Last Detail: Flake of Darkness


Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the March 2010 issue.

The TV weather prophets warn of snow. They foretell three to six inches, advising that it will fall soon, swiftly, and with extreme prejudice. A succession of colorful, mystical graphics are presented as proof. Unless I’m hallucinating the evidentiary graphics, unhinged by the mere prospect of six inches of snow.

They explain at some length, these teleprophets, that The Looming Ordeal will begin after midnight. That by dawn, the city will lie shrouded beneath the first two inches. That the roads, our commutes, will be slick, slow, arduous. They don’t say deadly. I listen closely for the word and hear them not say it. Not that they have to. Their sober expressions and happy talk–less presentations make clear what they’re thinking: Many of us are going to die. Or be horribly, horribly inconvenienced.

My nerves twitch with foreboding. Except for my house, furnace, water heater, fireplace, telephone, television, radio, computer, and L.L.Bean slippers, I’m totally unprepared for the presumptive Blizz-krieg. For that, I blame myself. Because as the old saying goes: Everybody complains about the weather but nobody kills it.

At the bottom of the TV screen, the first casualties of tomorrow’s Potential Onslaught are already being made known: School closings. Event cancellations. Business delays. Seems doubtful a single societal function or outside-the-home activity will endure the promised Significant Accumulation. To underscore that prospect, a salt truck, yellow lights dancing over the as-yet unburied landscape, speeds past my window, pretreating the road. There is poignancy in its pointlessness.

But no. Wait. There’s still time. To act. To fight. To go Krogering. For bread, for milk. For survival. Yes. I will. I’ll go. Because not going would mean the snowflakes have already won.

In vehicle, in transit. Portentous, preliminary flurries flutter and swirl, touch ground, mostly melt. Streets are damp and lightly dusted. Choked with traffic. Fellow breadseekers and milkstalkers, I feel certain. Or who knows? Maybe they’re simply desolate souls called to witness and experience the unwhitened, fully frictional world one final time. But whyever we’re all out here, we’re each of us driving the same: slowly, selfishly, herkily-jerkily, as if the three-to-six have already fallen. Practicing for tomorrow when it has.

Kroger is a crush. Aisles and checkout lines engorged with rampaging hoarders. Milk and bread are gone. Eggs, bananas, o.j., Doritos, ground beef, Cheerios, frozen pizzas, and Bud Light have also vanished. Clearly, my neighbors will not surrender to the storm. Or if they do, it won’t be on an empty stomach.

Home. Morning. Lawns are faintly powdered. Streets clear. No inches. Threat passed. Bullet dodged. This, then, is the winter of our discombobulation.

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