Boxing Day, New York, 1947

A young mother holds her son in her arms, snug against her hip. He’s in pajamas. It is snowing and her husband has his high-buckled, black snow boots on. His pea-green army overcoat buttoned around his chest and narrow waist, standing at the door.

“I don’t think you should chance it,” she tells him.

His back is already turned to her. It is winter-morning dark. He snaps down the brim of his hat.

“Have to go to work. It’s not that bad out.”

“It is. Please,” she says, reaching out, grazing his rough coat sleeve. “Nobody goes to work in weather like this.”

When he opens the door thick flakes rush in, only stopping when he steps out and pulls it closed. She turns the latch.

Setting the boy down, she folds her arms around herself. It is warm in the kitchen and she pulls the curtain aside to watch her husband walk past the rows of rounded Quonset huts, toward the street, his head and shoulders bent to the wind, until she can no longer see him.

At the kitchen table the two eat oatmeal together while the wind blows and the radio plays music that she sways to, repeating some words she knows. When she clears away the bowls and puts them in the sink it is light enough out to see the snow falling, pillowing the roof of the long building close to theirs.

Every few minutes, she stops what she is doing to go to the window. To look out. To sigh. This is how they spend the morning.

After lunch they lay on the bed in the other room. The boy falls asleep and when he wakes, she is calling someone on the phone. Dialing. Waiting. There is no answer. She puts the receiver down and rubs her fingers against her forehead, takes her glasses off and dials again.

The radio says the snow will continue all afternoon and through tomorrow.

They walk back to look out the window. It is only a few steps from the end of the bed.

She holds him close. Coming back to the bed again, she dials the phone once more, waits and then says, “Is Mickey there?”

“Where are you?” she says into the phone. “Nobody else is working today. Come home.” She tells him.

“I am not being unreasonable. I’m afraid. The roads are bad. I am not being neurotic. It’s a blizzard they said.”

Yes, it is,” she says. “I can see it. It’s not just flurries. Don’t treat me like I’m crazy. There is a foot on the ground. Please… wait,” she says. “I know you have to go. Don’t hang up. I want you home. Dinner will be ready at six. Please don’t be late.”

She picks the boy up and walks through the curtain into kitchen. To the door again. Snow has covered the window.

Dinner is on the stove. The room is hot and smells of meat and potatoes. Peas boiling. She holds the boy tight. He feels her warm breath against his cheek. The wind bangs against the metal siding of the house. They rock slowly side to side. Enclosed. Together.

She puts him down and unlocks the door and pulls it open a few inches to look out and, suddenly, the door blows inward and a wall of snow falls in, tumbling around their legs, covering their stocking feet. Filling the doorway. She pushes back against the door, packing the snow hard against the doorframe keeping it from closing.

Wind and stinging snow blow in. Swirling up to the light on the ceiling and around the room, fluttering the flames under the pans, extinguishing them. Gas seeps into the air.

She twists the burner dials first one way then the other. In the bedroom she puts the boy’s snowsuit on. He resists. She puts her own coat on and wraps the covers around us, crying, sobbing, screaming, making him cry.

The pots and spoons clatter to the floor. Rattling. Hitting against one another.

“This is hell!” she screams. “Where is he?” she cries

They huddle together. She’s holding the boy close, her shoulders shaking. The wind is a constant chilling stream around them. It does not stop.

And then it does. The tall young man, caked in white, has shut the door. His hat and coat are frosted with ice.

It is silent. The two stand together in a muddy puddle of melting snow, watching him.

He looks at the woman. Her coat. The boy in the snowsuit.  The debris on the linoleum. The room thickening with gas and he reaches to the stove and turns off the burners.

“What are you trying to do? Burn the place down? Kill yourself?” he says. His face is reddened.

“Where have you been?” she says. “I’ve been worried sick. Can’t you see what the storm has done?”

“What the storm has done? It opened the door? Didn’t you lock it?”

“I opened it,” she tells him.

“What for? Are you nuts?”

“I wanted to see if you were coming home.”

“I can’t believe this. Look at this place. I told you I was coming home. I can’t believe you opened the door.”

“Mickey,” she begins to cry. “I was so afraid you weren’t coming home. I didn’t know what to do.”

He kneels down, picking up the pots and the food from the wet floor.

“You didn’t know what to do?” he says, his hands dripping with peas and filthy water.

He turns and stands quickly. He looks at her with a face as hard as a fist and she flinches, sliding on the slippery floor, grabbing hold of his arm, slipping, and pulling him down hard onto the wet floor beside the boy and his mother.

 

 

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