TAKES A SNOW
“Yeah!” they all cheered, as Hank stumbled
in Bar 13.
In a snowstorm like this, only the diehards came
out. Tina had just three
customers since 3 P.M.: twitchy Speed; Ringo, the bald biker; and
Carolyn the crack whore. And now Hank.
“The more the merrier,” Tina said.
And meant it. She was sick of these clowns. Hank
was the nicest of all her
Tonight, he looked like the Grim Reaper, the hood
covering most of his
worn-out face. He’d been sick a long time, with all kinds of shit. Cancer, for
one. When he pushed back the hood, his eyes looked haunted.
“Hank?” Carolyn said, in her nauseating
way. “Buy me a shot?”
“Jeez!” Speed said. “Let him take
his fucking coat off, first.”
Tina smirked. She’d been thinking the same
“Sure,” Hank said, wearily.
People used him for drinks, a loan, even his last
cigarette. To clean his
house nude, Carolyn charged him a bundle.
Too cold to strip tonight, Tina
thought. She wondered if the go-go bar in the next town was closed. For all she
knew, Bar 13 was the only bar open, period.
She opened the back door. Outside, it was a winter
falling like mad, coating trees and tops of cars. The soft, fun kind it was
great to stomp through. Like when you were a kid. Nights like these were so peaceful.
“Yo, bitch!” Ringo said, clearly to Carolyn.
“That’s my fuckin’
Oh, jeez, Tina thought, and shut the
“Think I’m a thief?”
“I know yer a . . .” Smirking, Ringo
“Hey, hey!” Even Hank’s voice was
thin. Like it was lost in the blizzard.
“Knock it off. I’ll give ya the five bucks.”
“Why should you?” Speed demanded.
“Outta here. Tina . . .” The twenty shook
in Hank’s hand. “And
drinks all around.”
“Malibu Bay Breeze,” Carolyn told Tina.
‘Cos Hank’s buying, Tina
thought. Since 6 P.M. Carolyn had been drinking the
As Tina reached for the Malibu, Carolyn added, “A
Tina froze. User, she thought. Fucking
sneaking . . .
Oh, Felix, she thought, suddenly.Last
July, when it hit 90 some nights, Felix was still alive. In County, sure, but
above ground. Walking, breathing, eating jailhouse food with white bread and
But thanks to Carolyn, he was dead.
At the register, Tina forced back tears. It was Carolyn
who’d gotten Felix
locked up. . . for jewel-theft! Then torn to pieces by some asshole
who’d thought Carolyn was his. All over crack.
The guy got life, Tina heard. But .
Felix still got death.
“Whoa!” A blast of cold air brought Tina
back. “It’s still comin’
down!” Ringo said, from the doorway. He tried to light his cigarette, but the
wind was too strong.
“So smoke inside.”
“Yeah,” Tina said, eyeing Carolyn, who
Dumb fucking law: no smoking in bars. Tina wasn’t a smoker, herself,
but she knew all about addiction.
“Mamita,” Felix had told Tina, at
County. “Didn’t mean to play you dirty. It just . . . happened.”
As Carolyn grabbed his cigarettes, Hank smiled sadly.
“You . . .” he told
Tina, “are a very nice girl.”
I’m not, Tina thought. I’m
just . . .
Lovesick. Still, six months after
seeing Felix in that box. Stiff, dark curls she still found on his clothes—she
just couldn’t bring them to the Salvy. Oversized brown eyes seemed to follow
her, everywhere, though they’d been sewn shut, long lashes on cold, hollow
When Hank’s lips gripped his cigarette, the
oddest feeling came over Tina:
that this would be his last smoke ever.
“Someone,” Hank said, “should
. . .” He looked around, like he was
confused. “I mean, there’s lots of . . . love in this world .
There was, Tina thought.
“No,” Ringo said. “There’s
not. It’s a cold-ass place. Even when it ain’t
snowin’. ” He blew smoke in Carolyn’s face. “Hell on ice.”
There was dead silence. Then Hank said, “I
wouldn’t say that.”
You, Tina thought, of
all people. The closest to a dirt nap. He looked ready to keel
“I would.” Ringo stabbed
out his cigarette. “And don’t tell me
there’s a God.”
“There might be,” Hank said. Weakly,
he waved for another round.
