by Murray Dunlap

I drive across Richmond through an ice storm, trying to make the Christmas Eve flight to Mobile. Icicles cluster in trees along the roadside, overloading them with unnatural weight and causing some to pop and fall. I chew gum and focus my eyes on the road. At the airport, they will only tell me that the flight is delayed.

"How long?" I ask.

"We don't control the weather," they say.

"This is Christmas."

"We know that."

I sit in a blue plastic chair for an hour waiting on updates. There are none. Then I wander the food court and newsstands for two hours. I buy three packs of gum and a copy of Architectural Digest. The feature article is a tour of Sting's English manor. At least one of his two Irish wolfhounds makes it into every photograph. In the last picture, the hound named Finbar is wearing a red woolen scarf. When I return to the gate, the monitors blink from Delayed to Canceled. I reschedule for Christmas morning and drive home, chewing gum through a tunnel of exploding trees.

In front of my apartment, I look over my shoulder to the neighbor's undecorated door. I know Charlotte has been gone for days, but I can't stop myself from knocking. No one answers, of course, yet I stand there for more than a minute. I let my forehead nod down and press against the cold wood before turning around to unlock my own door.

In the kitchen, I unwrap one of a half-dozen frozen rib eyes my brother sent me for my birthday. I drop it into hot water to thaw, but it floats, so I pin it down with a butcher's block. I pour a scotch and water and dial my mother's number.

"I'm iced in," I say.

"How long?" she asks.

"I don't control the weather."

"This is Christmas."

"I know that."

After hanging up, I check on the rib eye. It has turned light brown at the edges and when I slit open the plastic wrapper, a smell like unwashed feet rises