Last night's scotch sours in the back of his throat as he listens to metal scraping macadam, feels his neighbors staring at the stretch of sidewalk he is not clearing. He sighs and he ups and he coffees. He bundles and he outs and he shovels. With his first push, he assesses. By first toss, he knows this stuff is not the slight down that flutters earthward in fairytale flakes. This snow rejects fancy, falls in purposeful sheets, clumps as it lands, gathering heft.
He digs and he does not look at the lady from across the street, watching to see where he dumps the snow, clucking disapproval even as he clears a path from her doorway to her car. His muscles flex and tease, taunting him with the strain whose pain he will not feel until tomorrow. He stabs the snow and he scoops the snow and he lifts the snow and deposits the snow in the least offensive places. He marvels at new snow mountains delivered by plows-men, a gift to the dead-end's children a full month after Christmas.
He watches amused as they stake claims, these pressing slide-lanes with cardboard toboggans, those hollowing snow caves with shovels manufactured for sand. Watches tense as a boy shrieks happy, sledding from mountaintop to icy street. Feels grateful they are not his.
His own stout stein of a father loved to take him sledding. His father laughed loud and his father said, "Ho Boy!" and his father sat in the back of the sled with strong arms around him. He did not cry out every time snow stabbed into the bits of his face not covered by mask. He would not cry out, and he could not think for the air, and he could not breathe for the strong arms and the speed and the sharp steel blades conveying him to the bottom. Quickening unhappy puffed from his mouth. The wool mask grew damp as he waited to see if this run would be enough for his pop.
Like his father's were then, his arms now are strong. He will not use them to take children flying. His is the earth, not the sky. Flying is for the birds and his father.
He's glad as he shovels, relieved and almost arrived at the end of his sidewalk. The neighbor’s gone inside and the sledders gone inside and his coffee waits inside and he begins to go, but then puts down his shovel and turns to the plow-mountain, emptied of child. Folding himself just so, he tucks into a cave. All he can hear is the snow.