As of this moment, Smalltown is covered with ten inches of snow, and more is supposed to come before morning. My brother spent the better part of the day skidding around southeast Missouri in a truck. Not me. I went outside just once, trudging to the end of the driveway to collect today’s Smalltown Standard Democrat (no hyphen, please). Though my mother begged me to pull on a pair of my late father’s boots first, I ventured forth into the winter night without even bothering to don a coat. I’m pretty sure she wanted to spank me when I came back in, but instead she settled for giving me a lecture about the dangers of catching cold. That done, we ate dinner, watched the weather on TV, then switched over to The Blues Brothers on AMC. I don’t expect there’ll be any more trips to the video store until Sunday, meaning that we’ve got to make the four movies I rented yesterday last until then.
For those of you who just joined us, I’m home for the holidays, and “About Last Night” is emanating from a rickety old card table set up in the middle of the guest bedroom of my mother’s house in Smalltown, U.S.A., located midway between St. Louis and Memphis. Smalltown is dialup country, meaning that it takes forever for me to tap my blogmail (thanks to all of you who wrote about my recent postings, by the way!), while most of my preferred blogs and Web sites load even more slowly. On the other hand, it’s not entirely unpleasant to be semi-detached from the outside world, and I can always count on the Standard Democrat to take care of my urgent news-related needs. Here are some of Wednesday’s headlines: Races Heating Up for School Boards. Hefty Fine Is Handed Down. Post Office Working Overtime. Holiday Drivers Must Take Extra Precautions. Casket Truck Driver Busted. Party Planned.
Needless to say, my mother and I haven’t been seeing many people since the snow started falling, but we did run into Mrs. Yeakey, my former babysitter, in Wal-Mart on Tuesday afternooon, just before we went home to hunker down for the big blow. Improbable as it may seem, the woman who took care of me four decades ago whenever my parents felt the need for a night on the town is alive, well, and as spry-looking as ever. (She’d attained a certain age even then, meaning that she must be eighty or so now.) Nobody ever gets very far away from his past in a small town–there’s always somebody just around the corner who knew you when you were in kneepants, and has at least one embarrassing story to tell.
I called Our Girl in Chicago in Detroit (she’s visiting her own family for the holidays) and the Mutant in New York (she isn’t) earlier this evening. Neither one was home, though, so my mother and I decided to live dangerously and raid our dwindling video stash for a second feature, Napoleon Dynamite. You might not think a seventy-four-year-old woman from Smalltown would find such fare amusing, but she’s always been receptive to off-center comedies, this one included.
We said goodnight after the credits rolled, and I set the thermostat and withdrew to my bedroom, there to check my e-mail one last time and choose a book with which to read myself to sleep. I looked out the window a moment ago and saw that the footprints I made when I picked up the Standard Democrat have vanished beneath a fresh layer of snow. I can’t see any tire tracks, either, which isn’t surprising. It’s been hours since anyone drove down our street. The only sounds I hear are the muffled whirr of the winter wind, the rumble of the downstairs furnace, and the unsure buzz of the ancient alarm clock on my nightstand that would wake me up if I needed to be anywhere on time come morning, which I don’t. Maybe I’ll do a little work on one of my unfinished pieces tomorrow–or maybe not. I haven’t yet tired of the exquisite privilege of having nothing to do.