Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News from My Neighborhood: Winter Wonderland

The lady at Home Depot asked, "Are you ready for the snow?"

"I think so," I said. I was buying a forty pound bag of water softening salt, because they had run out of regular rock salt. No one around here was ready for so much snow.

"When you're a kid," she said, "Snow is all about magic. You grow up and it's all about work."

Trying to get home was work. The cars spinning on the ice, the semis breaking every traffic rule to try to get onto the right street. Pileups and accidents slowed everything down. After five cycles at a light waiting for a left hand turn, but receiving nothing, I decided to head North and then double back on another road farther from the crowds of incompetent ice drivers.

As I moved up the street, I saw a left hand turn that looked familiar. The snow made it hard to tell if it was the street I thought it was... everything was uniform white, smooth and stretched out to more white smoothness. I took the turn.

A few minutes later everything looked familiar, but not quite right. The snow-covered houses could be any snow-covered houses. A field of sheep was on the right side, and I thought they should be on the left. I picked up a compass between the seats and held it up. I should be going West. But the compass didn't turn.

A dark wood crept up on the road, the snow like the caps of waves. As I went around a curve I heard a muffled thunder from the wood. The car slid on the ice, and I wrangled the car back on track. I stopped, the adrenalin and blood pounding through me, and turned off the car for a minute. I looked up, and emerging from the wood was a centaur, his hooves flinging up the snow. He stopped in front of the car, his chest heaving, his breath rising like clouds, his hair encased in ice and sweat. He looked at me with wide, golden eyes, then back to the woods. He motioned with his hand for me to follow, and trotted across the road and into the dark woods.

I had read enough as a child to know that this was the moment in which I could enter into some great adventure. A howling from the distance told me that something--or someone--was on his trail. I sat for a long time until the air in the car started to cool. Then I reached down and turned the key in the ignition. I had a driveway to shovel, and ice to melt on the walkway.

Around the curve, the street came out into a familiar road, and I made it home without any excitement.