“Give them each two pieces, Buck.” I pointed at the trick-or-treaters.
Buck—with the candy bowl in his hands—lunged at the cluster of kids and then roared out something incoherent as he dropped the treats into their bags. To counteract Buck’s startling delivery, I brightened my smile at our mini-visitors. But they bolted anyway, and I grimaced. The man had probably turned off his hearing aids again—and upped his own volume to hear himself. I shook my head but gave him a pat on the back. “Okay, good job. Now let’s shut the door before the snow blows in.”
Buck shoved the candy bowl at me, slammed the door, and galumphed back to his favorite spot in the living room; his orthopedic shoes thumped the floor with each step, rattling the picture frames on the wall. He dropped onto the couch with a grunt, fumbled a lighter out of his pocket, and lit up a bent cigarette.
I stared out the picture window at the snow. What were fluffy flakes an hour earlier now ripped through the air, pelting the faces of little monsters or aliens or princesses—stuffed into snow suits—who tripped up the step to the group home’s front door every few minutes for treats.
The meteorologist had warned us about this October 1991 Arctic assault. We would all be wise to go home and stay put, he had said. But I was working the overnight shift with the three guys at the Juno house group home. If it kept coming down like this, would I even make it back to my place in Dinkytown in the morning?
Sal shuffled over to my side. “My turn next.” He squinted at me through smeared lenses, pushing up his wire rims with his middle finger. “It’s my turn next, ‘member? You said my turn.”
“Yep, Sal. You’re next.” I passed him the bowl, and he pulled it into a death grip, scooping up a handful of Tootsie Rolls and zeroing in on the little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and her mother coming up the sidewalk to the house. The kid got her sweets and headed back into the gusty night. Likely driven home by the howling winds and whirling snow, the bands of trick-or-treaters soon tapered off to nothing.
Dom had refused to be a part of the candy duties. Instead, he hung out in his bedroom, watching aerobics videos and noshing on corn chips. Later, after I had dispensed the meds and the three men were settled in their beds for the night, I retreated to the staff bedroom downstairs to do the chart notes. The storm’s roaring winds shook the house as I logged the events of the day.
The next morning, WCCO’s weather forecaster said over eight inches had already fallen on the Twin Cities, and more was coming. All the schools and colleges in town had closed. And Sal, Buck, and Dom were antsy; their day programs were canceled too.
When the next staff person arrived, her car—though brushed off on the sides—wore a mound of snow like a Russian fur hat, and she wedged her vehicle as close to the curb as the drifts allowed. Inside the doorway, she stomped the clumps off her boots, and I was officially off-duty. But my brother Fred had dropped me off the night before, and his car was now stuck in the driveway at the house we rented together in Dinkytown. How would I get home? Would Boyfriend attempt the roads from his place in Mounds View to come and get me? I dialed his number, but there was no answer at his apartment.
I bundled up, stepped into nature’s freshly shaken snow globe, and trudged through drifts for a couple of blocks to hop the bus at Hamline and Randolph. On the route, the bus driver narrowly missed cars deserted in the middle of streets, and after three transfers and almost two hours on the snow-clogged roadways, I exited the bus and tromped the remaining six blocks home.
My brother Fred met me at the door, his face rosy from the cold and his eyelashes still caked with snow. “T.J., you’re home.”
“And alive.” I stepped in the door and peeled the snow-encrusted stocking cap off my head. “How’s it going here?”
“Been out there shoveling for a couple of hours.” He ambled into the living room, and I followed him. He sat down, tugged off his wool socks, shook them out, and draped them over the back of a chair. “Oh, your man came over this morning. But he headed out about ten minutes ago to get you.”
“No.” I frowned, irritation mounting like the piles outside. “He should have called me first. I just spent two hours on a bus.”
Fred clucked his tongue. “Oops.”
More than two hours later, Boyfriend showed up at our door.
With a scowl, I let him in. “Why didn’t you call to say you were picking me up from work?”
“I wanted to surprise you.” He pulled off his boots and shrugged out of his coat.
“Oh.” My prickles smoothed. I motioned him to follow me to the kitchen. “Was it a rough drive?” I poured up a fresh mug, splashed in some creamer, and handed it to him.
He took a swallow of coffee and shrugged. “Just got stuck three times. So not too bad.”
On that day—November 1, 1991—over eighteen inches of snow fell in Minneapolis and St. Paul, leaving the storm total at twenty-seven inches in two days. Fred spent a day and a half shoveling out his LTD, so he could go and visit his girlfriend. And someone rammed into Boyfriend’s Datsun B210 that was parked on the street in front of our place. It was a hit-and-run, smashing in the side of his car and breaking off the mirror. The driver’s side door never opened the same way again.
Boyfriend had braved the storm for me that time, plunging through treacherous conditions behind the wheel of his rusty steed—with its sketchy heating system and hole in the floor boards—to rescue me from work even though I had already left. And his heroics surfaced again five and a half years later during the barrage of blizzards in 1997 that catapulted our town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, into a natural disaster zone.
But that’s a story for next time.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.