Excerpt for The Adventures of Ken Spaulding Mother Nature's Snow Globe by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Mother Nature’s Snow Globe



By Mike Damm




This short story is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, dialogue, and plot are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.


Published by Mike Damm on Smashwords



Copyright 2018 by Mike Damm

DammNation Publishing



May 2018




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1977


After about ten minutes on the road, Ken started to see signs of trouble. As he came over a hill he met snow with his windshield and his tires and not a little snow but inches of snow on the road with winds whipping the snow across the Interstate right to left with drifts starting to form.

Ken turned on his radio and started to plan his turn around.

“The winter storm has come in faster than expected to the south of the Twin Cities. Due to the blowing and drifting snow Interstate 35 has been closed from the southern edge of the Twin Cities suburbs to the Iowa border. Due to the size of the storm and the forecasted high winds, the Interstate is expected to be closed the majority of the day, even into the evening hours. In addition, I have just received word that all county plows will be pulled until the storm has passed as well. I hope you are all where you want to be for the rest of the day. ”

“No! They’re going to close it before I can even get turned around. I wouldn’t have left if I had known.”

After a few minutes of no music and constant reminders that Ken should not be on the Interstate, he turned off the radio.

A 19-year-old college student with about a two-hour drive home, Ken did not have a credit card and checking his wallet found $13 and he could feel some change in his pockets.

If I leave the Interstate I won’t be allowed to reenter to return to my apartment, he thought, the other road options are county blacktops that would not be plowed until the snow has stopped blowing around, which could be early tomorrow morning and I have no money for a hotel.

As Ken was contemplating his options a semi passed him going about 60 miles per hour and seemed to be booking long term.

“Game on!”


Earlier that day, Ken Spaulding was anxious to head home for a short weekend. He planned to stay at his parent’s house, but he was going to see his girlfriend. Going a whole week between visits made him feel restless and alone no matter how many people may be around.

Saturday mornings at the service station were fairly quiet. He was the only person working and no backroom appointments were set. The two-bay gas station was in a southern Minneapolis suburb and sported four gas pumps with overhead canopies. Two pumps in front and two pumps located on the right side looking out from the front counter. The driveway bell had a small rubber hose on both pump sides of the station that ran on the ground from station mounted metal tubes out between the pumps and out to the end of the drive to alert the attendant if a car pulled in, though the customer pumped their own gas. The station was Ken’s college job. He worked from 4 PM until close Tuesday through Thursday and every other Saturday 7 AM until noon.

“Only a half hour more,” Ken said out loud to no one, “only a half hour left and I am out of here,” tossing a cleaning rag into the dirty rag bin in the back room.

There was a winter storm warning in effect starting at 2 PM, just enough time to get out of town and get home before it started to pile up. Ken used the station’s pay phone to make a collect call home to confirm the weather just as the bell rang letting him know someone had driven over a hose on their way to get gas.

“Hi dad, it’s Ken. I am getting ready to head home but wanted to check on the weather.”

“Hi Ken, can’t wait to see you. Everything looks good here. Rain now, but we are set to get some snow later, probably won’t start until after you get home.”

“Great, I will see you sometime tonight, not sure when,” Ken said, letting his father know he would be seeing his girl prior to coming home.

“Very good,” said his dad, “we will see you when we see you.”

“Thanks, dad, got to go,” Ken said, as he hung up quickly noticing Janice was finishing pumping her gas.

Janice and her friends were seventeen, from well-to-do families, cared about their looks, and flirted with anything that moved. When Janice came in by herself she would stay and talk. Ken enjoyed their talks. But when the friends were with it was not cool for her to linger.

Janice and friends came in the front door which was located directly in front of the counter near the center of the building.

“Good morning, Janice.”

“Hi Ken, you know Amy and Amber.”

“Ladies.”

Neither said anything as they pretended to be too cool to address him and looked around the station.

“Pump two,” Janice said sarcastically, like there were other customers, as she handed Ken her dad’s credit card.

Ken placed the credit card and sales slip into the mechanical card imprinter and swiped the handle across, then returned it, to make multi-carbon imprints onto both pages of the sales slip. Ken removed the sales slip and pressed down as he wrote in the amount. After getting Janice’s signature he returned her dad’s card with the client copy of the sales slip, putting the store copy in the cash register under the drawer.

“God, Janice, your new car is so cool. I can’t believe your dad bought it for you,” said Amber.

“Yeah, it’s cool. I was kind of hoping for a Beemer, but a new Camaro is pretty cool.”

“Can I get the carbons, please?” asked Janice, turning back to Ken, “My dad wants me to get them.”

“Sure, here you go,” said Ken, distracted. He caught himself before throwing them in the wastebasket and handed her the carbons.

As the girls exited they waved at Ron, who was pulling in to relieve Ken. Glancing at the clock Ken saw 11:55 and he started closing out the till.

“Hey,” said Ron, who was obviously in pain as he came in the front door.

“Hey, Ron,” said Ken with a smile, “long night?”

