|How I Spent The Great Blizzard of '78
Author: Dill Wilson PM
High School classmates Tim Bergman and Carney Nash are stranded together for four days during the Great Blizzard of ’78.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Words: 30,613 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-30-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2833535
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How I Spent The Great Blizzard of '78
The New England Blizzard of '78 happened when a Canadian high-pressure system merged with a dense mass of low pressure off the Carolina coast. The storm adopted a cyclonic counter-clockwise flow characteristic of nor'easters with winds reaching speeds of 86 miles per hour and gusts of 111mph, an event comparable to a hurricane.
Arriving at the time of the new moon, the great blizzard brought heavy coastal flooding along the New England coast. Beachfront homes were washed away by strong winds and coastal flooding. Snow fell at a rate of 4 inches an hour in some places and lasted for 36 hours. Thunder, lightning and hail took place as the powerful blizzard blanketed the Northeast with over three feet of snow with drifts as high as 15 feet.
I was an eighteen year old high school senior on Monday, February 6, 1978, living in my small home town of Chipper Gulch along the Massachusetts South Shore. My parents had taken a late Christmas Vacation Caribbean cruise not realizing they were leaving me behind with an historic storm approaching.
There was no snow on the ground when I awoke at seven that morning. The streets and sidewalks were bare and nobody had the forethought of cancelling school, apparently unaware that a storm of historic proportions was about to hit the area.
I was sitting in Second Period English at about 9:30 when our ancient teacher Mrs. Smith innocently said, "Oh look, here comes the first flakes."
The memorable event started out like any other snowstorm. The graceful flakes descended lazily from the dark gray sky and nobody thought twice about a little snow in the middle of winter. But then, within moments, the ground looked like it needed a good sweeping as snowflakes swirled about on the dark asphalt like dancing fluff. A half hour later, the flakes were noticeably larger and falling faster and at a stiff angle because of the blowing winds. An hour later, the only thing we saw when we looked out the school windows was white out conditions. The trees, parking lot and athletic fields had disappeared from sight.
School officials finally belatedly decided to close school early. Students like me who had senior privileges and vehicle rights were authorized to leave during lunch, while the rest of the student body waited for the busses or rides to arrive.
Carney Nash was standing by the door as I headed toward the student parking lot. She used to date my pal Hank Haddix, an easy going girl with a delightfully warm and energetic personality. We had a few classes together and chatted on occasion. I liked her!
Carney sang in the school chorus, served on the student council, and participated in several activities. She was among the smarter kids in the class and pretty with long brown hair, bangs straight across her forehead, light freckles, a lighthouse smile, and a bubbly laugh.
Her parents were divorced and she lived with her mother in a small ranch a few miles from my house. I knew where she lived and even drove past her house a few times, hoping maybe I'd see her. Carney worked part time at the Chipper Deli and I ate there mostly to say hi to her!
"Could you give me a lift, Bergie?" Carney asked hopefully. "I don't want to wait around for the bus and my mother didn't answer when I called home."
"Sure," I said, flattered to be tapped for a favor and excited to have Carney Nash for company.
Carney hadn't dressed for the storm. She was wearing sneakers with no hat or gloves. We trotted through the slippery snow to my ten year old VW Bug parked in the student lot.
It was normally a five minute ride to my house, and Carney lived another few miles beyond, but it was snowing like hell when we left the school and I knew it was going to take longer to get home on this day. I stuck to the main streets instead of taking my usual "shortcuts" weaving through neighborhoods and side streets.
I made a couple of jokes about the storm as the wind blew the snow around the car, but when I started to feel the Bug slide and shake, I knew the situation wasn't any laughing matter, especially as the snow drove straight at the car.
It was freezing ass cold in the little bug with its weak heat and Carney wrapped her arms around her torso to try to keep warm. The small windshield wipers couldn't keep up with the fiercely falling snow and I could hardly see out the windshield as we inched along the road. I don't think I got over 15 miles per hour as we putted our way through the blizzard.
The announcer on the fuzzy car radio said that Governor Dukakis was declaring a state of emergency and was asking businesses to close early to allow workers to get home, so the roads were crowded with other cars attempting to make the great escape.
"I have to pee," Carney informed me, trying not to look pained. "Do you think we could stop at your house first?"
"I hope we can make it to my house!' I answered, squinting through the icing windshield. "Maybe you should have taken the bus."
"Too late now," she replied. "And thanks for not saying what my father would most likely say."
"Why didn't you go to the bathroom before we left!"
It took nearly 45 minutes to get to my street. My house was almost another mile along Marble Street which was on a significant incline and the car refused to make the climb. After six or seven failed attempts, I gunned the car into the empty parking lot of the closed for the season Mel's Tasty Freeze.
"We'll have to walk the rest of the way," I told Carney after we plowed to a sideways stop a few feet into the parking lot. "Sorry."
"I don't think I can make it," she sobbed. "I really got to go. Do you think I should just wet my pants?"
"You can sneak around the side of the store," I told her. "Nobody will see you."
We left our school stuff in the abandoned car and I led Carney to the far corner of the ice cream building.
"Don't' look," she ordered as she stepped into the alcove between the store and the trash dumpster.
I kept my back to her and watched the falling snow that looked like someone had dumped a pitcher of milk from the skies.
"Christ, squatting in the snow like a dog for god sakes," she complained when she rejoined me at the front of the store. "How humiliating."
I gave her my gloves and took her arm, directing her to Marble Street and the nearly one mile walk to my house. The blinding snow stuck to our hair, eyebrows, nose and ears like glue as we dragged ourselves through the wind. Trying to see our path through the snow-covered sidewalk was nearly impossible.
The accumulating snow made it difficult to decipher where the sidewalk ended and where the street began. Our vision was impaired because we couldn't keep our eyes open for any length of time with the blinding flakes. We looked like two Abominable Snowmen as we forced our way through the merciless storm, growing increasingly weary with each step as we pushed our bodies against the rugged wind and crippling snow. I kept my naked hands stuffed in my coat pockets which made my balance worse, especially when we walked backwards to keep the snow out of our faces.
Neither of us spoke, fearfully aware of our grave situation. My feet were frozen, my face was numb and it was hard to breathe. I was relieved when we somehow made it safely to my house.
Marble Street was one of the better neighborhoods in town – large old Victorian houses with open yards and three car garages. My parents were well off veteran college professors which is why we lived in the plush neighborhood. I was stereotyped as a rich kid at school, but my parents were not the spoiling kind which is why I was driving a ten year old Volkswagen.
Carney and I were soaked when we stepped through the back door into the kitchen of the house.
"Isn't anybody home?" She wondered when she finished brushing the snow from her hair and face, realizing how quiet and still the house was. The cheeks on her face were beet red.
"My parents are on a cruise," I answered.
My unexpected house guest did a double take. "Is this some sort of set up?"
"Yes. I planned the blizzard and had special telepathic powers that forced you to ask me for a ride," I sarcastically replied as I peeled some of my wet clothes off.
She shrugged with embarrassment. "Okay, I guess that was a pretty stupid thing to suggest."
"We should probably defrost," I told her.
She took off her soaked sneakers and socks and I led her to the upstairs bathroom so she could take a hot shower. I gave her my mother's bathrobe and a pair of my sweats.
I got out of my drenched clothes in the downstairs bathroom and took a shower too. It felt nice to de-thaw and put on dry and warm clothes.
Carney was standing in the kitchen in my mother's robe listening to the radio on the counter when I came out of the bathroom. I took her iced clothes and put them with mine in the wash room.
I returned to the kitchen and made some hot chocolate.
"I tried calling home again," she reported as she watched me work. "My mom's still not answering."
"What about your father?"
"Good idea." She used the kitchen wall phone, dialing a number from memory.
"Daddy? Yes. At a friends on Marble Street. No. It's pretty bad. Okay. Wow. Are you sure? Okay." She put her hand over the receiver. "What's the number here?" she asked.
I gave it to her and she repeated it to her father. "Okay, Dad. Yeah. You too. Yes. I understand. Bye."
Carney hung up the phone. "My father says my mother is stuck at my Aunt's house in Providence. It must be pretty bad if she called him at work. They never talk! He says I should stay put here, if that's okay." She looked at me hopefully.
"No, get out," I joked. Then I looked at her with a smile. "It's okay with me if it's okay with you."
She timidly nodded yes and we sat at the kitchen counter sipping on hot chocolate and nibbling on chocolate chip cookies while listening to storm news. The blizzard was being called a blockbuster storm of "historic" proportions. There were reports of missing city buses, derailed subways, and long overdue school busses. All driving was banned and violators would be arrested if caught driving just for the hell of it. Dozens of cars had been abandoned on city streets making things worse for snow plows and rescue vehicles.
Countless people were stuck at their jobs. Others walked miles to get home. The radio guy said it looked like this might be the storm of the century.
The phone rang and I answered.
"Is Carney Nash there?" An uncertain woman's voice asked after I said hello.
"Yes, hold on a minute please," I politely replied.
I held the phone out to a surprised Carney who took it from me.
"Hello? Oh, hullo Mother! Are you okay? Yes. Tim Bergman. Well, he was giving me a ride. I didn't want to wait. I'll be okay. I know. Mother. Yes. It will be fine. Sure. Not right now. It's pretty bad out there. Soon, I'm sure. Okay. Don't worry, Mother. Yes, me too. Say Hi to Auntie Suzy for me. Great. Bye."
Carney hung up the receiver and looked at me with an annoyed frown as she leaned against the kitchen counter. "She doesn't like the idea of me staying with a boy. I told her your parents were expected any time."
"Any time next week," I mumbled, feeling guilty about our situation.
"Hey, it's a blizzard," Carney reasoned. "All bets are off."
"Now what do we do?" I wondered.
"How 'bout a game of Monopoly?" She asked with a hopeful smile.
Carney Nash belonged to the school's Monopoly Club which I thought was a joke when I first heard about it. But sure enough, kids got together every Monday afternoon after school to play the famous game.
"Why on Earth did you join a Monopoly club?" I asked as we set up the game on the kitchen table.
"Something to do," she replied confidently. "Good competition. You have to have excellent strategic skills to win. It's fun. The kids who play are challenging and interesting to be with. Plus, we play by the official rules and that makes it much more consistent. I hate playing the game differently every time I go to someone's house."
Carney held up the Scotty dog player piece. "There is no lucky piece," she told me. "It doesn't matter if you're the car, the dog, the cannon, the ship……any piece. You're still subject to the same dice rolls no matter what."
"I like being the car."
"Everybody likes being the car!" she said, rolling her eyes. "They think they're going to race around the board! But guess what? The car doesn't have any magical powers."
"I just like the way it looks!"
She put the car on the Go square. "You can be the car," she said. "I'll be doggie."
"Great," I agreed.
"Do you want to be the banker?" she asked suspiciously
"Do you want me to be the banker?" I wasn't sure if it was a trick question.
"Some think the banker is a lying, cheating bastard," she explained.
"Not me," I assured her. "But you can be the banker today."
"Are you calling me a lying, cheating bastard?" She laughed.
"Players are particular," Carney told me as she doled out the proper money variations. "They like certain break downs of money. They like to cash in big bills for small bills. Others like to hoard the big bills and refuse to cash in when the bank is running low. Some treat the banker like dirt. I've been called every nasty and horrible name imaginable when I've been the banker. The banker is considered evil, even though you're just another player. Even if you're not accused of stealing money from the bank, you're blamed for shortchanging others."
"When I've played with my cousins, the banker doesn't play," I told her as I arranged my money in front of me. "He or she sits at the far end of the table and nobody can go near the bank."
"What about free parking?" Carney wanted to know as she put her money in one pile in front of her. "How do you guys play that?"
"All the community chest and chance payments go into free parking," I explained. "And whoever is lucky enough to land on free parking gets all the money."
"That's not what the rule book says," Carney protested as she shuffled the Chance and Community chest cards and placed them on the board.
"Does anybody even read the rule book?" I wanted to know. "Every family makes their own rules."
"We can play it that way here if you want," Carney said. "I can go either way with free parking. I've been saved from annihilation a few times playing it that way. But some families have really stupid rules – like throwing $500 bills in free parking every time someone goes around Go and stuff. That's crazy."
"Families have broken up because of Monopoly!" I noted, remembering a particular game when my cousins John and Jeff ended up in a fist fight over a deal gone bad.
"Well, there are only two of us playing today, so we don't have to worry about special teams," Carney observed, handing me the dice. "Roll to see who goes first."
"Special teams?" I was confused as I rolled the dice. "Seven."
"Haven't you ever been involved in a game of conspiracy? Secret teams?" she asked with surprise, picking up the dice and giving them a toss too. "Eleven. I go first."
"Not that I know of," I confessed, eyeing her from the other end of the table.
"It's when some players take unfair cooperative advantages," she explained with annoyance. "Making up secret special agreements before the game, plotting to take out someone else. Usually the vulnerable younger sibling or clueless mom. You know, sliding on rents, idiotic trades of property. That sort of stuff."
She threw the dice and moved her dog to Oriental which she bought.
"Aren't you the youngest in your family?" I asked, wondering if she was speaking from personal experience.
"Yeah, I had three brothers who made up the rules as we went along," she complained, sliding the dice back to me. "Their strategy was to wait me out. They figured after a few hours I'd get tired, bored, or upset and quit. In our house, when someone quit, he or she could give all his property and money to another player."
"Did you ever win?" I rolled the dice and moved to Connecticut which I bought, preventing Carney from a possible Monopoly.
"That's why I joined the school club!" she explained, picking up the dice. "At least I have a chance there!"
"I think you have a chance today too," I warmly told her as she rolled the dice.
She smiled with confidence and moved her dog to St. Charles Place which she purchased.
We didn't say anything for a few minutes as we concentrated on the activities before us.
"One of my favorite shows growing up was That Girl," Carney revealed after a few quiet moments. "They even had an episode about Monopoly. Ann Marie's boyfriend Donald won't trade Marvin Gardens to her dad!"
"What about your dad?"
"My brothers were much better honest brokers when Daddy played," she revealed. "He'd freak if he noticed anything illegal going on. Nobody ever accused him of cheating. And my brothers were very careful about trying to pull a fast one on him. They liked playing when Daddy wasn't around."
"So they could play their style."
"Did you know Monopoly helped us win World War II?" Carney asked after we had made a few more moves around the board.
"Yeah, right," I said with a dismissive laugh.
"No, really," she insisted. "The British Secret Service smuggled escape gear to captured Allied soldiers using Monopoly boxes."
I stared at her from my side of the table. "You're making this up."
"Maps were hard to smuggle," Carney explained with a serious tone. "They fell apart when wet and made noise when unfolded. But silk maps held up in all kinds of weather and were quieter. The same company that was manufacturing silk escape maps was also making Monopoly games. Why not use the board game to get supplies inside POW camps?"
I stopped playing for a moment and focused on her amazing story.
"The Germans accepted Red Cross aid packages for POWs, so throwing Monopoly games in the care kits wasn't a problem," Carney continued. "The Germans saw Monopoly as a way to keep the prisoners occupied for hours."
"How'd it work?" I was fascinated by this little known piece of history.
"Along with the standard thimble, car, and Scotty dog, the POW version included additional playing pieces like a metal file, a magnetic compass, and a silk escape map complete with marked safe-houses along the way all neatly concealed in the game's box."
"Plus, some of the Monopoly money was real. Actual German, Italian, and French currency was placed underneath the play money for escapees to use for bribes," she said. "They say that more than 35,000 Allied POWs escaped from German prison camps."
"Not all because of Monopoly."
"Well, there's no way to know the exact figure, but more than a few of those escapees owe their breakout to the rigged game," she assured me. "It was kept secret for years afterwards."
"I never heard that story before."
"Its great history," she concluded.
We took a break from the game when six o'clock arrived, stepping into the family room where I turned on the television news to see what was going on with the storm. The weathermen were predicting up to two feet of snow during the overnight with forecasted winds of near hurricane force causing massive drifts. Coastal communities were warned of the new moon tides that were going to be at least 12 feet. Record high tides along the coast were being predicted, causing serious threat to life and property because of flooding.
The newscaster said we had been hit by a wall of snow. Highways were impassable with monumental marooning of people in automobiles all over the region. There were more than 11 inches of snow on the ground at 6:00.
The power went out soon after we listened to the report which ended the Monopoly game. Luckily, in anticipation of such trouble, I already had a couple of flashlights set out. I dug out several candles from the dining room hutch and started a fire in the living room fire place to keep us warm knowing the house would soon become drafty and cold without the furnace. There was plenty of wood piled on the back porch to keep the fire going.
