I chose the picture of the couch in the snow for my twenty-minute sprint this week.
Caleb walked along the side of the rode with his arms wrapped around himself. The snow was still falling slowly down around him as he trudged along. He was glad for his thick winter boots and his heavy winter coat, but even than wasn’t much help when he’d been out in the swirling snow for more than two hours. He hadn’t realized how far in the middle of nowhere he was when he decided to walk toward civilization instead of staying with his car.
It had probably been the right decision because he still had a dead battery in his phone and he hadn’t seen a single car on the long stretch of highway he’d walked so far. He knew his aunt lived in the boonies, but hadn’t expected his car to die half way between town and her place.
He crested a hill and paused at the top. There were some buildings ahead, that he didn’t actually remember passing on the way down. Maybe he hadn’t been looking far enough from the highway? Or maybe he’d stumbled off the highway and was now hopelessly lost. The buildings still seemed like a good bet. They might have a land line he could borrow to call his aunt or a tow truck.
Caleb started down the hill, still walking along the road, which was nominally cleared, so that he wasn’t wading through the foot-deep snow.
As he got closer to the little cluster of buildings, he saw a brown leather couch sitting in front of the fence near the road. It was covered in snow like everything else, but it still looked so inviting. Caleb shook his head. He wasn’t that tired. He didn’t need to sit down on a couch in the snow. With his luck, he’d fall asleep and end up dying of exposure.
Just past the couch was a wooden gate that stood open at the end of what looked like a gravel driveway. It wasn’t cleared of snow enough for a vehicle, but he could see furrows that meant a human being had been up to the mailbox and back some time in the last day, so Caleb followed the tracks down the drive toward the buildings.
As he approached, Caleb could see that the closer building was a barn, followed by something else that was probably another barn or a storage shed of some kind. Past that another hundred yards or so was an old farm house.
The barn was closed up tight, but Caleb could smell animals as he walked past it. A working farm would have people around. No family would abandon their livestock even for a storm like this. Hope made Caleb move a little faster as he trudged through the snow toward the house.
There were three steps up from the drive to the porch of the farm house. There were two pickup trucks and a little sedan parked off to one side, and Caleb thought he saw light coming around the curtains of one of the front rooms. He knocked his boots together to get the bulk of the snow off them and shook his coat out on the first stair, then climbed up onto the porch. It was a big wide, wraparound style with a couple rocking chairs on one end and a porch swing on the other.
The mat at the door said welcome, which Caleb hoped was promising. He raised his hand and knocked.
“Was Manny planning to come by or something?” Caleb heard someone call from inside.
“Not that I know of,” someone called back. Through the door it was hard to tell anything about the voices.
Caleb smiled when the door opened, pushing his hood back and hoping he didn’t look threatening.
The young woman who opened the door looked utterly confused. She was a little under five feet tall with her brown hair pulled back in a braid, wearing jeans and a heavy gray sweater.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Caleb said. “My car broke down, and I was hoping you had a phone I could use since mine’s dead.”
“Dad,” The girl yelled over her shoulder.
“Who is it, hon?” her father asked as he walked up behind her. He was definitely her father. They had the same nose and the same pale blue eyes, but he was over six feet tall with thickly muscled arms shown off by the blue t-shirt he wore with his jeans.
Caleb repeated his apology and request to use a phone. “I was on my way to see my aunt when the storm caught up with me. I hadn’t expected the snow until this evening and then my car died.”
“Come on in out of the cold,” the man said. “We’ll get you sorted out.”
“Thank you, sir,” Caleb said in relief.
The man opened the storm door and Caleb stepped inside, the warm air making his cheeks hurt and his eyes water. He blinked trying to see, and managed to identify a neat line of shoes beside a bench next to the door as well as his host’s bare feet peeking out below his jeans.
Caleb sat down on the bench and pulled his boots off, not wanting to track snow through the kind man’s house.
“You can leave your coat on the bench and follow me to the kitchen,” the man said.
“Thank you very much, sir,” Caleb replied. He stood up, careful to avoid the snow already melting off his boots, and shed his jacket.