© 1999 J.Z. Sharpe


Snowfall © 1999 J.Z. Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.
Do not reproduce or distribute without the expressed
written consent of the author.

From his bench, through the tall window, Tim could see a milky sky that
meant only one thing -- snow, and lots of it. The factory had been abuzz
with weather reports. "At least a foot by morning!" said old Stan, as he
passed down the aisle pushing a cart of just-sanded guitar necks. "First
shift'll be canceled tomorrow, for sure!"

"I wouldn't count on it." Joe the foreman was coming the other way,
carrying his ever-present clipboard and looking tired, as always. "I want
you guys here at 5:45, as usual."

Stan laughed. "Not me! I guarantee you, I'll be snowed in, up on my
mountain, and before midnight. We'll all be snowed under, for days!"

Snowed in. Tim dared to make the wish, and turned on his stool, just
slightly, so he could see Beth out of the corner of his eye. If only the
fates would grant him his wish, to be snowed in with the woman of his
dreams. He studied her shiny black hair, the way it hung down her back in
a straight ponytail, the way it swayed as she smoothed another neck with
sandpaper, preparing it for lacquering. Then, as if she could feel his
gaze, she looked up -- and Tim lowered his head quickly. Yet, as he peeked
at her from beneath his unruly bangs, he thought he saw her grace him with
the tiniest of smiles.


Meet me at the hunting cabin. Tonight, after work. Tim

Beth found the note crammed in her locker door, written on a piece of
spiral notepaper with a pencil, one that could have used a trip through the
sharpener. From Tim on the other side of the aisle, of all people -- tall,
slender Tim with the weird goatee that accentuated the pointiness of his
chin. Tim who always wore black, and sat with his buddies in the cafeteria
at lunchtime, making googly eyes at Lilia the string winder. What idiocy
-- you'd think they were back in junior high, not fully grown adults at
work in a modern factory.

But Beth had to admit that there were times when she'd look across the room
at him, intent on his work at his cluttered bench -- and think that there
was something awfully special about that goatee, that focused look on his
face. So what if he wore nothing but black, there was something mysterious
about such a wardrobe, especially for a guy who'd grown up in Lost Haven.
With all his friends dressed in T-shirts that proclaimed their loyalty for
some sports team or NASCAR driver, Tim's plain sweaters and slacks provided
a refreshing, almost sophisticated change.

She looked at a scribble, above his name, something written, then crossed
out. Did that say what she thought it said? Had Tim written "Love" as a
closing, only to decide against such a personal expression? What the hell
am I supposed to do with this? she thought, as she chuckled and folded the
note in two, sliding it into the back pocket of her jeans.

"Better hurry, gonna be a zoo at the market." Edie, the woman from the
next bench, brushed past Beth, all bluster and energy as she zipped up her
down jacket and jangled her car keys. "I don't know why it is, but when
the kids are snowed in, all they ever do is eat. And watch TV. Hey, drive
carefully, okay?"

Beth nodded. She waved and let Edie hurry out to the parking lot ahead of
her. The snow had already begun, about half an hour earlier, from the
looks of the sugary dusting on Beth's Subaru. As she got behind the wheel
and started the engine, she silently thanked her good sense and her
father's advice which led her to buy a vehicle with all-wheel drive, an
essential in the Vermont winter. Tim, on the other hand, drove that Camaro
he'd owned since high school, with the splotches of touch-up paint and the
twisted radio antenna. Beth looked around the parking lot, wondering if
he'd left yet. Many cars still remained -- all the office people had
another hour to go before they could leave -- but Tim's car was nowhere to
be seen.

She reached for the gear shift to throw the car into drive, then stopped
and reached for the note instead. Her fingers managed to pick it out of
her back pocket, and she spread it out on the steering wheel so she could
read it one more time. Meet me at the hunting cabin. Beth laughed out
loud as she crumpled up the note and tossed it into her litter bag.

"No, I can't do this, no way," she said. "I just can't."


Tim stumbled around the A-frame cabin, looking for the kerosene lantern.
The big one, not the dinky lamp that his brother had found on sale, the one
that had never worked right. He knew where that one was, right over here
on the kitchen table. Its yellowish light flickered even now, throwing
shadows everywhere and turning the most innocent objects into monsters.
He'd already scared himself silly with a dark shape that had appeared to be
an old man with a cane raised over his head -- but in reality was only a
peppermill. "Damn!" Tim said when he realized his mistake. "I am such an
idiot!" He hoped this would be the only time this evening he would utter
such words.

