Pasquale could feel the frigid draft from the window over their bed. The blankets they had hung there buffered the winter wind, but if the sound of that wind was any indication of its power, the draft certainly verified it.
Times may change, but love remains.
He felt along the floor next to the bed and found his trousers. The fabric was stiff with cold. Already in long johns and woolen socks, he swung his legs over the side, pulled on his pants, and yanked the suspenders over his shoulders. He slipped another woolen sweater over his flannels.
He walked down the hallway and was greeted by the aroma of frying bacon. Pauline had already been up before him preparing his breakfast. She poured his coffee, and he sat by the table.
They gazed out the window at the sideways-flying snow. He sighed before he began eating. She folded the wax paper around his sandwich and put it in the bag with an apple. She poured the rest of the coffee into his red plaid thermos, and he paused to kiss her goodbye.
He went through the mud porch and descended the stairs to add some coal to the furnace. He banged the shovel to scatter the mice and completed his task. Once up the stairs and outside, he took the other shovel from the side of the house and dug a path to his dairy truck. The path he made was already being blown over when he reached the truck.
The truck’s failing heater blew a lukewarm breeze around his ankles, and he could still see his breath in the cab when he got to the dairy to load up. He pulled into the garage bay and waved hello to the other drivers, who were all loading and laughing together.
His truck now full, he hit the open road and began his deliveries of milk, cream, butter, eggs, cottage cheese. He went in and out of that snow and often up and down apartment stairs for the next six hours.
Had his boots not been frozen, they would have been soaked. He could barely feel his feet.
By noon he had completed his tasks, and he stopped in an alley between two buildings to cut the wind. He ate his sandwich and finished his coffee. He would save the apple in
his pocket for later.
He returned to the dairy and began restocking shelves and stacking pallets. His boots began to thaw and were now just soaked. Around 4 p.m., he paused near the loading dock and ate his apple. He finished a few more chores, clocked out, and headed home.
Frozen to the bone, he first went back downstairs to reload the furnace with coal. He came back up the stairs, through the porch, and into the house. He put his boots by the heater to dry for the night.
In the bathroom, he washed his face and hands, combed his hair, and put on a clean white shirt for dinner. Pauline had it pressed and hanging in the bathroom for him.
He came to the table, where his two kids were enjoying enormous glasses of milk; one of the advantages of working at the dairy; there was always plenty of milk for his kids and always plenty of butter and cheese to use as trade with the butcher, the grocer, and other men of the trades. Barter was as much a way of life as cash.
He smiled at his healthy, happy children, his loyal and beautiful wife, and the bounty before them. Ham steaks and diced potatoes were waiting on the table until the family sat down together. Once they did, they joined hands and thanked God for their good fortune.
The cool jazz sounds began to penetrate Patrick's mind enough that he stirred on his pillow and opened one eye to see the red numbers staring back at him; time to get up.
He heard his wife in the shower, which meant the kids were already on the bus, so he descended the stairs and went into the kitchen. He looked out the window at the blowing snow and checked his cell phone to see exactly what the temperature was at the moment; 20 degrees? Was this thing right?
He grabbed a breakfast sandwich from the freezer and popped it into the convection oven. The coffee, preset last evening, had already been dispensed from the console in the kitchen's center island and, with the remote, Patrick turned on the morning news and weather report. Through the split-screen option, he checked his emails.
He set the toaster timer for his wife's morning bagel and got into the other bathroom's shower. Twenty minutes later, pressed and dressed, Patrick kissed Paula good morning as she finished her bagel and set a microwavable lunch next to each of their briefcases.
He pressed the button that opened the attached garage door and hit the remotes to start their car's heaters so that they were nice and warm when they got in. With a dismissive smile and wave, each got into their separate car, driving side by side down the driveway that service had plowed hours ago as they slept.
At the end of the driveway, Patrick went left and Paula went right. Seconds later he remembered he had forgotten to remind Paula that he would be home late due to an afternoon meeting that he expected to go long--so he called her using the hands-free speaker in his car.
She put her friend on hold and took Patrick’s call. She was just fine with Patrick’s schedule change, because the kids had sports practice after school so she was just planning to pull through a drive-through fast-food joint for dinner.
Patrick said he would get his own dinner on the way home, too, but please have the kids wait for him before they settled in for a family video this evening. When he did get home, he microwaved a bowl of popcorn for them to share and joined the family on the pit group couch. Everyone was already enjoying a bottle of flavored mineral water.
He sipped his protein drink and he and Paula smiled at each other from opposite ends of the recliner.
"What a day!" he said. “I’m exhausted.”
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.