The stories title is Frozen.
This is just a slice of my life put into words. It's an excercise to help me stretch my abilities. I look forward to recieving your feedback.
It was late. Very late, some would call it early. But since this was the end of Scott’s and Rick’s shift at the restaurant it was late, 3 am.
The weather, there was lots of it, mainly snow and below zero temperatures, not a typical winter night in Spokane – worse, much worse.
Rick and Scott said, “good night” to their co – workers and headed to Scott’s car. A short walk to the employee section of the parking lot, but long enough to freeze both Rick and Scott. For Rick and Scott were dishwashers at a major restaurant in Spokane. Because of the nature of their job, washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen facilities after hours, they were wet. Wet doesn’t describe it, they were soaked, and their jeans retained water better than a sponge. Merely adding a jacket, gloves and hat was not enough to fight the cold back, it clung to the wet clothing and added a refrigerator feeling that you couldn’t find in the best ice – box. By the time they got to their car and scraped the ice off the windows, Scott and Rick were convinced that they were wearing ice with an overcoat.
It was a long drive home. Scott preferred the back road to the house as there were fewer lights or traffic as they evaded the center of the city and the popular drive, Division St, which most people preferred. As the car warmed up, so did the conversation. Scott and Rick had been friends through high school and even now called themselves, best friends. They even had a crush on the same girl. Well that could be the only secret Scott kept from Rick or the girl, otherwise they shared every known fact with each other. Tonight was no different. As the car travelled down the hill, the conversation meandered from work, to girls, to tomorrow’s activities.
The conversation did not get that deep this evening though, for the wind was howling, the snow was blowing, and the roads were icy and in terrible condition. Scott had to concentrate on navigating and keeping his car on the road. He was really longing to remove his ice outfit and jump under the covers and finally be warm.
As the two made it down the hill and towards the valley, a smell came into the heating vents. “Darn”, Scott blurted out. “What?”, Rick asked; he had not been paying attention and was already falling asleep. “I think I blew a freeze plug tonight”.
“A freeze plug”
“Well no doubt, it’s freezing outside”
“We are overheating; the temperature gauge is almost in the red!
“Overheating! Start emergency overheating procedures”. Rick had a fix-it cure for everything mechanical. His cure for overheating was to put the heat on maximum and to coast on all downhill sections thus working the engine as little as possible and drawing all the heat from the engine as possible.
“Over heating procedures in effect”, Scott answered back as if he was talking to the commander of a battle ship.
“Not good. I do not think we are going to make it home”.
“Come on, we only have a few miles, it’s mostly downhill. You’ll make it.”
Tensions rose. Slowly the temperature gauge crept into the red, then through it, and finally sat on top of it like the proud winner of a contest gleaming with pride to have traveled the full radius that it was allowed. The heat slowly stopped pouring out of the heater, and worse yet, the car started responding slower and slower as it could no longer perform properly in these types of conditions. Steam, lots of it, filled the cabin of the car creating a fog bank thicker than a summer day in San Francisco. “Roll down the windows”, ordered Scott. “We’ll freeze to death” complained Rick. “Lower the windows now or well die because I can’t see” yelled Scott, assuming the commander position.
The wind wiped into the car, the steam dissipated, vision returned; but Rick could have been right the interior temperature of the car seemed lower than the outside temperature streaming in.
BOOM! The car exploded! Power to the drive train died, the car slowed. “This is it, we pull over here”, commented Scott as he crept up to the curb next to the Kaiser plant.
The Kaiser plant is a cement factory on the north side of town. It is a large facility, completely chained in, very few security lights (they are not too worried about people stealing cement) and completely isolated from the city. It was one of the land marks on this side route that Scott used to enjoy seeing as it meant they were just a few miles from home; however in this type of storm, a few miles might as well been a thousand. There was no way the two could walk home and survive; they would have been frozen before they made it half way home.
With the windows back up, the car stopped, the engine off, and their breath visible as they spoke Rick asked, “now what?” “I have no idea, except that we are not walking home. I guess we sit here and wait until morning”. “Scott, I’m already cold, we have to figure out something”. “Like what?”. “Perhaps we can put snow in the radiator and that will be enough to get us home?” “I’m game – let’s go”. And out the doors the pair bounded, Scott lifting the hood, and peering through the steam at his now dead car. “First problem how do we get the radiator cap off?”, Scott asked.