I got a couple of picnic coolers from the cellar, put some snow in them, and placed most of the refrigerator perishables inside I carried the coolers to the snow outside and tied some yarn from the cooler to the porch rail on the back of the house so I'd be able to find the coolers in the morning.
I fired up the grill on the back porch and cooked hamburgers for supper. It was weird to see the entire neighborhood blanketed in darkness.
"Is this the strangest thing that's ever happened to you?" I asked as we ate our burgers (with potato chips and soda) sitting on the floor in front of the living room fire.
"You mean weather wise or just in general?"
"Weather wise" I decided.
"Well, the family went camping one summer weekend up in New Hampshire," Carney recalled. "I was around ten. Surprisingly, I had a pretty good time which was unusual in my family. I remember watching a beautiful sunset on the shore of the lake. My brother Barry got lost in the woods for a while and Jimmy fell in the lake, but things were reasonably calm for the Nash clan. The last night we were there, a huge storm came through. It was raining hard and the wind was dangerous! My tent was shaking like a flag in the wind and Jimmy's tent was flattened. He slept in the car. My father came and got me and told me I could sleep with him and Mom. In the morning, we discovered that a huge tree branch had fallen on Barry and Steve's tent. At first we thought they had been killed, but it turns out they had slept through the whole thing! I was always fighting with my brothers and telling them how much I hated them, but I was never so scared and upset as I was that morning when I saw their tent squashed. I started crying and hugging them when they came crawling out of the flattened tent!"
"How 'bout in general?" I asked. "What was the strangest thing?"
"Maybe I shouldn't tell you."
"Why not?" I asked with a curious laugh
"You might get scared," she replied seriously. "Especially on a night like tonight."
As if on cue, the howling wind shook the window.
"I have you here to protect me," I joked.
"My house isn't as big as yours," Carney said. "Especially with three brothers. My parents had the cellar done over as a sort of family room and I'd go down there to get away from all the chaos upstairs. There was an old television set down there and one afternoon I was sitting on the couch reading a book with the television on and the channel changed. All by itself."
"There must have been a remote somewhere," I said with a wave of my hand. "Your brothers were playing a joke on you."
"Trust me, there was no remote," she assured me. "It was an old set. No remotes. The station changed from Channel 38 to Channel 56. I turned it back to 38 thinking maybe it was just a fluke. But a minute later it went to Channel 4. And then back to 38. It was almost as if someone was standing there flipping the channels."
"Maybe it was something electrical," I theorized.
"Maybe," She shrugged, unconvinced. "Then a week later I was down there and the light kept going off."
"Your brothers. At the top of the stairs."
"Not that light. The stand up lamp near the couch."
"Wire short," I explained.
"If you say so." I knew she wasn't buying my explanations. "My mother kept a lot of the old games we didn't' use anymore on shelves down in the cellar. There were also all these old books from when we were kids down there too. You know, Nancy Drew. The Bobbsy Twins. The Hardy Boys. I started to notice that the stuff on the shelves was re-arranged every time I went down there. This was stuff nobody ever used."
"That had to be your brothers playing a gag on you," I said. "They moved the stuff around to see if you'd notice and to spook you out."
"I asked them," Carney replied. "They didn't know what I was talking about. A week or so later, the television went on the blink again, going from channel to channel. This time, I told my brothers about it but they just laughed. I paid Jimmy five dollars to sit down there with me to see if it happened again. But it didn't."
"Guess it was just one of those things."
"A few days after that, I was down there with Barry," she continued, not deterred by my denials. "He had an unopened can of coke in his hand and all of a sudden it burst open, squirting him in the face."
"Someone must have shaken it up before hand."
"We were the only ones home," Carney said. "I didn't touch the can."
"Are you saying the house was haunted?"
"Do you believe in paranormal stuff?" She asked with interest.
I shrugged. "I guess I've never really thought about it."
"Well, I'm glad we're here and not there tonight!" Carney said with a laugh. "My mother would always just humor me. 'Oh Carney, you know there's no such things as ghosts!'"
"Where'd the name Carney come from?" Now seemed to be a good a time as any to find out about her unusual name.
"My brothers said I was named after the actor Art Carney," she said with a laugh. You know, the guy who played Ed Norton on The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason? And for years I believed them."
"You mean you weren't named after Art Carney?"
"We were doing a joint report on World War II in junior high," she said. "That's where I found out about the whole Monopoly thing with the prison camps. Anyway, my father fought in World War II so I asked him some questions about the war for background information on my report. At first, he didn't have much to say. Just that it's what everybody did back then to help save the world."
"My father says guys don't like to talk about it," I told her. "Because of all the bad things that happened."
"I asked my father if he knew any heroes," Carney revealed. "And he started crying."
"Really?" I was surprised by her revelation.
"I'd never seen my father cry before," she said, her own eyes tearing up. "He was sitting in his arm chair with his paper in his hand just like he did every night, but when I asked that question he just started sobbing."
"Because of Private Barry Carney," she answered sadly.
"A war hero?" I guessed.
"Saved my father and his pals," Carney confirmed proudly. "They were all eighteen and nineteen year olds, except for the Sergeant who was in his late twenties. Dad said Carney was the youngest of all them. From Pennsylvania. A Phillies fan. Loved to play poker. Great at impersonations. Jimmy Stewart. James Cagney. Cary Grant. Jimmy Durante. Walter Brennan. John Wayne."
"They were riding in the back of an open truck. Carney was on the end. A grenade was tossed into the vehicle. Carney could have jumped off the truck and he'd probably have escaped injury. But instead he fell on the grenade, giving up his life to save Daddy and the others."
"That's a hero," I marveled.
"Dad said that was the kind of guy Carney was," she reported with awe. "He'd rather take it himself than have his buddies die."
"I wonder what I would have done," I thought out loud.
"My brother Barry was named after him," Carney revealed. "And Jimmy was named after Jimmy Howard who was one of my Dad's pals in the unit. And Steve was named after Steve Johnson, another one of his friends from the same unit. Dad used to call Steve "Sarge" sometimes and nobody could ever figure out why, but now I know."
"And you were named Carney."
"Dad said if I was a boy he would have named me Hugh because the Sergeant's name was Hugh Evanhovski," Carney said with a smile. "My mother wanted to name me Carrie as a variation for Carney, but Daddy was adamant about Carney."
"Well, just be glad he didn't name you Evanhovski!"
"I used to resent my name," she admitted. "I thought it was stupid and I hated being made fun of for it. But after hearing that story and seeing how emotional my father got when I asked him about heroes, now I'm damn proud to carry the name."
"You should be," I said, moved by the remarkable story. "My father was on a Navy aircraft carrier off the shore of Korea during that war," I told her. "He said he never saw the war. Just heard it."
"There is a difference," Carney said.
We picked up our plates and brought them to the kitchen where I washed them and put them away. I found an extra toothbrush for Carney to use and she excused herself to use the bathroom.
I placed all the pillows I could find on the carpet in front of the fireplace and dragged down several blankets and quilts from the upstairs bedrooms. I brought in more logs from the screened in back porch, putting a couple in the fire place and stacking extras by the side of the hearth.
"Is there any Brandy in the house?" Carney asked once she returned to the living room and settled herself on the makeshift bedding I had put out.
I raised my eyebrows. "Are you sure?"
She nodded and gave me a 'don't worry' pat on my knee. "On a night like tonight, a shot might not be a bad idea."
I went to the liquor cabinet on the other side of the room, dug out a bottle of Brandy, and grabbed a shot glass from the glass shelf. I handed Carney the shot glass and poured the booze into it.
"What about you?" she asked, surprised to be drinking alone. "Don't you want a little nip?"
"I try not to drink anymore," I admitted, placing the bottle on the table next to the couch.
"You drank a lot?"
"Me and Rollie Gardner stole our first cans of beers when we were twelve, which was an awfully young age to start experimenting."
I sat on the bedding next to Carney. "Before long, me and Rollie were stealing beer almost every weekend. Two cans turned into three cans. And then four cans. Then we were getting Rollie's cousin to buy it for us. I didn't think about it much at first, but then Rollie was getting the hard stuff. We were fourteen. We were drinking every weekend. I'd wake up with terrible hangovers. I'd feel like shit. I wouldn't remember what we had done the night before and that scared me. What if something happened and I had no control over it because I was too sloshed to notice or care?"
"Did anything happen?"
"Nothing tragic. Just embarrassing stuff. I puked in Kimmy Calvatti's cellar one night. I pissed on Freddie Reed's dog. I made a fool of myself telling Julie Lancaster how beautiful she was and how much I loved her and all that."
"Pretty foolish, huh?"
Julie was the School Goddess, the most unreachable beauty queen on campus. I was still embarrassed about my pathetic behavior nearly three years after slobbering over her.
"Then one night I went out with the guys but I didn't drink because I was taking some medication," I continued. "It was an eye opener watching them get drunk, doing and saying things they wouldn't do or say sober. Was I like that when I was drinking?"
"You kept calling me Chili-con-Carney one night when I was at Lisa Evans party with Hank a few years ago," she recalled.
"I don't remember that," I admitted. "But I apologize."
"Ah, I've been called worse," She laughed.
"One night, we were pretty hammered hanging out at the Tasty Freeze making jerks of ourselves when my father pulled in to get my mother a chocolate shake," I told her. "I could tell he was disappointed seeing me acting like that. He didn't say anything, but I could see it in his face."
"Sometimes parents don't have to say anything to make us feel awful," Carney noted.
"I decided I didn't want to disappoint my father anymore," I said. "I've been accused of being chicken shit and boring, but I don't care. I haven't had a killer headache in months and I haven't spent the night hugging a toilet in a while!"
"So that's why you're not having a shot with me tonight?"
I nodded my head in confirmation.
She looked at the shot glass she was holding in her hand and put in on the table without taking a sip and looked at me.
"Maybe I don't need this tonight after all," she decided.
"My parents' marriage fell apart for a lot of reasons, but my brothers' and my partying habits didn't help," Carney revealed with remorse "Those three stooges were always having parties at our house."
"Is that when you started drinking?"
"How could I not?" she reasoned. "I was the youngest. I wanted to be cool. There were plenty of hip older teens coming to my house. Cute boys. I wanted to be accepted."
"Didn't you worry about your parents?"
"Sure, but I liked the sense of rebellion. Plus, my parents were fighting a lot by then and the marriage looked to be on the rocks. I was displaying a sort of fuck-you attitude. Of course, the next day I'd feel guilty and ashamed and fearful and all that. But I rarely got in trouble and never got the blame. No matter what happened, it was always my brothers' fault."
"'Cause you were the youngest?"
"And the girl. Daddy's favorite. 'Daddy's little princess', my mother would complain. She really became resentful over the years because Daddy gave me the special treatment."
"I'm sure you deserved it," I said with a smile.
"I enjoyed it," she admitted with a knowing grin.
"I'm an only child," I said. "There was no one else for me to blame!"
"Drinking made it easier to have sex too," Carney bluntly told me.
"You don't need to tell me about that stuff," I nervously replied.
'It's okay," she said, giving me a long hard look. "We might as well be honest with one another if we're going to freeze to death together."
I leaned back against the front of the couch and listened to her story.
"I remember being a freshman in the locker room during gym and overhearing Senior Maggie Gilmore telling her friend to get drunk if she was thinking about having sex with her boyfriend because it was a lot easier to go all the way when you were tanked," Carney said.
"What a sad commentary."
"The first guy I ever made out with was Jerry Martino in junior high."
"The baseball player?"
"With the acne and greasy hair," she confirmed. "We were at a party, drinking beer and we ended up alone. He started kissing me. It felt like a dog lapping my mouth, I let him put his hand under my blouse because I thought I was supposed too."
"Because of the beer," I theorized.
"There was Walt from the football team and Hank, plus a few nameless guys I don't even remember," she admitted sadly. "I don't think I felt close to any of them. I doubt I really knew any of them. We never talked about anything important. The purpose was always drinking and seeing how far we could go."
I stared at her, intrigued that she was telling me her personal secrets.
"My biggest regret is that I wasn't sober for my first kiss," she admitted with sadness. "Or my first sexual experience. It would have been nice if it meant something."
She glanced at me. "What about you, Bergie? Were your romances more fulfilling?"
"I took Marie Ragazzo to the Social in Junior High," I replied. "It was awkward. We were clumsy. Crippling shy. After the dance, my father drove us to a fancy restaurant, all dressed up. Formal and grown up, even if we were drinking lemonade! It was very romantic in a surprisingly innocent way. We held hands when we walked out of the restaurant. My father drove us to Marie's house. I walked her up the front walk. We said goodnight."
"Did you kiss her?"
"On the cheek," I admitted with embarrassment. "I guess I was afraid to do anything bolder."
"That's a very sweet story." She was playing with the edge of one of the blankets, rubbing it between her fingers for security.
"Don't you have any stories like that?" I asked.
"Not really," she confessed. "I was already drinking by the time we were in junior high, so most of my romances happened when I was blitzed."
"So, you have drinking stories to tell."
"Yeah, and most of them are unpleasant and embarrassing," she admitted. "Liquor induced fights. Vulgar language. Getting sick. Showing up at Margie Bennett's sweet sixteen staggering out of the car falling-down drunk at three in the afternoon. Fun stuff like that."
"I never knew that about you."
"That's because you know me mostly from school," she said. "I'm normal and well behaved and hard working there. But I was someone else on the weekends."
"Well, I had my moments too," I assured her. "You weren't alone."
"It's different when you're a girl," she reasoned. "More is at stake."
"Your virtues, you mean."
"Do you remember Mr. Rogers, the student teacher a couple of years ago?"
"He saw me in the deli one Saturday. Asked me out to lunch."
"You went?" I was surprised to hear of such scandalous behavior.
"The next day," she confessed with a sigh. "I met him outside the deli. He took me to his apartment and we had martinis and red wine with our spaghetti lunch. I wasn't feeling any pain after a while. He leaned across the table and kissed me on the mouth. I was naively startled and I knew it was wrong, but I was drunk so I didn't stop it and I let him put his hand on my breasts because I didn't know what else to do."
"You could have slapped him across the face," I offered.
"I was panicked and numb. I felt his tongue in my mouth and I just sat there not knowing how in the world to get out of the situation I foolishly put myself in."
"Did anything else happen?"
"He invited me to the bedroom but I was smart enough not to go."
"Good for you!"
"He was mad and took me back to the deli, but I was too drunk to work and I had to hide in the back until I sobered up praying not to get caught."
"You were pretty lucky nothing worse happened," I told her.
"He never spoke to me after that." Her voice was full of hurt and shame. "I felt like trash whenever I saw him at school."
"Guys like that are scum."
"A few months later my mother sat me down at the kitchen table with a grave look on her face," Carney recalled. "I wasn't sure if someone had died or if she was about to bust me for all the drinking stuff."
"What'd she say?"
"That Daddy was moving out," Carney revealed with a heavy voice. "I really wasn't surprised, but it still hurt and I was bummed out."
"I felt guilty and responsible. If only I had been a better daughter. If only I hadn't caused so much trouble." I could see her eyes watering up.
"It wasn't your fault," I assured her with gentleness.
"But I was also relieved," she admitted, wiping a tear from her eye. "Maybe now things would calm down. Maybe Daddy would be happier. Maybe my mother wouldn't be bitching all the time."
"Did they say why they were splitting?"
"Just that they didn't get along any more," she answered with a shrug. "My father was sad. After hearing his story about the war, I wonder if that haunted him all those years. He was disappointed with his life, almost like Carney had died for nothing. Things hadn't worked out as he hoped. He's a foreman, but I remember him saying once that he wanted to be a teacher. He thought he was going to have a normal life with a normal family and a normal marriage, but things were crazy in our family. My brothers were wild. My mother was a nagger and a complainer. I think my father saw himself as a failure."
"You stopped partying after they broke up?"
"Eventually," she said. "I didn't like all the sneaking around, all the shameful secrets and ambivalence about the horrible things I was doing to myself. I decided to be more of the Carney from school and less of the Carney from the weekends."
"I think that's a good thing," I told her with a smile.
She glanced at shot glass with the Brandy still in it. "A few years ago, I would have drunk half the bottle and then been puking half the night."
"It's much better this way," I said with a knowing smile. "It's nice just being here with you, talking."
She peered at me. "Yes," she agreed, surprised by the revelation. "This is nice."
I crawled over to the fire place and put another log on the fire. Carney excused herself to use the bathroom, taking a candle with her to find her way in the dark. I went to the window and watched the mounting snow, amazed by the power of the continuing storm.
"The porcelain is getting a little cold in there," she announced with a shiver when she returned.
"Luckily, I can pee standing up," I joked.
"Well, I could too," she replied with a shrug. "It wouldn't be very pretty though."
"You live in a very nice house," Carney said, pouring the brandy back into the bottle.
