Waking up on a cold December morning knowing that you have to spend the wee hours of the morning walking in the snow does nothing for morale. I get to join the early dog walkers and newspaper delivery boys and snow shovelers, and let’s just say that that’s not exactly a morale booster either. Everyone is grumpy and cold and wants nothing more than to crawl back into their warm beds to hibernate for the rest of winter. At the beginning of December we haven’t even hit the worst of it, or rather, it hasn’t hit us.
The whir of the heater left on all night to keep the room bearable for the likes of me was what lured me to sleep the night before, and it’s what startled me from that same not so restful peace. Cold weather has always given me nightmares. Usually of snow monsters coming to freeze me to death. Doesn’t take Freud.
It had been the first night it was needed, even though the first snow had been a week before. I call that some good insulation. Or it took a week to hit my cold limit. Or maybe my stubbornness. Or laziness. I’m never quite sure how anything you ever need in the attic ends up in the most unreachable places at just the time you need it. Stupid little attic fairies or something. Must be.
Anyway, I’d spent an hour looking for the damn thing, but it was worth it in the end. I took a wonderful hot shower while it began warming up the bedroom, and then buried myself under a thick pile of blankets, head and all. The muffled whirring of the heater was the last thing and first thing I heard. It was at least still muffled, meaning I was still perfectly covered in my cocoon of warmth. But that also meant that I would have to leave it to check the time on the bedside clock. Why couldn’t I be more modern and be one of those technological idiots that falls asleep with their cell phones in their hands? Sue me for not caring about looking at Facebook before I fall asleep. But I have to admit, it’s a bit warmer.
Peeking out like a child looking to see if the monster has left the room or gone back under the bed, I tried to see what time it was as quickly as possible. Cold air (how was that possible?) rushed in as the red light of the clock told me it was 5:35. My alarm was set to go off in ten minutes. What shitty timing. Those ten minutes are so precious. Waking up ten minutes before the alarm is such a waste of good sleeping and warmth time.
I decided to just stay under until the alarm. I may not have been asleep, but I was still warm. Beautifully, wonderfully warm. The kind of warm people take for granted. I don’t take this shit for granted. It’s my bread and butter. How do people continually live through this weather? Why don’t I just move somewhere warmer?
Too many problems that couldn’t be solved that early in the morning.
And there goes the alarm. Shortest ten minutes of my life. Do I dare stick my arm into the cold dark expanse to shut off that annoying beeping? I must. I know I must. So of course I did.
I also knew that I must throw back my cocoon and wander into that cold darkness. Finding a light would only add to the journey. But I did it. I did it all. As is my routine. Complaining an all.
Before I knew it, only slightly cold for my troubles (thankfully), I was dressed to the nines in winter warm clothing and turning off the heater so as not to burn down the only reprieve from the cold outside I have to my name. It’s times like that I’m glad I don’t have a pet. I can only imagine their big watery eyes looking up at me, begging me not to turn that wonderful source off. Or even worse, a puppy that would have to go out into the cold with me, them sharing the knowledge that we have to venture out into that snowy hell whether we really want to or not.
At least a dog would have a good reason. Using the bathroom in the form of the fire hydrant in the front yard for a total of thirty seconds before rushing inside is a pretty damn good reason to brave the cold. In my opinion at least. But me, I actually have to go out there. For a not so great reason. Work.
Added to the checklist that includes moving to a warmer climate: get a car. Also added: get a job that pays well enough to buy a damn car. Maybe get promoted?
It’s only a half an hour walk. That’s what I tell myself. Every damn day I have to tell myself that it’s not that far and it’s worth it. It is far, though, and not really worth it. I still hold small hopes for believing what I tell myself someday, though. What is it they say about hearing something so much you eventually believe it? Do they even say anything about that? Who the hell is they?
This particular morning, though. Man. Just man. There shouldn’t be words, but there are. Obviously.
Having turned off my beloved friend and made sure nothing else could foreseeably ensure my return to a pile of ashes, I took a deep breath and quickly pulled opened the front door to slingshot myself out into the more than brisk chill. No need to let more frigid air inside than needed. There’s also the added bonus of just ripping off the bandage, if that can even be called a bonus. It’s one of those things where you just take what you can get, I suppose.
Outside at 6am, the sky was still absolutely black. No waking up with the sun for me; I always wake up before that son of a bitch (he he). I always leave the house for work first, too. It makes me feel a little better that the sun is even lazier than I am.
Looking around and down the street, maybe two lights are on within houses. Everyone else is still smartly asleep. Wish I could join them. Any of them. In their wonderfully warm beds. I don’t even think I’d be completely opposed to sex, or at least some cuddling. I hate winter.
The only other living things on the street were the little kid on his miserable bike delivering miserable papers to all the sleepy warm houses whose inhabitants will be miserable when they all wake up after the sun has risen and their papers are soggy from the snow, and the man sprinkling salt from an old garbage can on his driveway. He never seems miserable so much as judgmental. Sneaky glances out of the side of his eye, little smirks as you walked by. That sort of shit. Always gave the pacifist in me the urge to smack him.
