A shiny, metallic object caught his eye just beyond his tree fort. “What could that be?” he wondered. Walking now, instead of running, he approached the foreign looking thing. Everything around it had a dusting of snow, but the silver metal cylinder was perfectly clean. Alfred walked around it, taking large steps to measure its circumference. “About nine feet around,” he guessed. It was just high enough for him to rest his elbows on, about the height of a kitchen table. In the very center of its flat, smooth top a miniature cow—Jersey, he thought—stood, its head raised as though looking at the sky.
As he reached out to touch it, he thought he saw the cow move a little, but his hand grasped it firmly and he raised it to his face to get a closer look. It was a perfect specimen, every detail true to life. It felt warm and soft to the touch—like a living creature. “That can’t be. I must be imagining things.”
Holding it carefully as though it was alive, he ran to the house. “Just wait until I show Agnes. She loves cows.” But a voice whispering in his ear warned, “No. Don’t show it to anyone. This is our secret.”
His mother was in the kitchen and as soon as he entered, she scolded, “Where have you been? You’ve got to get ready for church. It’s the first Sunday of Advent. Hurry up, now.”
“Okay, okay. I’m already dressed. I just need to eat something.”
He grabbed an orange and popped a piece of bread into the toaster. Spreading a thick layer of peanut butter on it, he downed the whole slice in three bites. “I’m ready.”
Mom and Dad, Agnes and Alfred piled into the car for the short drive to Saint Clément’s Church. The tiny cow lay forgotten in the pocket of Alfred’s snowsuit. He did not remember anything about it until getting ready for bed that night. After his bath he snuck down to the mudroom to retrieve the little cow from his pocket. He reached in, feeling for it. His fingers closed around a soft, warm object and he drew it out. It was the same cow. But instead of standing with its head raised, it was lying down with its legs tucked underneath and its head drooping and eyes closed. “How could that be? I’m sure it was standing when I picked it up. Or maybe I just imagined it.”
“Good night, Mom, Good night, Dad,” Alfred said as he headed up the stairs toward his attic room. He was eager to examine the cow more closely and wasn’t ready to show it to anyone quite yet. He set it atop his dresser where he displayed all his valuables. He nestled it next to a Lego castle, smoothing its hair back with one finger. “Good night, Elsie.”
School days that week were busy. Alfred’s favorite time at school was the noon recess. With the new snow there was plenty to do: snowball fights, fort building, packing down an area in preparation for an ice rink. Then after school, sledding with his buddies on the sledding hill next to the school. No new snow fell all week.