"My mother keeps it pretty neat and orderly," I replied as we made ourselves comfortable on the bedding on the floor.
"My house was always in constant turmoil and disarray," Carney reported. "My father lost interest in maintenance and my mother couldn't keep up with the messes my brothers made. Eventually, she gave up. There was always something in need of repair, with mounds of laundry that need to be washed. The bathroom sink had crusted toothpaste on it for days. The toilet had stuff growing in it. The kitchen sink was always full of dirty dishes."
"We have a housekeeper," I revealed with some embarrassment.
"There was never enough food in the house," she complained. "My brothers ate like horses. Drank the milk right out of the carton. Breakfast was a fight to see who got the last of the Rice Krispies. Never put anything in the refrigerator and expect to have it later, because it was always scarved up by someone else."
"My mother always makes sure the house is full of food," I reported.
"There was always something crazy going on at mine, mostly because my brothers were insane," Carney complained. "I never realized how crazy things were until one time I slept over Franny Morrison's house. It was so calm and quiet and polite." She looked amazed. "Normal."
"Every family is different," I said. "Rollie's family never uses their dining room."
"My house was constant chaos," Carney recalled with resentment. "Noise and commotion all the time. I could never bring friends home. My brothers would harass them or try to seduce them."
"I guess that would be embarrassing," I said.
"They would literally kill each other," Carney stated with anger. "Brawls. Fist-a-cuffs. Drag out fights, furniture knocked over. Falling down stairs. Wrestling. Real violent stuff. I don't know how they didn't kill each other."
I was surprised to learn about her hectic family life. Carney seemed so calm and peaceful at school.
"If you were to walk into my house at four in the morning a few years ago, you'd probably find the TV on in the living room with my Dad asleep in his chair," Carney told me. "It got to the point where he'd rather be there then up in bed with my mother. Barry would usually be asleep on the living room floor using one of the couch cushions as a pillow. Jimmy might be asleep down on the cellar couch with that TV on down there too. Steve was the only one who liked to sleep in his room, but he would be down two or three times a night to get something to eat. Everybody's sleeping cycle was out of whack. My mother stopped cooking so everybody's eating habits were screwed up too. My father ate left over pizza for breakfast. Or we'd go out to eat."
"The housekeeper prepares most of our meals," I embarrassingly admitted. I peered at her. "What were your brothers like, individually?"
"My brother Barry was an unapologetic asshole," Carney told me. "He was constantly making sarcastic remarks that got him in trouble. His attitude was if you mess up a little, you might as well mess up the whole way. So he had no limits."
"What about Jimmy?"
"A certified lunatic with passive-aggressive behaviors," Carney said. "A deviant."
"A Terror. A tyrant. A monster. A gangster. The most unethical person I've ever met. I think he'll probably end up in jail some day."
"What are they doing now?"
"Barry joined the Marines. Jimmy is in the Army. My father wouldn't let them join until the Vietnam War was over. Daddy got Steve a job driving truck where he works."
"And now you're the only one left."
"Living with my crazy family toughened me up," she said. "I learned how to take care of myself and fend for myself. My brothers' beat on me for a long time, but there came a point when I was able to stand up for myself and they started leaving me alone. They were always verbally abusive, but at least they stopped punching me."
"You're a very sweet girl," I remarked, in awe of her knowing what she endured growing up.
"I'm a survivor," she countered. "I try not to take things too seriously but I try to be responsible. I've been taking care of myself since I was twelve."
"What was your mom doing?" I asked with a frown.
"Avoiding everything. Being angry at my father."
"I'm sorry," I said, wanting to give her a hug.
"It was embarrassing being a Nash," she admitted. "Everybody knew about my brothers. Teachers would give me suspicious looks when I first started with them because they had my crude and obnoxious brothers before me who made their lives hell. That's why I made sure I was smart enough to impress the teachers. My mother was one of those loud mouth types who would march into the school and give people a piece of her mind without a second thought or care about how rude or inappropriate she was. I just wanted to die half the time."
For a moment, I thought she was going to cry. Her voice broke and she took in a deep breath of air, but she caught herself. She looked at me and shrugged. "You'd think after all this time I wouldn't let it get to me."
"How could you not?" I asked.
"What about you, Bergie?" She asked. "What's your story?"
"Not much to tell," I admitted. "Especially compared to you."
"Try me," she urged.
"Well, I'm an only child so things are different," I explained. "I didn't have to worry about getting beat up by brothers. My parents are painfully optimistic, positive and caring. They like being involved in my life. They aren't burnt out and overwhelmed like it sounds like your parents were. They're educators so they're pretty liberal and open. They trust me to do the right thing. As you can see, we're pretty well off."
"Some kids at school call you richy rich boy," Carney revealed.
"I can't control what other kids think or say," I replied with a shrug. "My mother believes in providing food, shelter and clothing which is probably why I was voted best dressed in the yearbook. But my parents also believe in independence and self-reliance. That's why I have a job and pay for my own car."
"Do you like being an only child?" Carney asked with curiosity.
"Not when I hear snide people calling me rich or spoiled," I admitted with annoyance. "But sometimes I envy kids I know who have brothers and sisters. It must be nice to have someone in the same house to hang out with and talk to and get advice from and all that."
"And fight," Carney reminded me.
"Yeah, I guess that comes with the territory," I said. "The Millers across the street have seven kids. They fight, but they're all bonded and I missed having that. I've always been a bit of a loner even though I have plenty of friends. Actually, sometimes I prefer being by myself."
"Me too," Carney said, "Although probably for different reasons.
"I was socially inept when I was younger because I didn't know how to be with other people," I said. "I'm still kind of shy."
"What else?" Carney wondered.
"I didn't realize people thought I was weird because I hung out with my parents so much," I confessed. "I didn't know you were supposed to disengage from them when you turned thirteen!"
Carney laughed at my observation. "Teenagers avoid their parents like the plague," she told me. "But I miss my dad a lot," she admitted.
"I have cousins I spent time with but I'm used to being alone. I figure out how to deal with things on my own and I've always been smart."
"That's one thing we have in common," Carney observed with a smile.
"I feel like I'm missing out on something though,' I admitted with a sigh. "I matured faster than most of my friends because I was always around adults."
"What adults?" Carney asked. "Besides your parents, I mean."
"My mother loves having dinner parties," I explained. "So there were always adults here. Grad students too. And my grandparents were around a lot."
"We never had people at our house," Carney remarked.
"I didn't have to worry about sharing the television or the bathroom or fighting over food like you," I said. "But I don't think I'm as tough as you because I've never had to fight for anything or face any real adversity."
"Were you bored?" Carney wanted to know.
"I never thought about it," I admitted. "I learned how to function on my own. I love to read which you don't need anybody to do!"
"I can read a book a day," Carney bragged.
"My mother was an only child and my father had one brother," I said. "I don't think I want just one kid if I ever get married."
I shrugged. "I guess I don't want them to go through what I went through," I said. "Even though I have no real complaints, it can be a lonely and solitary existence. I missed out on a lot of stuff."
"Like what?" she challenged.
"Well, I never learned how to change a diaper, for example. I never got to baby sit. I've never been able to call anybody brother or sister. I haven't had a lot of conflict or competition to deal with." I glanced at her. "What about you? Do you want to have kids?"
"I really don't think about that now," she answered. "But I think I'll make a good mother. And I wouldn't quit at it like my mother did."
"Well, I hope to have two or three children," I revealed. "That would be good."
"It wasn't all bad having brothers," Carney decided. "As mean as they were toward me, God help anybody else who gave me a hard time because my brothers would beat the shit out of them. On the other hand, you haven't been humiliated by your obnoxious brother making fun of you in public."
"That's true," I stated.
"So I know there were some advantages for you being an only child," she continued. "You didn't have to worry about being teased or ridiculed by siblings. Mistreated by your own gene pool!"
"Yeah, but I'm easily offended and I tend to bail out of tough situations because I don't know how to handle them," I confessed. "I've really had to learn how to stand up for myself away from the family."
"You get along with your parents, Bergie. That's a real gift if you ask me."
"I remember Rollie having a really loud and angry argument with his parents one night and I was stunned because I couldn't recall any time in my life when I was at odds with my parents on any issue. I appreciate their company and their companionship. I know they love me. I can't fault them for their decisions or the life they have given me."
"Do you think you and I are different because I have siblings and you don't?" Carney wondered.
"Well, our families are different so we've had different experiences and perspectives," I offered. "And we've been affected by things in different ways. I'm probably more sensitive than you because you grew up in a house with animated brothers and got used to their rowdy behaviors. You've enjoyed connections I'll never have."
"But you've never been disappointed by siblings like I have," Carney said. "And you didn't rebel like I did. And you weren't angry like I was."
"You're much more aware of stuff than I am."
"I'm not sure if my parents ever saw me for who I really was," Carney sighed. "I've felt awkwardness, embarrassment, shame and disappointment. I've felt like I was different and that there had to be something wrong with me because of the way my family acted. But I don't think my parents had a clue that I was having such feelings. Daddy wanted me to be his little princess and my mother was too pissed off to care about what I was thinking."
"You weathered the storm pretty well," I told her. "I live in this triangle where it's kind of hard to hide. My mother is always asking me questions. We have dinner together as a family all the time and they're always talking to me about life. It's strange how sometimes I feel isolated and alone even when I'm sitting at the table with them."
"I'm a lot angrier then you are," Carney observed.
"You have more to be angry about," I replied.
"Maybe," she agreed, fighting a yawn. "What time is it, anyway?"
I glanced at my watch. "One forty-five."
"Wow! Bergie! We've talked the night away." She looked at me with disbelief. "I don't' think I've ever talked to anybody this openly or honestly before in my life."
"Well, thanks for feeling safe enough to do it with me."
"Maybe we should get some sleep," she suggested, squishing down under the bedding. "It's late."
"Okay." I threw a couple of logs on the fire and blew out the candles before climbing under the covers myself. There were a couple of feet separating us but I still felt awkward sleeping so close to a girl. I'd never done anything like this before.
"Good night, Bergie."
"Good night, Carney. Sweet dreams."
I fell asleep listening to the sounds of her gentle breathing and the whistles of the howling wind outside.
*** *** ***
When I awoke in the morning, Carney's head was on my shoulder. I was taken by her beauty and the closeness and I spent the next fifteen minutes watching her sleep while the blizzard continued outside.
She awoke and was startled to see my looking down at her. "I guess I must have rolled over in my sleep," she explained, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. "What time is it?"
"Almost eight," I answered, rolling off the make shift bed and going to the living room window. "Would you believe it's still snowing?"
Carney turned on the portable radio I had brought into the living room while I refueled the fire. The weatherman said the snow would continue all day, accumulating an average of an inch every hour. There were already 25 inches of snow on the ground that morning.
"Unbelievable," I said, shaking my head. "I've never seen so much snow in my life."
The radio reported that major arteries around Boston were clogged with stranded vehicles and jackknifed tractor-trailer trucks. An eight-mile stretch of Route 128 was a snow covered parking lot. Many people spent the entire night in their cars and I was glad we were safe at home with a nice cozy fireplace.
"I guess you're stuck with me for another day," I remarked.
"I can think of worse things," she said with a smile.
The house was cold and it didn't make sense to venture far from the fire. We both used the facilities, although there was no hot water. We had some cereal and bananas for breakfast. I picked up the phone, but it was dead.
"Hope your mom's okay," I said.
"I'm sure she is," an unconcerned Carney replied.
I brought her one of my mother's thick white turtle neck sweaters to wear and she took off the robe for the day.
We brought the Monopoly game into the living room to play in front of the fire. It took Carney about three hours to send me into bankruptcy, but I learned a lot about the game listening to her talk about strategy as we played.
She advised me to always be aware of the odds. She says it takes most players about five turns to make a complete lap around the board with the change of rolling doubles once in those five turns. She said doubles happen about 17% of the time.
Carney's philosophy is to buy smart. She suggests always picking up available properties if no other player owns one of the same group, the purchase gives you two or three of the same group, or the buy blocks someone else from completing a set.
I wasn't aware that Illinois Avenue is the square most often landed on according to Carney, except for Jail. She says the B&O Railroad is also landed on almost as much as Illinois and Jail, with Go close behind those.
Carney believes that railroads are better to own than utilities, but that utilities should be bought if the opportunity arises - especially if you can get both of them. She says Short Line is the least useful railroad to own because it is visited the least often.
Carney says you should get out of jail quickly early in the game even if you have to pay the $50 but that, later on, when the board is more dangerous, stay in jail as long as you can.
She thinks that when you build you should get to three houses as quickly as possible because the rent rises significantly between two and three houses. If you're stuck with low-income properties, Carney recommends building to four houses quickly.
She says avoid mortgaging properties when you own two or more of the properties because if one property in a group is mortgaged, you can't build on any of the properties in that group.
She says that the second set of properties on all four sides of the board is a better investment because houses and hotels cost the same to build as the first set of properties, but the rent is higher. Carney notes that the Orange St. James trio of properties is an excellent monopoly to own because of their relationship to Jail. She says a roll of 6 or 8 from Jail, which is two of the most common rolls, lands you on an orange.
Carney believes that showing no mercy is the best way to approach the game. If a player is down, eliminate him from the game because luck plays a big role in comebacks.
I was amused by Carney's expert attitude toward the game and how serious she was when it came to playing.
I grilled some hot dogs for lunch on the back porch barbeque as the snow continued to fall. The radio said there was nearly 29 inches on the ground at noon.
We sat on the couch in front of the fire and ate our dogs, with some potato chips, pickles, and soda.
"You guys have great hot dogs at the Deli," I commented in an effort to start a conversation.
"We have great everything at the Deli," she replied proudly.
"You like working there?"
"Well, if I have to work, The Chipper is a good a place as any," she answered. "The Owners Greg and his wife Lisa are very nice and easy to work for. It's a popular and friendly family run shop. People like the food, they like the service, and they like eating there."
"I like the atmosphere," I said.
"Did you know we serve thirty-two different kinds of sandwiches?" she asked. "It took me weeks to memorize them all! Turkey. Corned beef. Roast Beef. Chicken. Salami. Pastrami. Tuna You name it, we have it! Chicken salad sandwiches. Potato and pasta salads. Garden salads. Fresh baked cookies and breads. Home made dressings. Soups."
"It beats McDonalds!"
"Greg and Lisa put their heart and soul into that business," Carney said. "I've learned a lot about work ethics and quality customer service and I feel like I've grown as a person working there."
"Have you had any problems?"
"Mostly with rude and impatient customers," she answered. "People can be demanding and impolite when it comes to service expectations, but I try not to take it personally. I feel good seeing satisfied customers who appreciate good service and a tasty meal, but I have to stop myself from yelling at jerks who give me a hard time."
"I know the feeling."
"The people I work with are fun and its easy going there, so lots of times it doesn't even feel like we're working. It's a good way to earn spending money and stop my mother from nagging me."
We brought our plates to the kitchen where I washed them and promptly put them away while Carney excused herself to brush her teeth and powder her nose.
"Your mother trained you well," Carney observed when she returned to the now spotless kitchen.
"She's a stickler for that sort of stuff."
"What about you?" Carney asked when we went back into the living room. "How's your job?"
I turned a couple of the easy chairs toward the bay window and motioned for her to have a seat. We might just as well watch Mother Nature in her glory while we waited out the storm.
"My parents made it pretty clear by the time I was ten that I was expected to work," I said. "So I had a paper route for a few years. Mowed lawns. Raked leaves. Shoveled snow. The usual kids stuff."
"My brothers had dibs on the entire block for several years," Carney recalled.
"When I got to be about fourteen, my father suggested that maybe it was time for a real job."
"A real job?"
"Something with a W-2," I explained. "I figured if I had to work for a living, I might as well do something I was interested in. Any schlep can cook fries at McDonalds or stock shelves at the IGA."
"So you picked the Majestic."
"You've seen me there?" I asked with surprise. I racked my brain trying to remember if I had seen Carney there for a movie.
She blushed, embarrassed to be found out. "Once or twice," she admitted.
I grinned, flattered that she had noticed. "When you work at a movie theater, you don't really do it for the money. I took the job because I like movies. The lousy pay is why I'm driving that old VV bug, but I just couldn't pass up watching movies for free, along with all the free popcorn you can eat."
"I get lunch free," Carney offered.
"I've become an expert pinball player too," I added. "But it hasn't been all glory. I get made fun of and mocked by know-it-all college kids. Food is thrown at me by adolescent jerks. I have to tell out-of-control teenagers screaming obscenities at the screen to shut up. It's mayhem, especially when some film with a lot of sex and nudity is playing because every under-aged kid in town is trying to sneak in! Saturday afternoon matinees for the kids means at least two fights a show and here comes me with my dorky shining flashlight warning the little monsters to be quiet or get out."