I began my usual trek down the sidewalk. It may have been cold, but it was familiar. I even knew the exact point I would pass the kid on the bike. Stupid kid always came so close to hitting me, as if he never saw me walking by. Maybe he didn’t. I wasn’t one to say what he did and didn’t see.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say he did see me. That morning, at the same house at the same point in the sidewalk that I always passed by this kid (gosh, we really were creatures of habit), when the paper he was throwing was supposed to whiz right past my face, he threw the paper. I expected it to take its usual course. I’d been walking past this kid throwing his damn papers for that long. There hadn’t been flinching for months. But that morning, that damn paper hit me in the side of the head. Hard. I swear, I’d never known what seeing stars meant until then. I honestly believed that people who said they saw stars after a head blow were full of shit, or maybe it was just an expression that sounded better than “hey, I just got hit upside the head with a fucking newspaper.” Actually, I believe the fucking newspaper one sounds better, but that’s just a matter of opinion I suppose.
There I was, seeing stars on the sidewalk in the snow at 6am, and this kid just kept on delivering papers. Like he didn’t know that I’d been there, or that he’d just hit me in the head, or even that his newspaper hadn’t even made it to his destination.
I did what any sane person would do. I yelled after him.
“Hey! Kid! What the hell was that?!” It sounded so much louder in the silence than I’d expected it to. Even with the snow, it wasn’t very muffled.
Looking back, it was pretty miraculous that he even stopped. And not just that he stopped, but how he stopped. He suddenly skidded to a stop like he’d just finished some BMX race in first place. Only the road was wet with snow. Or maybe there was some black ice. I don’t really know. It doesn’t really matter. The outcome was what it was. The wheels went out from underneath him and he ended up face-planting with the road while the newspapers in all of the baskets connected to his bike went flying, mostly into the snow piles on the side of the road. I suddenly found it weird that I’d never seen the street plower clearing the roads of the snow. It was always already done by the time I was out in the world.
The kid wasn’t moving. He’d face-planted and then nothing. Nada. Finito. Hopefully not finito. Though, if that hadn’t been instant karma, I don’t know what it was. I almost felt like I didn’t need to go check on him. The universe had corrected the wrong. We were even. I could go on guilt free.
But then the light in the house I’d been about to pass went on in one of the front rooms. What if that person came out? What if they saw me standing there looking at a kid not moving caught under his bike on the street in the snow surrounded by quickly soaking newspapers? Or even worse, what if they saw me walking away from that kid? I couldn’t run fast enough to keep either one of those from happening. Means I had to help. Shit.
Resigning myself to staying in the cold longer than I felt I needed to, I walked over to the kid. He was lying flat on road under his bike, face into the ground and all. It was as if he’d hit the ground and then froze there.
I’m not a monster. I hoped he wasn’t seriously hurt. I figured with that fall maybe at least a broken nose, but that was a character building injury. He could grow up to be a hockey player or something and completely fit in. I couldn’t help but think that at least I hadn’t thrown my purse.
The next thing I knew, while the kid was still as frozen as a statue on the ground in front of me, the garage door of the house we were in front of exploded. As in “dynamite stick goes kaboom to cause big fire” kind of explosion. There was immediate sound and just as immediate silence. A high pitched ringing came in gradually as the sound began to get filtered back in. Now, I’ve heard of tetenitis before, and I always thought, “What’s the big deal?” I will never ask that question in regards to tetenitis again.
It wasn’t until the sound came back with that loud ringing that I began registering what was happening in front of my face. First and foremost, the most hilarious part of this whole affair, the kid was still lying facedown on the ground, seemingly frozen in place. As far as I could tell, he hadn’t even flinched. It made me start laughing right there in the street. I feel like that was something I was entitled to. Surviving a bomb or whatever the fuck had blown up that garage door earned me some fucking laughing points.
In the middle of my hysteria (I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but you get the idea), I realized there was a man standing in front of me. My best guess was that it was the man who lived in this house, but I’d never seen him before. This wasn’t actually neighborly central, if you catch my drift. I was still laughing when I saw him. He probably thought I was insane. I thought he should be laughing with me.
That’s when I noticed the gun. It’s a little after six in the morning, his garage door has just exploded, and he’s pointing a gun at me. Yeah, that pretty much sums up the situation.
The guns goes off in a blast that seemed almost as loud as the first one, even though logic tells me that it couldn’t have been. I expected to get shot. I expected to be shot, to have a bullet hole in my chest from which my life source was leaking out.
But I didn’t. The kid next to me, on the other hand, hadn’t gotten off so easy. Still frozen into position, his head now had a hole the size of my hand in the side of it, blood and brain flooding onto the snow and tar. Needless to say, I stopped laughing. I told you, I’m not a monster.
