Winter Snow - Keith Langley

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Families and dinner don't always go together.

Submitted: June 19, 2012

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Submitted: June 19, 2012

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Winter Snow

Struggling to put on her winter boots, Samantha finally pushes her foot into her boots, opens the door that leads out to the garage and heads out to the driveway where Matthew is busy trying to clear the snow.  “That pile on the corner must be at least five feet in height” Matthew panted.

“Well, this is Minnesota.  We always get snow in winter time.  I think the city should consider moving the snow from some of the streets.  It’s a real driving hazard,” Samantha responded.  Matthew scopes the last shovel load of snow off the drive.  They both head back into the house.

“What time is your Dad coming?”  Samantha asks her husband Matthew.  “That depends on how much he had to drink last night, and what the car mechanic had to say about the car.  I wish he would let me deal with this.”  Matthew’s retort didn’t help Samantha.  Her face appeared blank, “Well, I need to know, so I know when to put the potatoes in the oven.”  Matthew didn’t respond.  Samantha didn’t press for the answer again.  After a delayed silence Matthew quietly states, “I would guess five to be on the safe side.”

Everyone was used to the family dinner routine, and tonight was probably not going to be any different than any other dinner.  Everyone continued in their own activities.  Melanie, their fifteen year old daughter, was upstairs in her room, listening to music. 

Samantha stands at the bottom of the stairs and calls up to Melanie, “Melanie, please come and set the table for dinner.  Your grandfather is coming, so please remember to set an extra place.”  As Melanie’s door opens, the volume of the music increases, as does the tension of knowing the preset events.  Melanie slowly proceeds down the stairs to the dining room.  The yellow painted dining room is small and cozy.  A large wooded framed mirror helps open the kitchen and dining room in terms of spatial perception.  The granite top table still looks fresh and new despite being as old as Melanie.  Melanie grabs the plates and cutlery from the kitchen and progressively sets the table for dinner, squeezing between the wall where the mirror is hung and the table.

Melanie doesn’t engage her parents.  She tries to ignore them, with little interaction but a simple inquiry comes with no regard to the hard work of cooking a large meal, “What’s for dinner?”

“Please make sure the table is set correctly.  We’re having chicken couscous and veg” 

“Mom, can I go to Emma’s after dinner?”

“Only if all your homework is done and you eat all your dinner!”  Samantha responds.

“Her parents just bought her a car to learn to drive.”

“And so will we when you get your learner’s permit.”

“Emma doesn’t have her learner’s permit, yet.”

 “Melanie, we have an agreement, please stop asking the same question every day.” Matthew retorts interrupting the conversation.

Melanie sighs, finishes setting the table, and mutters about the unfairness of the life.  Life doesn’t get any fairer the older you get; the complexity of the problem changes, but the unfairness never changes.  Age is supposed to mature individuals.  The principle of maturity is we’re better experienced, enabling us to make better life decisions. 

Shortly after the dialogue between Matthew and Melanie, Matthew sits down on the sectional in the front room; he peers out through the large window that has a view of the driveway, and the ill planted Crab Apple tree, buried in the snow.  He grasps his Saturday newspaper, with the hope to submerge himself in peace and tranquility for a period of time.  Not able to concentrate on any one section, Matthew quickly scans the pages for interesting articles.  He relaxes back for a short moment and closes his eyes, trying to imagine tranquility; nothing appears just blankness.  A thought flashes back to his mother, and her last days in hospital.  The feelings of helplessness start to cloud over.  Suddenly, the thoughts are disrupted by car lights pulling onto the driveway; Matthew’s father arrives.  The whirring of the garage opening is like the weather sirens, warning his father has arrived.

“Hey Dad, how are the roads?” Samantha quickly tries to engage.

“Damn awful, you know these plow guys really don’t do a good job with the roads” Arnie responds.

“We’re supposed to get six inches, tonight!” Matthew joins in.

“What am I supposed to do to get a drink around here, die of thirst?” Arnie retorts.

“Dad, I thought you weren’t supposed to be drinking?”

“I’m cold; I need something to warm me up with” Arnie responds.
Arnie proceeds to the cupboard where the glasses are kept and takes out a tumbler.  He heads to the ice machine which rapidly spits out the ice blocks.  Some of the ice blocks spill onto the floor, but Arnie isn’t concerned.  Samantha gives Matthew a darting look and bends down to pick up the ice.  Meanwhile, Arnie is pouring himself a large drink of whisky and makes his way to the dinner table.