“No, the night seemed to go quickly. The morning, on the other hand, has been short but seems like a week. Not sure how I got home, my car was there, so I guess I drove, no idea what time I went to bed.”

“Where’d you go?”

“Ended up at a kegger down by Lakeville, lots of people, back forty of someone’s farm. People of all ages and I met a few girls.”

“Were they at least juniors in high school this time?”

“No IDs, man, if they’re old enough to be there, they’re old enough.”

“Glad I got my girl, man, I hate that scene.”

“You’re missing out, got to share the love.”

“Whatever; well, nothing like gas and oil smells to increase the effects of a hangover,” said Ken.

“Shut up, man, I don’t need any subconscious thoughts to make this worse. I need to get better so I can go to a party tonight,” said Ron slumped in the chair behind the counter with his head in his hands.

Ken couldn’t help but smile as he hustled out the gas meters to verify the amounts sold during his shift. Back inside he combined the gas meter numbers, the register totals, and credit card slips and dropped his close out papers in the wire tray on the owner’s desk.

“See ya, buddy,” Ken said as he exited the front door, “have fun tonight!”

“Thanks,” said Ron, not looking up still holding his head in his hands.

Ken walked to the oxidized red ’65 Volkswagen Beetle he had bought for $100 at the beginning of the school year. It was not his style. It certainly was inexpensive to drive. Bucket seats with a shifter between, 68,000 miles, back seats folded down into a nice bed-like surface for ‘parking’ with his girl when he got home, and a newly installed 6-volt heater bought from a VM fanatic friend. Without the heater it took the Beetle heat boxes that were mounted around the exhaust pipes about twelve minutes to start defrosting the windows and give out heat, causing the driver to scrape the inside of the windshield while driving for the first twelve miles or so.

Alright, Ken thought, need to pick up lunch and a few diet cokes and I’m on my way. A rotisserie chicken carcass and a couple diet cokes were purchased at a convenience store and placed in the passenger seat.

No snow here and only rain at home seemed to set up for a nice wet ride home. Ken made a right turn out of the convenience store, crossed over the Interstate overpass and entered the onramp to the Interstate on his left.

As he got up to Interstate speed he merged into traffic.

“Here I come, babe!”

Removing the clear high dome lid off the plastic chicken carryout container, he removed the herb-roasted skin and savored the flavors as he slowly inched the carcass covering into his mouth. The carcass came apart easily as he tore off a leg to eat, then a wing, and eventually part of a breast, tossing the bones into the upturned dome of the container. Alternating between the carcass and the first of two diet Cokes he settled in for the long ride.

Ron and his keggers, Ken thought, I wonder if I still got it? I wonder what the girls are like up here in the cities. Maybe someone like Janice? There sure are a lot of them. I have seen a lot of beautiful girls that are old enough. Maybe I should stay up here a few weekends and check them out, share the love as Ron says.

Ken enjoyed the fantasy for a few miles before realizing he did not need to search, he had someone. Ah, who am I kidding, all those people at the kegger are looking for what I already have. I can’t be jealous of them, they’re probably jealous of me.


“Game on!”

Ken made the immediate decision to not let the semi get away and go as far as he could using the snow clearing beast as his guide. The Beetle’s 1,200 CC 40 horsepower engine was no match for the semi in raw power but Interstate speed had been lowered in 1974 to 55 miles per hour and with the pedal to the floor the VW would do 55 uphill and 70 down, which today matched the power of the fully loaded semi.

The plows had been pulled and vehicle tires were creating grooves in the snow as it piled on the roadways. Drifts were getting to be a big issue for the Beetle’s 6” ground clearance. The semi was traveling down what Ken and the semi driver believed to be the middle of the two-lane southbound side of the Interstate with the semi confirming previously set tracks and cutting some clearance but the semi was not completely clearing the drifts.

A snowdrift is a deposit of snow sculpted by wind into a mound or long tube during a snowstorm. Snowdrifts and sand dunes are created in similar manners, with the wind pushing the snow or sand around stationary objects. The objects on this trip are farms and acreages that deflect the wind and consolidate the snow like a funnel in certain places creating a high-speed snow that crawls across the ground. Roads in the north have ditches on both sides to help capture the snow before it gets on the roadway but the ditches at this time of year were full. As the funneled wind loses speed the snow starts to drop. Tube-like drifts are created across the ground and on the roadways.

All my life I have enjoyed seeing the snow, as long as it did not come too early in the season, Ken thought, or come once spring was supposed to start. The white covering hid the dirty world making everything appear fresh and clean

Travel did not bother Ken, as long as he was driving. It’s like the rear of my mind takes over the driving duties and the front is free to think. Some of my best eye-open thinking is done while I’m driving.

He sometimes thought about school or his hot rod, but mostly about his girl and how she made him feel, it was good to be near her.

Being with her calms me, giving me a peace I didn’t even know existed until a year ago, and now I have become accustomed to it. She sends me soaring, elevating me to pure joy. As time goes by I miss it deeply and yearn...

