Little Family in My Snowbank
I HATED TAKING out the skin-stinging trash, an adventure in snow and civics. The path in front of my house led to the driveway the plow guy shaved too close too much. Him, the wolf at my door. The plow man my wife was paranoid of. Him, who kept plowing because every time’s another thirty bucks. She pointed out how he’d come even when it hadn’t snowed. I know, I know. First world problems. Thing is, she was right. Not only did he knock on the door to collect thirty bucks when it snowed, but he also started to make it snow. Why so much? Why such a big plow blade? And why bee sting yellow? For answers, observe the snow in piles. Mountains of it. A class tax of snow. A-lean-on-my-house of snow. It was as if the plow guy put my lawn under one of those self-serve ice cream machines. He circles the landscaping Styrofoam slow, snowing up the sides, leaving the middle for last. I imagine the plow guy trying to whip the top of his hypothetical sundae (my lawn, mind you). But it’s hollow underneath. And if you can imagine all that, then you have an inkling of what I saw as I looked at the snowbank ten feet high—the top of which was sinking ever so perfectly in place, falling into itself. I heard a broken yell. Many plunged trumpets were ready to play within the snowbank. From the top, smoke curled up to the stars. I dropped my trash bag then. There, within Snow Mountain—put on my driveway by my plow man to freak out my wife—was a little family. They had a little fire going in a wee fireplace. It was gooseberry cheerful with matchstick rocking chairs and bottle cap Dutch ovens. A little one was reading a miniature book on the rug. Another was on its back fast asleep. You could hear faint snoring over the ice screaming in your ears. There was a sense, too, of others. Sight unseen. Ready to defend the home fires. I backed away. Anybody would have. This wasn’t about fighting. This was about that goddamn plow guy. No wonder he came all the time. Built himself a little igloo condominium for little families to live in, did he? Test my patience (and politics), would he? My wife and I would tell the plow guy not to come any more, wouldn’t we? Yes, we’d insist that he take down Snow Mountain, never letting on about how lucrative the rents are here. He didn’t come back around for a while. Probably at that “second” job he’d lingered to tell us about that one time. Many days passed with trash to take out, the hideous path to shovel, fatal icicles in the eaves to menace with a broom (closing your eyes each time you make contact, flecked by cold razor dust). One night, I was holding the ladder for my wife. She’d gone up on our roof with her new telescope aimed at the plow guy’s house. In between her shouting down at me to keep the ladder steady, I heard a little sound. TV noises coming from the snowbank. Funny thing, what with all that yelling and the TV, I spilled my canteen. Champagne froze the ladder in place so I didn’t have to hold on anymore. My wife was still on the roof, looking through her telescope as I tracked the noise, stepping careful to cover the crunch of my boots. I sanctioned the whole thing in my head as I crept. This is my property. I’m a human being and just look at them. They’re squatting in a snowbank beside my house on my driveway and it’s all been engineered by a plow guy who’s making a killing. I thought I would get the shovel and end it, the snowbank with them inside. Everything was blue, the color of darkness whispering your ear off with the cold. The same kind of blue, as it turned out, was coming from that tiny TV set when I looked in on them. Silver shadowed the room as those little ones danced their legs in its shine. They were lying on their bellies on the dog hair rug watching the TV. Snow sparkled where it peeked through their birch bark paneling. The hair on their heads caught the light filament-thin like silk worms suspending from summer trees. So they had a nice living room. So what. I had a shovel. But something in me wanted a flurry of boots instead—a big bad wolf kicking to blow down this precious Norman Rockwell bullshit in my driveway, all brilliantly finagled by the fucking plow guy. Enough! I would end it. But then PGL. Plow Guy Lights. I shouted to my wife using our code. PGL! She didn’t answer. Her telescope was trained on me. I could tell by her silhouette against the moon. PGL went the way predicted for our sun—bursting into a giant cymbal crash of whiteness. When you walk through the portal, you wonder momentarily about sand until there is nothing but yellow and all that tidal waving snow.
< Originally published in The Los Angeles Review >