"What do you like doing the most?" Carney asked.
"Helping the projectionist," I answered. "Sometimes I wind the film through the projector and get things going on time. Loading the projector took weeks to learn, but I'm always Johnny on the spot whenever the film breaks and the projectionist isn't around. Nothing pisses off an audience more than having the film break in the middle of the movie."
"How do you get to watch the movies when you're working?" she asked.
"There's plenty of standing around and waiting, so we duck into the theatre and periodically catch scenes. You can pretty much see the whole movie over the course of a week. And on Wednesdays, the next week's films come in. I usually volunteer to screen them to make sure there aren't any problems and to splice the reels together. There's something special about sitting in the projection room at two in the morning watching a movie, alone."
"You'll have to show me some time," she said.
"Okay," I agreed, tickled by the invite.
"What else do you do?"
"Concessions," I sighed. "It isn't always fun to be surrounded by a throng of angry, uncouth, and impatient people bent on getting their overpriced snacks and drinks as quickly as possible so they don't miss any of those exciting coming attractions! I never seem to shake the buttery sludge from the popcorn machine. I usually reek of stale popcorn butter for days. It's hot and it can be dangerous if the popcorn machine blows up or catches on fire or something. But, like you, I'm expected to provide quality customer service no matter what kind of asshole is waiting for his giant tootsie roll."
"It gets bad?"
"I was working with Charlene Carson once when a jerk threw his bag of popcorn at her because she wasn't quick enough for him! We have to listen to whiny customers complain about the prices all the time. Like I'm in a position to do something about it? I get impatient doing Concessions so I usually try to trade it off."
"Selling tickets in the neat little Box Office booth out front!" I grinned. "It's like being in a space ship! It's better than Concessions because it doesn't reek, you don't have to handle food, and the customers are generally better behaved because you have the power not to let them in! Girls flirt with you sometimes, especially if they're trying to get into an R-rated movie. My biggest pet peeve is when people stand there absent mindedly staring at the movie times with their mouths hanging open trying to figure out when the movie will be over for rides, babysitters and all that."
"How 'bout ushering?"
"Working the door is pretty easy because it's completely low-stress and mindless. You stand at the podium, tear the tickets, and say 'Enjoy the show'. Then, after its over, you go in with a broom and a dustpan and sweep up. You check the bathroom once in a while to make sure there's no monkey business going on in there. As I mentioned before, ushers are on cop patrol busting kids goofing off. There's been a few times when we've caught kids…….you know……."
"In various degrees, which is sort of voyeuristic. The balcony is usually where that stuff goes on. I guess the bad part of being on the ushering crew is that you find some disgusting stuff in the theater during clean up, especially if someone got sick. I'm always amazed at how pathetically sloppy people can be, leaving all their garbage behind – candy wrappers, popcorn containers, spilled soda and popcorn But I've come across some really bizarre stuff too."
"Empty booze bottles. Left over take out from the Chinese place. Used condoms. Underwear – both sexes. Feminine hygiene products. Someone's diary. A tape dispenser. Various books. Umbrellas. Earrings. Purses. Lighters. Sunglasses. Shoes! Keys. A flute. Money. Flowers. A pocket watch. A tooth filling. A hearing aid. A gym bag. A vibrator. A pair of dentures."
"Somebody left a portable television in the deli one time," Carney recalled.
"Did it work?"
She shrugged to indicate she didn't know. "So, what are some of the movies you've seen working there?"
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother was the film that was playing on my first day," I recalled. My first Saturday matinee was The Apple Dumpling Gang. Death Race 2000 was a strange movie. Dog Day Afternoon was pretty intense for 14 year old me. French Connection II. The Great Waldo Pepper. Jaws was a must see."
"My father took me to that one," Carney remarked. "I'm not sure why!"
"I loved Woody Allen's Love and Death."
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail was something I could watch a 100 times. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was intense.
"An actor's movie," Carney said.
"I was hysterical watching The Return of the Pink Panther, but I didn't get The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"That's a real cult film now," Carney said. "They show it at midnight all over the country."
"College kids love it for some reason, but I thought it was stupid. I liked The Sunshine Boys with Walter Matthau and George Burns a lot more. All The President's Men was pretty insightful. I think my parents saw that one three times when it was here. The Bad News Bears was another matinee nightmare. Carrie was one of those movies everybody wanted to see because it had a lot of nudity in it, but I'm not one for horror movies. King Kong with Jessica Langewas horrible. I liked Logan's Run. Marathon Man was gruesome. Midway was a neat war movie with an all star cast, but the Majestic showed as an afternoon matinee even though it really wasn't a kid's movie. Network was interesting. The Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood was great. Rocky was one of the best movies I've ever seen. I thought Mel Brooks' Silent Movie was terrific. Taxi Driver was troubling. Annie Hall was another classic. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Goodbye Girl. Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo was a lame Saturday afternoon matinee. I didn't like Looking for Mr. Goodbar, but I liked The Late Show. New York, New York. Oh, God! With George Burns. I liked Semi-Tough mostly because I had read the book. I really didn't like Saturday Night Fever. Smokey and the Bandit is something I could watch 50 times. Star Wars, of course. Slap Shot was hilarious. I keep a journal of all the movies I see."
"I like watching old movies on late night television."
"There are some great ones," I agreed. "To bad the power is out or we could watch some together here."
"Talking is just as good," she assured me. "I guess I watch television more than I go to the movies."
"What are your favorite shows?"
"I didn't get to watch a lot of stuff because we only had one television set for the longest time and I always lost the battle," Carney explained. "My father made a big deal out of watching The Wizard of Oz together as a family when it came on every year. He controlled the television. He liked Alias Smith and Jones which I liked. Columbo too. We always watched him together. Daddy liked the Saturday night block of shows – Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett, which I liked too so that was fun. Sometimes I'd catch a show I'd like when nobody was around – Laverine and Shirley. Alice. One Day At A Time. When we got the second television down cellar I'd catch up with reruns I liked. The Big Valley. Here Comes The Brides. Bewitched. That Girl. I Dream of Jeannie. What about you?"
"I'll watch anything that has to do with family," I reported. "The Waltons. Eight is Enough. My Three Sons. Even the lame ones, like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. I like watching what it's like to have plenty of siblings in a family."
"What about non-family stuff?"
"I love Barney Miller and M*A*S*H. I think The Rockford Files is great. I'll stay home on Saturday mornings just to watch Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes. But I'm really not big on television. I'd just assume read a good book."
"Have you ever been on television?" Carney asked.
"No," I said with a laugh. "I'm not that popular!"
"I was," she revealed.
"Really? What, on a news show or something?"
"Do you remember Boomtown?" she asked.
For nearly two decades, local television personality Rex Trailer hosted a popular weekend-morning children's show called Boomtown on an outdoor "western town" set built next to WBZ-TV's studios.
"Channel Four! Rex Trailer!" I exclaimed. "You were on Boomtown?" I asked with envy. "What was it like!?"
"It was fun. I went with Ann Nelson for her ninth birthday present. Rex performed songs, played his guitar, and performed his authentic cowboy skills like horse-riding tricks, rope tricks and the bull-whip. I remember he led us in a sing-along and introduced the cartoons which we watched on monitors. I forget the name of the side kick."
"I remember Cactus Pete, but I think there were two or three different ones" I reported.
"The neatest part for me was when I got home," Carney admitted with a nostalgic smile. "My father was so excited. He watched me on television – the show was live and he was so thrilled because he saw me in one of the audience shots. I really felt special that day."
"Wow. Carney Nash. Television star!"
"Hardly," she said with a roll of her eyes. "But it's a nice memory."
"Especially for your father, I'm sure."
"We haven't talked about music yet," Carney remarked.
"If I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, I'd take every Beatles record ever made," I told her. "Nothing else would matter."
"My brothers were always blasting The Stones and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention through the house," Carney said. "Drove my father crazy. The Beatles are okay, but I like some of the lighter fare. Elton John. The Bee Gees. The Carpenters. Simon and Garfunkel. James Taylor. Carole King. Carly Simon. Crosby Stills Nash and Young."
"What about books then?" Carney wanted to know. "What's on your top book list? Not the drug store current best seller culture stuff, but stuck on a deserted island material."
"Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn. Catcher in the Rye. Catch-22. Grapes of Wrath. Miss Lonelyhearts. The Assistant. You?"
"Great Expectations. The Old Man and The Sea. Charlotte's Web. The Invisible Man. To Kill A Mockingbird. Our Town. The Scarlett Letter. Sense and Sensibility. Wuthering Heights. Anything by Flannery O'Connor."
"Okay, I'd add To Kill A Mockingbird and Our Town," I agreed.
"I guess we're reasonably compatible," Carney decided and we both blushed.
"What classic movies would you insist on having on our deserted island?" I asked, enjoying getting to know what her likes and tastes were.
"Singing in the Rain," she answered. "The Wizard of Oz. Gone With The Wind. Casablanca. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. To Kill a Mockingbird, of course. The Philadelphia Story. The Sound of Music. You?"
"Again, ones with families in them. "It's A Wonderful Life. The Best Years of Our Lives. Grapes of Wrath. Plus High Noon for a western, Dr. Strangelove for a comedy, and maybe American Graffiti just because I think it's a neat movie."
"I guess I could survive on those," she decided.
We stared out the bay window at the world of white as the historic blizzard continued to fall from the sky.
Carney recited a poem from memory. "No hawk hangs over in this air/The urgent snow is everywhere. The wing adroiter than a sail/Must lean away from such a gale/Abandoning its straight intent/Or else expose tough ligament/And tender flesh to what before/Meant dampened feathers, nothing more. Forceless upon our backs there fall/Infrequent flakes hexagonal/Devised in many a curious style/To charm our safety for a while/Where close to earth like mice we go/Under the horizontal snow."
"What's that from?"
"It's The Snow Storm by Edna St. Vincent Millay," Carney said. "I had to recite it in English Class last year. I'm amazed I still remember it."
"I thought you did a great job at Junior Prize Speaking last year," I let her know with sincerity.
"Oh, you were there for that?" she asked with surprise.
"Rollie was dating Melissa Stafford, who was in it."
"She was better than me," Carney decided.
"I didn't think so."
She smiled at the intended flattery.
"You weren't afraid?" I asked. "They say people fear public speaking more than they do death!"
"I have enough phobias without worrying about performing in front of others."
"What kind of phobias?"
"Needles," she revealed. "I hate getting shots. And spiders give me the willies.
Cockroaches will do me in every time."
"Remember that scene from Annie Hall?" I asked. "Diane Keaton summons Woody Allen over because there's a cockroach in her bathtub?"
"Thank god they didn't show it!"
"And he comes out to get a tennis racket, telling her the cockroach is the size of a Buick!"
"That's funny," Carney said.
"I guess there are worst things than cockroaches."
"I actually got sick one time when my father dragged the garbage can out of the garage and found it full of maggots."
"I have a fear of heights," I admitted. "Not standing on a step ladder or something. But going over a bridge? Riding a gondola? Going up to the top of the Prudential Building? I'm pudding."
"My father freaks over clowns," Carney revealed.
"My mother won't get in a crowded elevator."
"Barry hated peas in an irrational way. Refused to eat rye break. Would gag when we had baked beans. Couldn't stomach anything red."
"I feel the same way about marmalade," I admitted.
"When I was about six, I was napping on the beach and Jimmy stuffed some seaweed down my bathing suit. For years afterwards, I had a phobia about seaweed which wasn't good when you consider we only live a couple of miles from the ocean! I didn't want to touch it, I didn't want to go near it, and I hated swimming where seaweed was growing. I remember once I went on a day trip to the beach with Ann Nelson and her family. I was probably around ten. We were swimming out to the buoys and I got about halfway there when I realized we were swimming right over the biggest, grossest and scariest looking patch of seaweed I'd ever seen in my life. I had to turn back! I almost drown on the spot I was so panicked! I'm not so bad now, but I still get nervous when I'm swimming in the ocean. I always hold my feet up so they won't touch whatever is down there."
"I feel the same way about flying."
"My mother won't pass big trucks on the highway," Carney revealed. "She actually screams when they pass her! Very strange."
"I guess everybody has some sort of irrational fear," I concluded.
I reloaded the fireplace with a couple of fresh logs as the afternoon began to wane and then excused myself for a moment to use the bathroom.
"What would you have done with all this free time if I hadn't hitched a ride with you yesterday?" Carney asked when I returned to the room. We moved back to the couch and the warmth of the fire.
"Slept a lot, probably," I answered. "Read. But it's a lot more fun having you here!"
"I'm glad." I could tell by the tone in her voice that she really meant it.
What would you have done if you were home alone?"
"I might have tried to make it over to Ann Nelson's house because I don't think I could stand being alone in my house for this long."
"Because it's haunted."
"Still don't believe me, huh?" She faked a pout. "You know, I've stayed in that house by myself before," she stated in her own defense.
"To see how tough you were?"
"No, when I was sick," she explained. "By sixth grade, my mother figured I was old enough to stay home alone. Actually, I kind of liked having the house all to myself. It was uncommonly quiet and peaceful with my brothers at school. I could drink soda and eat cookies in bed. I had the TV all to myself. I could go to the bathroom with the door open! I was pretty mature and could be trusted to handle an emergency and not burn the house down or get in trouble. When one of my brothers stayed home, my mother usually alerted the neighborhood or had one of our grandparents come over."
"And you didn't worry about the place being haunted?"
"Na. I figured if it was a bad ghost, it would have tried to get rid of us long before that," she laughed. "So, has anything about this house ever scared you?"
"I've always considered it a friend," I replied. "A welcomed companion. And it's doing a good job of taking care of us now."
"It's awfully big for just three people," she said.
"I bet you miss having your house full."
"Sometimes," she admitted. "Not the chaos, but definitely the security of having my father around."
"What's your favorite memory of your Dad?"
"I wasn't into sports much – my brothers were the big fans of all four Boston teams, but one day when I was about thirteen my father told me to get in the car. We drove into the city and he took me to Fenway Park for a Saturday afternoon game. The Sox weren't very good that season and I really didn't care about the game that much, but just knowing that my dad took me instead of one of my brothers meant so much to me. I loved sitting in the warm sun talking to my Dad. He was so relaxed and care free that day. He wasn't like that much at home. You really get to know someone when you spend nine innings with them!"
"Or two days in a snow storm," I grinned.
She smiled. "That too! Dad got me a sausage dog loaded and an ice cream, plus a scorebook which I still have. And do you know what the best thing was?"
"We never told my brothers! I loved having those kind of secrets with my dad that were special just between the two of us."
"My father took me to a Boston Pops concert once," I said. "I don't think it was quite the same thing!"
"I never get tired of learning about my Dad," Carney said. "I love hearing stories about him from other people. My grandparents and Uncles. Friends from his childhood. Army pals who dropped in from time to time. I'd sit for hours in my bedroom looking through old family photo albums. I like knowing my father as a person and not just as my Dad. Those old photos told so many stories."
"What kind of stories?"
"Well, there's a picture of my parents going out on their first date. But it's like 1948 or 1949 – they're in the mid twenties by then. I always thought they dated in high school, but it turns out they didn't meet until after the war."
"Why did you think they got together earlier?"
"Because there's another photo album that I used to look at when I was little," she explained. "It disappeared for a while, but I came across it a couple of years ago when I was visiting Dad at his apartment. It has photos of Dad from his army days. And on a lot of them, someone had written goofy things like "I love you!" "My angel!" "Cutie!" - that sort of stuff."
"Not your mom."
"I always assumed it was her when I was too young to know better, but I finally figured out that there was someone else in his life before my mother."
"Who was she?"
"My mother won't talk about it and I just don't have the heart to ask Daddy," Carney revealed. "But I approached my Uncle about it at my Grandfather's funeral a couple of years ago."
"What'd he say?" I asked with genuine interest.
"A woman named Wendy was Daddy's first true love," Carney revealed. "They dated in high school. Even got engaged before Daddy went off to war."
"She died when he was overseas," Carney told me. "Isn't that tragic?"
"It explains a lot," I reasoned.
"You mean why my parents' marriage didn't make it?"
"And why he never seemed to be all that happy."
"It must be tough being in love with a dead person," Carney agreed. "I guess my mother never got over resenting him for that."
"Nobody forced her to marry him."
"I'm amazed by what my father's been through and I'm proud of him for the hardships he's endured," Carney stated with empathy. "Sometimes I feel sorry for my mom who got the short end of the stick, but she probably only has herself to blame because she wasn't the most loving or positive of wives from what I witnessed. My dad's more sympathetic than my mother who is angry and bitter. I relate more to him than her."
