Everybody in the Wink-Mart was talking about snow, how the snow was poised on the edge of the state, how Nebraska had to close I-80 west of Kearney, how last year a woman in South Dakota froze to death in a blizzard when she tried to make it to the barn to find her husband, how she was found two feet from the barn door and all of the time her husband was in the basement of their house snoozing in his favorite chair. And I just wanted my cigarettes and a few cans of peaches. In fact, I like snow because it gives trouble to everybody, not just me. When I was a kid I ate a lot of snow when I was thirsty. You put it in your mouth and there it is and then it’s gone. Anyway, there must be ten brands of peaches, but I always buy Sweet Georgia brand in the bright yellow can. It’s time to open up a little can of sunshine, I tell myself. I’m a creature of habit. I buy two cans at a time. As for cigarettes, I like ’em naked, no filters. Started when I was thirteen and my mother gave me my first Zippo lighter. I still have it: TO LITTLE RUSTY is engraved on the back. My father was called Big Rusty. There’s a restaurant in town with a sign that reads SMOKING REQUIRED. They serve Pony Express pancakes on Saturday mornings.
I was working my way to the front of Wink-Mart when I heard a woman scream. Then I saw this guy go running with a purse in his hand, so I got a good grip on one of the cans of peaches, and I threw it at the sonofabitch—in baseball it would have been a high inside fastball but in the Mart, it was just a can of flung peaches that hit the dumbass just behind the ear, dropping him in the cereal aisle. The manager called Officer Dewey and the lady, and it turned out to be Didi Timmerman, visiting from Dallas. Didi was the one talking about the frozen woman, and she thanked me and tried to give me a twenty-dollar bill for my trouble. I refused it. So, I got my carton of cigs and my peaches—but I didn’t get to buy the can that hit the guy in the head because Tommy Pledge, the store manager, wanted to keep it for a souvenir. The perpetrator had a face like a spoon and a puny mustache. I thought it might be Tiff Springer’s son but he died walking across the interstate last year. The can left a pretty good cut on this guy’s head. He was on his knees moaning about how he was going to sue me.
I walked home with a twitch in my throwing arm.
The next morning I got up and looked out the window. The whole world was white as a piece of paper. Nothing was moving. You couldn’t tell the sky from the ground, and I got a little dizzy just looking for the horizon. I ate some peaches with month-old cottage cheese on top. Reach me a cigarette, I said to myself. I chain-smoked ten or fifteen cigarettes and dipped into a Louis L’Amour novel-—the smell of mesquite, horses that nicker, a weary palouse, calico, leather, a dry gulch, a view of Chimney Rock, a girl named Connie, some whisper of danger in the wind. That’s a place a person might want to be.
I fought the urge to challenge the horizon, but I lost. I headed out for the Wink-Mart. The snow was very deep but my feet always know just where to go.
Gordon W. Mennenga grew up in a small Iowa town where he learned to pay attention and take notes. His work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, The North American Review, Epoch and the Citron Review. His monologues have been featured on NPR and produced by the Riverside Theatre Company. He keeps his life busy by saying yes a lot. He misses John Prine and snowy days. Gordon lives in Iowa City, Iowa with his wife Lynn.