Rick who usually had good solutions could only come up with, “I think we have to wait until it cools down so we can touch it”. “Then I am getting back in the car, and fast” was the only response Rick heard as Scott was already half way back to the door.
Both doors slammed. The two looked at each other and simultaneously say, “it so cold!” Being in the car was marginally better than outside, for you did not have the wind beating down on you. However Scott’s car was old. It had had a hard life. It was rusted and there were spaces where the wind could come through the floor boards making mini tornados on the floor. “I think it could be getting as cold in here as it is outside”, commented Rick. And then he started digging.
In the back seat of Scott’s car was all sorts of junk. Rick pulled news paper up front and stuffed every crack and crevice with paper. If nothing, it gave the illusion of stopping the cold from sneaking in. However, this was an illusion. The windows quickly iced back over, and the pairs clothes turned back into an ice outfit. Rick started digging through the ashtray. “What are you doing” asked Scott. “Looking for matches, you always have matches”. “What are you going to do, build a camp fire?” “We have to do something; I just want to heat my hands a little”. “We’ll you’re not starting a fire in my car Rick. We’ll die from asphyxiation or the dang car will burn up with us inside it”. “At this point I think that’s better than freezing to death”.
It was the cold. The two would learn later, the coldest evening of the winter and the start of a 3 day blizzard that left the entire valley under feet of snow and completely shut down – tonight was just the beginning. When you’re this cold, shivering happens uncontrollably, heat is a dream, and anything that seems warm is a good idea. Rick was determined that he had a good idea but Scott was adamant, no matter how battered his car was, he was not about to let Rick build a fire in it. Rick was frustrated. They sat in silence. Sometimes best friends say more being quiet than they do with words.
“Do you ever think another car will drive by?” asked Scott to break the silence. “NO! Not with your stupid back roads route that you insist on” was the reply. “I bet a cop will drive by any minute. Man would I love to see a cop about now”. “That would be the first time ever Scott. Seriously, no one is going to come along; we are so screwed at this moment”. “No Rick, we only have a few more hours until daylight, then we will be OK”. In a few more hours I will have hyperthermia”.
This was not too far from the truth. Both were already shaking uncontrollably and sitting next to each other to share what ever body heat they could.
Rick reached into the ashtray and took Scott’s money. “Now what are you doing?”. “I am going to go find a pay phone and call the Motz’s to come get us. I’ll walk down the plants fence to the end behind us and come back. If I don’t find a phone you go down the fence in front of us and do the same”. “Deal! And Rick, please do not go off the sidewalk, I think you could get lost in this storm”. “Sure, I’ll be right back with the rescue cars!” And out the door he headed. By now the snow was swirling and a gust of it came in the car. Rick slammed the door. With the ice on the window Scott could only make out a shadow of a man slowly disappearing down the fence and into the dark stormy night.
On nights like this, time stops. It is no longer important. Only heat and living until the next morning is. Scott crawled up into a ball, like a puppy going to sleep, and tried to seep every ounce of heat out of the seats and into his body. Later, who knows how long, the door blew open and Rick jumped in. He was a walking snowman. The snow had covered his wet clothes and stuck. His face was deep red and his eyebrows were layered in snow. He didn’t take the time to stamp it off, he just jumped in. Seriously cold he shivered between chattering teeth, “no luck” and handed the coins to Scott.
Pulling his jacket tighter and his hat down Scott jumped out of the car for his part in the rescue mission. The cold hit Scott like a blast furnace oven door opening; but only in reverse. It wasn’t warm hot air rushing at him but the kind that knifes through clothing like it isn’t there. The snow was blowing sideways making it hard to see even the front of his car, let alone the fence to the Kaiser plant, and within seconds his internal body temperature dropped. If people had temperature gauges, Rick and Scott’s would be dangerously close to blue – and like a car entering red, blue would have been just as bad. Soon their engines were going to stop.
Nothing like feeling like you’re going to die, to pull your reserve energies and go further than you possibly think you can. The Kaiser fence was long, they had acres of land and Scott was walking the perimeter in the opposite direction that Rick had just attempted. Leaning into the wind, he crept along the walk, praying a phone booth would appear, a security guard shack, or some stray car would wander down this road. Not tonight, no one in their right minds was coming down this road, in this storm, at this hour.
