It was a beautiful snowfall, though it doubled Hilary’s drive time coming home from Prior Lake. I had a fire going when she got home, and we were soon enjoying left-over spicy pork stew (orange peel, eight cloves of garlic, leeks, thyme) over new potatoes. Soon she was deep into a Ruth Rendell mystery. I had a stack of New York Review of Books to work through.
I’d retired to the computer room when I heard Hilary exclaim: “John!” in that tone of voice often hinting that a deer is standing just outside the window, nibbling on the arbor vitae. Or an owl has alighted on the streetlight pole.
“What?” I replied.
“I think Stephan is blowing our driveway. You should go out and thank him.”
“Well, I’ll go get some more wood from the garage, and thank him along the way.”
But Stephan (our neighbor across the street and two houses down), wasn’t blowing our driveway. Brendan (our neighbor across the street) and Jamal (our neighbor to the north), were having a snow-blower convention out there. It’s a wonder they didn’t knock each other over with their fountains of new-fallen snow. It sounded like a airport runway.
By the time I got outside, they were turning off their machines.
“Thanks, gents,” I said. “I appreciate it. Big time.”
“Well, you’re the one who helped me get this machine going,” Jamal said. “I’d sunk $200 into this thing and all it needed was some fuel stabilizer.”
“Well, all the same, you guys are swell.” I opened the garage door and lifted out my own little Toro pup.
“You’ve got those big two-stage throwers,” I said. “This little darling just throws the snow a few feet straight ahead.”
Brendan told us how he’d purchased his own humongous blower, we rehashed the weather. I brought out my ice dam stories—I guess the only thing missing was a pint flask of whisky going around in the dark. I think we all enjoyed the camaraderie.
This morning I was up at 5:30. The coffee was brewing, and I had it in mind to scan a few choice pages from The Platonic Renaissance in England by Ernst Cassirer. I retrieved this book from the off-site stacks of the downtown Minneapolis Library a few weeks ago, and once I return it I’ll probably never see it again.
Then I heard the noise again. A snow-blower. Our driveway? Yes. Someone was clearing off the ridge created by the plow sometime deep in the night. Was that Jamal or Brendan? Whoever it was, a few minutes later he was down cleaning up the entry to Stephan’s driveway.
I think that may have been Stephan himself.