Hank was a three-season landscaper who couldn’t afford to winter in Florida so he spent the winter alternately praying for more and less snow. He liked to plow alone, but he would sing along to the “oldies” station. Funny, those songs they played didn’t seem like they should be that old. Lately he liked to plow late at night — from 3 to 6 A.M. was his prime time. He had contracts for a couple of medical buildings, and since the accident he really didn’t sleep so much anyway. Once he was up, he couldn’t stand to be alone in that house — he might as well get into the truck. He’d pass his fellow plow-men out on the county roads grabbing a coffee at one of the delis along Route 94, and it was there one early morning that he pulled up next to a boy hopping around a truck with a suspicious drip of something pooling underneath.
“Hey, Boss. What seems to be the problem?” Hank had a pretty good idea that it was hydraulic fluid leaking out of the plow, and he could guess there was a girl involved. Hell, he would have walked through a raging blizzard to get to his Linda back then. He wished like Hell that he could today, but he leaned his head out of the window to hear the young man.
“Name’s Cass. I told my girl I’d pick her up after her shift over at the hospital and I can’t get the plow blade to pull up. I’m on thin ice with her as it is, and she’s gonna dump my ass if I’m late this time. The truck’s my brother’s and he’s over in Afghanistan right now.”
The snow was swirling around the light in the parking lot, and for a moment Hank could smell his wife’s scent: laundry detergent and hand lotion. She was always cleaning up after him, making and re-making the comforts in his world. Now, every muddy boot, every pile of dirty plates and the sour smell of his sheets made her absence a shock to his blurry reality. How did he not see it? How could he never have noticed all that work she did to keep him fed and clean? He never even noticed.
“Get in, Cass. I’ll drive you over to the hospital. Maybe the two of you can get a cup of coffee while I finish my job. Then I’ll bring her home and we’ll come back and get your truck when it’s light. But I got two bits of advice for you: Never borrow a piece of equipment you don’t know how to operate and be very careful what kind of promises you make to a hard-working woman.”