"You seem more like him," I observed.
"Do you have any family scandals you'd like to share?" she teased.
Did I trust this girl enough after two days of conversation to reveal the most hidden secret of my family? I'd never talked about the shame I carried about my maternal grandfather, nor did I tell anybody about the pain and sorrow I felt. Maybe unloading my burden now would help me deal with it in a more open way.
"You'll have to promise on your life never to repeat it to anybody," I told her seriously.
She eyed me with surprise, knowing I was about to drop a bomb. She rubbed her tongue across the inside palm of her hand and raised her hand up. "I swear on my own spit," she said. "That's what Barry always made me do when he was going to tell me something big," she explained.
I licked my own palm and held it up against hers.
"My mother would kill me if she knew I told you," I sighed.
"As if my mother would be thrilled with the stuff I've told you?"
I nodded my head in understanding. "I guess telling each other secrets is what you do when you're stuck in the blizzard of the century."
"What doesn't your mom want anybody to know?"
"That she found out her father was homosexual when she was 13," I revealed, immediately feeling like slime for exposing the family shame.
"Oh," she said, caught off guard by the confession.
"She didn't tell anyone for years because her father didn't want anyone to know."
"Then why did he tell her?"
"She kind of figured it out. There was a 'friend' who was around a lot, especially when her mother was gone. My grandmother traveled a lot."
"I think he was wrong to tell your mom," Carney remarked. "Especially at that age. I'm sure that warped her about honesty and truthfulness and maybe even sexuality."
"It didn't make me feel too good either," I admitted.
"Why did you have to know?"
"Because the same friend was still around when I was a kid. My parents are pretty liberal and they just flat came out and told me what was going on when I was like eight. Roger is Grandfather's special friend."
"What'd you think about all that?"
"Not much at the time," I said. "But later on, when I was old enough to figure stuff out with all the fag jokes in the locker room and all that, I became confused. Maybe even angry. Suddenly, I didn't feel so normal about my family anymore."
"People who are scared often act in selfish ways," Carney told me. "I suppose your grandfather acted out of fear or maybe selfishness and wasn't thinking about how it was going to affect your mom. And then your mom repeated the same pattern all over again with you."
"It's not something we talk about a lot," I said. "As open and liberal as my mother likes to pretend she is, I don't think she's any more comfortable about her father now than she was when she was thirteen."
"She's carrying her father's shame," Carney theorized. "What about your grandmother?"
"She stayed married to him," I answered. "She liked the lifestyle that came with the money, but it wasn't a very loving relationship. Grandmama did her own thing and Grandfather did his. She died a couple of years ago so now Roger is on the scene full time."
"Have you ever talked to your grandfather about it?"
"No," I admitted. "What's there to say?"
"Well, I think it's important that he knows you still love him," Carney offered. "Even if you don't understand or even approve, he's still your grandfather."
"How come you're so understanding of my situation?" I asked, surprised by her compassion.
"It's not really that much different than my father and Wendy," she explained. "In many ways, Dad cheated on my mother – and us kids – because he was never able to let go of her. But, unlike your grandfather, my dad never had the guts to come clean about his past. I think keeping secrets can be just as harmful as revealing them sometimes."
"The trick, I suppose, is knowing when to tell them and when to keep them."
"I had a pretty good relationship with my grandparents," Carney said. "My father's mother is in Florida now so I don't see her and my mother did a good job of convincing her folks that my father is a bastard so that's been hard for me to deal with, but I have nothing but fond memories of all of them growing up."
"My father's parents were more working class than my mother's so I got a different perspective from them than I did with my mother's side of the family," I remarked.
"I loved going to Grammie's house, who was my mother's mom" Carney remembered. "She would only take one of us at a time, so I usually had her all to myself when I visited. We played lots of games together which was a lot of fun. It was so much calmer and quieter at her house than at ours."
"I call my father's father Gramps," I told Carney. "He drove this neat old Chevy pickup truck from the early 1950s and one day when I was about twelve he taught me how to drive it in some old field somewhere. I learned to clutch and shift. The gears would grind at first until I got the hang of it and the truck lurched and the engine stalled, but Gramps just kept saying, 'You're doing great Tim, keep at it, keep at it!' Gramps was always very encouraging. A great mentor in my life. I finally did get that old truck riding smoothly. I was excited and proud, but I think Gramps was even more so. He was great for my confidence."
"My Grandma – my father's mom – came to my school when I was in third grade as part of grandparents celebration thing," Carney recalled. "I was so excited when she walked in with all the other grandparents. She sat next to me and we did arts and crafts together. I was so happy! Grandma even went to lunch with me. I still remember what we had - grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, carrot sticks and chocolate cake with white frosting. I was crushed when she had to leave because I had such a good time having her there."
"I called my father's mother Nana," I said. "She made me feel like I was the most special person in the world, even though my cousins were her grandkids too. She always made the time to listen to whatever I had to say and she always knew what to say back to me. She loved to laugh, she was the most giving person I've ever known, and she loved to cook. She's the one who always made me hot chocolate which is probably why I made it for us yesterday. She would have done the same thing."
"My father kept a box full of old letters that his parents had sent to him while he was in the war," Carney said. "He showed them to me when I was doing that report on World War II. It was interesting to read my grandparents words from so long ago. They were worried about Daddy, of course, but they were supportive and enthusiastic about what he was doing for the country. Every letter would say, 'Don't worry about us – we're fine'. They were optimistic, they never complained, and they encouraged him to be a good American soldier. The letters were full of idyllic descriptions of life at home – the mundane everyday stuff, but it really captured a sense of what their life was like and how happy they were to be living in America, even during a time of war."
"When I think of my Nana and Gramps, I think of kindness and love," I said. My Grandmama and Grandfather were more about responsibility, standards, rules and money, but Nana and Gramps were about being yourself and being happy. Grandfather would never think about doing menial tasks, but Gramps would be the first to grab a bucket and go pick blueberries with me. 'We'll have pie later!' Nana would laugh."
"My father watched Walter Cronkite but Grampie was a Huntley-Brinkley man," Carney pointed out. "I was always fascinated by how different my father was from his own father, yet how much the same they really were too."
"We went to Nana and Gramps for Sunday dinners," I said. "It was festive and celebratory, especially with my cousins there. Loud laughter. With my Grandmama and Grandfather, everything was formal and rigid. We usually went out to some expensive fancy restaurant. Grandmama was all about etiquette and formality. We rarely ate at their house."
"I gained a lot of wisdom and compassion from both my grandmothers," Carney said. "They were women of love and they passed that virtue on to me. I liked it when Grammie told me stories about my mother when she was my age. My mother was a lot happier when she was a kid than she was as an adult, that's for sure!"
"Neither of my parents are very religious but Nana made it a point to talk to me about God and faith," I said. "I remember her telling me once that she prays for me every morning when she wakes up and she prays for me every night before she goes to bed. That made me feel special and watched over."
"My Grampie's favorite saying was 'May the good Lord take a likin' to you'," Carney laughed.
"Gramps is all about patience, perseverance, ingenuity, humanity, integrity, and inspiration," I decided. "If Carney was your dad's hero, I would have to say that Gramps is mine."
"I could always talk to Grammie," Carney said with a warm smile. "She had the art of talking down to a science. I could call her for nightly consultations and she always had sound advice to offer."
"I've never heard Nana or Gramps grumble, complain or speak badly of anyone," I realized. "They are the perfect example of love."
"I remember driving with my Grandpa once and he stopped the car right in the idle of the road," Carney said. "There was a turtle sitting there right on the yellow line and he made sure we rescued it. My brothers would have run it over for sure."
"My grandfather had a huge antique grandfather clock which fascinated me. I would stare at that thing for hours," I told Carney. "It was magical. I loved the sound of the tick-tock and the chimes that would resonate through the house. I found the clock comforting and familiar in a house that was cold, strict and formal. I'd watch my grandfather meticulously wind that thing with a special key he kept in his pocket. Nobody else was allowed to do that chore. I begged him for years but the clock was hands off to everybody but him. That grandfather clock represented the difference between my father's parents and my mother's parents. Nana and Gramps were open and inviting, but Grandfather and Grandmama were standoffish and all about rules."
"When my brothers were out of control, my Grampie would always tell them to "Sit, Laddies, sit!" and point to a chair. That always cracked me up! Grandma loved to make soup and she'd always make enough to serve an Army!"
"Gramps loved going for car rides and 'getting lost on purpose' as he put it," I testified. "We'd drive for hours through the New England countryside."
"I think my favorite story of all time is the one my dad tells of the day I was born and how his father insisted on getting in to see me no matter what," the sentimental Carney recalled. "He had been out of town and arrived in the middle of the night and nobody knew who he was and the nurse wouldn't let him see my mother because he wasn't 'immediate family'! My grandfather steamrolled through the staff, telling them that nobody was going to stop him from seeing his darling baby granddaughter!"
We both smiled at the warm memories of our grandparents and agreed that we were lucky to have them in our lives. My mother's parents had their faults and I'd probably never come to terms with my grandfather's sexuality, but I was grateful for the positive influence they had in my life and the lessons they had taught me.
It was dark and the snow continued to fall, unbelievable as that seemed. The portable radio announced that there were nearly 32 and a half inches of the white stuff on the ground at 6:00 and that the snow was expected to last for at least a few more hours. I turned the radio off, not wanting to hear the continuing stories of tragedy, human suffering, accidents, power outages, starving and freezing people, flooding, destroyed homes, fatalities, and all the other horrors that the great storm had brought.
"I bet there will be a lot of babies born nine months from now," Carney commented as we went to the kitchen to try to figure out what to have for supper. I dug out some chicken breasts from the cooler in the backyard snow and grilled them up on the back porch barbeque.
I took a moment to trudge through the snow toward the driveway to make sure there wasn't any damage to the house. I was taken by how the house looked in the darkness of the power outage. The burning candles and the fire in the hearth bathed the interior in a soft glow, creating dancing shadows on the walls. I was struck by the magic and the beauty of it all, despite the cruelty of the storm itself.
I gathered greens and vegetables and brought them to Carney in the kitchen to prepare a salad while I toasted some rolls to go with the meat.
"How'd you become such a good cook?" Carney asked as we stood side by side in the dim and cool kitchen preparing our two plates.
"My parents have a lot of late nights and dinners out," I explained. "I learned to fend for myself a long time ago. Plus the housekeeping cook showed me the ropes."
"Maybe you should get a job at the deli," she said. "You've got the talent."
"You wouldn't mind having me around?" I kidded.
"Not at all," she assured me. "I think we'd have fun together."
I smiled at the thought, hopeful that perhaps Carney was beginning to see that I was an okay guy. I'm sure having grown up with her crazy brothers, having her father leave, and experiencing some less than memorable romances left her suspicious about most guys, but maybe spending time with me talking about real and personal things had allowed me to gain her trust.
We retreated with our prepared food to the warmth and comfort of the living room and the fireplace.
"Are you dating anybody, Bergie?" Carney asked as we sat on the couch eating our dinner in front of the warm fire.
"No," I confirmed.
She peered at me. "Come to think of it, have you ever dated anybody?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's just that I don't think I've ever seen you with anybody. Did you and Marie Ragazzo have any other dates after the eighth grade social?"
"No, we were a one hit wonder," I admitted. "But don't worry, I'm not like my Grandfather," I added with annoyance.
"I wasn't thinking that," she replied with a groan. "Relax, okay?"
"Sorry," I said, embarrassed by my reaction. "I guess I get a little sensitive sometimes."
"The whole girl thing," I admitted. "You're right. I haven't exactly been Mr. Successful in that department."
"Why not, do you think?" she asked gently.
"I guess my whole family story," I replied, giving the matter some thought. "Being an only child. Growing up alone didn't give me a whole lot of socialization skills. I'm basically shy."
"You've never struck me as shy," Carney let me know. "You seem confident and sure of yourself in school. You're funny, you're easy to approach, and you get along with everybody."
"I'm fine in a group," I agreed. "But it's a lot tougher one on one."
"Christ Bergie, we've been one on one for two days!"
I grinned, intrigued by the fact that I hadn't made a fool of myself with Carney during our time together. "I guess there's hope for me yet!"
"How we see ourselves is not always how others see us," Carney reminded me.
"I come from a well known and respected family," I said. "The whole money thing. Parents in academia. But I've always felt insecure."
"I've always felt like an outsider."
"Everybody feels inadequate growing up," Carney reasoned. "This is such an emotional time in our lives. We tend to be miserable to ourselves and to each other. Girls can be especially terrible to one another."
"Oh, being catty and bitchy, especially when it comes to boys. Backstabbing becomes a sport. Flirting with somebody else's boyfriend. Jerky things like that."
"Yes, even me, I'm afraid," she embarrassedly confessed.
"What'd you do that was so terrible?"
"In fifth grade, snotty Penny Carlson intercepted a note I was passing to Ann Nelson in which confessed my crush on Bobby Netmeyer. Penny read it aloud to everybody and really humiliated me."
"That was done to you, not by you."
"Yeah, but five years later, I got my revenge. The girl's locker room had plumbing problems one day so the girls had to use the boy's locker room after gym. Penny was the last one into the locker room. She was in the group shower by herself and I realized I was the last one left in the locker room, so I took her towel off the hook and walked out. Three boys were waiting for the next class and I told them it was all clear to go in."
"That was an awful thing to do," I agreed.
"Actually, the worst thing I ever did was to a boy," she revealed. "Craig Randall in third grade."
"What'd you do?"
"He made fun of me everyday as I walked to school. "Teased me. Called me names. Gave me a hard time. I got enough of that at home from my brothers and I just couldn't take it from someone else. After about a week of his gruff, I went nuts and attacked him. Knocked him down with one punch to the face. Jumped on top of him and kept punching him until a bunch of kids dragged me off. He was all bloody. Crying. Traumatized from being beat up by a girl."
"You had your reasons."
"He wasn't doing it to be mean. I think he actually liked me and that was just his way of getting my attention. But I overreacted because of my home life and Craig never spoke to me again. I've felt bad about that all these years."
"Everybody has done things they've felt bad about," I assured her.
"Oh really? What'd you do that was so terrible?"
"Remember Frank Donahue? He was a real bully in elementary school. Just an unlikable little shit. He always rubbed me the wrong way. One day I came to school early because I was the classroom greeter and the teacher Mrs. Collins was all upset. She said she heard that there had been an accident the night before and she thought that poor Frankie Donahue was dead. And without even thinking, I said 'Good! The school will be better off without him!'"
"He drowned, right?"
"Yes. Mrs. Collins never treated me quite the same after I said that. It was a mean and callous thing to say. I was being flippant and a stupid insensitive kid and I still feel guilty for being so cruel. I'd give anything to be able to take back those words. It's my biggest regret."
"I understand," she said with empathy.
"I was always much more careful and sensitive with my words after that," I said. "And you never beat up anybody again, did you?"
"Of course not !"
"So we become better people. We learn from our mistakes. We grow. I think its okay to give ourselves a break for our past sins as long as we change because of them."
I took her empty and brought the dishes into the kitchen where I cleaned up from dinner preparations and put everything away. Carney made a visit to the bathroom and I did the same once I was done with the chores.
She was wearing my mother's bathrobe again when I returned to the living room and I could smell toothpaste on her breath when I sat next to her on the bedding on the floor in front of the fire.
"You don't think any less of me having heard about my dark side?" She asked once we were comfortable in our spots.
"Do you remember in eighth grade when we were in Mr. Bartolucci's Social Studies class?"
She laughed with amusement. "When we had to come up with constitution ideas for our new country?"
"Blue Island in the South Pacific," I reminded her. There were five or six of us in our group and we spent a couple of weeks together working on the project."
"That was fun."
"It was the first time I spent real time with you and I remember being awed by how great you were."
"Not only were you smart and funny, but you were kind and considerate to everybody in the group. We had Bernie Kocak, a kid nobody liked, but I remember how patient you were with him. And how you got tight assed Tolly Cruz to lighten up and how you let ditsy Lizzie Davenport be President of the country even though she was full of hot air and didn't know what she was doing."
"I tried to do the opposite from what it was like at home," she said with a reflective nod. "I wanted the kids in that group to feel like they belonged. Like they had a voice. Like they could be heard. Like they were a part of it all."
"I saw that you were a great leader, an outstanding student, and a wonderful person," I remarked. "That's when I knew that I really liked you."
She looked at me with surprise. "How come you never said anything?"
"I didn't know what to say or how to say it," I admitted.
"And that's why you never dated anybody?"
I shrugged but didn't answer.
"I really wish you had told me, Bergie," she said, pulling her knees up to her chin. "Maybe things would have been different had I dated you instead of those other guys."
