Z.Z. Boone

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.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Curtis Gregory Perry.

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