The distance built until the fence made a bend and headed down a hill into a ravine. “End of the road”, Scott thought, “no luck; we’ll just have to wait it out until morning”. And with this thought he turned back around and headed back for the warmth – less cold – interior of his car.
The wind was blowing, the snow was falling, and visibility was at near zero. ‘Just stay by the fence, you’ll see your car on the right as soon as you get there’ was Scott’s only thought. He was afraid in this weather he might walk right by it. However Rick had a light for him and as he neared the car, he could see it was not a light but a fire!
Shortly after Scott had left the car Rick decided a fire was the best thing to do. So he pulled some metal plates out of the rear of the car that Scott had used to cover rust holes in the floor. He placed these on the front seat, one on the seat and one against the back to act like a heat reflector and then kindled a fire from the trash in the car. At this point Scott wasn’t even mad, he just wanted in. A fire on a night like this is like a vision from God. Who could possibly get mad when you are this cold? Scott could not and once again felt he had the smartest friend on earth. So Scott climbed in and helped feed the fire and maintain smoke management along with Rick.
It’s times like this that you actually forget about reality and only think of survival. Every scrap of burnable material was ripped from the car. Both cleaned up the garbage, tore up boxes, and even broke some wood scraps they found. It seemed to be helping. However a Ford Maverick is a small car, and there is only so much combustible material that can be found, and sadly the fire went out. Rick threw the remains outside the car. And then they looked at each other as if knowing it was a valiant try but by morning they would be blue, dead, and cold. Nothing needed to be said, the friends had lived together, worked together, tried to survive together, and now would die together. Damn unlucky to be caught in a storm like this with a broken radiator.
They sat. Both lost in their own private thoughts. Some say, your life flashes before your eyes right before your death. For both Rick and Scott, it was just snow. Snow blowing sideways that seemed to push the cold into the car, through their clothes and to the depths of their bones. How long does it take to freeze to death they both wondered privately for neither would talk in the negative, even in the worst situations.
It was late, later than either could imagine. How long had they sat in that car? How long since the fire went out? How long since either tried to rescue the other? Neither could tell. Both could only pray that sunlight would come soon and that the glow of sunrise would raise the temperature in some way.
But the glow they saw was the headlights of a car! “RICK! It’s a car!” Scott shouted as he leaped out the car all in one motion, into the heart of the storm. No car was going to go by him. He would jump on it if he had to do so to get the attention of the driver. And this is what he was determined to do. Scott ran directly into the headlights, attempting a head on collision as his way to get noticed. It worked, the car came to a stop a short distance before reaching Scott. But it just sat their idling, looking in his direction, Scott was barely visible to the driver but the driver knew there was a person in the road and another quickly approaching from behind him. Scott thought, ‘great I scared the hell out of this person’ and Rick ran up besides and asked, “what’s happening, why did they stop?”
At that moment, over the howling of the wind, Scott heard the most beautiful voice and words he had ever heard. More beautiful than a Beatle song while sitting with your girl on the Santa Cruz beach on the hottest summer day, more beautiful than a cook calling ‘supper time’ to a bunch of hard working cow-hands, more beautiful than an angel singing; and that’s who it was, an angel.
“You two going to stand out in this storm all night, or are you going to get in the car?” the voice called out. “Missy!”, Scott cried. Rick and Scott could not move fast enough for the door. They decided they should both sit in the front bucket seat as close to the heater as possible and climbed in – Rick sitting on Scott. They both kissed Missy. They both felt the sigh of relief that they could possibly live tonight if Missy could just get her under powered Nissan back to the house in the blizzard.
Along the way, she informed them that when they had not shown up at the usual time she was worried because the news had forecasted the worst storm in several years. Missy had gone the normal route to the Restaurant and saw the car gone and got even more worried. As she headed back home, she looked in every parking lot, trying to figure out where Scott’s car had broken down. She just knew his car had broken down as it was a favorite thing Scott’s car would do – it loved breaking down at the most inconvenient times. And just about when she was going to give up she recalled how Rick had complained about Scott’s “Stupid circuitous route by the Kaiser plant”, so she thought she would try it.
The rest is history, they made it home, they got warm, and our hero lived another day to tell another tale.