"What would you have said if I asked you out?"
"I would have said yes in a heartbeat, you goof," she answered, giving me an amused look. "I always thought you were a nice guy and these last two days have confirmed it."
"How come you never said anything then?" I challenged.
She blushed. "I almost did this past summer," she admitted. "You stopped by the deli and ordered a sandwich and ate it there. Things were slow that day. We chatted. I almost asked if you wanted to go do something that evening, but…………"
"But?" I peered at her and waited for her answer.
"I was afraid you'd say no."
"I wouldn't have said no," I assured her.
She smiled happily.
"I remember that day," I added. "Elvis had just died and everybody was talking about it. You sang 'Hound Dog' right there behind the counter – very cutely I might add."
"It was one of those 45s my brothers would play over and over again," she said with a laugh. "That and 'I'm Gettin' Nothin' for Christmas' which was basically their theme song!"
"Strange how it took a blizzard to finally get us together," I noted.
"Less awkward this way," she replied. "No expectations. We're just here."
I nodded in agreement, content to have a natural chance to get to know Carney Nash on one of the longest dates in history!
"So, Tim," Carney asked. I knew she was being serious calling me by my given name. "Are you telling me that you've never had a sexual experience?"
"Not exactly," I reluctantly admitted.
"Not exactly?" She was amused as she looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Maybe I shouldn't say," I warned.
"Trust me, Bergie. Nothing you've done can be as bad as some of my offenses."
We shared so much these past few days. Taking one more risk at this stage in our secluded snow trap was probably not going to break the bank.
"My grandparents took me on a trip to New York City for four days, along with my cousin Edie," I said. "I was fourteen. She was fifteen. We took in a few Broadway shows. Went to a Mets game. Saw all the sights – Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Macys, FAO Swartz, St. Patrick's Cathedral. The works."
"Sounds like fun," Carney said. "Where's the controversy?"
"My grandparents let me and Edie share the same room during the trip, even though we were girl and boy," I explained.
"Well, you're cousins. Why would they worry?"
"Right," I frowned.
"They should have worried?" She asked with surprise.
"The first night, I came out of the bathroom and she's lying on her stomach on her bed watching television stark naked," I revealed. "She said we were cousins and so it was no big deal if I saw her bare."
"I guess she had no modesty," Carney remarked.
"I think she was practicing on me," I theorized. "I was safe. I was her test tube experiment to flirt her sexual sensuality on."
"How'd she do?"
"I had never been around a naked female before. She'd prance around the hotel room every night with no clothes on talking to me like it was no big deal. I was repulsed, excited, offended, thrilled, ashamed, and turned on all at the same time!"
"Did anything happen?"
"One night she crawled in bed with me in the middle of the night," I acknowledged. "No clothes on, of course. She put her hands down the front of my pajamas."
"Oh boy. I've heard of kissing cousins before, but this is ridiculous."
"Of course I got excited but I didn't last very long. Made a mess in her hand, but she didn't care."
"What she did was pretty perverted," Carney determined.
"I know," I sighed. "We never spoke about it after that night. And now she's a college coed dating some preppie guy and I still feel like I'm going to hell because of what happened."
"She took advantage of you, Bergie," Carney assured me. "Don't be so hard on yourself. No pun intended, of course!"
I laughed in spite of myself. "That experience is probably another reason why I haven't been exactly Don Juan these past few years. I'm pretty messed up."
She moved closer to me on the pillows. "Tim, have you even kissed a girl?"
"No," I confirmed sadly. "I haven't even kissed a girl."
She stared at me for a long moment, waiting for me to pick up on her cue. I leaned closer to her. She closed her eyes and our lips met and I we smooched for a long moment. I rubbed my hand along the side of her cheek.
"There," she said, breaking from the lip lock. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"It was nice," I replied with a smile.
Carney got off the pillows and went to the window. "It's finally stopped snowing," she observed. "I guess this means our time together is almost over."
"It could take a few days for them to dig everything out," I said hopefully as I went to the fireplace and placed a few new logs into the flames.
Carney smiled. "A few more days, huh?"
I shrugged. "I've really enjoyed our time together, Carney."
"Me too," she said with a happy smirk. "But where do we go from here?"
She walked back to the pillow bed in front of the fire and I joined her on the floor.
"Would you go out with me?" I asked.
She took my hand in hers and nodded her head affirmatively. "I'd like that very much." I could see her eyes watering up.
I leaned over and kissed her again. What followed was right out of some romantic movie. Sitting on pillows in front of a toasty fire on a snowy winter's night being the high school kids we were supposed to be, we made out.
Carney was patient and gentle, giving me pointers and tips on how to be a good smoocher and we kissed until we got lock jaw.
"All caught up?" she joked after a few hours of making out.
"It was worth waiting for you," I let her know and she laughed with happy contentment.
"What time is it?" she wanted to know.
"Nearly one," I replied, glancing at my watch.
"Gee Bergie, we've kissed the night away!"
"No complaints from me!"
"We'd better quit while we're ahead," she suggested, not saying what we were both thinking.
I nodded and let her slip under the blankets on her side of the pillow bed.
"Sweet dreams, Bergie."
I nestled down beside her and wrapped my arms around her waist from behind.
*** *** ***
She wasn't on the pillow bed when I awoke in the morning. The sun was out, the first time in two days the air wasn't full of falling snow.
"Did you sleep okay?"
I glanced up to see Carney sitting on the couch looking down at me.
"I slept fine," I answered, stretching and stifling a yawn.
"I heard some voices outside before," she reported. "I guess the great hibernation is over."
"It's going to be a while before things get back to normal," I told her. "The power is still out."
I climbed off the pillow bed and went to the kitchen with Carney right behind me. The phone was still dead.
"What are we going to do today?" She asked. "I'm starting to get cabin fever."
"I'd love to go back into the living room and curl up with you in front of the fire all day," I said, kissing her forehead. "But we should probably go out and see if there's anything we can do."
We ate a couple of bananas and I retrieved some orange juice from the cooler in the snow. I found some old winter pants for Carney to wear and she bundled up in some of my mother's sweaters, coat, hat, gloves, and boots. Luckily, they were about the same size.
We ventured into the backyard. The bright light from the sun was blinding as it glistened off the fresh and bright snow. Drifts had literally buried the garage and I could walk to the second floor of my house if I wanted to as most of the back of the house was encased by a huge drift. It was astonishing to realize that bushes, birdbaths, small trees, and clotheslines were buried beneath mounds of billowed snow.
No plows had reached Marble Street yet so there were no cars in sight. A few snowmobiles had whizzed by and we saw adults pulling kids on sleds in hopes of finding an open market to buy groceries after two days of captivity. Others passed by on cross country skis or wearing snow shoes. We bumped into neighbor Bobby Miller who was trudging his way up the street.
"I was stuck at work for two days," he lamented. "I couldn't take it anymore. I left at 5:00 o'clock this morning. It took me nearly four hours to walk two miles. The snow was up to my waist in most places!"
Surprisingly, people were generally of good cheer. Folks said hello as they passed. Some stopped to see if we needed help with anything.
"We all share a common bond," Carney explained. "We experienced, endured and survived the Great Blizzard of '78!"
We helped Old Man Madison dig his car out from a nine foot snow drift in his driveway. We joined Bobo Miller shoveling Mrs. Mangill's front walk. We dug out a couple of fire hydrants and the corner mailbox.
Carney and I laughed as we engaged in a brief snow ball fight. We also made angels in the snow and rolled down a small hill clutching on to each other. We kissed in a victory celebration when we reached the bottom.
I managed to get our snow blower started and cleared off our driveway, although the snow was so thick and deep the blower kept clogging. I used the machine to clear off as many of the neighbors' sidewalks and driveways until all the gas in the neighborhood was used up. My arms and legs were sore from all the shoveling and snow blowing.
Carney played with the younger Miller kids while I worked, sliding on a make shift hill on the side of their yard. They could literally walk up to the porch roof and slide down the other side. She also helped the kids build a snow fort in the giant snow dune by the side of the Miller driveway.
"Carney Nash?" an impressed Bobo asked when I was done with the snow blowing. Carney was still playing with the younger Miller kids as I walked across Marble Street and Bobo met me in the middle of the unplowed road.
"I guess I finally got lucky," I said with a grin.
"I'd say," the envious Bobo agreed. "Trapped in the house with a girl? Lucky stiff!"
Brad Miller took a picture of Carney and me standing between two large snow drifts. It felt like we were standing inside a giant igloo.
The Clogstons were one of the few houses on the street that had a running generator that kept their house heated and powered. Mr. Glogston had ridden his snowmobile to one of the few open stores in town. He reported that none of the streets had yet to be plowed and that the entire town was still without electricity.
He cooked a large pot of spaghetti and his wife made about four gallons of hot coffee and hot chocolate. The family invited neighbors to stop in to warm up, have some food and spend time together.
Carney and I stopped by the Clogstons to say hello and ended up spending several hours inside the home chatting with folks and sharing a warm meal. We listened to Mr. Sullivan's remarkable story about spending the first night of the storm trapped in his car that had gone off the road. A passing National Guard half-track rescued him in the morning but he still had to walk nearly three miles to get home, which took nearly eight hours in the storm.
Several people were still waiting to hear from loved ones who had been stranded. With the telephones out, it was hard to know what was going on. One radio station was broadcasting messages from family members trying to get word home that they were okay.
Mr. Pinkham was certain that his uncle's ocean front home had been destroyed. Mrs. Houseman hadn't seen her beloved cat in three days. The Franklins had water damage in their cellar from a frozen water pipe. We heard a story that a guy living a few streets over had suffered a heart attack but died at home because the ambulance couldn't get to his house in the storm.
Mr. Rogonoski said he heard on the radio that the churning sea had tossed frozen lobsters and shellfish onto the beach, providing free meals for nearby residents!
I knew most of the people visiting the Clogstons. I had been their paperboy. I had mowed their lawns and shoveled their walks as a kid. But I hadn't paid much attention to them in recent years and it was fascinating listening to their stories and sharing our blizzard experiences together. I joked that I probably wouldn't see my car again until spring when Mel opened up the Tasty Freeze!
Carney was accepted as part of the Marble Street community and she enjoyed meeting and chatting with folks in such a friendly environment. The house was full of laughter as everybody pitched in to support one another during the crisis.
"Billie Miller asked if I was your girlfriend," Carney let me know.
"What'd you tell her?" I asked.
"I said I heard a rumor!" she joked.
The television was on in the den and we listened to several news stories about heroic rescues, painful tragedies and unbelievable destruction. Film showed graphic detail of how the paralyzing storm of the century dropped between two and four feet of snow in 32 hours. The ferocious storm created humongous drifts, forced 10,000 people into emergency shelters, and over 3,000 cars and 500 trucks were immobilized along an eight-mile stretch of Route 128. As many as 50 people died in New England, more than ten thousand homes were damaged or destroyed and damage estimates was thought to be one billion dollars! Nearly seventeen thousand people sought emergency shelters while rescue workers evacuated another 10,000 people.
"Remember this storm," Mr. Sullivan urged us as we watched the non-stop news coverage. "We probably won't experience anything like this again in our lives."
The state of emergency continued with travel on all main routes and highways banned. Carney assumed her mother was stuck in Providence and hoped her dad and brother were okay in Boston. I wondered if my parents were even aware of the storm wherever they were in the Caribbean.
"I enjoyed spending the last two days with you, but hanging out with these nice people has been great too," a happy Carney remarked and I could tell she was enjoying herself. I was glad that I was able to show her a good time.
Somebody came up with the idea of making a huge snowman and a bunch of us bundled up and traipsed to the Miller house to begin the project. It was nearly six o'clock and darker than usually because most of the houses had no electricity and there were no street lamps. I drove my father's sports car out of the garage to the bottom of our snow blown driveway and shined the headlights across the street onto the Miller's front lawn. We also had several flashlights and Mr. Miller built a fire on the snow.
I had grown up with the Millers. Bobby was the oldest, followed by Barb. My pal Bruce ("Bobo") was my age. Brad was his little brother, followed by sisters Billie and Bonnie, and then the youngest, Ben. Mr. Miller was a funny and personable fellow, always involved in his kid's lives.
Carney and I were partners as about fifteen of us spent nearly four hours making a twelve foot tall six foot wide massive snowman with everybody laughing, talking and having a good time. We used a trash can for his hat, a log for his mouth, saucer sleds for his eyes, and an orange highway road cone for his nose. An old blanket served as his scarf. Trash can covers were his buttons and two shovels were his arms.
I kept the engine running and the heat going in my father's sports car which served as a temporarily warm up for the snowman makers.
It was after 10:00 when we finally finished our creation and the crew cheered our success with high fives, back slaps, applause and group hugs. Somebody took a picture of us standing in front of the huge sculpture.
"I haven't had this much fun in a real long time," Carney told me as we held hands and admired our work.
"Me either," I agreed.
We climbed into my father's toasty sports car and I backed the vehicle into the garage. I told Carney to stay put for a few minutes to keep warm while I went inside and got the fire going again since we had been out of the house for most of the day except for a couple of bathroom breaks.
Once I had the fire going and the candles lit in the dark house, I retrieved Carney from the car. We were wet from our day of working and playing outside so it was smart to get out of our wet clothing. I quickly changed my clothes in my freezing room and brought Carney some dry sweats. I found her de-thawing in front of the hearth and was surprised when she stripped down to her bra and panties in front of me.
"I'm too cold to care," she reported. "Do you think I could borrow some of your mom's underwear?" she asked as she slipped under the blankets still in her panties and bra. 'Or a pair of yours, I don't care! Mine are pretty wet."
"You'd wear boy's underwear?" I asked with surprise.
"As long as they're clean," she answered.
I trotted upstairs and returned with a pair of my underwear and some of my mother's panties.
Using the cover of the blanket, Carney slipped out of her panties and took of her bra.
"That's the sexist thing I've ever seen," I told her.
"You don't get out much, do you?"
"Can I borrow the blanket?" I joked.
She giggled as she put on a pair of my mother's panties under the blanket and the sweat shirt I had given her. She rolled off the pillow bed and stood to put on the sweat pants over my mother's pink panties. I gathered her wet clothing and put them with the rest of the waiting laundry in the wash room.
"Does your mother have any perfume?" Carney asked when I got back to the living room. "I haven't showered in a couple of days and I'm feeling pretty rank."
"I could boil some water on the grill and give you a sponge bath," I mischievously suggested as I stood over her where she was sitting on the pillow bed.
"It would take five hours to get the water warm enough," she said. "Perfume will have to do."
"I think they call that a poor man's shower," I said. "Lots of pit spray and after shave to mask the body odor.
I went back upstairs and sprayed right guard under my pits and splashed Old Spice on my cheeks before returning to the living room with perfume and body lotion for Carney.
"You just took a poor man's shower, didn't you?" Carney asked, giving me a sniff as I plopped down on the pillow bed beside her.
"If you're rank, then I really must be stank," I explained.
"I've smelled a lot worse growing up with three brothers," she assured me as she dabbed a hint of perfume behind both ears. She rubbed the lotion on her hands and neck. "We'll call this a poor girl's shower."
"Since we've already smelled one another at our worst, I guess we're going to be okay," I remarked.
"Barbara Miller invited me to stay with her tonight for a girl's night," Carney reported.
"You didn't accept?"
"It's more fun making her jealous!"
"Jealous of what?"
"Jealous of us, of course!" Carney laughed. "Come on, Bergie! Two teenagers alone in the same house for three or four days?"
"While she's stuck with her six siblings!"
"You and Barbara never had a thing?"
I'd be lying if I didn't admit having fantasies about Barb growing up. She flirted with me when we were younger, but I was too shy to try to put the moves on her.
"What makes you ask?"
"Petty girl like her living right across the street all these years?"
"She's been dating dreamboat Gerritt Stephens for about five years now."
"Well, I think you missed the boat as usual," Carney informed me. "She seems very fond of you."
"Like a brother, I'm sure."
"She already has four brothers, Bergie."
Carney covered her mouth stifling he yawned.
"Man, I'm beat," she announced. "All that shoveling, sliding, fort building and snowman making."
She excused herself to use the bathroom. I tossed another log on the fire and went upstairs to use the bathroom and brush my teeth.
Carney was lying under the covers of the pillow bed when I returned to the living room.
"Tell me a bedtime story," she said. "I'm falling asleep."
I slid under the covers and she rested her head on my chest.
"Nothing scary though," she requested, draping her arm across my stomach.
I thought of a story my cousin Edie told me when we were sharing a hotel room together in New York, I guess as a justification for her running around with no clothes on.