“Holy crap!” Ken exclaimed as the Bettle seemed to take flight.

The Beetle unibody construction, which features a front-to-back flat belly pan under the VW body, had lifted off the ground and was ‘surfing’ a drift. No tires were touching the ground. Ken had absolutely no control. The tires spun. The engine revved. The speedometer was going crazy.

Ken tossed the chicken thigh he was eating to grab the steering wheel with both hands. He had no control since no tires were touching the ground. The Beetle floated across the top of the drift. Ken searched his mind for options, only to feel the VW drop off the drift and grab solid ground once the rear wheel drive tires could touch the hard-packed surface on the other side.

“Breathe, Ken, breathe,” he said, as he pried his white-knuckled hands free of the steering wheel. Looking over he saw the carcass thigh lying on the passenger floor.

“Get ready, here comes another one,” Ken said as he squared, tucking slightly in anticipation with his hands in the ten and two o’clock positions.

The Bettle again lifted, floated, and landed. The anticipation had relieved some of the anxiety of the ride.

“Wow, this is kind of cool; scary, but cool.”

Ken’s biggest concern was getting over the drift prior to the friction stopping the Beetle on top of a deadly pile of snow. The thought of being left on a drift and watching the semi go out of sight weighed heavy on Ken’s mind.

Except for my semi guide, I have not seen another vehicle out in this fury, Ken thought, if I get stuck on one of these it could end me.

“I am glad my girlfriend is not here, but I wish I could be near her,” Ken said out loud. “I could use some calm.”

The semi continued to lead the Beetle, pounding snow in its path. Pounding snow meant just that, the semi would come upon a drift and just barrel through it tossing snow in every direction. The large bumper on the front of the semi was more than strong enough to do battle with the snow.

The storm decreased Ken’s visibility to almost whiteout conditions with the semi barely visible. When the semi pounded a drift the visibility went to zero for three to five seconds which left Ken blind and surfing the drift. The snow blowing high winds, which were creating the blizzard-like conditions, moved the pounded snow quickly to the left, changing the whiteout to just bad visibility so Ken could pick out the semi and know the path. Drifts were being pounded and surfed at least one every few minutes as the funneled snow was forced across the road in drifts of varying sizes.

Even though I am stupid enough to be out in this, Ken thought, I do love the white beauty of Mother Nature’s winter. Wish I could listen to the radio, but the announcer just talks about the weather and confirms my stupidity every few minutes. So instead I get to just sit here, alone, with the sounds of the Beetle and the sights of the semi through the snow, along with the occasional absolute whiteout after a drift is pounded. It seems like I am inside Mother Nature’s snow globe and I can see her smiling as she shakes it time and again.

All my life I have been blessed with experiences of Mother Nature, Ken thought. Nature’s Miracles. He had great respect for her power. Some curse her winter, her storms, and disasters. Maybe I’ve been lucky to have seen what I have seen and not have lost due to her wrath.

At first, Ken thought his battle was with Mother Nature and her snow so he could get home but he realized that he could not defeat the power of the snow by himself and one cannot negotiate with Mother Nature. The semi had come out of nowhere to deliver him by ruling the snow and creating the way home.

The Beetle moved down the road like a flying saucer, flat on the bottom with the saucer section shielding him from the weather outside. This was his protector, his defender, from the fury of Mother Nature’s winter. With the engine in the rear, the Beetle lifted easily as the VW frontend mounted the drifts with the four tires acting as rudders keeping it from veering left or right. As the VW came to the end of the drift the rear weight allowed the rear tires to drop to the surface and help push the Bettle forward, even prior to the front wheels hitting the ground.

Ken was able to get a much better view of the area as he cresting a tall hill. A few farmhouses were visible in the distance. I bet they have a fire going, Ken thought, I wish I was safe and cozy with my girl.

The quick view allowed him to see a stream of snow rushing through an opening in a line of bushes, which had ironically been planted specifically to stop the snow. The snow was being pushed through the opening with the outside calm creating eddies of snow twirling away from the stream. He watched as the snow slowed, losing power. The drift creeping forward, ever forward, as the blowing snow settled to the ground in the vacuum created past the end of the snow piled before it.

“What an idiot I am,” he said, shaking his head back and forth, speaking out loud, “please help me, God. I am such a stupid man.”

The view was diminishing but he could see areas of bare road with multiple drifts coming up, some quite long. He looked for landmarks but the view failed and he was back to the semi being his only vision. Realizing he could not persuade Mother Nature to stop her snow, he would accept the semi as his savior, allowing it would battle her snow, which left him to just sit back and kill miles as they drove. Each mile that passed would get him closer to home. Removing miles became his obsession.

As the trip continued, varying amounts of light from the sun crept through the clouds and made the blowing snow shimmer and sparkle. Ken became mesmerized and started to daydream. His girl came into view, her beauty, her body, her touch. He took in a deep breath through his nose as his mind recreated the smell of her perfume.

“Hello!”

The feeling of his flying saucer taking flight shook him out of his daydream as the Beetle lifted onto a drift.

“Now that was a big one! Waa-how! Wake up, man!”

Ken was startled and afraid. The drift had pulled him out of a dream right into fear. His hands were shaking and would take a few minutes to relax. He decided to eat some of the carcass and reached over and ripped off some of the breast. Eating helped calm his nerves and created focus.

“That was crazy.”

Cresting the next hill Ken saw a major drift coming up. Here comes a big one, he thought, I am not sure I’m going to make this one. This could be the end of me.

He imagined himself stuck on a drift in a blizzard, froze to death, or covered up and run over by a snow plow later in the day. He prepared as best he could, dropping back from the semi to let the pounded snow clear before he hit the drift. He also did not want to run up the semis backside.

Miss the tracks by a few inches and the drag of the snow could stop him short. He had prepared his flying saucer as best he could. The pedal was to the floor. The steering was perfect. It leaped onto the drift. The ride seemed to take hours but only a few seconds passed. The visibility made it impossible to see where the end was.

“Come on, baby!”

As the Beetle touched down on the pavement on the other side Ken was elated.

“Yes!” yelled Ken, pumping a fist, “yes, thank you, God.”

There were exits with towns and truck stops during the next few miles and Ken was not sure if he should stop or if the semi would. If the semi stops clearing the trail, Ken thought, I will need to stop as well. Should I pull off? Thank God for the semi. But, even if he goes forward I am not sure I should. If I stop it may be hours before they give the all clear. It’s already Saturday afternoon. I would probably just turn around and go back to my apartment. Of course, the snow can’t go on forever, maybe it dissipates in a few miles?

His internal discussion continued until he saw the weak glimpse of the gas station neon signs to his right and realized he and the semi had just passed the exits. No, he thought, I should have stopped. Now we are committed for sixty more miles or until the semi turns off, fails to clear, or I got stuck on a drift.

As the neon faded there was again nothing visible except the semi. No one should be out in this, he thought, but now it is unavoidable. It makes no difference. I have the semi running interference and I know where I am. I feel strong and the miles are losing, I will win this battle.

As the miles wore on Ken thought about his hot rod. It will be good to get it out of the shed once spring comes.

He realized that the hot rod thoughts were coming because he was close to another moment where he was out in Mother Nature’s wrath. It was during a return home from school the fall before. He was bringing his hot rod home from school to put away for the winter and pick up the Volkswagen. On the way home, it started a very light freezing rain with a wind from the west, his right, at about 30 miles per hour. The travel was not bad, as the road was warm and melting the freezing rain, at least it was at first.

The wind was strong enough that it created a need to overcorrect, with the front wheels just ever so slightly turned into the wind. Travel was moving at the normal 55 miles per hour and all seemed good until Ken’s hot rod went under a bridge. The road under the bridge was dry. When the front tires made contact they pulled the hot rod slightly to the right, catching Ken off guard. He corrected to the left just as the tires left the dry ground and hit the freezing rain. The result was a spin on black ice that would make the idiots that do donuts on frozen lakes proud. Ken saw the bridge he had passed under three additional times as he spun, and finally, a fourth time as the hot rod made a half turn backing into the snow-covered ditch just short of where the onramp met the Interstate. Ken sat trembling with his hands shaking. The call over the CB radio was to check to make sure he was ok.

“Hey, hot rod, you OK?”

Ken saw his hot rod was still upright and he needed to evaluate his situation prior to asking for help. He held the mic in his shaking hand and depressed the button.

“I, I’m alright,” he said, his voice shaky, “I’m ok.”

Luckily he had newer oversized rear tires, meats they called them, which allowed him to back out of the ditch onto the onramp and continue on his journey home, still shaking and trembling, but OK.

“I don’t want to repeat that, ever,” Ken said under his breath.

A cramp in his right calf pulled him out of his reminiscing. The cramp felt like a snake had just wrapped his lower leg and started squeezing. The constant pressure of holding the right foot to the floor had created a cramp. He quickly switched feet and held the pedal down with his left foot to make sure he kept up with the semi. No stopping, no slowing, he could die if he can’t go forward. His choice had been to continue, to grab onto the semi and go into weather no sane person should be out in. He was now joined to the semi and had been for over an hour, the cramp must be dealt with.

Ken moved the right ankle back and forth, up and down, trying to get relief from the cramp. The only movement that helped was to bend the right knee and hold the ball of his foot against the floor and drive the heel down to stretch out the calf.

“Come on,” he yelled at his leg, “how long must it take to get relief?”

If my girl were here she would rub the leg for me, he thought, her touch is magic, surely she could loosen the calf by rubbing it. How he longed to be with her.

“Butch?” Ken wondered out loud. “Why am I thinking about Butch?”

He’s my best friend, at least prior to hooking up with Sheri, Ken thought, but why am I thinking of him now?

Just then another surprise drift lifted the Beetle. It was another long one. Ken sat with his left foot on the throttle, right foot contorted to the floor to relieve the pain of the cramp, and he was riding a snowdrift with no visibility.

“Holy crap!” Ken exclaimed as the flying saucer climbed, rode, and jumped off the drift, “Yes, take that! We are killing miles now!”

The weather was apparently warming some as the snow was starting to stick to the windshield in streaks covering and distorting the view. The wipers were slightly frozen and needed to be cleaned, but stopping was not an option. Ken rolled his window down and with snow swirling into the Beetle, he switched feet on the gas pedal, leaned forward left and reached out with his left hand to catch, lift and snap the moving wiper blade back to the windshield. The force freed the ice from the wipers and allowed them to work normally. Ken rolled up the window and quickly switched the left foot back onto the pedal. Ken prayed for God to help him clear the cramp.

“Please, God, this is hard enough without the cramp. Please take this from me.”

Again he stretched the right foot by bending his leg and pushing his heel into the floorboard of the car. Relieve came but the release did not. As soon as he returned his foot to normal, the cramp returned.

As he looked up he saw the semi shake and shutter as it hit a new drift, a big one. The pounding spewed huge amounts of snow and the whiteout took longer than normal to clear scaring Ken as he braced for this flight but the Beetle took the ride in style, again meeting hard ground prior to coming to a complete stop.

“Thank you, God,” Ken said as he cleared the drift.

In addition to clearing the drift, he realized the cramp had cleared. He shifted positions back to driving with his right leg and he said one more time only with more gusto, “Thank You, God!”

The blizzard-like conditions had not allowed Ken visibility to see a landmark for quite some time and he wondered how close he was to his exit.

“Don’t think you’re close,” he exclaimed out loud, scolding himself for hoping he was closer than he probably was, “lying will make it seem longer.”

“I hope no one is too worried,” Ken said, looking down in sadness, “I should not be out here, I bet everyone is worried.”

About a mile down the road Ken and the semi crested the next hill and he was able to find a landmark that confirmed his location and that he was in the final quarter of the trip. He was correct to have scolded himself earlier because he was disappointed with the distance left. I must stay strong and focused, he thought, I must defeat the miles. Who would be out here but me? Am I a hero making the best of a bad situation or a crazy fool that should have stopped an hour ago?

“I don’t know,” he said, addressing his internal stress in a loud outburst, “it’s just the hand I have been dealt. Focus.”

He calmed after the outburst, embarrassed he had shouted out loud. He gave himself credit for doing so well and believed he would make it since the miles were still being killed one by one.

Knowing his location gave Ken peace since he was getting close. He started to think about his girlfriend and how wonderful it will be to see her, to touch her, and feel her body next to his. It will all be worthwhile very soon.

She was the first girl to see me, he thought, to want to be with me and to show a need and physical desire for me. He transported to her in his mind and for a few seconds, he forgot about his journey.

“Wake up, man!” Ken yelled at himself, “You have a long ways to go. How can you be so stupid? You must focus and pay attention since you can’t walk from here to anywhere. You’ve been lucky so far but you can’t slack off now, this is the most dangerous time.”

As Ken’s focus came back he realized he was crossing over another Interstate. A quick looked showed the other Interstate, traveling at ninety degrees to his, with similar tracks and drifts but no activity. The semi remained in front blazing the way with no signs of slowing but a large town was just a mile or so down the road. Again he battled with himself. Was this as far as he could go, would the semi pull off? Should he pull off, even if the semi kept going? He had only thirty miles left to kill to get to his exit, to the safety of the restaurant where he could wait for the plows. Visibility dropped, he was so tired, almost hoping the semi would exit, but the semi pounded another drift and again by the time things cleared they were beyond the exit heading further south with neon in the review mirror. Ken reached over and opened his second diet coke.

She had mentioned Butch a few times last time they talked, Ken thought, that’s why he had thought of him. Certainly nothing unusual, they were both very important to him, but that must be why he came to mind, weird.

Again Ken marveled at the power and beauty of the outdoors, the majesty of the trip, something most sane people would never see. The current location was close to a farm where he witnessed what had to be the most spectacular Mother Nature event of his life.

A friend’s father had a paint business and Ken and his friend became hired painters for the summer after their sophomore year in high school. Their first job was to repaint a farm with a forty-foot tall barn and five outbuildings. They spent weeks water-blasting the buildings and then hand scrapping them. They had started working during the school year and finally by mid-June they were set to paint. The painting was done with each boy using an electric airless paint sprayer. The pump was mounted on a wheeled frame. The paint was pulled from a five-gallon bucket by a screened metal intake tube on the pump and forced through a fifty-foot cord to the handheld spray gun.

Standing on the third from the top rung of a forty-foot tall ladder both boys held onto the barn eaves as they sprayed Bright Barn Red paint on the barn peak, the eaves, eaves soffits, and started down the side of the barn. Looking back, the fact they did not wear a safety rope seemed crazy, but they were strong, young, and felt invincible.

