Grace pt. 3

A freak snowstorm engulfed the city of Albuquerque. Schools were closed, and so was the rest of the city. It was in the dead of winter and Zane was getting ‘couped up.’ With twelve inches of snow on the ground, and two foot drifts, it would have been impossible to make it out of the long driveway without four-wheel-drive. Having said that, Zane went about the task of fastening snow chains to the drive wheels of his ’66 Impala. He knew that it was a long shot, but he had nothing better to do. Grace rolled on 14-inch wheels meaning that she sat low to the ground. “I’ll have to plow through those drifts.” Zane said to himself as his freezing fingers fidgeted with the clamping lever which secured the traction device to the rubber. To aid with clearing the windshield, Grace sat idling as the defroster blasted relatively warm air up against the frozen glass. Grace was buried in snow, and he would need to sweep her off. With the snow chains properly installed, Zane trudged back into the trailer house in order to procure a broom. By this time, the denim of his jeans was already damp with melting snow. He wasn’t in a big hurry, so he paused long enough to indulge with some coffee. He huddled up against the woodburning stove in an attempt to dry off. He was contemplating a dry pair of jeans when Charlie strolled down the narrow hallway into the kitchen. “You’re going to need some gloves,” Charlie explained, as he offered his ‘number-one-son’ a refill. “I’ll be alright,” Zane boasted. He didn’t want his father to think he was weak. In his heart Zane knew that he had already earned his stripes. For only being 17 years old, he had racked up a lot of respect from his father, and it was no longer necessary for the young prodigy to prove his manhood. “Your fingers are already turning pink, Son.” His father stated with parental concern. Charlie took a swig of coffee as he placed a pair of leather gloves upon the flat surface of the woodstove. He took the individual gloves and rotated them on the hot metal. As if they were two leathery pancakes, he flipped the gloves one by one as the heat from the cast-iron surface permeated the material with soothing warmth. After a quick minute, Charlie said, “now put these on!” It’s like an electric blanket for my hands, Zane thought to himself as he slid his fingers into the super-heated rawhide. From out of the blue, Charlie proclaimed that “I’m proud of you son, you’re going to be a good man someday.” He followed this up with a comfortable silence, as he knelt down to stoke the dwindling flames. Charlie was becoming more soft-spoken over the years. He concluded that his young life was fading into memory, as he quietly grappled with the fear of old age. Zane, who was pre-occupied, finished his coffee and trudged his way back through the snow.

Promptly upon sweeping off the windshield, Zane went about the task of shoveling snow. He cleared a ten-foot-long swath directly in front of his intended path. “This will provide me with a short runway,” he thought while settling into the driver’s seat. Zane had filled up the fuel tank the previous day in anticipation of the blizzard. He understood the weight of extra gasoline would provide more traction. To supplement this, Zane loaded down the trunk with two stray transmissions and some cinderblocks. As a result, the rear suspension had sagged under the excessive load. The extra weight would substantially amplify traction at the drive wheels. Hoping for the best, and expecting the worst, Zane dropped the Power-Glide into low. He knew that gaining forward momentum was the challenge, so he applied some gentle throttle and crossed his fingers. Grace had a factory installed limited-slip differential which prevented excessive wheel slippage during hard acceleration, and it proved to be a huge advantage.  The torque from the engine was gently transferred to the wheels as Grace wiggled and squirmed. Zane literally felt a sinking sensation, as the rear of the vehicle sank into the snow. The chains began to bite, and with hardly any effort Grace began to inch forward! Zane gently caressed the accelerator pedal in an attempt to keep the rear tires from spinning. In silent wonder, he marveled at the incredible traction that he was able to achieve. He made it about 50 yards before he got bogged down in the first large snow drift. Grace had lost her momentum. Zane could have once again taken to the shovel, but instead he opted to make another run at it! Zane rotated his lanky torso and carefully reversed back towards the trailer house, being careful not to slip out of his own ‘track’. Upon making it back to his point of origin, Zane once again coaxed the Power-Glide into low. Knowing that he had already cleared a 50-yard-long path, Zane applied more throttle this time around. As a result, Grace had managed to obtain some speed. As if she were a charging rhino, Grace blasted through the snow drift at a blistering 20 mph! The crushing blow to the wet snow created an explosion of white powder that temporally blocked his vision! Much to Zane’s delight, he was able to keep up enough inertia to navigate the left turn which led to the main driveway. “It’s only another 1500 feet,” Zane thought as he burrowed his way through the snowy mess. By this time Grace was struggling again because the end of the driveway was slightly uphill. Upon reaching the intersection that led to the county road, he encountered another snowbank which had been left in the wake of a passing snowplow. The sharp incline, coupled with the impressive berm, was too much to overcome. Once again, Grace had become bogged down. Once again, Zane reversed in his tracks. He repeated this method 3 times before realizing it was time to break out the snow shovel. Zane was patient, and he knew that he was going to wreck his chains if he continued to abuse them in this fashion. The passing snowplow had simply deposited too much snow, and Grace couldn’t bust through. Knowing that he was nearly defeated, Zane carefully reversed his way back towards the trailer house utilizing the path he had just created moments earlier. He shut the engine down and left his car abandoned at the junction that led back to the trailer house. Zane traversed the remaining distance on foot utilizing the freshly created tire tracks as a path. He was on his way to retrieve the snow shovel that he had left behind.

By the time Zane made it back to the house, Charlie was attempting to free his own pick-up from the same snowy dilemma. He was scraping the frost from a freshly swept windshield as he noticed his son trudging through the snow. Charlie correctly assumed that the snow berm would be too much. In a booming voice he called out to Zane, “Did you get her stuck son?  Zane went on to explain that he needed to shovel out a path in order to make it ‘the rest of the way out.’ Charlie nodded with pride knowing that his son was learning valuable skills. Without offering much more than a grunt, Zane grabbed the shovel and started back about his quest, Charlie quietly admired his son from a distance as Zane tossed the snow shovel into the backseat. “I’m not going to be around forever Son,” came a silent whisper from deep within.

Although the snowplow had passed, there was still four inches of hard packed snow left upon the gravel road. As a result the roads were empty. They were always pretty empty, Zane thought. But today the absence of travelers was profound.  He began to carve out a path with the shovel, as he marveled at the clear blue sky. The peaceful serenity of the snowy rural landscape was a reward in and of itself. The silence of the winter’s day was accentuated by sudden gusts of wind that would angrily howl against the bare skin of Zane’s exposed face. In spite of the hard work, Zane found that the experience was thoroughly enjoyable. By this time, his shoes and socks were equally as damp as his jeans. Shoveling that much snow was hard work, and the resulting perspiration was adding to his chill.

By the time Zane finished his chore, a six-foot-wide slot was created. On each side were two impressive piles of shoveled snow that measured roughly four feet high, and six feet long. That ought to do it, Zane thought to himself as he tossed the shovel into the back seat again. His wet jeans had become icy jeans by this point and his hands were frozen stiff. He climbed inside of the Chevy where he knew it would be warm. He promptly restarted the engine and placed his pink fingers over the ductwork of the defroster vent. As he briskly rubbed feeling back into his hands, he contemplated how easy it would be to ‘bounce’ the big Impala over the remaining shallow berm! Zane sat there shivering in his idling Chevrolet as he pondered his next move. I could make it all the way into Albuquerque with these tire-chains, he thought to himself.  Getting out of the driveway was the largest obstacle. Knowing that it would be senseless to travel into town with wet clothes, he decided to abandon Grace one more time. Once again, he made the voyage back to the trailer house with the intention of changing into some dry rags. This was Zane’s first time experimenting with snow chains, and he wanted to play some more…but it wouldn’t be as much fun if he didn’t have a destination. In that moment he thought about Ivan, and how he had recently helped him replace a starter motor in his pick-up. They weren’t exactly what you would call friends; they were more like acquaintances at this early stage. Zane knew where Ivan lived however and decided to make an impromptu appearance.  Ivan knew that Zane lived out in the sticks, and he would never expect him to just show up; especially on a day like this! With Grace patiently waiting at the end of the driveway, Zane shimmied into a dry pair of unwashed jeans. He felt like showing off!

…To be continued

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