“Was it cold?” Dad asks. “Uff-da. Let me tell ya: they don’t make cold like that anymore.”
He turns to me. “Care for a beer?”
We are in the garage/living room, a surprisingly well-carpeted area with a fridge, a couple of pieces of comfy furniture, and a wood-burning stove.
In other words, we are in heaven.
I hold my arm out, make “gimme gimme” motions with my right hand.
He opens the fridge, nodding. “Yep. They don’t make temperatures like that every day.”
“Yes-sir-ee,” He clears his throat. “It sure was cold.”
Oh. Almost missed my cue.
“Is that right?” I say. “Just how cold was it?”
From the far side of the room there is the sound of a can of beer being opened, and then he is walking toward me. He hands me the beer. He sits down – “Ooof!” – in the La-Z-Boy near the wood stove. He leans over, opens it up, throws some wood from the pile near the chair in. The fire cackles in the fading light of a winter afternoon, throws staticky comments concerning cold and warmth, of the beginning and the endings of things.
I pull the afghan around my legs. It is six below zero beyond these walls, a creeping, insidious cold that respects no boundaries.
“Did I ever tell you about the time it was so cold I dang-near had a heart attack?”
I shake my head. “Don’t think so,” I say.
He takes a pull from his beer. The light from outside has weakened considerably – it is, after all, almost 5:00 in the afternoon – and the only light in the room comes from the glow at the seams of the wood stove’s door.
My father sets his beer on the table next to the La-Z-Boy. “It was 1956,” he says. “I was 17, and we’d gone out to Burton’s house…”
Part II tomorrow? You know it, baby!