Brittany stepped back into the warm, rural home. “What’s taking dad so long?”
Her mom was unconcerned. “The snow probably slowed him.”
“That truck will go through anything and he’s never been this late, even in bigger storms.” Brittany was not one to stifle irritation.
Her mom added some spices to the casserole and popped it in the oven. “Honey, he could have bumped into someone in town and gotten into a conversation.”
“How could he possibly have forgotten his phone?”
She responded soothingly. “It’s not as important to him.”
“I texted Tommy. He’s working extra hours at the hardware store for Christmas break and he said dad left two hours ago.”
“Brit honey, I’m sure he’ll be home before dinner.”
“What if he slipped off the road into the river? What if he hit some ice and smashed into a tree? What if someone crashed into him?”
“What is all this worrying about?”
“Well, look what happened to Mr. McAllister two winters ago?”
“Yes, that was terribly tragic.”
“Angie’s never been the same. She hasn’t talked to anyone at school since.” Brittany retreated to her room and then shouted down the stairs, “He should carry his phone like everyone else in the world!”
Later on, when it was nearing time to pull the casserole, Wendy stepped out on the front porch. The big flakes were coming down softly. About six inches had layered an enchanting beauty on the landscape of rolling hills and winter farms. The weather forecast predicted ten inches would accrue once it was over. Its ability to absorb ambient sound graced the environment in an ethereal peace. Her husband didn’t mind the snow, although it meant extra work plowing the long driveway. Still, she wished he was home, especially since it was getting dark. She went back inside to retrieve dinner.
Shortly afterward, Brittany raced down the stairs, “Mom, somebody’s coming. It looks like Mr. Trenton’s truck.”
They met at the door.
“Come on in, Fred. Would you like some coffee?”
“Hi, Wendy. No thanks, I can only stay a minute.” His hat and shoulders were covered with snow. “Hello there, Brittany. You sure are getting tall. Are you graduating this year?”
“Well, congrat’s in advance.” He turned to Wendy. “That big oak tree, near the bridge, fell across the road. Bud is on the other side working with his chainsaw. I was on my way into town and now I’m returning home to get my own saw. It’s going to take a while to clear a large enough section to let the plows through, so Bud asked me to let you know he’s going to be late.”
“Thank you, Fred, we really appreciate it.”
While eating, Brittany was moody. “If he had his phone, he could tell us when he’ll be here.”
“Well, maybe you should remind him of that.”
It was a few hours after dark when the black pickup pulled into the garage. The snow was deeper but the rate of fall had slowed.
Bud removed his outer attire and boots in the mud room and emerged into the kitchen with a smile. “That casserole smells good.”
“Hi, Bud. I’ve got some warm for you.”
Brittany bounded down the stairs. “Dad, why don’t you have your phone?”
“Hi, sweetie. I forgot.”
She put her head against his chest for a prolonged hug. “You always say that!” She held him like she would never let him go.
“Yea, I’ll try to be better about that.” He kissed the top of her head. Looking over to his wife he went on, “The road’s open again.”
She set a plate of casserole at the head of the table. “Was it just you two?”
“In the last hour, there were four of us cutting. I was glad Fred happened by when he did because I only keep the small saw in the truck. I would have been there all night with that thing if I was by myself. Oh! And I got those poinsettias you asked for.” Turning his attention back to his daughter, “I saw Tommy in the store. He said to tell you hello.”
“Yes, I texted him to find out when you left.”
Bud laughed, “I’m glad you’re keeping track of me.” He sat down at the table. His wife and daughter joined him with some herbal tea and crackers. “By the way, Tommy also told me he was going to ask you to the dance.”
“What!?” Her cheeks began to glow. “It’s about time. How did he come to tell you?”
“Well, I didn’t have my phone to call you, so I asked him what he thought teenage girls want for Christmas this year.”
Bud paused and took another bite of the casserole. “As part of that conversation, he said he was getting up his nerve to ask you.”
“What’s there to get nerve up about?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Boys can be so inconsiderate. He should have asked a month ago. He’s lucky I haven’t said yes to anyone else, yet.”
Bud and Wendy smiled.
Brittany spoke louder, “And what did he say girls want for Christmas?”
Bud paused with his fork and confided. “He had no idea.”
The teenage smirk softened while her parents laughed.
Bud went on, “Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t have my phone. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have needed to talk to him and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to suggest he ask you soon.” Bud chuckled and mischievously glanced at his wife. “Who knows, if he’s like some guys, it might have taken him a long time to get around to it.”
Wendy smiled in reminiscence.
by George Alger
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