and when he straightened, he eyed a snapshot of their son Jimmy, an ornament hanging from the tree with a white ribbon. The five-year-old held his head high, proud and smiling, sitting perched on his red saucer sled.

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