There were always stretches along the steep forever hill where people had already shoveled and salted, even as trillions of flakes kept falling; powder sugaring the street where the plows had passed a half hour ago, dusting the windshields of freshly parked cars.
In the last colorless moments of visible day, me and my brother would yank our sleds off of silent unshoveled glides of sidewalk, and the blades would erupt: the red metal scraping down into the concrete tundra, one of our sleds hitting it just a millisecond before the other's did; the screech of two blades cutting across rows of snowy lawns, the unmistakable sound smashing through other kids' suppertime windows just as the next set of blades spilled down on to the cement and piled into the same warm kitchens on the heels of the first. Eyes lifted fast from the plop of mashed potatoes in front of them/ spoons got set back down on the half acre pillow of steaming meatloaf/ milk spilling out of tipped-back Grimace and Hamburgler glasses is suddenly dammed, mid-flow, by shortstops and bullies and flute players: their eyes widening through the mac-n-cheese mist; snow-tired kids drawn out of their exhausted evening lulls by the distant scrapings of other sledders/ later sledders, passing by outside.
Back at the house, me and my brother flung off our soaked gloves, our crusted Kmart scarves. We unzipped and tugged and used our one boot to get our other boot off; one boot clamping down on the other one as we leaned up against the coffe table or the door jam, tilting with fading balances as we pressed down upon our own arches to egg the tight mildew-y clamps off a couple inches at a time.
Just getting out of our shit was torture.We were already beaten, whipped.
But we managed somehow: eventually stepping out of our fallen suits to stand there in the living room in our hot wool sweaters and corduroys; our over-stretched tube socks collapsing red and blue rings around our ankles. In the kitchen we washed our hands with bar soap and talked to Mom about the day as she clanked spoons on pot edges. Every few seconds, I would look up at the small window above the sink, past the supermarket fern, and in the outskirts of weak glow from the backdoor light, I'd see the fresh flakes still falling.
I never wanted them to stop. Even a single snowflake meant there was hope. More could come. School could be canceled again. Another day on the hill could be ours.
At the table, we cut soft meat with the sides of our forks. We sopped white bread in small lakes of mud and took bites of bright corn mid-sentence. Mom poured milk into my Bill Bergey glass for me and into my brother's Wilbert Montgomery glass for him and I drank the cool milk with one hand while I steadied a forkfull of potatoes au gratin with the other; my eyeballs bending in my face to see the latest flakes falling down along the side of our house.
Then: the sound.
The blades of another slamming into the concrete out there in the night and I freeze my gulps, the glass pressing a cool smooth line into the bridge of my nose.
I shift my eyes and watch my brother freeze his gulps, our eyes meeting out above the paralyzed rims; the electrifying slide of a night sledder's metal richocheting off two young fresh hearts pumping double-time blood down in their pink bony chests; down by their Salisbury Steaks.