The Shoveler

After misfortune and a snow storm, I go out to shovel. Snow ten inches deep. Wet as a load of laundry spun out wrong, dripping, making a mess. The driveway is wide, walled on either side. I throw shovels of the stuff high as I can. Too much slides back down. I keep going. Snow keeps falling. Trees weep with it. A branch breaks, falls into the street. I am envious. An hour I work on that driveway. One square foot after another. No pushing this snow. Pick it up and throw, one after another and another. I clear down to the road where ten inches wait for plows that won’t come for hours. Maybe not today. There’s a point to shoveling, I tell myself. I say it again and again. I begin clearing the sidewalk. Slowly. My back is sore. I’ve taken off my coat. The gloves feel too warm. The shovel feels too heavy. The world is heavy. I clear down to the neighbor’s and keep going. Remember the story of a guy swimming through swimming pools back home. He never gets there. Or maybe he does, but there’s no home. I plot a winter version. A man shovels sidewalks down to the corner. He keeps going. Snow continues to fall. Morning becomes afternoon and evening. He thinks he’ll someday come to an end. But on the map, the cleared path leads due North. 


This morning hasn't felt right. Woke from a deep sleep feeling unrested. Body was sore though I've done no exercise nor had any falls. House was cold. Winter, though it hadn't left, had returned. All was darkest grey. Then I was in the car. My seventeenth year driving to the wrong job. The windshield ice wouldn't clear. The car would not warm. Lights kept turning red. At a stop near the university, a young woman crossed in front of my car. She wore chunky, four-inch heels. Her walk was all wrong. I watched pellet-snow wind-driven against her bare shoulders. I wondered where she had lost her coat. I imagined where she might have been. I shivered with her cold. The light turned green. She walked one way. I drove the other, thinking I should have given her a blanket I didn't have. At the onramp, I heard sirens. An ambulance in the southbound lane. A fire engine crossing under the highway to some other disaster. My car sounded wrong. The steering pulling left. I pulled back and pushed the accelerator, feeling all the wrongs, knowing nothing else I could do.