Monday

ice

The horizon blazed warm shades of orange, yellow, and hot pink. The sun rose, a fiery ball, in the East. Yet, there was no heat from the sky. I shivered to think of my husband puttering to work in the old Hyundai with its sometime hot/sometimes not heater. Hopefully, he wore gloves, but I doubted it.

I returned my focus to the glittering road. Everything on either side of it was frozen in place. Trees were lined in white; their branches hung low with winter’s burden. Smoke curled from chimneys and hung in the air, too cold to hurry away.

The day felt brittle, as though one strike against the fabric of time and it would shatter into a million bits of ice to melt on the first warm day of spring. No one would miss it. No one would remember.

My car fishtailed as I slowed for a red light. I pumped the brakes as I scanned ahead and tried to remember if this was the very situation in which to not pump the brakes.

As the car spun around, I prayed all the prayers, promising to be good and kind, to keep New Year’s resolutions, to be a better person, in exchange for protection from what was about to happen. I closed my eyes and resigned myself to Fate.

It was a beautiful, cruel morning to start the week.

Escape from the Midwest Winter

forest

“Here Nature is unapproachable with her green, airy canopy, a sun-impregnated cloud- cloud above cloud- and though the highest may be unreached by the eye, the beams yet filter through, illuming the wide spaces beneath, chamber succeeded by chamber, each with its own special lights and shadows.”

W.H. Hudson, Green Mansions

My neighbor’s keeper/active voyeur

spy

Every morning, I crack the blinds to sit on the couch with a bowl full of cereal to watch the neighbors. I might try to make it sound less creepy by saying that I’m keeping an eye on things for them, but it wouldn’t be true. To be quite honest, I’m not keeping an eye on things for them, I’m keeping an eye on them for my own entertainment.

They have quite the routine worked out between the two of them, which varies only if one of them is already gone. I can tell the order of expected events for the day by the cars parked in the driveway. If they are both home, the wife is the active one. She starts by tying the curtains back in the picture window, kicks the dog out, and sends her husband out to warm up the car. Shortly after that, she bustles out carrying a bag on both shoulders with a thermos of something in one hand and a baby carrier in her arms with what appears to be a bundle of blankets tucked inside of it. Although I can’t be certain, I have to guess that this is Baby Dum-Dum wrapped up and ready to go.

When it’s just the husband, the tried and true expression comes to mind that when the cats away the mice will play (or in this case, just the mouse). He usually emerges when my cereal is halfway gone, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It’s always the same old grubby green sweatshirt that he wears with the sleeves pulled over his knuckles and his thumbs shoved through holes when he lights up a cigarette and blows smoke rings into the cold air. I’m sure the wife smells the smoke on him, especially since he appears to only own one raggedy sweatshirt.

As I’m finishing up my cereal, he’s stamping out his butt on the concrete steps. He’s careful to pick it up and carry it off for disposal at a different location where his wife won’t find it. Effort counts for something, I used to think. At least he’s not a litter bug.

Then it snowed a few times and the routine changed. His car was gone every morning and his wife continued on as usual. Where has he gone? Is there a divorce in the works? He must have died or been arrested. There was a good deal of speculation from across the street that was quickly squelched out, like one of his secret smokes, when the truth was brought to light.

His car was parked in the tiny tool shed. It left one morning, completely ice and snow free while his wife remained in their gravel drive way, scraping away at her windshield while continuously checking in on young Dum-Dum, wrapped and ready to go.

What a chump. What a bunch of chumps. Yet, who am I to say anything as I rinse out my cereal bowl and wonder how often they peer through our blinds that open every morning at the same time as their curtains are pulled back.

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”
― George Orwell, All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays