On The Edge

January 24

Pondering the long icy driveway from within

J.P. Devine needs to take the trash out, but he’d rather reflect on winters past and what might have been.

It’s garbage day and it’s snowing.

I have my nose pressed against the frozen glass as I look down the long driveway to where my big, black garbage bags have to be placed. It’s the longest driveway on the block, and I know there’s ice under that snow.

I had a dream last night that I was ice skating in the Olympics, and fell and broke my leg. Do dreams come true? None of mine ever do. But what if I should fall and break a leg, and it has to be put in a cast?

That reminds me of Betty Birdsy in high school in Seattle. She fell and broke her leg while skiing on Mount Rainier. She came to school with this enormous cast and had to lean on a ski pole. She was the class hero. Everyone rushed to sign her cast.

Who would be anyone’s hero who broke his leg putting out garbage? I only have three friends here, not counting she who is my best, and none of them will brave this driveway. So I will limp around the house with a cast with only her signature on it.

I notice as I lean my nose against the frozen window pane, that as I exhale it produces a cloud that I can write my initials in. I am worried that such thoughts in a grown man’s mind are symptoms of something much worse than a broken leg. I’ve noticed a drop in my cognitive skills since this polar vortex dropped on us.

I write the words “polar vortex” in the cloud on the window. I’m not sure what that means. I will Google it later.

I walk to the far window with a view of the entire street, and where the L.L. Bean thermometer is hung. It says minus 8.

I’ve seen that number before. In my youth, I worked a summer job that flowed into a winter job on the Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railroad, in Waukegan, Ill. The rail yards were right on the edge of Lake Michigan. One night as we were bumping cars down the tracks, the brakemen discovered one of the locks was frozen. Four of them were jammed into the cab with myself, and the engineer, passing around a bottle of Wild Turkey. They knew they had to go out there and open that lock. Long story short, it wouldn’t budge. So the engineer and the four brakemen went out and urinated on it and it thawed out. True Americana story.

I can see now that everyone down the street has their trash out. Jack the sheep dog stands beside me, with his paws up on the windowsill, studying the street where not a creature or car is moving. He refuses to go out. He just stares at the icy deck where he slipped last week and hurt his leg. Dogs remember stuff like that.

I blow on the glass again and then write “K+J.” I know it will go away before she comes home, but I’ll tell her I did it.

She made it down the driveway this morning. Nothing short of another major ice storm could keep her from teaching her one Spanish class a day. I watched her drive down. She’s pretty good at that driveway. She was born here and on a January day. I think that counts for something.

It’s starting to snow again. This has been a horrible winter, worse than the railroad job winter. I shouldn’t be here at my age. I should have followed my original dream when I retired from Hollywood. There was an ad in the Los Angeles Times from a man in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s so hot they call it Hell’s Waiting Room, that wanted to sell his pony ride business. I would have loved that.

You get to buy all his ponies, and then name them. Kids love riding ponies. I looked into it, but it’s more complicated than you might think. You have to keep the names he gave the ponies, and then make sure they get shots and licenses every year. The cost of hay and feed is expensive, and you wouldn’t believe how much those tiny saddles cost. But you get to meet interesting people like those gorgeous L.A. soccer moms who bring their kids to ride the ponies.

I cut the ad out anyway, but she found it and threw it away.

I wonder if they have pony rides in Maine?

I’d better get that garbage down.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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