(Originally posted on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 12/11/2010 – edited for this posting)
The winds shrieked like a woman who has just learned her beloved is a germy cheat. The forecast had called for flurries, but looking at the white-out conditions from the dining room window, she was pretty sure someone on the “storm team” should be fired – or worse. It felt decadent to be so cozy and warm, snuggled into the too-big sweater that was pulled out for all manner of occasions calling for comfort – feeling punky, getting over a heartbreak, not wanting to pay the gas bill for frivolously turning the thermostat to 68 degrees. The slipper socks with the faux leather soles purchased at Kohl’s were a nod to her mother who used to knit slipper-socks rather like them for her to wear in cold weather. Sipping a cup of hot cocoa she looked around the dining room – at the papers scattered across the table, bills, to-do lists, requests for donations to find a cure for cancer, feed the hungry, stop violence, run crooked politicians out of office, etc…. Did anything ever really get done? No matter how much she tried to keep this all in check, it seemed to multiply two-fold for each thing she actually got done. Very discouraging. She picked up one of the marshmallows sitting next to the cup of hot cocoa and popped it in her mouth.
A sharp rap on the front door brought her out the chair she was sitting in at the end of the table – one of the chair arms bit into her thigh as she moved toward the door. She couldn’t imagine who it could be at this hour. She glanced up at the wall clock and saw it was only 7:30 p.m. Reaching for the door handle, she was startled by a second hard rap on the door. She stepped back from the door, absentmindedly rubbing the sore spot on her leg. There were windows in the door with glass that let in the light but distorted the view of what or who was on either side of it. She hadn’t turned on the porch light when it started getting dark, but she could see there was someone or something very large standing on the other side. The third knock was hard enough to rattle the glass and she finally just grabbed the doorknob and pulled open the door to find a large man holding a shovel and looking cold and miserable.
He looked a bit comical wrapped up like the mummy against the weather. “Can I …. ?” She could almost see the words being ripped out of the air by the punishing gusts of wind. Huh? “Can I shovel your walk?’ he said gruffly looking a little annoyed. Is he kidding? The blizzard was keeping most of the snow pressed nicely against the side of her house, the side of the car, the sides of everything. The walk was surprisingly clear. The cold was cutting through her sweater and she wanted to slam the door to keep the house at it’s normal constant 64 degrees. What was this guy thinking? She started to say “Thanks, but no” when she noticed that in the space of time she had taken to determine she didn’t need this guys services, he had adjusted his stance and was now poised, shovel over his head appearing to look straight through her. She yelped a pathetic sound and ducked, at the same time trying to shove the door closed with her slipper-shod foot, as she saw him begin to bring the shovel down rapidly toward her head. There was a thunderous sound as the shovel hit it’s mark….
She jumped almost out of her skin as the shovel crashed down on a spot just to the left of where she was standing. She tried to swear at the mummy man, but it was hard to get even a word past her pounding heart currently lodged in her throat. On the floor, under the blade of the shovel, was a small, spreading pool of what looked like blood – very grisly. Looking up the handle of the shovel, up past the big hands that held it and the arms the hands were attached to, she locked eyes with the would-be sidewalk clearer. He looked expectant – perhaps waiting for a thank you. With comically raised eyebrows she asked, without words, what the heck had just happened. He raised the shovel off the floor and dunked it into the snow at the side of the porch.
Just inside the door there was now a puddle of goo and unidentifiable material. What was it? The man no longer appeared menacing and was standing looking at the floor too. Her lips pulled back in disgust, she slowly bent down to get a better look. Her knees crackled as she got down to a squat and she had to put a hand on the door jamb to steady herself. Peering at the floor she suddenly burst out laughing. The victim of the shovel attack was the toy she had bought for her cat a while back. It was a big rat on wheels – wheels hidden so that when the thing moved across the floor it had an eerie life-like quality. It had scared the cat and he would only deign the interact with it long enough to knock it away from him – which he must have done tonight in the midst of the goings on at the front door, sending the toy boldly into the line of fire and to it’s doom. The unexpected guest at her door had acted the hero.
Now looking at the carnage, she became aware that the still spreading puddle was some sort of dark, thickish fluid filling in the toy that made it all soft and rodenty She laughed again. Her laughter appeared to have an impact on the man on the porch. He looked perturbed and unappreciated. She stood up, crackling and popping, explained her mirth and thanked him for his gallantry. His face, previously pinched with irritation, broke into a warm smile and he let out a great gust of laughter that was quickly cut off by another intense blast of wintry air. After a moment’s consideration, she invited him to step inside for a cup of hot cocoa and to warm up a bit before continuing his evening. He accepted and as she started toward the kitchen to get something to clean up the mess, she rubbed the sore spot on her thigh, turned briefly and said, “Leave the shovel outside!”