Taking a quick break from painting Ken looked to the west and noticed a thin black squall line of moisture-laden clouds on the horizon and motioned to his partner.

“We may not have too long, looks like it could rain.”

His partner nodded.

“A good rain can wash this latex paint right off the barn if it hasn’t flashed dry yet,” reminded his partner.

Ken continued to paint and moved down a few rungs to get to the next section while taking a quick look to the west. The thin black line was more than halfway to their location showing very quick movement.

“Look at that!” Ken yelled.

As his partner turned around the thin black line seemed to explode like it hit an invisible barrier with updrafts rising from base level to the highest extensions of the troposphere, condensing water and building dark ominous clouds with an immediately noticeable anvil head, all in less than thirty seconds, and it was moving toward them in a visibly fast pace.

Ken tossed his sprayer to the ground, raced down the forty-foot ladder and by the time he reached the bottom the storm was nearly upon them. He turned off the pump, sealed his paint bucket, emptied the remaining paint still under pressure onto the barn, and then moved the equipment into the safety of the barn. With a look over his shoulder, Ken could see the beast of a storm moving toward him at an amazing pace.

“Look at that bow echo,” Ken yelled to his partner, “we’re in for some high-winds, and soon!”

Ken put the intake tube into a five-gallon bucket filled with clean water, tied the sprayer to run full blast and stuffed it in the bucket. He started the pump, so it could cycle clean water making sure the sprayer would not dry out. As he was finishing he looked out and saw the farmer’s pickup racing up the gravel road. It snaked into the driveway, almost sliding into the ditch, with tires spinning and throwing gravel. The farmer yelled out of the window as he came to a stop.

“Did you see that! My God! We need to get in the basement, now!”

As Ken started running, following the farmer to the house, he noticed his partner was a few yards in front of him.

They followed the farmer into the basement, though to this day Ken still had no recollection of the inside of the house, the steps, or the basement layout. The storm shook the house, great winds caused tree limbs to move spastically about, but it did not take long for the storm to clear as it was traveling at about 60 miles per hour.

It was reported that night on the news that the storm continued to grow and did pop a tornado a few miles down the road. The painting was done for the day. The boys cleaned up and followed the storm’s path home. Ken was amazed by the vibrant after-storm colors and the hanging clouds looking like they had been beaten up and thrown out of the sky by the beast.

Ken grabbed a hand full of chicken from the carcass, pulling it apart with his right hand and ate it, trying to focus his mind. What a great meal this was but I will never winter travel again without more water, some granola or something, and I need to load my winter clothes.

Ken saw the blue sky through one of the lapses in the ground blizzard. Apparently, the snow was no longer falling but the blowing snow was still as bad as it had been. Only a few more miles to beat back and he would be able to rest until the plows came.

Ken relaxed knowing he was getting close. His mind wandered again to the back of the Volkswagen, in his girl’s arms, safe, cozy, with her skin touching his.

The Volkswagen shimmied left as it climbed another drift, then slid right, it seemed to be offline but, with the tires floating in the snow, in whiteout conditions, Ken could not be sure he had the tires straight. By the time the drift ended the Beetle was turned right a few degrees and it took a few seconds for Ken to correct the wheels and get back to straight. He had not followed the semi tracks into the drift and it almost cost him. He looked ahead and the semi was not in view.

“What have I done!”

He realized the pedal was no longer to the floor, so he pushed it down hard. There was no noticeable change in the VWs speed but the speedometer slowly confirmed the increase.

“I can’t believe I have lost the semi, where is it?” yelled Ken.

As he crested a hill he got a glimpse of the semi, still ahead of him, starting to climb a long hill. The semi moved slowly up the hills since it was running full and he should be able to catch up.

“Moron, pay attention,” he said, chastising himself.

The tingling in his right calf warned him of a new cramp. He shifted feet again, applying pressure on the ball of his right foot, knee bent, with relief coming quickly this time. He shifted back to normal but reduced the extra pressure he had been exerting after he lost sight of the semi.

Still traveling 55 miles per hour uphill and 70 downhill the trip was moving along but Ken was not sure where the semi may exit and was sure it was not heading to his parent’s town, about 20 miles off the Interstate. His exit was coming up soon and he worried about how bad the exit may be without the semi’s lead.

No one else is on the road so no one knows of my stupidity and that I could have died, he thought, I wonder how worried everyone is, they must know I am traveling through this. I hate that I have worried them. I have not been defeated by Mother Nature, or the miles, I have prevailed. Every mile now I am closer to safety.”

He felt bad about losing the semi friend he had never met who had helped him kill so many miles.

“I thank you, my friend, safe journeys. Parting is such sweet sorrow,” Ken said with a smirk, in his best Shakespearian voice, “I take my leave of you and will lead myself from here.”

After, Ken backed off on the throttle getting ready to take the exit as the semi disappeared in the snow like it had been a dream all along.

