Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Snowball's Chance

Among the things my brother packed for me in my Christmas package last year was a Charlie Brown snowball. It wasn't as grand as the one that Charles Foster Kane was holding in his hand when he expired at the beginning of the movie Citizen Kane, speaking his last word, "Rosebud!" He dropped the ball and it rolled across the wood floor and shattered against a stair step.

My snowball is made of plastic. But when I found it in the box, I shook it a few times and watched the snowflakes swirl around Charlie and settle at his feet. Four companions - Lucy, Snoopy, Linus and Peppermint Patty - stood behind him, except they were two dimensional figures painted on a flat plastic semicircle, and only Charlie stood alone in three dimensions. I put the snowball on my bookcase and I look at it every day.

Helplessly, as the weeks since then have passed, I have watched as the water in the ball fell noticeably lower. Within a month, the level of the water was getting almost to the top of Charlie's brown winter cap. When I picked up the ball, I found a drop of water beneath it. I figure that the pressurization of the plane that transported the package from the U.S. to Manila had created a tiny leak. And the difference in temperatures of Denver and Manila, which was at least sixty degrees Fahrenheit in December, probably contributed to the leak.

By now, Charlie's head is above the water, and it's sunk to the chins of his friends. Only Snoopy remains underwater - but now he looks like he must be drowning. If I should shake the ball - which would only make the water leak faster - the snowflakes no longer swirl around their heads. They have no more room except to sink, bereft of life, to the ground.

What a sad spectacle to be subjected to, as the figures once suspended in a winter wonderland, now stand up to their chins in tepid, warm water, which now refracts their bodies distortedly, as if their heads are coming off. Snoopy still thumps his tail happily, oblivious of the fate that awaits him. He might as well be drowning in a half-empty pool.

In his Paris Interview, Billy Wilder said of Raymond Chandler that he knew how to write beautiful sentences, like "There is nothing as empty as an empty swimming pool."

I think there is nothing sadder than a half-empty snowball.

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