Lacy stretched to open the rough wooden door. Cold mist flowed out, clinging to her bare shoulders and arms, making her shiver. Visiting the icehouse was like stepping through a mirror into winter.
Inside, the heavy sawdust scent reminded her of Christmas trees while, outside, the lake sparkled in the August sun. Ice blocks were stacked higher than Daddy’s head. Lacy walked down the row, skimming the blocks with her fingers, feeling them melt a little under her touch.
That’s when she saw the woman in the white dress standing in the corner, as she did in Lacy’s bedroom at night, looking at her and baby Jack. The woman’s black eyes were like holes in a face as pale as clouds.
When the cloud woman moved closer, Lacy saw the stack of ice right through her.
With the tongs, Daddy grabbed a block off the top row. His muscles bunched up when he pulled it down. The cloud woman put her hand on his shoulder. Daddy shivered so hard, the ice block fell out of the tongs and hit him on the head.
It thunked to the wooden floor. Daddy fell right beside it and didn’t move again.
Lacy darted out the door and down the dirt road, shouting, “Mom! Come quick!”
As Lacy slammed their trailer’s screen door open, Mom wiped her hands on a dish towel. “What’s the matter, sugar?”
“Daddy’s hurt. The ice.”
Mom grabbed baby Jack and ran. When Lacy reached the icehouse, Mom was already bent over Daddy, who was on his side with his head in a red puddle. The cloud woman was standing beside him, smiling. Mom reached right through her leg to touch Daddy’s neck. The woman faded away.
Shivering hard, Mom said, “Go get Sonny.”
Lacy ran to the trailer past theirs and pounded on the metal next to the screen door. Daddy’s friend opened it.
“What’s up, kiddo?”
“Daddy’s hurt. In the icehouse. Mom says to get you.”
Sonny ran so fast that, by the time Lacy caught up, he was already carrying Daddy like a baby. Mom put Jack in his playpen and called someone on the telephone.
When she hung up, she said to Sonny, “I thought our troubles were over when that woman died. What’ll we do if–”
Sonny hugged her and patted her back. “Don’t you worry. He’ll be fine.”
He went next door and brought his wife Rita back with him. When an ambulance came, Mom got in and went with Daddy. Rita made supper and put Lacy and Jack to bed. Afterward, Lacy heard her and Sonny playing cards in the kitchen.
Because the bedroom door was open a crack, she saw the cloud woman in the corner, beside the baby’s crib. The woman reached out and stroked his face.
Jack cried until he started choking.
Rita came to burp him, but he kept screaming and coughing. The cloud woman stood where she was. Rita walked right through her. She shivered so hard she almost dropped the baby.
In the other room, the phone rang. Sonny answered. His deep voice got louder, but so did Jack’s coughing. Then everything went quiet.
“Dead?” Sonny shouted. “He can’t be!”
Rita screamed and ran out of the bedroom. “The baby’s not breathing!”
The cloud woman smiled, then she faded away.
After the funerals, Mom hardly ever talked except late at night when she whispered her prayers and asked God to forgive her. When she cried, she didn’t make a sound.
The weather got colder. Snow came early, so Lacy and her best friend Nan went trick-or-treating with snowsuits under their cowgirl costumes. In spite of the trailers’ lights, there were lots of shadows. The dark and the ice underfoot made Lacy shiver.
After walking halfway around the trailer park, her toes were frozen, and her plastic pumpkin was nearly full of candy. While she was unwrapping a gumball, a pickup truck came around the curve.
Lacy backed away, shouting, “Look out!”
Nan kept walking like she didn’t see the truck, which was coming fast. Lacy ran to push her out of its way. Nan went stumbling off the road. At the same time, the cloud woman appeared out of the shadows. As she reached toward Lacy, something hit Lacy hard and knocked her down.
Kids and moms screamed. Dads shouted. Nan’s scared face stared down at her.
The cloud woman stroked Lacy’s forehead and smiled. Her touch was like ice. Lacy shivered. Then everything turned to fog and faded away.