“Matthew, please tell Melanie dinner is ready”

Matthew heads to Melanie’s door, knocks, and tells Melanie dinner is ready, and that Granddad is here.  The door slowly opens.

“Dad, is Granddad in a good mood?” Melanie asks in a quiet voice.  Matthew doesn’t respond, but gives her a compassionate look back, communicating he understood the seriousness of the question.

Samantha finishes dishing dinner, sits down, and says grace.  Matthew and Samantha try to instill a sense of structure and moral code into Melanie.  Her parents struggle with explaining some of the inequalities life has.  It’s hard to explain situations to others, when sometimes you don’t always understand them as clearly yourself.  Demonstrating to a fifteen year old what she should be thankful for is an unimaginably difficult task when all they care about is their learner’s permit, and when they will be getting a car.

Matthew pauses for his dad to start eating dinner, and then commences his questions about the car.

“What did the mechanic say, dad?” Matthew asks

“Crooks, all of them, crooks.  Two hundred dollars for an oil change and new filter.  I should report them to police,” Arnie snaps.

“What about the leak?” Matthew responds back quickly trying to focus on the problem.

“That damn car has been a problem since your mother and I bought it.  I told her we should have sold that piece of junk year ago.  That woman never listened to me.” 

Matthew couldn’t respond. 

“Dad, please don’t talk about mom like that,” Samantha replied in a pleading tone

“It’s a new head gasket.  Damn car!  It’s not worth spending the money to repair.  I told your mother, I bloody told her it was a piece of junk.”  Arnie was getting more and more agitated.  He gulped his drink and continued.

“That woman never listened to me our entire marriage.  You damn doctors have no clue about how to cure anything”

“Dad, just because I’m a doctor, doesn’t mean I can cure everything.  We all miss mom.  We need to find a solution for the car,” Matthew stating his case.

“Someone get me another drink, I need a drink.  I’m not spending any more money on that car.”

“I think you’ve had enough, dad, the therapy was supposed to help you stop drinking.  You can’t keep drinking at the rate you’re drinking at,” Matthew said.

“Just get me a drink,” Arnie replied in a depressed tone.

Melanie was watching closely at the interaction.  Her eyes would move to the person who was speaking, then back to the person who answered.  Finally, she spoke.

“Why is granddad always mean to us?”

The silence that ensued was cold and hard hitting.

“Dad, I’m tired of this.  We’ve all tried to help.  Both Matthew and I have done everything possible to help you.  We all miss your wife, but this is the final straw.  Get out of our home!  I’m tired of this!  We spent a considerable amount of time and money, and you still persist in this childish behavior.  Get out!” Samantha was shaking but this didn’t come through in her voice, as she continued.

“We all bend over backward for you.  You take, and take, and take.  We all suffered when your wife died.  You haven’t even asked how your son is, or how he is coping.  Matthew isn’t drinking to comfort himself.Why don’t you ask how someone else is?  Our life savings spent to help you, and you thank us by continuing to drink.  Get out!  I never want to see you again, get out!”  Matthew didn’t respond, or defend his dad.  Arnie looked at Matthew, and realized his own son agreed with his wife.  The defiance of his own son strikes deep.

Arnie’s face twitches, trying to hold back the overwhelming shock.  He suddenly bolts up from the dining table.  His face, seething with anger with tears starting to well in his eyes.  He proceeds to the side door in the kitchen, grabbing his jacket on the way out.  Everyone else at the table is still trying to digest the truth that has forced Arnie to leave.

The revving of Arnie’s car then interrupts the silence at the table.  Arnie reverses off the drive at such at a rate.  The car skids to a halt at the end of the street.  Matthew and Samantha are peering through the window, watching the erratic behavior.

“He shouldn’t be driving, he’s going to kill someone”, Samantha shouts.

Suddenly, as if fate was listening, Arnie pulls out; the oncoming car could not stop in the snow.  The horn starts to sound from Arnie’s car.  Matthew runs outside without shoes or a jacket to his father’s car.  Arnie is slumped over the steering wheel.

“Call an ambulance, call an ambulance!” Comes the frantic calls from Matthew to the other driver who is getting out of the car, “Oh Dad, please wake up.”  Blood is spilling from Arnie’s mouth.

Matthew checks for a pulse.


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