"Once upon a time there was a boy named Tom who had taken a liking to a girl named Sally and they agreed to meet for a picnic on Sunday. Tom arose early that day and did his chores and ate his breakfast. He thought that maybe before getting dressed to meet his gal Sal, he would go to the river and clean up so he wouldn't be rank or stank. So he went down to the river bank and undressed, hanging his clothes on some nearby bush branches, including his bright red shirt.
"Tom hadn't noticed that Mr. Brown's old bull was standing in a nearby field. The sight of Tom's red shirt was not very pleasing to the old bull and he began to paw the ground and bellow. Of course, there wasn't much poor Tom could do about it seeing how he was naked in the river. The enraged beast stampeded to the river and destroyed Tom's red shirt and the rest of his clothes.
"Poor naked Tom had to hide in the northern forest least he be seen. Meanwhile, sad Sally waited and waited for her Tom to show for their picnic, but he never did. She was very sad for days. Her heart was broken over the loss of Tom who had disappeared. One day Sally decided to bathe in the river, hoping to wash away her sadness. She took off her dress and hung it on a nearby branch and ran naked into the river. While she was in the water, birds that were making a nest saw the dress flapping in the breeze and decided they could use it as bedding for their nest. So the birds swooped in and took Sally's dress and of course there wasn't much poor Sally could do about that seeing how she was naked in the river.
"Poor naked Sally had to hide in the northern forest least she be seen. And that's where she met her lost love Tom, who was also hiding naked in the northern forest. They stayed there forever living happily ever after together. And sometimes if you go to the Northern Forest today and look carefully, you can still see Tom and Sally running naked through the woods."
"……..naked through the woods," Carney muttered as she drifted to sleep.
*** *** ***
The sounds of the snow plow rumbling down the street awoke us in the morning. I glanced at my wristwatch as Carney stirred next to me. We had slept in as it was nearly nine o'clock.
I rolled off the pillow bed and replenished the fire place with a couple of logs. A few moments later, the snow plow came down the other side of Marble Street.
"I guess that's the end of our Lost Horizons if the roads are cleared," Carney observed as she sat up on the pillow bed and gained her bearings.
"The power's still out," I reminded her. "That will keep things difficult."
"You want to keep me here as long as you can, don't you?" She laughed.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience," I admitted.
We ate donuts and drank orange juice in front of the fire.
"Is this the poor person's breakfast?" Carney joked.
"Rations are starting to get low," I said. "Can't boil eggs without electricity."
I siphoned some gasoline out of my father's car to fuel the snow blower and clear out the mounds of snow left by the plow at the foot of the driveway. When I returned from my chore, I found Carney sitting in front of the fire leafing through a family photo album that had been on one of the bookcases.
"Your parents take a lot of trips," she said, as she turned through the pages. "Skiing in Aspen. Vacation in Hawaii. Golfing in South Carolina."
"Work hard, play hard, my father likes to say."
"Don't see you much in any of these photos."
"My parents like their alone time," I admitted. "That's when I spent time with my grandparents and cousins."
"No trips with you to Disneyworld? The Beach? The amusement park?"
"They didn't like doing kids stuff," I said. "A trip to the library was my big deal event of the week."
"Sounds like you were a lonely kid, Bergie."
"Sometimes," I admitted. "But I got used to it."
I was disappointed when the power clicked on, ending a three day blackout and a return to the pioneer days. I knew my special time with Carney was beginning to run out.
"Well, I guess the party's officially over," Carney sighed, as if she had read my mind. "We're running out of excuses to be captives."
I reset the furnace which roared to life.
"Give the hot water heater a few hours to warm up and you'll be able to take a hot shower or bath," I told Carney.
I started a load of laundry and picked up the pillow bed from the living room floor as the house warmed up. I returned the bedding to its proper locations and Carney helped me remake the beds.
"How many bedrooms are in this house?" she asked with surprise as we went from room to room on the second floor.
"Four on this floor," I answered. "One more on the third floor, plus the attic."
"Jesus. This place could be a bread and breakfast!"
"Too much work," I joked.
"Can I see your room?" She asked as we stood in the second floor hallway.
I took her hand and led her to the third floor.
My room overlooked the front of the house. There was a small decorative balcony outside the large window where my desk sat. My room was large enough to fit two double beds (for the rare sleep over guest), a desk the size of the President's, two large dressers, plus four drawers built into one of the walls, a wall sized bookcase, a walk in closet, and a private bath.
"This room is almost as big as my entire second floor," Carney exclaimed with wide eyed disbelief.
"Sorry," I mumbled, embarrassed by my good fortune.
She smiled at several movie posters hanging on the wall that I had taken from the Majestic. I had found a whole stack of old ones in the theatre's cellar and brought them home, along with an old coca-cola placard, a Men's Room Sign, and a block of four movie seats, all of which now decorated my room.
"Neat motif," she commented as she glanced about the room.
She was taken aback when she spotted a framed photograph hanging on the wall by my bed. It was a photo clipped from the newspaper with Carney and co-worker Bob Hallon standing behind the counter of the Clipper Deli serving a couple of customers.
"I didn't know you liked Bob Hallon," she said softly as she stared at the photo.
"I've always liked you," I told her. "I just didn't know how to tell you."
She looked at me with amazed wonderment. "How long?"
"There was a morning during our Freshman year. It was an autumn day. Breezy. The leaves were effortlessly falling from the trees in the front yard of the school. I was walking up the front walk when I noticed you standing under a tree talking with one of your friends. The sun was shining through the tree branches, glowing on you in various colors. You looked like an angel."
She was dumbfounded. "You've been my boyfriend for four years," she said quietly. "I just never knew it."
"Now you do," I let her know, kissing her on the forehead.
We returned to the first floor. I retrieved the coolers from the backyard and put the food that hadn't spoiled back in the refrigerator while Carney vacuumed the living room floor. With the exception of some missing logs, my parents wouldn't notice that anything had happened during the past four days.
The news reported that the region was still a disaster area. One of the major problems was clearing the snow. Mounds of the white stuff were piled everywhere making for dangerous traveling and visibility, especially at intersections. Finding places to place removed snow was problematic and plowing out the main arteries remained difficult because of the abandoned vehicles clogging the roadways. A news clip showed trucks dumping loads of snow onto the beaches and residents were advised to stay off the roads at least for another day.
The telephone rang.
"Guess the phone lines are back up," I said, picking up the family room extension as Carney and I sat together on the love seat watching the news.
"Is my daughter still there?" It was Mrs. Nash, not sounding very pleasant.
"Yes, M'am. Hold on a second, please."
I handed the phone to Carney.
"Hello. Hello, Mother. You okay? That's what the news just said. I'm fine. It's been an interesting experience. Everything's okay. No. It's not like that. Fine. We'll try. 421 Marble, but I'll wait for you at home. Fine. Yes, Mother. Okay. Bye."
She groaned as she handed the phone back to me. "You know, I'm a straight A honor roll student who's been accepted at Brown. I've done everything I'm supposed to do, and she still doesn't trust me. She's angry because I refuse to hate my father the way she does so she gives me a hard time about everything. I'm eighteen years old, but she treats me like I'm eight."
"She may be freaking because you're the last kid and you're about to leave home," I reasoned.
"Do you have problems with your mother?"
"Well, if your mom treats you like you're an eight year old when you're eighteen, my mother treated me like I was an eighteen year old when I was eight," I answered. "I don't think they bought me a toy after I was eight. I remember getting lots of books and clothes. An atlas. A huge globe. A desk. An encyclopedia set. A dictionary the size of a trunk. But no toys. She always called me her 'Little Man'. I was expected at all the dinner parties, wearing a shirt and tie. I learned to converse with twenty-two year olds when I was ten."
"I'm not sure which one of us had it worse," Carney remarked with a frown. "Anyway, my mother wants me to go make sure our house is still there. She doesn't think they'll let her out of Rhode Island until tomorrow."
"Let's finish up here and then we can take a ride over," I suggested.
"I'm not sure if I want you to see where I live," she said, getting off the couch. "I've always been ashamed of my house."
"It'll be okay," I said, standing and taking her hands in mine. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."
I left the room to put the washed laundry in the dryer and returned to find Carney looking at another family photo album.
"I don't see any pets in any of these photos," Carney said as she sat on the arm of the couch leafing through the book.
"Too much work," I explained, plopping onto the couch and looking at the book in her lap. "Having a pet would be like having another kid in the house and I got the impression one kid was enough. I couldn't even get an ant farm. What about you?"
"Barry had a dog named Buster when I was little," Carney recalled. "A black mutt with a lot of slobber is all I really remember. His dog house sat empty for years in the backyard after he died. Barry said it wasn't worth getting another dog because it hurt too much when they croaked."
"Mrs. Morton down the street had twenty-three cats," I said. "They used to call her the cat lady. It wasn't a big deal until she got sick and then nobody knew what to do with all those darn cats."
"Ann Nelson had a rabbit," Carney said. "But not the kind in the cage. He was in the house and they treated him like he was a cat or something. He'd hop around the house like he was king of the hill."
"I remember one time Rollie got one of those alligators through the mail, but his parents made him get rid of it."
"Did he flush it down the toilet to join hundreds of other alligators in our sewer system?"
"Na. He gave it to Carl Torsello."
"I was always envious of Gertie Davenport who had her own horse," Carney said. "They boarded it at a barn and she got to ride it whenever she wanted."
"I wonder if she was a fan of Boomtown," I joked.
"I used to be envious of you too," she admitted, sliding down the couch arm and sinking next to me on the couch.
"Well, you lived in this nice big house in one of the better neighborhoods in town," she said. "Ann Nelson and I used to ride our bikes along this street when we were like eleven or twelve. I used to think that the people who lived around here had to be pretty lucky. I'd ride back to my house, which always seemed to be in need of a paint job or lawn mow. And my brothers would be yelling at one another or there'd be some junk car in the driveway they were working on. And I'd think how better off I'd be if I lived on a street like this one."
"Well, now that I've gotten to know you and hear your story, I realize that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, no matter what kind of house you may live in."
"My opinion of you hasn't changed at all," I let her know. "I think you're great."
She kissed me and rested her head on my chest. "I'm glad."
"I've enjoyed our four day date," I said with sincerity, stroking her soft hair.
"I've never spent this much consecutive nonstop time with any one person outside of my family in my life," Carney said. "Thank you."
"For your hospitality. For your patience. For understanding. For listening to me without any preconceived notions. For not putting the moves on me or trying to pressure me into doing something. For not judging me when I told you some of the bad stuff. For showing me a good time even under arduous conditions. For being…….you."
I squeezed her tight. "Thanks for asking for a ride."
"Thanks for giving me one. Turns out it was the ride of my life."
We embraced and kissed again but she broke away. "I stink," she insisted.
"The clothes are probably done," I said. "You can shower and change."
We went into the laundry room and I dug out the clothes she was wearing on Monday from the dryer. They were soft and warm. She took her clothes from me and followed me to the upstairs bathroom.
"I'm sure the hot water is all warmed up," I said. "Enjoy."
I was hoping she would say, 'Why don't you join me?', but she smiled as she walked past me and slowly closed the door behind her. I wasn't about to do anything stupid, especially after the nice things she said about me, so I grabbed a change of clothes from my room and took a quick shower in the downstairs bathroom.
I waited for Carney in the kitchen. She appeared a while later looking clean and refreshed, back to normal in her own clothes although I was sad to realize that our prolonged sleepover was apparently over. She handed me the clothes she had been wearing and I tossed them into the washing machine.
We put on our winter coats and I wore my high boots knowing Carney's house was probably buried under a ton of snow. I let Carney borrow a pair of my mother's boots and we headed for the back door.
"I hope I get to come back again," Carney said as she gave the kitchen one last glance.
"Oh, you will," I assured her. "My mother will insist on meeting you."
I held her hand as we walked along the back walk to the garage.
"I'm only supposed to drive my father's car in case of an emergency," I said, feeling uncertain about using the fancy sports car.
"Bergie, I think the storm of the century constitutes an emergency," Carney said with a laugh as I opened the garage door and we climbed into the stylish car.
I drove my father's car like I was an old lady, paranoid that some unforeseen disaster was waiting for us around the next corner. The car was my father's pride and joy. He spent hours in the summer waxing and buffing it.
It was slow going anyway since the roads were a mess. Mounds of snow were piled everywhere and most roads were barely passable. We passed Mel's Tasty Freeze and I was unable to see my VW behind a mountainous snow bank.
A majority of the downtown businesses remained closed. The main street was clogged with plowed snow banks. Most of the stones in the cemetery disappeared under the snow. A house garage on East Street had collapsed like a house of cards. Tree limbs were down everywhere. The hardware store roof had given way. A water main on Abbott Street had burst. Power was still out in some sections. The large metal awning at Kasey's Ford Dealership had buckled. Cars left in no parking areas had been buried by the snow plows. People were walking in the streets because of impassable sidewalks.
We made it to Carney's house without incident. I nervously parked the car in the poorly plowed street knowing it was a sitting duck with the snow banks taking up nearly half the road. The Nash house looked strangely peaceful under the blanket of white. I could hardly tell where the driveway or front walk was and I realized it was going to take me hours to dig the house out.
"Home sweet home," Carney sarcastically remarked as she climbed out of the car.
A large pickup truck with a plow on its front skidded to a stop a few feet from where Carney and I were standing in the street, looking at the house and trying to figure out how to get to the door.
Rollie's older brother Hoagie was staring at me from the cab of the truck. He had a three day growth of beard and looked horrible. His golden lab Frito was sitting in the seat next to him. Hoagie was a good guy who offered me and Rollie free advice on life.
"I've had maybe four hours sleep total in the past three days," he said when I told him he looked like shit. "I've never seen this much snow in my life."
I took my wallet out of my pocket and handed him forty bucks. "How 'bout doing my friend's driveway for me?" I asked hopefully.
Hoagie gave Carney the look over. "Friend, huh?" He said with a squint. "Come on Bergman, can't you do better than that?"
I laughed and wrapped my arm around Carney's waist. "My girlfriend," I corrected myself.
"That's more like it," Hoagie said. "For love, why not?"
He put the truck in gear and began to clear the Nash driveway as we watched from the road. Frito barked as the truck went back and forth up the driveway, pushing tons of snow onto the lawn.
"You'd better get your old man's car off the street before someone totals it," Hoagie said when he was finished plowing the driveway.
"Thanks a lot, Hoagie," I said reaching my hand toward the truck window. "You're a lifesaver!"
He shook my hand and gave me a grin. "Yes, I am," he agreed as he sped off down the street.
"Nice guy," Carney said, giving me a hug.
"Saved me from a heart attack," I agreed, motioning to the driveway. "It would have taken forever to shovel all that."
She walked toward the breezeway while I got in the car and backed it into the driveway. I found a shovel in the garage and shoveled out the front walk. When I was finished, I stepped into the breezeway and brushed the snow off my boots and legs.
I knocked on the back door, peering in to see Carney just finishing cleaning out the spoiled food from the refrigerator.
"Can I come in?" I asked, slowly opening the door.
"Of course, you goof."
I stepped into the kitchen. She gave me a smack on my lips and I tasted cherry chap stick.
"Except for the food going bad, everything looks okay here," she reported. "This is my house," she added sheepishly.
The Nash house was more cluttered than mine. The first floor consisted of the kitchen, pantry, dining room, a front hallway and closet, and a living room. Most of the furniture was run down and beat up. The wallpaper was faded and torn in a few places. The rugs were worn out. The curtains were dirty and wrinkled. Nobody had dusted in a while. The rooms were dim and lifeless. I could feel the ghosts of Carney's brothers wherever we went and the weight of her father's absence too.
"Come here, I want to show you something," she said, grabbing my arm and tugging me to the cellar stairway.
She took me to the cellar and showed me to the haunted room she spoke about.
"It's still the same TV set," she said, pointing to an old RCA set in the middle of the family area. "It hasn't changed channels by itself in a long time though."
"Maybe the spirit left with your brothers."
The cellar was musky and bland, with a couple of throw rugs on the floor, a crummy sunken couch, a few sprung easy chairs, and some overfilled bookcases. Two unfinished sheet rocked walls made a semi-room. Beyond the TV area was a washing machine and clothes dryer, the furnace and hot water heater, and tons of forgotten junk – boxes, bicycles, a lawn mower, old furniture, stacks of magazines, a motorcycle frame, trash bags full of old clothes, a broken portable television set, a pool table with its top ripped, a bent ping pong table, a large piece of plywood with a train track on it, some old wooden sleds, broken light fixtures, an old refrigerator, outdated storm windows, an old screen door, a cracked toilet, and assorted debris.
"Nobody has cleaned down here in years," Carney said with a sigh. "It's kind of embarrassing compared to your house."