Beth had never accepted his invitation officially, one way or the other.
He'd hoped to catch up with her at the end of the day, but Joe cornered him
right before the shift's end and made him count a cart of unfinished work,
so the statistics could be entered into the computer for the end-of-day
reports. Tim wondered if Beth would seek him out in the parking lot, then
realized that even if she did, she might not find him, since he usually
parked in a different section. And sure enough, by the time he left, her
little green Subaru was already gone.

Provisions for the evening had been stocked. The cabin was always ready
for guests, its pantry filled with canned goods and staples. Like the
other dwellings on the Old Lake Highway, the cabin had no electrical
service, but it did have a refrigerator that ran on propane. On his way
to work that day, Tim had purchased beer and a nice bottle of wine at the
24-hour supermarket (enduring the fish-eye of the cashier, who no doubt
wondered why such a nice young man would be buying alcoholic beverages so
early in the morning). They had been chilling in the trunk of his Camaro,
and now waited in the fridge for the evening's festivities.

If only he could find that lantern! He opened cupboards and closets, even
looked in the old wooden bins where his old man locked up the guns and
ammo, but as the other lantern flickered its last and left Tim in near
darkness, he realized the search was fruitless. More than likely, his
brother had the lamp in his truck. "Hey, what do I need a lantern for
anyway?" Tim said to himself and the lonely cabin. "I've got candles, I've
even got a flashlight." He held up the long metallic cylinder and showed
it off to no one in particular. "Now all I need is my lady love," he
sighed. He looked outside. "I wonder if she's even coming."

The night was now deep black, the featureless dark of the forest deep in a
blizzard. Tim's car was just a low hump in the rising snow. He squinted
-- did he see headlights, farther down the road? They glowed for a minute,
then went out. "Damn..." he muttered, and went to find himself a beer.


Beth could drive. That wasn't the problem. The all-wheel drive of her
trusty station wagon went anywhere. The challenge was knowing where she
was going. Five minutes after leaving the factory parking lot, she found
herself buried in a squall, unable to see beyond her hood. Wild snowflakes
hurled themselves at her windshield like arrows. What's more, the day's
light was virtually spent, and fading fast.

She followed someone's taillights for several miles, but when her guide
turned off down a driveway, navigation became much harder. At least she
knew this road, she drove it every day. But as she came up to the
intersection that would take her into Lost Haven's village center, she
noticed the fiercely flashing lights of several emergency vehicles -- and a
huge maple, which had decided to fall, just that day, across the road.
"You'll have to take the detour," said the state trooper who had been
called to direct traffic.

He pointed toward Town Highway #4, the Old Lake Highway -- the road where
Tim's family had their hunting cabin. "This is just great," Beth said
under her breath.

"Pardon?" asked the trooper.

"Oh, nothing, nothing." She rolled up her car window, barely hearing him
tell her to drive carefully.

The local plows never went down the Old Lake Highway. They were supposed
to concentrate on the school bus routes and main thoroughfares, and since
no one had a primary residence on that road, it was left untouched. "You
would think they'd plow it if they're going to use it as a detour," Beth
said. The snow piled higher in front of her, until she realized it was
pointless to go further. If she went too far, she'd have a hard time
getting back out. So she tried to stop the car next to a landmark, a
mailbox that someone had painted bright orange. She figured it would help,
should it snow so much that her car would be buried. Of course, the chance
remained that the snow might bury the mailbox, too, but Beth decided to
leave that to the winter fates. The car slid a little further downhill
than she'd expected, and eventually came to a halt with a dull thump, its
front wheels firmly held by a snowbank.

She zipped her parka to her chin, pulled her hat over her ears, and crammed
her hands into her pockets. With her head held down against the wind, she
headed toward a dim light she could just barely see through the swirling
snowfall. It was her only chance of survival, and she prayed that there
would be people under that illumination. By the time she realized she
walked toward Tim's family hunting cabin, it was too late to turn back.


"Wow, you came!" Tim stood in the doorway, holding a candle in one hand,
melted into an empty tunafish can for a holder. He looked all warm and
cozy, in a black plaid flannel shirt, his work jeans (still lightly coated
with sawdust) and wood hunting socks.

"Hey, look, I just want you to know that I didn't intend to accept your
invitation." Beth held up her hands as she stepped into the warmth of the
cabin. A healthy fire spit and crackled in the fireplace. "I wouldn't
have been driving down this road at all, if it hadn't been for that tree."

"Tree? What tree?"

"A big one. Came down at the turnoff to the village square, and landed
right across the road."

"Man, this is going to be a big storm. Stan was right, I'll bet they do
cancel first shift tomorrow. May I hang up your coat?"

