The Break

At 17:30, our next-door neighbour texted to know what the shared driveway was like. I walked outside in the pouring rain in my zippered boots. It’s only ankle-deep, I replied. There’s an inch of crust over the slush. But the street looks like a river! Just watch the water, you’ll make it home all right.

At 17:40, the plough went by. It left a two-foot high wall of slush boulders in front of our parking pad, but only half that height across the shared driveway. Rather than texting Sarah back, I slipped on my raincoat and my big winter boots and thick leather mittens, and cut an entry through it the width of her car. Had been reading about Newfoundland fisherfolk; I figured I could put up with wet jeans for ten minutes.

Supper. Reading. Sleep.

At 05:38, Enviro Canada reported minus-5, with minus-13 wind chill. At 06:00, it reported minus-6, minus-15. So that’s a flash freeze.

At 7:06, having finished my journaling, I pulled on my big snow boots, winter jacket, tuque, wool scarf, thick leather mitts. Out the mud-room door onto the back porch, took the ice chipper and walked down the shared drive, my weight never breaking through the crust this time, to the front porch. Couldn’t pry the shovel loose; fetched the back-porch shovel instead.

Chopped at the front-walk crustiness, which broke into large shards like a whacked Mackintosh’s Toffee bar. Better footing now.

At 07:15, started in on the ice wall in front of Gillian’s car. Still dark. Peaceful. Underneath the wall, there remained an inch of slush. The wall was thus removable, chunk by chunk.

At 07:45, Gillian came out to help. I didn’t want the morning’s peace broken. Why don’t you give the dogs their breakfast and let them out, I said. Scat. Scoot. Sometimes a man likes to work in silence, and sometimes I’m a man.

At 08:00, a man with a toothbrush moustache and a lettered truck offered to clean the rest of the wall for free. No thank you, I said. You sure? Sure, I said. (Go away.) I can have that cleared in a jiffy. No thank you, I said. (Why would I want you to prove my efforts were all for naught?) That’s really hard, believe me! No thank you, I said. (Why should I believe you? I’m doing the work, you’re sitting in a truck.) Lettered truck man finally left.

At 08:15, a pigeon landed at my feet. Good morning, I cooed. Then its friend landed. Then their two friends landed. They had recognized me. Sure, I said. Set down my tools, walked along the crust, straddled the hobbit-door gate on the parking-pad side of the house, went around into the mud room.

I’m just in for a moment, I said; my friends have asked for some help. Would you like pancakes for breakfast? That would be lovely, I answered; I won’t be much longer.

Filled the cup with sunflower seeds for the ground-feeding birds. Scattered the seed under the feeder, the four pigeons swooping down to breakfast, trusting me. Shrugged off my winter jacket, left it on the outdoor table with the emptied cup. Examined my wall work; less than two feet to go.

At 08:35, I threw the final big chunk of ice onto the heap, and turned to make a grinning “feel my biceps” show-off posture at a passing car. It was the neighbours down the street; he had walked by earlier, on his way to work at the church, but apparently he was given the day off; his wife was fetching him home. He waved.

Serious case of tuque-head — but oh, those rosy cheeks!
Phone-photo by Gillian Barfoot.