by Adam Prosser
Just when it seemed the snow had stopped, that the miserable weeks
of rime and wind were over and done with for another year, down it came in
an unseasonable squelch. It was grey and messy and runny, just as if some
Norse god of blood and thunder had coughed it up all over the
neighbourhood, and it seemed to grab bitterly at the boots of those who
trod through it. Anyone who was foolish enough to step off the curb--anyone
who had taken their car out of their garage--anyone who had to wait for the
bus, or take their dog for a walk, or go out for recess--they all
discovered just how long winter could hold a grudge.
Naturally, I had to shovel it.
Why, I asked in my naivete.
That, they replied, is an excellent question, one worthy of pondering at some later date. The shovel's in the garage.
So I began to shovel. And the whole time I was thinking, Annette, Annette, Annette. Maybe when summer came I would see her again.
This is how the snow was. On top was a layer of sheet ice, just
cold enough to stay frozen and provide an impediment to my shovel. Beneath
that, like a tar pit disguised as a harmless drinking hole, was a layer of
slush approximately waist high. It was almost liquified, except for the
wayward chunks of ice that lurked in wait for an open pant leg. And of
course it was freezing.
Below that, just to make sure that there was something to shovel,
the snow was packed about as densely as the atoms in a carbon diamond, and
secured to the asphalt with rubber cement. When hell does in fact freeze
over, this is probably the kind of snow they're going to get. Evil in snow
Lest any of you think that I am by nature a complaining sort, be
advised that all of this would have been borne cheerfully had not Bernard
Bernard has an unusual knack for locating whoever is suffering the
most in the immediate vicinity, and completely failing to ease that
suffering. In fact, if you're not in the mood to be spoken to, he sort of
adds to it.
"Snowy today, isn't it?" he began.
This did not particularly need a reply, which was good, since I
don't think I would have trusted myself with words at that moment.
"I see you got stuck with the shovelling," Bernard continued.
"There's another shovel in the garage," I mentioned as casually as
"What's wrong with the one you're using?"
Once again I gritted my teeth. A particularly large clot of evil
snow flew into the air.
"Seems like the winter's been especially long this year, wouldn't
you say?" Bernard went on, apperantly determined to put the effort he was
not expending helping me into the conversation. "I mean, it's almost April
"It IS April, Bernie."
"I thought it was still March."
"It's April 2nd. Tommorrow's good Friday."
Bernie winced. "I missed April Fool's day?"
"Oh man, I had this great prank set up for my girlfriend. I was
going to tell her that..." a pause. "I thought it was a Tuesday this year."
"I don't keep track of April Fool's day." I was getting steamed at
him, for no good reason. Well, actually I had several reasons, but usually
I don't get mad at Bernie.
Bernie walked over to the car and leant against it, crunch crunch
crunch. "I keep track of ALL the holidays. Saint Patricks' Day I wear
green. On groundhog day I...watch Groundhog Day."
"That's the one with Bill Murray?"
"Where he keeps living the same day, over and over again. Yeah. And
I saw this other one that my girlfriend picked out. Really old, Japanese
movie. Subtitles. It was about this guy, he was in this town, it was in the
desert, and the sand kept trying to bury it. So the guy kept trying to
shovel it back. That's all he did, was keep shovelling."
"I can relate most spectacularly." I paused, leaned on the shovel,
and arched my back, trying to work out the cricks. The sky above was as
white as a blank piece of paper, luminescent, with no sun in sight. I
closed my eyes, just naturally picturing Annette.
Yes, if I could just see her again, then all this crud would be
worthwhile. I thought of Annette on the beach, and my mood lightened. A
Bernie was still talking. "Sucks that I missed April Fool's day,
though. I had it all planned out." He chuckled and shoved me. "Since the
world's ending this year, that was my last chance, right?"
"If the world ends, Bernie, It's only because some idiots believe
so strongly that the world is going to end that they do something to bring
it about." I opened my eyes. "Which is, I admit, not an impossibility. The
most accurate prophecies are the self-fulfilling ones."
"The Vikings," continued Bernie obliviously, "believed the world
would end in a giant battle. But first there would be a long, continuous
snowfall, lasting for several years, with no summer in between."
I nodded. "Ragnarok."
"I get the feeling that the ancient Norsemen had it all planned
out. They describe it in great detail. You know how people are. 'Ooh,
winter's hanging on, isn't it? This year is going to be the end. For real.
It'll happen on February the 15th. I'll provide the buffet."
"Geez, you're just a bundle of sunshine today, aren't you."
"The weather affects my mood. As does manual labour. I'm coming to
believe that I am, in fact, suffering the same fate as Bill Murray in
Groundhog Day, and I have to shovel this snow constantly as in that
Japanese movie of yours."