"Your house feels lived in," I said. "Mine feels more like a museum sometimes."
"Ann Nelson is the only person who's ever been in here," she said sadly. "I was always too embarrassed to bring anybody home."
I followed her upstairs, unable to keep my eyes off her shapely hips as she led the way.
She led me to the second floor. "Don't open those," she warned, gesturing to the first two doors on the hallway. "My brothers left their rooms disaster areas."
I opened the first door anyway.
"Steve's," Carney said.
It was the size of a large closet. A box spring and mattress with no bed frame, a bean bag chair and a wooden crate served as the only furniture in the tiny space. The rugless floor was covered with trash and empty beer cans.
I closed the door and opened the next one.
"Steve and Jimmy's," Carney told me. A broken bunk bed, a desk with a couple of drawers missing, two bureaus with drawers left open, and a television with a cracked picture tube occupied the room that was also strewn with trash, beer cans and other junk.
"We keep the doors closed for a reason," she said.
"I could help you clean these up," I offered. "Might make a nice surprise for your mom."
She seemed puzzled as she looked at me. "You'd do that?"
She opened the door to her room, an attractive and presentable space with flowery pink wallpaper, a nice four post bed, a vanity, a tall dresser and a desk. Several stuffed animals were on the bed and the room was neat, light and airy with a noticeable rose odor.
"The oasis in the storm," I said.
She smiled. "My father always made sure I had a nice place to be." She squeezed my hand. "You're the first boy to ever see it."
"I want to give you something," she said, going to her desk. She opened a drawer and took out an 8 x 11 print of her yearbook graduation photo. "For your room."
"What a beautiful picture," I said, my throat getting tight with emotion.
"Beats the newspaper clipping," she said, placing the photo in my hand.
I kissed her. "Thanks."
She nodded and led me from the room.
"We haven't have lunch yet, but there isn't much to eat here," she said as we clobbered down the stairs. "Do you think any place is open?"
I glanced at my watch. It was nearly two in the afternoon. "I guess we'll really be having the early bird special!" I laughed. "We can drive around. I'm sure we'll find someplace."
"I wish we could have a romantic candlelight dinner," she sighed.
"We will," I said. "Maybe not tonight, but we will."
"I'd better call my dad," Carney said. "He's probably worried."
We went into the living room and I sat on the soft as fluff couch while Carney collapsed into a leather chair next to the phone.
"This was always Daddy's chair," she told me. "Nobody sat here when he was home!"
There was a large console television set, a couple of book cases, two couches, a few end tables, a coffee table, and three chairs in the room.
She picked up the phone and dialed a number.
"Hi Daddy! I'm fine. Everything's okay. I'm home. Safe and sound. It all worked out. You'll like him," she giggled, throwing me a look. "Yes, I did. Not too much. Lots of it! Wow! You okay? Guess so. That's wild. Far out! Okay. Love you. Bye."
I glanced at the family photos sitting on the book case and hanging on the walls while Carney talked with her dad. There was one with Carney when she was about six in a family group shot with her parents and brothers. I didn't remember Barry the oldest, but recognized both Steve and Jimmy from around town. There was no need to tell Carney that Jimmy once pushed me around at the Tasty Freeze one summer night when I was about twelve. Each of her brothers' graduation photographs were also on the wall, along with Barry and Jimmy in their military uniforms. There was a portrait of Mrs. Nash when she was about twenty, Barry with his dog, Buster, Carney and her three brothers when she was about ten, and Carney's recent graduation portrait.
"My mother took down all the ones of my father," Carney said when she saw me looking at the various photos. "Did you notice the difference between the phone call with my dad and the one with my mom?" She crossed the room and sat next to me on the couch. "Nonjudgmental. Positive. Interested. Loving. Caring."
"Everything okay with him?"
"He hasn't been home since I talked with him on Monday! Can you believe it? They were stuck at the warehouse. And then they did some rescue work, helping people around the neighborhood. And then they drove some of their trucks bringing food to the shelters and stuff. He slept on the couch in his office."
"I'm sure he'll have some great stories to tell."
"Not as great as mine," she said, resting her head on my shoulder. "I've had the time of my life."
"Me too," I agreed, rubbing my hand along the side of her face. "Whenever it snows from now on, I'll always think of you."
"No matter what?"
"No matter what."
We kissed again. It was becoming a lot easier to express how I felt and I was amazed by what I had been missing all these years. I finally had a girl friend!
"Let's see if we can find someplace to eat," she said. "I'm famished."
With good reason. We hadn't eaten much since the spaghetti at The Clogstons nearly 24 hours earlier.
I carefully placed Carney's graduation photo on the backseat of the car when we climbed into the vehicle to search for a meal. We drove around town to see if any place was open. The deli was dark. Topper's Steak House was closed. The Clipper Café hadn't been plowed out yet. The Pizza Palace was deserted.
I turned on to Route 42 and we ventured out to the Roadside Diner a few miles out of town which, to our surprise and relief, was open. The lot was full of plowing trucks, cop cars, tow trucks, Electric Company and telephone company trucks, a couple of National Guard trucks, and other rescue vehicles.
"Looks like the happening place," I said as I pulled the car into the lot.
"My father took me here for breakfast once years ago," Carney recalled with nostalgia.
"My parents wouldn't be caught dead here," I admitted. "But Rollie, Bobo and I are always stopping in. Best milk shakes anywhere."
"Do your parents know you come here?"
"They don't need to know," I said as I parked the car.
I escorted Carney into the diner, a square box of a building with about fifteen booths and a long counter. It was frequented by truck drivers and locals and I was considered a regular customer. The waitresses were middle aged broads who didn't take gruff from anybody, armed with one liners, zingers and put downs worthy of a Don Rickles routine. Rollie, Bobo and I loved being harassed by them every time we visited.
Louie was my favorite cook because he always looked so dignified and proper in the chaotic environment. He insisted on wearing a tie and acted as though he was a famous French Chef instead of a short order cook in front of a greasy grill. Frank was another cook I got a kick out of – he must have weighed 350 pounds, but he had a high squeaky voice that sounded like he had sucked in a helium balloon. "Order up!" he'd call out in his mousey voice. Dan was my least favorite cook – he was sour and moody and he didn't like the sarcastic waitresses, which only caused the women to give him all the more grief.
Linda greeted us as we came through the door. "B-Man!" She shouted. "Where are your partners in crime today?"
"Snowed in, I'm sure."
Linda was short and big-busted, in her mid forties with red hair and a wad of gum constantly in her mouth. She glanced at Carney standing next to me.
"Oooh, la-la," she said with surprise. "Who's this beautiful sweet thing?"
I blushed. "Carney."
Linda raised her eyebrows and pushed me aside. "Well now, Carney, you come with me, dear." She took Carney by the hand and led her to an open booth.
The place was busy and loud as always with seventeen different conversations taking place at the same time, cigarette smoke hanging in the air, and the yells from the cooks and waitresses bouncing off the walls. The dull murmur of a radio could be heard in the background.
"Now, you make sure this young man treats you right, Princess," Linda was telling Carney as she directed her into the seat. "And you," she said, punching my arm. "If I hear anything bad about you, I'll kick your ass from here to New Bedford."
Carney laughed while I looked indignantly at the waitress. "I'm always the perfect gentleman, Linda."
"Oh sure," she said, rolling her eyes and giving Carney a 'Do you believe this guy?' look. "So, you two been snowbound together?" She asked, raising her eyebrows.
"Well, sort of," I admitted as I settled into my seat.
"Good for you!" she laughed. "Nothing like romance in a blizzard!"
Now it was Carney's turn to blush. "We've been behaving ourselves," she said.
"Well that's too bad!" Linda bellowed. "You could have died together for heaven sakes. Go for broke when the end is near, Carney honey!"
Carney smiled. "I'll have to remember that."
"Listen, ignore the regular menu. We're low on supplies. Tell me what you want and I'll let you know if we got any left."
Carney settled on a bowl of clam chowder and a BLT with a milk shake, plus a piece of Boston crème pie for desert. I went with the tuna casserole, a hot dog, a side of fries, a shake, and an ice cream float.
The diner was full of blizzard stories. The guy in the both next to us was telling his pal that his wife had been stranded at her job at a nursing home in Quincy, working triple shifts because of low staffing. A truck driver had been stuck at the diner for three days. A cop delivered a baby at a bus station. A tow truck driver rescued an eight year old kid who had gotten lost trying to find his way to his grandmother's house. A rescue worker saved a 12 year old girl who fell down an open man hole. Some guy's cellar was flooded because of a broken water pipe. Another home owner reported that his roof had fallen in. Pets were missing. Cars were buried. People hadn't had their mail or newspapers delivered in days or their trash picked up. Loved ones were still stranded in shelters, schools, and at work. Snow plow drivers hadn't been home for days. People were exhausted. Nerves were frayed. Businesses were losing money. Air flights were backed up. Busses were grounded. Power and phone service was still out in many places. At one nursing home, toilets were exploding with steam caused by a boiler malfunction that set off a sprinkler system and flooded the building. Nobody was hurt, but there was electrical damage and residents had to be moved to other facilities which wasn't easy given the conditions.
"Why do you and your friends like it here so much?" Carney asked as we ate our meal.
"It's just a fun place to hang out," I said. "The food is great. The people are neat. Nobody gives us a hard time. They don't treat us like kids here. We can just be ourselves and not worry about it. Not too many teenagers come here, so it's kind of our private place to be. The waitresses are funny. It's a unique joint."
"What do you guys talk about when you hang out here?"
"Life," I said with a shrug. "Family problems. College plans. Girls. What we watched on television last night. Our hopes and dreams. Our failures and regrets. The Patriots and Red Sox. You know, stuff guys talk about all the time."
"That would be sex," Linda said as she passed by the booth.
I got red in the face. "Not just that," I said. "Sure, Bobo and Rollie talk about their girlfriends and some of their triumphs, but most of that is just guy talk. I don't believe half the stuff they say."
"What are you going to tell them about me?"
"How happy I am to be with you. And believe me, they'll be happy for me too. I think Rollie was beginning to think I was a homo or something."
"But you won't tell them our personal stuff, right?"
"I respect you too much to be telling stuff out of school, Carney."
Linda dropped the bill on our table and urged us to keep having a good time during the ongoing snow adventure.
"You'll be telling your grandkids about what happened this week. This has been an historic storm. A once in a lifetime event."
I threw thirty bucks on the table when we were ready to leave.
"Do you want some help with that?" Carney offered.
"It's okay," I replied. "My father left me guilt money."
"Whenever they take off and leave me behind, he throws me a wad of cash to help make himself feel better," I explained.
"You be sure to bring this lovely lady back here, B-Man," Linda ordered as we headed for the door.
"Oh, I'm so jealous," Linda's fellow waitress Bernice called from the other side of the diner. "You be good to her, Timmy."
"And Carney, you take care of our boy for us," Linda added
Technically, Carney and I weren't even supposed to out on the road.
"Make sure you go right home, kid," a cop told me as I opened the door. "Stay off the streets."
"Yes, sir," I respectfully replied. "We just needed to eat something."
"I understand," the cop let me know. "Just go home now."
I took Carney by the arm and led her to the car.
"That is a fun place, isn't it?" Carney said with a grin as we drove out of the parking lot.
"It's one of the few places where I feel I belong."
We returned to Carney's house. After four days of being together and talking non-stop, we were beginning to run out of things to say and do.
"Let's go clean your brothers' rooms," I suggested after we stood in the kitchen together for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do next.
"Are you sure?"
"I don't think they're going to be doing it any time soon."
There was no point salvaging anything in Barry's tiny room. I lugged the box spring, mattress and crate down to the cellar and put the bean bag in Steve and Jimmy's room. Any of Barry's personal belongs that looked salvageable, I put in a couple of cardboard boxes. We filled three trash bags with garbage and junk. Carney vacuumed the floor and washed the green painted walls. We left the room empty, but clean.
In Steve and Jimmy's room, I took off the broken bunk bed top and dragged it down cellar. I also got rid of the crummy desk, but brought up a small bookcase from the cellar that seemed presentable. We washed the clothes and bedding that looked savable, rearranged the dressers, dragged the busted television into the cellar, and got rid of all the trash. Again, Carney vacuumed the floor and washed the orange painted walls. I found a usable rug in the cellar which we placed on the floor and I patched up several holes in the wall with some putty mixture I found in the back pantry. Carney left the doors to the rooms open for the first time in years.
"We'll do the cellar when the weather is nicer," I said.
Carney was thunderstruck by my willingness to help with the house. "Nobody has lifted a finger around here for years," she said. "I guess we just stopped caring."
We went downstairs. It was about 8:30 in the evening.
"Do you want me to stay?" I asked when we collapsed onto the couch to catch our breaths.
"I'm not spending the night here alone, Bergie," she told me. "This place is still haunted as far as I'm concerned."
"I can sleep here on the couch, I guess."
She rolled her eyes. "We've been sleeping together for the last three nights."
"Yeah, but not in a bed."
"I could use a nice bed for a change, couldn't you?"
I was unable to say anything because of the lump in my throat.
Carney took a shower having gotten rank from the cleaning. I dusted the living room and dining room and cleaned the kitchen counters, stove top and the outside of the refrigerator.
"All finished, Hazel?" Carney asked when she found me folding the clothes and sheets we had washed earlier. She had her hair pulled up in a bun and she was wearing a yellow terri cloth robe and bunny slippers.
"I guess it's just a nasty habit I've picked up from living in my mother's spotless house," I confessed.
"I put one of my father's old bathrobes on the hook on the bathroom door," she said. "You can wear that after your shower. Give me your jeans and sweatshirt and I'll do one more wash."
I hesitated for a moment.
"You don't' have to be shy with me, Bergie," she said gently.
I stripped down to my underwear and gave her my clothes. I skipped upstairs and took a quick shower.
Carney was waiting for me in her room when I came out of the bathroom wearing her father's robe.
"What was that story you told me the other night when I was falling asleep?" She asked from where she sat on the bed.
"It was about Tom and Sally being stuck in the woods naked," I said, standing in the doorway.
"You be Tom and I'll be Sally," she said.
"Are you sure, Carney?"
"Bergie, I've never had sex sober," she reminded me. "I'm treating tonight as though it was my first time. With somebody I've fallen in love with."
"It is my first time."
"I know. Come in and close the door. Lets give ourselves something to really remember the Great Blizzard by."
*** *** ***
I took Carney out for that romantic candle light dinner a few days later when things finally got back to normal. I also took her to the movie projection booth on a Wednesday night and we spooled the film together. It took me more than a week to get my car back on the road.
My mother adored Carney and insisted that she spend as much time at our house as possible. My parents were pretty liberal and didn't' get caught up in the whole sex thing. Carney's mom slowly got used to me and finally began treating me okay, especially after I cleaned out the Nash cellar and painted out the boys' old bedrooms. Mr. Nash was a great guy who got me a summer job at his warehouse when I was in college.
Carney and I were graduation partners and spent the summer together, including trips to the beach whenever we could. She seemed cured of her seaweed fear. I'd try to eat at the deli whenever Carney was pulling a shift and Carney and Ann Nelson visited the Majestic often when I was on duty.
Carney lived with her Aunt Suzy in Providence while attending Brown. I went to Boston University while living at home. We continued dating, but eventually time, distance, new interests and other pursuits began to wane on our relationship. We met new people and had different experiences and in time our profound and meaningful love for one other became tested. We weren't teenagers anymore and life was taking us along different paths.
We broke up not long after we both graduated from our respective colleges. Carney went on to pursue her Master's Degree in Social Work at Smith College in Northampton. I had my Bachelor's Degree from BU and although my parents were happy that I followed them into education, they were horrified that I was content on being a high school English teacher.
Carney worked with troubled kids in Western Mass and married a game warden. I taught at my home town high school and met a nice woman named Abby whom my mother had hired as her real estate agent when my parents were thinking about selling their house. We dated and eventually married. We had three kids, just as I had predicted to Carney during the Great Blizzard of '78.
Bobo, Rollie and I are still friends. We meet at the Roadside Dinner on the first Saturday of every month for breakfast.
I still think of Carney whenever there's a big snow storm. The local media gave the Great Blizzard's thirty year anniversary milestone a lot of play in 2008 with plenty of news clips on the television and a three page spread in the local newspaper, including a feature on the birth of several babies nine months later and recollections of rescues, blackouts, snow drifts, and experiences.
I dug out the photographs of the large snowman we built on the Miller's front lawn and the shot of me and Carney standing in front of a huge snow drift as if we were standing in a giant igloo.
"Who's the girl, Dad?" My twenty-year old daughter Shannon asked when she saw me looking at the old photographs from the great storm.
"Just a girl from high school," I answered.
But I knew better.