Snow fell softly on the mountains as she stared up at the trees. Thick tufts weighed on the pine leaves, floated down and died with a whisper. She enjoyed the sight, sad she couldn’t before.
“Come on, Casper,” Mother called.
The Siberian husky sprung up and lunged forward, done with playing patient.
“Isn’t it nice?” Mother said to her.
She nodded. “Yeah, it is.”
“When else would you see this if you hadn’t come to Korea?” Mother squeezed her hand. “You’re glad you came, right?”
“Yeah, I am.”
They climbed the wooden stairs to the trail. “Watch your step,” Mother said, shoving aside snow with one boot even as Casper tugged her forward.
Taking care of two kids at once, again, she thought, even though she herself was fully grown, the same age as Casper in dog years.
The branches and leaves were dark and tangled under the pure untouched skin of snow. Forgiving cleansing snow. She looked up again and heard James Blake, his crooning rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter.” She never knew winter could sound like mourning.
“Mom,” she said, “I’m really glad we could come without dad.” She pushed her luck. “For once.”
Mother laughed and sighed. “I know. No. Don’t say that. He’s still your father.
“We’re at the less slippery part now. Do you want to hold him?” Mother held out the leash.
She stared at the scabs pocking the back of Mother’s hand. “Sure.”
“Don’t spend your last day here being angry.”
Mother was short, maybe 4’11’’, a few inches shorter than her. Mother bumbled about with a furious energy that some diagnosed as mania but that she only saw as admirable. Mother’s posture was admirable, her flat feet were admirable, her rough hands were admirable. All signs of a warrior. “We’re here!” Mother said. “Wait a bit. I’ll go down into the hollow. You can let him go then.”
She waited. She thought. Still your father. What a joke.
Casper whined. He sensed freedom but couldn’t understand why the leash was still taut.
She let go. He ran. Legs churning, face blurring. A peal of laughter rang out from the hollow below. Another sign of a warrior, one who had kept her joy despite all she’d been through.
Casper ran past Mother and circled back. He leapt on her to say hello and sprinted off again. He paused. He dug. Head buried, paws blurring, dirt flew all over him.