The back door opened, with some difficulty. Al, the
“And there He is, now!” Speed joked.
“Fucking snow,” Al said, “and wind.”
He struggled with the
door. Inside, he kicked snow off his galoshes. “Bad for business. No
“The fuck’re we?” Ringo
Al ignored him. “Call ‘Last Call,’
yet?” he asked Tina.
“ ‘Last Call?’ ”
Speed said, horrified.
“It’s only midnight,” Carolyn said.
“S’ almost one.” Al
said. “Check yer watch.”
Tina cringed. She knew what was coming.
“Oh, that’s right.” Al snickered.
It got stolen.
Felix, Tina thought, for
the zillionth time since he died.
Slow night or not, Al was as hot to close up as the
regulars were to stay
drunk. He wouldn’t let Speed and Ringo play pool. Took away their unfinished
“Fuck you!” Ringo said, on their way
As Carolyn slid money in the jukebox, Al shut it
“Hey!” she said. “You owe me five
Al’s smirk vanished when he saw Hank. “Teen,”
Tina looked up from the cooler. Hank’s face
was ash-gray. His hood was
back up. More than ever, he looked like Death took a snow day.
Then Carolyn was back, hanging on him. He opened
his eyes, but didn’t seem
to see any of them.
“Want a ride home?” Al asked him.
“He ain’t leavin’!”
Carolyn hovered over Hank’s money.
“You’z all are, real
soon. Close out,” Al told Tina.
As Tina ran the register, Al gave Hank his arm, but
Hank shook his head.
“I only,” Hank whispered, “live
. . . a few blocks . . . away.”
Tina collected her tips, which sucked. Usually Hank
tipped the best. But
tonight she got nothing from him.
She pulled on her jacket. Felix’s:
battered black leather,
with a zipper that stuck, sometimes. Even since last winter, his smell was
still on it.
With the jacket, an unbearable sadness came over
her. But not just for
Felix. She kissed Hank’s cheek, which was cold.
“Bye, Angel,” he said, without looking
Bye, good buddy, she thought.
“You don’t want a ride?” Al said,
but she hurried out the door.
Outside, the sobs came, from deep inside her. Loud,
hiccupy sobs, that
probably woke up everybody on the block.
The snow had stopped, finally. The wind had died
down, too. But the snow
was so deep, she could hardly walk in it. With each step, snow crept into her
boot-tops. Soon her socks would be drenched, and cold.
Last winter, they’d had only one storm. Felix
was their building’s super.
Early that morning, he was outside, shoveling. In this same jacket Tina had on.
In the doorway she stood, in her pajamas, shivering, holding the hot coffee
she’d made for him.
Mamita! he’d said. Drink
it, yourself. Or you’ll catch cold. Baby, don’t die on
Somehow, she wound up on Hank’s block, which
was out of her way. But she
didn’t turn back.
In the distance, near Hank’s house, someone
was already out, shoveling.
Tina pulled the jacket tighter around her. As she
got closer, she saw
it was Hank’s walk that was being shoveled. By somebody who
couldn’t work fast enough.
A teenager, she thought. Out to make
money. ‘Cept Hank wasn’t home to pay him. Hank . . .
Again, tears came.
Tina watched the young guy work. He was lean, curly-headed.
Though it was
freezing out, he wore no jacket. But he didn’t seem to feel
Shivering herself, she got closer.
As he scooped up the snow, muscles tightened in his
arms. He hurled it
behind him. Over and over, without a break. Like he was super-human.
He didn’t look at her.
She got as close as she could without getting bashed
with the shovel.
When he looked at her, she smiled. His brown eyes
were huge, long-lashed.
They looked right through her.
Still smiling, she turned and headed back down the
block. Stomping, like a
kid . . .
Home to coffee and dry socks.
“Death Takes a Snow Day” originally
appeared in Pulp Metal in May, 2011.
Cindy is a Jersey girl who works
in New York City & who talks like Anybody’s
from West Side Story. She works out
5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants.
She loves peanut butter, blood-rare meat, Jack Daniels, and Starbucks coffee
(though not usually in the same meal). She’s been published in the usual
places, such as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled,
of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, and Twisted
Sister. She is the editor/art
director of the ezine, Yellow Mama.
She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist.