Today’s post is inspired by the word “cold,” which first led me to write this haiku:
I long for the days
When I curled under blankets
To keep myself warm
and then reminded me of one of the saddest scenes I ever read. I mention it farther down.
Inside the closet of his home office, Jack pulled his dog Whitey close to him, under a layer of three blankets and behind a wall of clothes and crumpled paper. The husky normally would have wagged his tail, but he knew how serious things were, too. The winter storm hadn’t let up in five days. The city had lost power on the second day. Jack wasn’t sure, but he thought it was getting colder.
“Let’s listen to the radio. Might cheer us up, huh?” Jack said. He wound a hand-cranked emergency unit. Jack had batteries in the house, but he wanted to save them in case he needed them. The wind whistled white knives outside. Jack clicked the radio on.
“…encouraged to remain in your homes. Do not try to visit neighbors or relatives if it involves driving. You will not get through. The roads are impassible. If you are walking, obviously, wear boots and multiple layers of appropriate clothing and get indoors again as soon as possible…”
Jack changed channels. The other stations were playing the same thing. “Tell us something we don’t know, right?” He turned the volume down. “Maybe they’ll play music soon.” He scratched Whitey between his ears. The dog huddled closer. No dummy there. Jack felt a thin brush of a draft on his face. He pucked his lips to exhale, and blew a thin, ghostly breath.
The radio finally switched to music. The DJ put on “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. Jack sang along. He hoped he would sleep well tonight. The closet was the warmest space in the house. Fear and cold had kept him from sleeping well the past two nights. Even underneath all the layers, he worried about freezing to death.
Jack remembered the scene in the story “To Build a Fire,” where the main character thought about killing his dog to stay alive. He and Whitey had been friends for three years. Whitey knew how to sit and roll over. He understood “come,” and he understood “stay” when he wanted to. He mooched for food and was always in the way. Jack hugged him. “You and me, bud. We’re going through this together, whether we’re building a snowman in the yard or if FEMA finds us turned into a pair of popsicles.” Whitey lifted his head. He looked at Jack, blue eyes questioning. “Don’t mind me. Lay back down.” He rubbed between Whitey’s ears again and the dog lay back down.
Tomorrow he would have cold canned soup for breakfast. Whitey would have kibble. They would both drink slushy ice water. Jack couldn’t wait for spring, when he would brush off Whitey’s winter coat and they could throw the disc around in the park again.