Blood in the Snow

bloodIt is nose-numbing winter near Flint, Michigan. There’s a reason why it’s been called one of the murder capitals of the world. More murders are committed there than even Baghdad.

I zip up, push my way through double doors, and leave the elementary school behind, carefully guiding my booted feet down ice-slick steps. The subzero wind chafes my cheeks and stings my eyes until they swim. If had looked at myself in a mirror, rosy cheeks would have glowed back at me.

But I don’t seek a mirror.

I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. Or where I’m going. Maybe I’m not really going anywhere.

Wait. Yes, I am. I turn right and head toward . . .

Snow. Dunes of it everywhere. All across the playground. Remnants of the latest storm.

I come up short. Staining the snow at my feet pools red Kool-Aid. Lot of it.

Something tells me it isn’t Kool-Aid.

I step back. A sick feeling worms through my gut.

I am struck by the strangeness of the sight, of that glistening blood, so stark against the whiteness. Something about it—about there being so much of it—is very . . . wrong. Beyond the grisly sight and me taking it all in and wondering what it could mean is the distant roar of the highway.

I looked around, heart thumping.

But I’m alone. Alone with this alarming sign of violence. I try to make sense of it all in my cold-numbed brain.

Words leap at me. Wound. Pain. Hurt.

Someone is hurt.

A bloody nose? Did some of my classmates get in a fight? Seems like too much blood for a bloody nose.

My stomach tightens.

But if not them, who? And what happened?

To this day, I don’t know. Someone (I don’t remember who) later told me a woman had been murdered in the school playground. Was this a tall tale? I don’t think so. Because I can still see the blood. (But wouldn’t the police have cleaned it all up? I don’t know.)

Either way, the explanation worked. I don’t remember questioning it (maybe I was gullible). I just remember feeling a little sick to my stomach—and bone-chilling cold. And not so much because of the subzero chill trying to slip icy fingers beneath the folds of my coat.

Later, back at the site, I try to understand what must have happened. A woman was killed. But why? Who would have done this?

I lift my gaze to the highway, to racing semis and SUVs and sedans. To the world speeding down the highway just beyond the school property. My mom’s words come back to hunt me.

There are evil people in this world.

I shiver and turn away from the sight, not wanting my mind to wander down hallways best unexplored. But it’s too late.

***

Maybe like me you remember what I call “memory peaks,” isolated events that rise above the rest in the terrain of your history. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the whole concept of memories, about how they make us the people we are, since memories play such a crucial role in the suspense novel I’m writing now.

Why do we remember some events and not others? Maybe because certain events simply aren’t worth remembering and because others are . . . well . . . memorable.

Brushing our teeth. Getting dressed in the morning. Why remember those?

But seeing blood in the snow. From a murdered woman no less. Now, that’s an event worth remembering.

Events that touch us deeply, that shake us to our core . . . those are the ones we remember best. (Of course, some moments we may wish we could forget.) I probably wouldn’t have remembered the blood in the snow if the event hadn’t made an impression on me.

But it did. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written this fictionalized account of it.

Those memorable moments, those memory peaks, are virgin fodder for any writer. Over the years, I’ve often played the “what if game” with that blood in the snow. Who was killed? Why was she killed? Who would have done this terrible thing? Did she fight back? Did she try to run?

Did anyone catch the monster who did it?

Those are the questions from which spring all sorts of suspense stories. And that’s why I often climb those peaks in my mind and search out what awaits me at the top.

Discovery? Illumination? Who knows?

Maybe this is why I like to write about the innocent struggling—and winning—over violence. Maybe this also explains why I feel sick just to have my blood drawn.

What about you? When you look at the terrain of your past, which mountain peaks rise above the rest? What do those memories say about the person you are today?

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9 thoughts on “Blood in the Snow

  1. mary wright

    I have been posting on a site for a while called “you know your from Flint because”. It’s been fun remembering with other people our fun times growing up and walking, riding our bike and taking the bus all over Flint. We talk about the stupid things we did and our schools and teachers. We talk about our old neighboorhoods and how they have changed. We know it will never be like that again but hope it can come back somehow. The downtown is getting better with condos and places to eat with the student population growing with the u of m. We try to keep it all positive with little politics and religion.

  2. Adam Blumer

    Thanks for writing, Mary. Yes, I have fond memories of the area but definitely not downtown. My dad saw the closing of several plants and wondered what was going to happen. Unfortunately, things only got worse. Thankfully, we lived in the suburbs and didn’t see much of the underbelly. But we certainly heard about the worst. Perhaps Flint’s best days still lie ahead.

  3. Veronika Walker

    Wow….That is terrifying, Adam. You depicted this memory well.

    I’m discovering that much of my fiction is dark…very dark. And I think it mostly stems from the familial anguish I experienced as a child and young teen with my parents’ divorce. None of my fictional families are happy! 🙂 My main characters are often the quiet, philosophical (aka moody) type as well, similar to the way I was as a teen, and still struggle with today.

    I think God provides those memories and experiences as, as you call it, “virgin fodder” for those of us He’s blessed with being writers. We are all shaped by what we experience, and God knows this and constructs it to be that way. That way our bad experiences can, after all, be used for something good – like writing fiction that helps others. 🙂

    Good post. Love your editing site too.

  4. Adam Blumer

    Thanks, Veronika. I totally agree about the events that shape us. I think God carefully orchestrates all those experiences, even the nasty ones like divorce. Without them, would we be the people we are today? Of course, the good can come only as we respond to them in the right way today. I’m fascinated with that whole topic, and I’ve been giving it a lot of thought for my next book. I’m melancholy (moody), and I think a lot of that trickles into my protagonists. It can’t be helped. In my latest novel, coming out in September, my protagonist has to deal with an old hurt she never dealt with. I think more people struggle this way than we realize. Thanks for writing.

  5. Veronika Walker

    People definitely struggle with overcoming their past way more than most of us realize, I think. The “trick” is to determine whether or not you’re going to let your past trap you. That’s the glory and beauty of God’s grace and forgiveness; if we let the truth of Christ’s sacrifice penetrate our hearts and minds, we’ll discover that we actually can let go of the hurt and bad experiences, and He’ll turn them into something wonderful.
    Always a great theme for any book, in my opinion. 🙂

  6. Adam Blumer

    Oh wow, yes. You could write whole libraries on that theme alone. Really, it’s the theme of the whole gospel. Will we let past sins/memories drag us down? We don’t have to. Jesus has set us free. Amen! Then, because of past experiences, we can help those who struggle in the same ways as a testimony of those who have overcome. Awesome timeless theme.

  7. Deb Dulworth

    Not the kind of memories I have here in our little town in mid-Indiana. Yes, it’s amazing how our past can affect our minds the rest of our lives. And even more amazing how God can take those things and use them for His glory. He sends others to help heal the wounds and bring joy into our lives. Thanks for reminding us.

  8. Adam Blumer

    Yes, He always uses the experiences for our good. It’s great to realize that even the things that seem “bad” can be turned around in the hands of the Almighty.

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