Southerners were surprised when yesterday’s wintery weather took a turn for the worse. Shortly after the schools announced early closings, many roads closed due to icy conditions. Motorists were stuck and stranded all along the roadways, many trying to get to their kids. Thank the Lord a lot of Southerners are crazy about their for four wheel drives. Good Samaritans were out in the freezing cold helping people get to safety.
In the aftermath, many are still stranded and recovering from the trauma. In honor of everyone who is snow bound across the South today, here’s a short story I wrote last January when we had a rare snow storm. Anguish was part of the assignment and I considered editing it out, but I like it.
Snow Bound Anguish
“I’m sorry, Miss, but you’re gonna have to turn around. This road is closed.” His southern drawl was thick as molasses.
“Yes, Officer…Williams, I can see that and I’d love to go another route, but I keep running into road closures. This is anguish. I just want to get home.”
“This is what happens when it snows in the Deep South. Dangerous road conditions have forced us to close all the roads in the county.”
“I don’t see how I can go anywhere if all the roads are closed.” Mary sighed and rolled up the manual window on her old car.
She ground the transmission trying to get it into reverse. After backing up a few feet so she wouldn’t hit the officer, she put it in first gear and cut the wheel. Her car lurched forward and promptly slid into the ditch.
“Son of a—“
The car door opened and the officer helped her out. “Anguish is hearing your transmission scream in agony.” He smirked as he examined her car. “That was a neat trick.”
“Yes, if my goal was to wreck my only mode of transportation, I’d win a prize.” She stuck her icy hands in her coat pockets and shivered. “I suppose you have to ticket me or something.”
“I could let you off with a warning. Come sit in my cruiser where it’s warm.” He placed a hand on her upper back. “You’ll probably have to wait until the weather clears before you can get a tow.”
“Thank you, Officer. I’m Mary, by the way.” She thought about extending her hand for a civilized greeting, but kept them firmly planted in her warm pockets.
“Deputy Matt Williams, at your service.” He closed the front passenger door and walked around to the driver’s side.
“I guess I could call someone to come get me, but then they’d be on the roads in these poor conditions. This is what you call being stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
“I can take you home when the next shift arrives to replace me in about an hour. Here, have some of my coffee.” He offered her the lid from his thermos.
As he poured, Mary examined his features for the first time—deep blue eyes, strong jaw line and cleft chin. She was a sucker for chin dimples, ever since she was a kid and saw the National Lampoon movies with Chevy Chase. When Ellen kissed her finger and put it on Clark’s dimple—that was true love.
“You better not be laughing at me,” Deputy Williams said, cutting his eyes toward her.
“I’d never do that.” She smiled as she studied the rim of the thermos lid.
“I don’t have cooties if that’s what you’re checking for.”
“I…I’m sorry. I must seem incredibly ungrateful. I’m a microbiologist, specializing in infectious diseases. I’m sure you’d tell me if you carried something deadly and dangerous.” Her eyes cut to his sidearm and she pressed her lips together to prevent laughter from escaping.
She sipped the coffee and tried not to screw up her face.
“Too late,” he said. “You’re doomed to a life of anguish. The zombie virus will take over your body in about half an hour.”
“Well, you should have some too then. We’d make a cute zombie couple. At least the cold wouldn’t kill us.” She tried another sip.
“Unlike your driving.”
“Or your coffee. Yuck. Talk about anguish. It tastes like feet.”
He laughed as he took the cup from her. “I’m assuming you know what feet taste like.”
“I know what stinky ones smell like. My brother has a foot odor problem. Of course, he’s sixteen and he probably never changes his socks.”
“Yeah, I barely showered when I was sixteen. Then I made an amazing discovery. Girls. They won’t stand too close if you reek.”
“Well, praise the Lord, you don’t smell now. At least not from where I’m sitting. I’m sure your wife is thrilled.”
He wore gloves so Mary hadn’t been able to see if he had a wedding ring. Since he appeared to be thirtyish, she assumed he was taken. Most good-looking men their age were married with two point three kids, a dog, and a mortgage.
“Presently unattached. I’ve been raising my eight year old nephew since my brother and his wife were killed in a car accident. Makes dating difficult.”
Mary’s eyes pricked with heat. She looked out the window and blinked forcefully to keep the tears at bay.
She swallowed before she spoke. “We have something in common then. I’m the legal guardian for my brother, the one with the stinky feet. Our parents died on that cruise ship that sank off the coast of Italy.”
He turned in his seat and rested a hand on the wheel. “That wasn’t so long ago. I’m sorry for your loss. You’re very brave to take on a teenager. I can barely handle a third grader.”
“Not brave. Crazy, determined, naïve. But I’m his family, and I wasn’t going to let the state take him. I don’t regret it most days.” She held her hands in front of the warm air vent. “He’s a good kid despite the smell creeping from his bedroom like a dark fog. I swear it follows me down the hallway sometimes.”
“Febreze is your friend. Billy has the grubby kid smell that’s attached to most little boys. I spray him down twice a day whether he needs it or not—his room too.”
She laughed. “That’s a great tip. Maybe we should get together sometime and compare notes.”
“We’re together now, Mary, but if you’re asking me out…I’ll drive.” He pointed a finger at himself.
She mirrored his movement. “And I’ll make the coffee.”