My father died while shoveling snow in our driveway. He was, by trade,
a carpenter, and the seasonal lack of work was killing him. He
collapsed halfway between the house and our unpaved, northern New
England road, landing not that far from the snowman I'd built the night
before. His heart probably stopped while my mother and I drank hot
chocolate and argued about the school clothes I didn't want to wear. We
found him on our way out to the bus stop, lying on his side like a sea
lion in the sun, his shovel standing like a sentry.
Nine years later, when I was twenty, soon after mother had been eaten
alive by cancer, I dropped out of college and moved to southern New
Mexico. It never snows here, and hardly anything else ever happens. For
the past decade I've worked at an auto parts place, moving from
inventory assistant to store manager. I live with a Guatemalan woman,
an illegally-employed nanny, who tells me in her broken English that if
I marry her everything will be fine. She can cook, she can clean, she
can do the heavy lifting. It's tempting, but commitment, which
ultimately leads to responsibility, also ultimately leads to heartbreak.
My mother made me stay inside that morning. But I peeked out my
upstairs bedroom window as they loaded him, as unceremoniously as road
kill, into the ambulance. They never even turned on their flashing
lights, never even hit the siren. But why would they? They had all the
time in the world.
Sometime I wonder what his last thought could have been. More than
likely he was wondering when the weather would break, how the economy
would swing, how many more years he could keep pounding nails. But I
like to think that maybe he was looking over at that pathetic snowman
I'd built, and in some small way it brought him joy.
I doubt it though. The snow that day was wet and heavy and capable of
making a person's mind move south to where the desert winds softly blow
and a man can work as many days as he wants.
Z.Z. Boone has stories in or coming from FRiGG, SmokeLong, Analemma, decomP and others.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200912snow.htm
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Curtis Gregory Perry.
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