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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a snowy morning

Awoke again just before 4:00 with a restless mind. When the alarm went off at 5:30 Kimmie sprang up to peer out the blinds at the window.

"What's happening?" I said.

"There's about five inches of snow!"

She was excited. We both like heavy snows, for their beauty, unusualness, and the quiet and disruption they bring to the busy city.

"Guess I'd better get out there and shovel," I said.

Dressing hastily in "work" sweatpants and T-shirt, and throwing on an old fleece and windbreaker, I fetched a plastic snow shovel from the storage-room off our building's common garage and went out into the dark. Yes: all was blanketed in thick, pristine snow, which continued to fall in wet flakes. Someone had trudged up the sidewalk maybe a half hour earlier: their footprints were mostly filled in. But otherwise it was pristine. Starting at our own front porch, I bent to the task of shoveling.

Being the only able-bodied man in the four townhouses that front our stretch of road, I take on the responsibility of shoveling snow out front. The rumble of my plastic blade along the concrete walks was loud in the silent morning. I worked fast, wanting to get it all done before people started tramping it down. Shove, lift, toss; shove, lift, toss.

A woman came walking down St. Georges Avenue, turning on to Keith toward the bus stop in front of our house. She was an older woman, rather tall, dressed in a dark coat and hat.

"We'll be glad when this winter's over," she said quietly as she passed me.

"I like it," I said, heaving another load of snow to one side.

"You do?"

She sounded almost interested rather than surprised, but didn't break stride in her progress to the bus stop. Soon she was joined by a gray-bearded man holding a tall cup of coffee. They quietly said good morning to each other.

I cut a channel through the snow to the street corner, then shoveled off my neighbors' individual walks. Only a couple of vehicles trawled up through the snowy streets, making muffled, muttering sounds while I worked. Otherwise, the only sound was the rhythmic scrape of my plastic shovel. The snow shone in the impersonal apricot-colored light of the streetlamps. The bus arrived, pulling up carefully, and the woman and man boarded. The bus spun its wheels awhile before it was able to pull away.

Panting, and feeling a bit sore in the lower back, I trudged up my cleared steps and rested the shovel on my porch. It was 6:20--time to come in an make the coffee.


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