I hold the snow shovel in my corporeal and gloved hands. The snow is terribly deep. It's beyond pushing down the drive and into the road and has to be taken one shovel at a time. It's nothing that can be done quickly. There is a process to it. A slow process. I lift a shovel-full and throw it high over the wall feeling it throughout body, mind, maybe even heart and soul. It's all too much, I think, this snow that I have to clear. I couldn't possibly. Then I dig the shovel in and throw it again.
Dad leans reluctantly on his old metal shovel with the wooden handle he wrapped in black tape where it began to split forty years ago. There's a chunk out of the metal edge where he tried to pry something up with it. Maybe ice. Maybe something ridiculous. The shovel and he have come back looking just as they had the day before he died or whatever day it was that he and I last shared this life. He would have preferred to come back younger, stronger, but the living bring back the dead as they wish, never the other way around. Dad excepts this, accepts what I've given him.
He has taken up smoking again. Why the hell not, his expression says as I watch him strike the match and cup it close to his face where it shines in his glasses. Then the smoke hides his eyes and blows out past me. I can't smell anything and wonder if it's just his breath floating on the frozen breeze like mine. No, I think. It's certainly not that. Right Dad, I say. He wipes his nose with a gloved hand. That old leather glove is worn, stained with grease and oil. He touches the top of the old knit hat he still wears. It's one I cast aside at ten as unfashionable. Nothing wrong with it, his shrug says. I exhale and it's as if he has blown a cloud of smoke across me.
I survey the driveway I've cleared, the snow left to shovel. Percentages, that's what I'm calculating. Dad looks. He thinks in fractions. I say, about two-thirds to go, my breath blowing hard away from us. He nods. The afternoon sky has gone dark and the snowstorm is giving way slowly to falling temperatures. We're headed down below zero, frigid, breath-stealing cold.
Dad finishes his cigarette and tosses the butt in a pile of snow I've thrown over the wall. It doesn't fizzle but disappears. He holds the handle of the shovel like a tool but uses it as a staff, something to hold him up or hold him here. I tell him to rest, just take it easy, Dad. Be here with me.
I dig in the shovel and throw snow high up out of the driveway. Again and again. Dad stands and watches. There's no hurry. The streetlight at the foot of the drive flickers to life as I throw another shovel of snow up high over the wall. The wind catches it, blows it back at me, right through where Dad stands. That snow blinds me. I'm so tired. I rub my eyes with the back of my glove and open them again worried, anxious that I'm alone. The night is growing so cold and though the streetlight illuminates all the work left for me on this Earth it has put out every single star in the heavens. I dig the shovel in and throw it hard against the blowing wind.