Jan 24

The Storm

A car drives mutely across the snowdrifts 
that blanket the dirt road, 
as snow blazes down 
against its windshield.

Two girls sit side by side in the backseat, 
both just tall enough to press their faces 
against the glass of their opposite windows
and bloom condensation from their noses.

They are tight bundles of 
coats, snow pants, mittens, boots and scarves
that make them look like 
oversized-many-colored marshmallows.

In the front passenger seat
a fluff ball of yellow gold snores,
its cheeks puffing in and out
drool rolling off its lips.

The driver stares straight ahead,
tears rolling down her cheeks,
as she sobs silently, just hoping
the girls don't hear.

The girls wait patiently as the woman
drives them on through the blizzard.
They wait for the moment when they will jump out of the car 
and into the snow with Max barking happily with them.

The woman knows she can't keep the truth
held back from them for long,
but she wipes the back of her hand 
across her eyes and calms herself.

Max snores and splutters in his sleep
content with his life as a dog,
and the woman feels a sudden longing
to be like Max, sleeping, playing and living.

Soon they reach a T in the road
where the woman turns left onto yet another
dirt road. Her hand lingers over the radio knobs
and she reluctantly turns it on.

The radio blasts static for a few moments 
as the woman tunes it to the weather station.
A gruff voiced man talks quietly out of the 
door speakers, and the woman listens in.

"--severe snow storms predicted by midmorning.
The high today is 10 degrees with a low of 0. 
The windchill will reach below 8 degrees. 
Drivers stay safe, and be off the roads as soon as possible."

The woman sucks in a deep breath,
then checks her face in the mirror 
before turning to the girls in the back.
"We're almost there." She says. 

She gives them a sad smile, 
and pats each of their knees. 
As her gaze turns back to the road,
Max sits up abruptly and barks once sharply.

The woman glances at him.
"What is it Max? See something?"
She looks from the road, 
back to the retriever, sitting bolt upright next to her.

She rubs her temples,
"Buddy, I don't think there's anything out there."
Then one of the girls gasps. 
"Look Auntie! Over there!"

She follows the pointed finger
of her niece and sees through the storm,
a bundled figure shuffling along the side of the road,
she looks worriedly at Max who growls softly.

She sighs and pulls up behind the person,
who looks back at them long enough for her
to make out a man's face, his deep melancholy eyes,
shrouded by a thick scarf and hat.

The man stops as she rolls up next to him,
pressing the button to let the window glide down.
"Sir? Do you need help? No one should be out in a storm like this."
The man peers into the car, down at Max who growls at him.

"Ah, I might need a ride. 
You see I was just out hiking when the storm picked up.
My car's a few miles up the road,
but I could use a lift if you wouldn't mind."

The woman looks at Max. 
"I think you should  be asking him." She says with a laugh. 
"Max. Back. With the girls."
The dog grumbles to himself and jumps into the backseat.

The man brushes away some of the snow,
and opens the door sliding into the seat.
"Thank you for the ride miss." He says.
He looks back at the girls petting Max.

"That's one good dog you have there.
He's like a little guard dog!" He laughs.
Max grumbles at him, and the man quickly
corrects himself with a smile, "I meant big guard dog." 

The five of them continue on down the road,
the woman just happy to have someone to fill the silence.
The man tells them stories about his
many hiking adventures.

He also tells them about his dog
named Lola who used to go hiking with him 
and his wife before she got too old.
He looks at his hands. "She's a good dog, like Max."

Soon they reach a car piled high with snow,
Parked on the side of the road. 
“I guess this is where you let me off.” The man smiles at them
and gives Max a little pat which the dog takes reluctantly.

“Nice meeting you sir, drive safe.” The woman says,
smiling as the man opens his car 
after wiping some snow off the windshield.
“I will, and you too.” He starts the car waving them forward.

The woman and her two nieces wave back 
as they roll away.
Max jumps in the front seat, 
once again grumbling to himself as he settles down.