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Friday, January 10, 2014


It had been a week since the snows came and Nick had never felt so trapped in his life.  He was used to snow, to lots of it, but 25 inches in one night was unprecedented.  Without gas for his snow blower, he couldn't deal with it then.  Even now, after the cold snap had moved on, it took only a few minutes of work before his old back gave out and the rusty shovel fell into the white.

"Hey Mr. Madrigold!  Are you OK?"  The voice was Thomas, his well-meaning, yet nosey neighbor.  Young, impetuous, helpful.  Nick didn't have the patience for him, even when he wasn't in pain.

"I'm fine, Tom, I'm fine!" he said, waving his hand in dismissal.

"Are you sure?  You've been trying to dig yourself out for days, and I haven't seen your wife since the snow fell.  Are supplies running low?  Or are you just getting a bit of cabin fever?"

"I told you before, Mary is visiting her sister.  I've got everything I need.  I don't need your help."  The old man picked up his shovel, which shook in his grasp, and pushed the end into the snow that covered his driveway.

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that.  Well, I was able to dig myself out yesterday.  You know the warmer weather is certainly making it easier.  I'd say we'll be down to a foot tomorrow if this keeps up."

"Too warm for January."  Nick grunted as he tried to lift the shovel, but a sharp pain in his back stopped him short.  "Gah!  I just need to… get out of here before it melts," he mumbled to himself and headed to the compact car that had been stuck in the snow since the storm.  A path had been dug to the car door and a pair of tracks were cut into the snow behind its tires.  He climbed in, his body hemmed in by boxes in the passenger seat, and started the ignition.  It took three tries before the engine turned over and a plume of white vapor poured from he car's tailpipe.

Thomas waded up the driveway.  "I'm not sure you'll be able to get past the pile that the snowplow stacked up, but we can try.  I can push."  He didn't wait for an answer.  The young man put his hands on the hood of the car and pressed his weight into it as Nick threw the gears into reverse.  Tires spun.  A spray of dirty snow and water showered Thomas' legs, but he didn't stop pushing.

"Don't scratch it!" Nick said, waving his hand at Thomas, as if the Toyota actually held some value.  The moment the car lurched backwards, however, he held the steering wheel tightly with both hands.  "Keep pushing!  We're getting there!"

The car began skidding from side to side before rolling back into the snow bank.  Once again, the tires spun out on the wet pavement.

"Dammit!" Nick shouted.  He got out of the car and slammed the door, leaving it running.  "I'll never get out of here."

His neighbor heaved a sigh and shook his head,  "It's just too thick.  Are you sure you don't want me to help dig you out?"  By the time the words came from his mouth, the shovel was already in his hands.

"Tom, I told you, I'm fine!  I don't need your help!"  Nick moved in Thomas' path to keep him from digging the car out.

"Nonsense!  I'm not about to let my neighbor have a heart attack trying to get out of his home."  Thomas tried to move past the old man, but Nick grabbed at the shovel.  both were surprised at the strength still hidden in his aging frame.  After a brief struggle for the shovel, Nick's grip failed and Thomas pulled it free unexpectedly.  It flew from his hands and hit the snow bank in front of the house.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Madrigold.  I just wanted to help.  I know how hard it is to be all cooped up.  Here, let me get that for you."

Nick tried to stop the young man, but it was too late.  He had already bounded into the snow and pulled the shovel free.  Then he paused.  The shovel hit the snow and Thomas started to big, both hands throwing white and red flakes of snow and ice all over the yard.

"Mr. Madrigold!  It's Mary!  She's… she's in the snow!"  He pulled an arm from the powder, frozen, drained of life and color.  "My God.  She's dead."

Everything started to cave in on Nick.  All he had planned, all he had suffered, crumbled away.  He slowly worked his way closer.

"She must have been out here all week!  If we hadn't lost the shovel, we'd never have found her." Nick said.  "Is this… it's blood!  Oh my God, she's been murdered!"  He looked behind him as the shadow of the old man covered Mary's exposed body.  The shovel swung.


Nick grunted as he piled snow on the two bodies.  It was slow work; his back only let him move a little at a time.  By the time Thomas' wife pulled into their driveway, the snow had been moved from the pile behind Nick's car and placed in their new home over the pair.  The old man started up the car and managed to drift into the road when Thomas' wife waved him down.

"Nick, have you seen Tom?" she asked, leaning over and clutching her coat around her.  "He was supposed to meet me for lunch today, but he hasn't answered any of my calls."

His lip curled.  "Sorry, haven't seen him.  I'm sure he'll spring up."  The Toyota pulled away, leaving behind the snow as It slowly melted.

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