Flash fiction. Love Languages, by John Sheirer. Image: A man holding a shovel and a bucket is standing frozen in a field with pine trees and a cabin behind him. Icicles hang from him. A bird sits on his head. A bear sniffs at his leg.

Love Languages

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Forecasters failed to predict the mid-autumn blizzard, what with all the climate chaos. So the husband was late clearing leaves this year. Maybe he was distracted at work. Maybe turning forty affected him more than he thought. Yardwork was usually his love language.  

Once he realized his error, he jumped to the task at dusk, skipping his dinner and attacking with a rake. But the snow squalled, and he switched to pitchfork, spade, then snow shovel. He gradually faded from frenzy to slog as the accumulation deepened. 

Morning found him buried upright, caught in mid-shovel toss, a snow sculpture. His children gazed from their bedroom windows, not sure if they should celebrate the school closure or lament their immobilized father. His wife bundled up and waded out and asked if she should call his office. She took the soft moan to be assent, so she told them he needed some “personal time.” His neighbors waved at first, but all he could do was twitch an index finger in reply, so everyone soon accepted him as a feature of the landscape.  

Snow returned just often enough to keep him buried. Occasional sunny days gave him hope, and he could swear he heard the trickle of melting on the long afternoons of slanted light. But nighttime froze whatever progress had occurred, and the sky opened up again to bury him deeper than before. 

Weeks passed. Months. Neighborhood dogs still sniffed him now and then but never cocked a leg. Deer scratched nearby but never nibbled. His wife and children sent good thoughts once or twice each truncated day, then settled down to homework, TV, and seasonal affective disorder.  

Eventually, just after April Fool’s Day, fresh from hibernation, a curious bear licked enough snow to free him and then wandered back into the woods. The thick, musty breath and raspy tongue were as close to loving touch as he’d felt since fall. His family brushed free the rest of the snow, pried the shovel from his hands, limbered his stiffened joints, led him home, and fed him meatloaf, roasted baby potatoes, and hot chocolate spiked with rum. He had a second helping of the meat and potatoes but started dozing before he could finish the drink.  

That night, he slept as warm and deep as ever in his life, swaddled in his wife’s embrace. The airstream pivoted and brought a southerly breeze that melted everything down to the browned grass, tufty sod, and neglected leaves.  

The next morning, rising early, he set out with the rake again and finished the job by noon. 

John Sheirer

John Sheirer lives in Western Massachusetts and teaches at Asnuntuck Community College in Northern Connecticut where he edits Freshwater Literary Journal. He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown Daily Hampshire Gazette.


His recent fiction has appeared in Flash Boulevard, San Antonio Review, WordPeace, Five Minutes, Iceblink, Fiction on the Web, Wilderness House Literary Review, Meat for Tea, Poppy Road Review, Synkroniciti, 10 By 10 Flash Fiction, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, and Goldenrod Review, among others.


His most recent books are Stumbling Through Adulthood: Linked Stories (2021 New England Book Festival Award Winner) and For Now: One Hundred 100-Word Stories (2023 New England Book Festival Award Runner-Up)

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