by Gary Fincke
NOBODY WOULD CHECK the politics of people willing to hire out for driveway snow removal. Whatever ideas they might have about different kinds of people are their business. Think about that for more than a few seconds, then tell me I’m right.
Listen, after the last storm hit, before he was scheduled to arrive, our regular snow-shoveler hurt his back clearing the driveway of another customer. While it grew dark, my wife made six phone calls without success. There were doctors’ appointment in the morning, the possibility of emergencies. By eight o’clock, we welcomed the man and woman who slogged to our side door.
Standing there in his thin, hooded sweatshirt, an unlit cigarette in the corner of his mouth like a toothpick, the man looked barely out of his teens. He wanted me to know that our driveway wasn’t as short as he’d expected, could we go for $30 rather than his usual $20? I said, ‘Sure,’ happy to have things done and still a bargain. We paid our regular guy $40. The woman, who looked even younger, shoveled with him. They did a fantastic job, even clearing the porch and that spot where the first step off it was always treacherous in winter.
Except my wife, the next day, looked the man up on Facebook to see who would come out at night to shovel so cheaply. The man and woman were married. They had a baby and lived with his mother. He worked two jobs, sixty hours a week combined. Like us, you could start having admiration for their pluck, but right there, first in the queue after that tiny biography, was a video of him burning a Black Lives Matter flag, a cigarette at the same angle in his mouth as it had been at our door. The flag is large. It catches and flares while he holds it. Then he dumps it in a burn barrel, raises both hands in triumph. “Feels good” was captioned underneath. We both wished we hadn’t seen that film.
The weather has held for a few weeks, but each time snow is predicted, we discuss the snow-remover’s hate. His bigotry, a definite minus, offset by how cheap he is. How well he shoveled, his wife, too. How they took care near the porch where we could easily slip. Will we hire him again, we ask each other, that angry racist? That man who says he hates “the blacks” and anybody stupid enough to support them. He’d even picked up both of his cigarette butts. I’d looked for them as the snow melted as if they were a tiebreaker for rehiring.
We settled for wishing for snow not to accumulate. When it did, so far, only 2-4 inches at a time, we shoveled it ourselves, pushing it into clumps we lifted half-shovel-full at a time, never taking the shovel above hip level. Afterwards, we ache, of course, but we’re retired and have the time and the heavy clothing. So, it’s only in an emergency, more than four inches, the driveway impossibly plowed in by the borough, that we need to worry about because our regular guy is still laid up. February, though it has just started, is a short month that nearly flies by. There is only a month left of being forced to make a choice.
I’m saying all this because right now, mid-February, we are following the weather, the snow advisory turning to storm watch turning to storm warning. If the worst of it travels just fifty miles farther north of us, we might get freezing rain or even just a downpour, but here it is promising heavy wet snow, a foot, possibly more in certain areas, one of which might be ours.
We’ve checked back hourly after the first flurries turned steady. Our widowed neighbor, when we called her, said she pays $50 for her driveway even though the guy uses a snow blower and is done in no time at all. My wife took down the phone number, but she said, ‘Some people have their nerve’ as soon as she hung up.
The snow could still stop before four inches. Maybe even at six. It’s only $20 we’re talking about, but we both agree that a $50 snow-blowing feels like robbery. We can wait to commit. It’s only late morning. The racist snow-shoveler has a full-time job. He only clears sidewalks and driveways at night.
But just this minute, the snow begins to fall harder. Outside is covered by that perfect, fresh, white, first two inches, everything posing for a Christmas postcard. If we went upstairs, we could see over our neighbors’ houses to where a pale sweep of meadow runs right up to the red-brick church. We could imagine being snowed in for a week, not a postcard whatsoever, a situation to avoid.
Gary Fincke’s latest collection is Nothing Falls from Nowhere (Stephen F. Austin, 2021). His flash stories have appeared recently in Craft, Wigleaf, Atticus Review, Pithead Chapel, Vestal Review, Ghost Parachute, and Best Small Fictions 2020. He is co-editor of the annual anthology series Best Microfiction.