Beth gave him a wary glance. "My point is -- this is all you're getting.
I'm not here to get seduced."

Tim nodded. "Whatever you want," he said, in a tone that told Beth he
still had his own plans in mind.

She walked past him and down into the main room of the cabin. The roof of
the A-frame soared overhead, like two giant hands meeting in prayer. The
furnishings were simple, cast-offs and garage sale specials, a long sofa
and two armchairs, a beat-up crate upturned and used as a coffee table.
Old issues of Sports Illustrated and various sportsmen's magazines sat in
stacks in the floor, and in a small bookcase, a collection of dogeared
paperbacks competed for space with several boxed jigsaw puzzles. What
amazed Beth the most, though, was the meal spread before her on the table:
cold cuts and cheese, French bread, a bowl of grapes, a six pack of beer.
A bottle of wine perched in a dented galvanized bucket, kept cool with
several handfuls of snow.

"Oh, my..." Beth whispered. "You really thought I would come. You did all
this -- for me?"

"Yup." Tim nodded and looked down at his feet. An utterly charming lock
of hair fell across his nose as he did. Beth resisted the temptation to
brush it back for him.

"Gee, thanks. I don't know what to say..."

"Don't say anything right now. Let's eat."


Tim hoped that the wine would loosen her up a bit, but all it did was make
her more talkative. She yakked about the cabin, about work, about how
she'd never get her car out of that snowbank until spring. "What if we
have to go to work tomorrow?" she whined. "Joe'll make me take vacation
time. And I then I won't have any time to take my nephews to Disneyworld
in April." Tim was beginning to wish he was back home, alone, watching
hockey on TV. There had to be a way to interest her in more nonverbal
forms of contact...

"Hey, let's turn on the radio." He got up and pulled down a bulky "boom
box" from a shelf. "I think the batteries in this thing are still good."

"Hey, maybe they really will cancel the first shift tomorrow, huh? What do
you think?"

"Maybe." Tim tuned around until he found the strongest station, the soft
rock one from St. Johnsbury. They usually carried the school and business
closings -- although right now they were doing a commercial for used pickup

"Could I have a little more of that wine?" Beth asked.

"You can have the whole thing," Tim said, and turned the bottle upside down
to squeeze the last drops into her glass.

"Aw, is that all there is?"

He looked over and saw something he'd never seen on Beth before -- a pout.
A drunken pout, perhaps, but a pretty one, her lower lip all red and juicy
looking. All ready for him to reach over and nibble, to feel her faint
pulse as it quickened in reaction to his touch. So many places to nibble
on this girl, if only she'd let him begin...

A brassy shout of synthesizer music brought him back to reality. "And now,
the Mellow 99 snow report, brought to you tonight by Fratellino's Pizza.
You know, in this day of fast food and chain pizza parlors, where can you
go for a good, homecooked pizza from a real woodburning oven?"

"Oh, come on!" Beth pounded the sofa with her fist. "Cut the crap and do
the report already!"

After the announcer expounded on the joys of Mama Fratellino's bread
sticks, as well as her real Chicago-style pizza and exclusive dessert menu,
he finally got down to the list. First came the school closings -- not
only public schools, but nursery schools, day cares, private schools,
senior centers, even the state college in Lyndonville. All closed. Then
he started in on the businesses, the mall, the state offices. "And this
just in -- first shift is canceled at the Herndon Guitar Company in Lost
Haven. Yes, folks, I think they're really getting socked in up there. I
repeat, first shift has just been canceled at Herndon Guitar."

"Oh, goodie!" giggled Beth. "No work tomorrow!"

Tim turned and looked at her. It was like time itself had suddenly been
put on hold. No alarm going off at 4 AM to send him off to work, he could
sleep as late as he liked -- and he could do it next to this wonderful
creature with the lustrous black hair and big innocent eyes. He couldn't
think of anything to say to express his immense joy over this incredible
luck. So he leaned over and with one hand against the back of her head, he
kissed her, right on those charming lips that could pout so well. He
kissed long, gently at first, but when she didn't resist (much to his great
astonishment), he deepened his approach, allowing his tongue to seek out
hers. Within seconds, there it was, curling around his, teasing it. He
felt the springs in the old sofa shake as she broke away and shifted closer
to him.

"You know something?" She rested her forehead against his, which made her
eyes seem enormous. "I really didn't want to do this. And now, I don't
know why I was so scared."

"I won't bite, you know."

"Yeah, I know."

"In fact, I could make you feel really good."

"How good?"