There was still work to be done, no miles to beat to his exit but an off-ramp to conquer. Exit 293 was the exit to the blacktop highway that would take Ken home. Across the street from the stop sign at exit end was a restaurant/motel with about seventy semis waiting out the weather. Ken decided he would stop and call his girlfriend to let her know he was OK and would wait for the weather to clear and the plows to come out. Even though he had a blast ‘surfing’ the snow, the trip had him wiped out and his white-knuckles needed a rest.

The exit had snow but not enough to be a challenge for the Beetle. Ken crossed the blacktop and parked at the restaurant. After dumping the remains of the carcass and the coke cans in the outside trashcan, Ken entered the restaurant and took a left to the bathroom. After relieving himself in the grossest bathroom ever, he washed his hands, dried them with a few paper towels and used them to protect himself from whatever may be on the door handle prior to tossing the towels into the wastebasket as he butted the door the rest of the way open. Considering there were so many semis out front, the diner was fairly empty. Jennie, the waitress, came over and he ordered a diet coke along with one of the best cinnamon rolls anywhere, then went over and made a call at the pay phone.

“Hi, Mrs. Jamison is Sheri there, this is Ken.”

“Hi Ken, Sheri is not here. She went with a few people to Brick Pizza and said you should meet her there.”

“The Brick?” Ken said with a pause, “OK, I will when I get into town. I’m at the Winklighter Hotel and Restaurant and I’m exhausted. I’ve been following a semi on a closed Interstate since I left Minneapolis and I just can’t chance the blacktop,”

“What? What are you talking about? It has been raining here all day. We don’t have any snow.”

Ken stood dumbfounded not knowing what to say.

“Ken, are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m... I’m here. You really don’t have any snow? There’s six inches on the ground here, maybe more.”

After a slight silence, Mrs. Jamison answered, “honest, Ken, no snow here.”

“Thanks, I guess I’ll take a few minutes and I’ll be on my way.

“OK, drive careful.”

Ken ate his cinnamon roll and drank his Diet Coke. Exiting the restaurant he started the Beetle and headed home, relieved that there was no snow twenty miles away. The curvy county blacktop still had tire tracks carved out in about five inches of standing snow on the east/west portions and there were some smaller drifts on the otherwise clear north/south sections and it did appear the snow was dissipating. As he came around the corner to the Ledkey farm, which was known for big drifts just past their grove, he was not disappointed, it stood in front of him and had to be almost three-feet tall at the peak and Ken could not tell how long it was.

“No way,” he said, with a nervous chuckle, “it can’t be that big.”

But it was that big and as he got closer he could see more and more.

“Let’s do this!” Ken said, slamming the pedal to the floor knowing the farmhouse was close by in case he got stuck.

Ken couldn’t help but wonder if the Beetle would ‘surf’ the drift without the semi lead or if it would slice the top off and capture him as his flying saucer cut through it. Keeping perfectly straight he moved to the center of the road and hit the drift at 65 miles per hour. The Beetle’s reaction to the drift surprised Ken as his flying saucer did not slice the drift but instead mounted the drift swerving right then back to center surfing up at a 45-degree angle as it climbed to the peak, crested, and rode the drift for twelve feet before surfing back down the far side.

“This is gonna be close. Come on, baby, get me off this thing!”

The friction of the beetle was fighting to keep it on top of the snow as the gravity pushed it down the back side of the drift. With the Bettle almost at a standstill with about four feet to go, Ken hit the gas hoping the tire rotation would give the Beetle the added boost needed, but the effect was not what Ken had hoped, the saucer started to sink in the back as the tires dug into the snow.

“No, no, no, no, no! Come on girl.”

The drift was thinning and as the Beetle dug down the tires hit the pavement enough to lurched the saucer off the remaining few feet of snow and onto the bare pavement beyond the drift.

“YES!”

“Wow! That was awesome!” Ken exclaimed, “I want to do that again!”

Yeah, maybe not a good idea, Ken thought, as he settled in for the rest of the trip. There were more drifts but none as exciting as the Ledkey farm drift and the blowing snow continued until Ken got about three miles from home, where the snow turned to rain. As he pulled into town with the Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with snow everywhere, the rain was just starting to change over to snow.

The stress drained from Ken’s mind and body when he stopped at the stop sign on the hill leading to Main Street in the downtown area. He held and slowly released the emergency brake as he gave the engine gas and let out the clutch, perfectly managing the start on a steep hill.

Downtown is comprised of four blocks with a full square block courthouse complex kitty-corner and the balance of the blocks edged by two and three-story brick front buildings to the right. The top levels held apartments, with varied businesses on street level. The right turn took him onto Main just a few storefronts from Brick Pizza.

Parking on this Saturday afternoon was at a premium and Ken had to park a few blocks past the Brick. It was good to be home, seeing familiar stores and people.

Brick Pizza was about three times deeper than it was wide. The counter was mid-store on your right as you entered, with foosball tables and a jukebox front right and red vinyl booths with red and white checkered tables lining the left side all the way to the back. Brick Pizza was the main hangout of the eighteen-and-up legal drinking age teens.

