The House of Ice
On a warm July morning, Bill Jones’s two-bedroom house froze. In fact, all of Jones’s property froze, along with whatever was within his property lines. This included widower Bill Jones himself, sitting at his desk in his office, a neighborhood black Labrador named Buster, a red cardinal on the rim of Jones’s front yard birdbath, and an oak tree.
The first person to notice was Jones’s next-door neighbor Jerry Berkhart, an insurance salesman in his late forties, who was making coffee before work. Jerry, an average-size man with thinning black hair and a trimmed goatee, filled his coffee mug in front of the sink. He placed the carafe into the coffeemaker and took a sip from the mug, his eyes darting from the cup to Jones’s house. “My God,” he said, nearly dropping the mug. He set it on the counter and leaned up to the small kitchen window for a closer view of the house.
The second person to notice was Marsha McCormick, a blonde woman in her fifties out for a morning walk. Her eyes caught Buster first. He was in the front yard, mid-stride. She saw him—frozen stiff—and her sights turned to the house, an icy abnormality in the middle of an Indiana summer. She gasped, opening her mouth wide in astonishment. She took a step back, afraid the freeze could spread.
Jerry, curious enough to venture outside, left his kitchen, walked through the hallway, and out his side garage door. Marsha heard him slam the garage door. He was dressed for work, in a navy blue suit and tie, but he had to find out what was going on first, or at least get a good look at it.
He walked up the street toward Marsha, avoiding the sidewalk in front of Bill’s house. “What the hell happened?” asked Jerry.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” said Marsha. She was in a plain pink T-shirt, white shorts, and white tennis shoes. She held out her arm, her palm facing the ice house. “Can you feel it? It’s cold.”
Jerry stuck out his hand. “Yeah.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“Call the police, I guess. I gotta go to work. You have a cell phone on you?”
“Yes, I can call them.”
Jerry waved at her and walked to his house. He got in his car, opened his automatic garage door, and sped off.
Within minutes, all manner of emergency personnel were on the scene. Police roped off the perimeter with yellow CAUTION tape, preventing anyone from stepping foot onto the property. Naturally, there was debate about how the situation should be handled. The police wanted to remove everything living from the premises—Bill Jones, Buster the dog, and the bird—so they’d thaw. The fire department wanted to put their knowledge of fire to use: build a large square of fire around Jones’s property to gradually melt the ice. This would be done by erecting a high wall of concrete blocks around the perimeter to prevent the fire from spreading to other houses. And the EMTs, the least influential group, sided with the police, though they doubted they’d be able to resuscitate the victims.
By the time the city government settled on a plan, someone had tipped off the local news, and a van was on site. Melissa Henderson, a reporter, spouted as much information as she could procure. Word spread online. Valerie Murray, a teen living in Bill Jones’s neighborhood, who had the news on during her viewing of the Web on her laptop, updated her Facebook status when she recognized Jones’s house: “OMG the frozen house is in my neighborhood. WTF?” Users of Twitter soon followed suit, tweeting about the “frozen house in Podunk, Indiana.”
The police won out, because the mayor thought their plan was the most logical and required the least amount of effort. They were nervous about stepping foot on the ice, as they, similar to their fellow citizens, feared this unexplainable phenomenon. Nothing happened, however, when the first officer, a rookie, lowered his sole on the stiff grass. After kicking in the front door, five policemen gathered around Bill Jones’s desk in his office. He was frozen solid, in a green bathrobe and slippers. He had his reading glasses on, a pen in hand, his fingers splaying open his checkbook in the act of paying bills. They estimated he was sixty, a result of his thinning gray hair, wrinkled face, and extra weight.
Warm water did the trick, enabling the officers to remove Jones’s slippers and chair legs from the frozen floor. Instead of extricating him from his chair, which was considered too laborious in such cold, they carried Bill Jones and his chair to the idling ambulance. They successfully utilized the same procedure to free Buster the dog and the cardinal. They were loaded onto the ambulance as well.
Sure, people asked a host of questions when they learned of this peculiar occurrence: What caused it? Will Bill Jones and Buster live? What will happen to the house? But the one question that was posited more than any other was neither related to the welfare of Bill Jones nor the fate of his house. No, it was: Whose will be next?
Jason Jordan holds an MFA from Chatham University. His forthcoming books are “Cloud and Other Stories” (Six Gallery Press, 2010) and “Powering the Devil’s Circus: Redux” (Six Gallery Press, 2010). His prose has appeared online and in print in over forty literary magazines. Additionally, he’s Editor-in-Chief of decomP. Visit his blog at poweringthedevilscircus.blogspot.com.