Tim heard the popping noise of snaps, and he realized that she'd opened her
flannel shirt to expose her T-shirt covered breasts. Their nipples
clammered for attention, round bumps of arousal under the thin white
cotton. "You're not wearing a bra, are you?"

Beth grabbed the bottom hem of the shirt and thrust it upward, revealing
her mounds in all their rich glory. "No, I'm not." Then she laid her hand
on the back of his neck and coaxed him forward (not that he needed the
coaxing), until his face lay between those fleshy mountains. She smelled
like baby powder, mixed with sawdust and the barest hint of feminine sweat.
Tim closed his eyes and sighed. He'd found heaven at last.


Beth awoke with a dull headache and the realization that she had not spent
the night in her own bedroom. She squinted, trying to focus on her
surroundings. An A-frame with rough wood walls and a big glass window
looking out onto snow-covered pine trees. Two empty wine glasses, two
plates with half-eaten sandwiches. A radio softly playing white noise. A
man's head resting between her breasts, his lips against her right nipple.
The lightest prickle of facial hair.


"Oh, my god, what have I done!"

As soon as she spoke, he was awake, his head up, staring right into her
eyes. "We don't have to go to work today, you know," he said.

"What am I doing here? How did I get here?"

"You mean you don't remember?" Tim looked crestfallen.

She closed her eyes. The snow. Her car. The orange mailbox. The note in
her locker door.

"Oh yeah," she said. "I remember now."

Tim sat back on his heels. "I'll make us some coffee."

Beth watched him bump around the tiny kitchen, grind coffee in an old
fashioned crank style device, search out all the parts to a dented
percolator that looked like it could serve an entire army, go outside for a
moment to scoop up some snow. When he returned, she saw ice crystals
hanging off the hair that fell over his eyes in that mischievous way she
couldn't forget.

"Hey, Tim, I want to ask you something.

He glanced over his shoulder. "Sure, go ahead."

"It's about that note you wrote me." She looked around for her jeans, and
found them tossed over a chair on the other side of the room. Heaven only
knew how they got there.

"What about it?"

"It looked like you write something and then crossed it out. I was just
trying to figure out what that might be." She thought she saw him give her
another quick look, although most of his attention seemed focused on the
balky gas stove. "It looked like you wrote the word 'Love'."

"Well, yeah, I did."

Beth covered her mouth with her hand. He'd confessed so readily! "Gee,
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you about it."

"You're not embarrassing me."

"Did you really mean it?"

The burner finally came on with a great burst of flame. Tim set the
percolator on the stove, then turned and looked right at her.

"Yeah, I really meant it. Is that okay?"

Beth opened her mouth, then closed it again. He looked really good to her,
holding two chipped coffee mugs, his soft hair in bad need of a comb.
She'd never really seen him before, and it saddened her to think that it
took a blizzard to make her do so.

"What -- what did we do last night?" she whispered. "You know, I don't
even remember."

Tim laughed and came over to sit down next to her on the couch. "Well, I
could tell you that we lusted after each other until the wee hours of the
morning. I could get into how we did all kinds of things that normal
sex-fearing Americans just don't do, places we put our tongues and our
fingers that you'd never imagine. I could tell you how I straddled you
like a wildman and you grabbed my cock and squeezed it between your breasts
until I spurted come right into your face. I could do all that! But it
wouldn't be true."

Beth smiled. "I guess I would be relieved, then."

"I suppose." He shrugged and picked at a loose thread on the upholstery.

"Looks like we're snowed in." She cocked her head toward the window and
winked. "So if we're going to do those things, maybe we should get
started, you think?"


Eventually the snow stopped.

With some effort and two shovels, Beth and Tim managed to get their cars
out from under.

They returned to their respective residences. Beth's cat was overjoyed to
see her, having eaten its way through all the dry food. Tim's roommates
tried in vain to wrench the details from him ("What's she like anyway,
man?") but he would not divulge a single one.

It was the snowfall of the century, and for many years afterward people
would bring it up and compare all other blizzards to that one's size and
intensity. By the time the following winter arrived, with a whole new
line-up of storms, Beth and Tim would have decided their relationship had
run its course. It was a taste, an experimentation, and they were of the
age where such things are done. Their parting caused a small heartbreak
for both, although nothing that couldn't be healed with time.

But for many years, whenever the factory buzzed with the threat of enough
white stuff to paralyze all of Lost Haven, Beth would look over at Tim and
secretly smile. He, of course, would smile back.

Snowfall © 1999 J.Z. Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.
Do not reproduce or distribute without the expressed
written consent of the author.

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