As Ken entered the Brick he made eye contact with Katherine (Kat) Whitehurst, Sheri’s best friend. As he waved he noticed Kat start to wave back, then she pointed at him with half a finger, look down, and then she got up heading toward the bathroom. Ken recognized Sheri’s head on the nearside of the booth just as Butch got up from beside her and headed toward the bathroom as well.

Denial is a strong force at times but even Ken couldn’t help but think this was not going to end well as Sheri approached.

“Hi Ken, can we talk in back for a sec?”

Sheri waved at him to follow her, as she turned and headed to the back of the Brick prior to Ken being able to get close.

“Sure,” Ken said, still in denial, hoping for a save, “what’s going on?”

Ken felt like every eye in the place was watching him as he made his way to the back booth. Did everyone but him know something was going on?

“Look, Ken,” Sheri said, looking down and taking a breath, as if to summon courage, “I’ve got bad news. You’ve been gone, I’ve been lonely, and Butch and I have been spending time together. We started out talking about how much we missed you, how lonely we were, but it has turned into more than that now.”

“Meaning what?” Ken questioned, a little too loudly.

“Well, we love each other, Ken, I hope you can understand.”

“Understand? I just drove two hours through a damn blizzard to be with you.”

Ken heard the bathroom door open behind him and then close quickly.

“Yeah, hide you chicken shit. Best friend, my ass.”

“I’m sorry Ken,” said Sheri, crying, as she exited the booth, “I certainly did not expect things to turn out this way.”

Sheri ran to the front of the store, crying. Anyone not watching her was looking at Ken, wondering what he may have said or done to her.

Ken slid down in the booth, holding his head in his left hand, thinking, or trying to. His mind was numb, spinning, with so many thoughts that none could come out. His upper body was slowly slumping forward toward the table as the mind was too busy to give commands. Damn, he muttered under his breath, betrayed by my girl and my best friend, I can really pick ‘em. His body continued to slump forward until it met the table.

He looked up to confirm the location of the back door. I could go out the back door and escape but I would have to go down two flights of stairs since Main Street was on top of a hill, then three blocks out of my way and back up the hill to get to the VW, but it may be better than walking out the front. Then again, what the hell, what’s a little embarrassment, I don’t live here anymore.

Ken heard Butch quietly sneak out of the bathroom and move to meet Sheri at the front of the store. Turning he saw his best friend and his girl exit onto Main together. Ex-friend and ex-lover, Ken thought.

“Chicken shit,” Ken said to himself as he saw them leave.

As Ken’s mind started to clear he could feel his stomach tighten. How is it that the mind can make one feel sick; sick, he sarcastically chuckled, with the cure having walked out the front door with my best friend! Despair was growing, threatening to suffocate him. Betrayed by both!

He laughed at the thought of his mom telling him that when a door is closed God opens a window. It did give him some hope, but he wondered where the window was.

I can still remember Sheri’s little idiosyncrasies that I thought only I got to see. I miss the music she brought to my soul, the feeling I got touching her beautiful face, her taut body. Ken sighed, I will no longer get to see her gaze, or feel how my skin and body reacted to her touch. What am I going to d...

“Hi, Ken.”

Ken looked up to see Kat standing beside the booth.

“Oh. Hi Kat, hey, look, I am not really in a talking mood. I’m sure you know that I just got dumped. Betrayed and by two of the most important people in my life.”

“I know. I can’t believe this has happened. Can I join you anyway?”

Ken was kind of annoyed but really did not care, not feeling strong enough to argue. He raised both arms in sarcastic surrender, pointing toward the opposite side of the booth, shaking his head.

“Sure, have a seat.”

Kat surprised Ken by moving in beside him.

“How long have you known?”

“How long have I known that she was going to dump you? A few hours.”

“How long have I known I would be here, with you, after it happened? A few seconds short of a few hours.”

Why would you want to be here with me, Ken thought, puzzled, looking up at her.

Kat was eighteen, a senior in high school, just like Sheri. Ken had not really noticed her much since she was not around Sheri when he was home. She had blossomed some since he had seen her last year and she was very pleasing.

Wait, is she coming on to me? Sheri’s best friend? This is too good to be true. Is this the open window?

“Now, why would you want to be here, with me, at this moment?” Ken said slyly.

“Well, because now that she has dumped you, I can.”

Ken looked her up and down and said, “want to see my flying saucer?”


###


Thank you for reading my book. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment and leave me a review.


Thanks,


Mike Damm


About the author:

Mike Damm is a two-time cancer survivor and has spent the majority of his life in leadership, management, and customer service roles. When he isn't glued to his computer screen or making notes for a new story, he enjoys dancing, cooking, gardening and outdoor sports. On rainy days a good movie, an NFL or college football game, or a good book fill his time. He has been writing for many years but just started putting things together for publication. 

Mike lives in Mason City, Iowa and can be reached at mkdamm@yahoo.com


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