The man in front of me, on the other hand clearly was. He turned towards me and grinned. One of those stupid horror film smiles that just screamed “I’m gonna get you!” I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t frozen solid like that kid had been. I started backing away, over the newspapers and bike and slush. Finding my feet, I turned and ran back towards my house. But standing panting in my driveway (completely out of shape), I turned to see that he hadn’t followed me. He hadn’t even moved from where he was standing, or even the position. Was there a freezing virus going around? Were all of these people windows computers, catching that virus? I couldn’t comprehend anything. I felt like my IQ had taken a fifty point hit. Maybe it had.
There was one thing that stood out as ridiculous to me. No, not that the cops hadn’t shown up yet. I couldn’t even afford a fucking car, do you think I could afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood by myself? Think again, dip shit. No, it would take the cops a little while to show up, if they ever did.
The ridiculous thing was that I knew I had to get to work somehow to pay my rent and electricity bills, which would no doubt be higher for the coming months. And that mess of a scene was blocking my way.
And no way in hell was I walking back past the man with the gun. And no way in hell was I getting fired because I didn’t show up for work. Quite a little catch 22 for me, wasn’t it?
You want to know how I figured it out. I didn’t do the obvious thing and wait, that’s for sure. I had to walk to work, and there was a good chance I was going to be late already. Stupid fucking newspaper boy and dumb shit garage exploding gun guy. Why did this have to happen this morning? Of all mornings? I was off work the next day. Why couldn’t this have happened while I was sleeping in and warm in my bed. I wouldn’t have given two shits about what was happening outside my house then, and it wouldn’t affect me. Stupid people, always trying to ruin my plans. Go ruin your own damn plans and leave me out of it.
Okay, back to how I got out of this mess. You see, I had two options. I could walk on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, or I could walk through people’s backyards. Both were equally terrifying because I was sure that more than a few homes had some vicious guard dogs, and I wouldn’t put it past the slime I had for neighbors to leave those poor animals out in the cold. See, not a monster. I care for fucking animals. Which is probably why I don’t have any of my own. Not important.
I still chose to take the backyards. Who knows what would have happened if I decided to walk in front of the freak with the gun? Actually, I probably would have gotten shot. Meaning I know what would have happened, making it a ridiculous unneeded rhetorical question. Why do I put thoughts like that out there? Whatever.
I slogged through the snow that covered my yard. Snow shoes would have been helpful. They would have been more than helpful, they were necessary. My feet sunk at least a foot with every step, making for slow going. Yes, I was most certainly going to be fucking late for work. Guaranteeing that I was going to be yelled at. Just what I needed that morning. The thought occurred to me that it might have been better to just go back inside and get fired. I could find another job. Maybe.
But I’m not a fucking quitter. I was getting to work. I was not losing my job.
Um, yeah. I feel like since I’m recollecting this and recollections don’t generally happen in order but more all at once I should have known that this story wasn’t going anywhere. I still would have told it, but I don’t feel like I would have built it up as much. You’re probably going to be pretty disappointed with me.
It took me over twenty minutes to walk the block through everyone’s backyards because of the damn snow. I came across a couple of poor puppies, but they were so cold, they could do nothing more than look at me pitifully. I probably should have called the cops or whoever you call on people abusing animals.
I had to climb a fence. That was exciting. I climbed up and fell over the top into the snow, which hurt more than I feel it should have (what good is snow if it doesn’t cushion your fall?). And then I had to do it all over again on the other side of the fenced-in yard. I ended up cold and soaked. Even more cold and soaked. So I guess it was more sad than exciting.
I made it to work over a half an hour late. I got yelled at. I almost lost my job. Almost. Worst of all, my boss didn’t even seem to notice that I looked like absolute shit, what after an explosion and trek through the snow and all.
When I got home later that day, the cops and fire engines were crowded into the small street around the house with the exploded garage. They took away the kid in a body bag. Poor kid. Poor parents, too. I saw them crying. They arrested the guy with a gun. Half of his garage burned down. No one’s fixed it yet.
I never learned anything more than that. I don’t know why the garage exploded. I don’t know why they were frozen statues. I don’t know anything beyond what I’ve said here. I don’t think they even knew that I’d been a part of the occurrence.
Also, I have no idea what happened to the man who was sprinkling salt on his driveway. Maybe he was a witness, as I was. I haven’t seen him since that morning. He never came forward, just like I didn’t. Are you out there salt sprinkling man? We may be the only two that know. Or maybe something happened and I really am the only one.
That’s probably my only reason for writing this. No one knows I was there, except maybe that one guy. And I don’t care so much about that as I’ve had no one to tell it to. You listened. You’ve brightened my day. I thank you. Or, at least, I’m assuming you listened. Like that bandage, I’ll take what I can get.
Could you do me a favor and not tell the cops? Or, if you are a cop, could you just forget everything you’ve just read? I’ve gotten back into my routine, and I like it. No disruptions, please.