Snow Storm Team Four
Frank Gomez woke up at five past midday. His wife Gina was still at work and his kids were staying over at a friend’s house for the storm. He knew he was on for a fifteen hour overnight shift so he paced himself. Frank found all the clothes he needed folded in a neat pile on a chair with a note on top, that read. ‘Stay safe! Love Gina’
Gina always knew how to make him feel better when uncertainty was ahead.
Frank closed the bathroom door and turned on the TV. The news were blowing things out of proportion as usual. Special report from various points in the fifteen counties that would be affected by the storm rolled in. Opinions of random dog walkers were broadcasted just because they sounded funny. At times attentions seekers danced behind the reporters and made viewers chuckle on their couches. The governor was being grilled with questions by pushy columnists.
Frank was on the governor’s side because he knew that making decisions affecting millions of people based on weather forecasts was never easy. He agreed with road bans after eleven past midday and the complete shut down of the subway and trains. Better to be safe than sorry. Decisions had to be made for people because people watch too much action shows and crave action themselves. His train of thought was interrupted by Moses, the family German Shepard. What a smart dog, Frank smiled, I wish I could take him with me.
He gave Moses a fresh bone that would last the dog through the night. Made himself some oatmeal with honey and walnuts and ate it while his coffee was brewing. He filled his thermos with his favorite slow-roasted almond arabica and went to start the car.
His job for the night was to coordinate Storm Team Four. A twenty two plow truck unit charged with the task to keep East Midtown’s streets snow free. He undocked his radio from his office desk and took a clip board with a checklist of the drivers.
Everyone was waiting by the trucks, happy to see him. He was a loved boss, because he took care of business, he treated everyone firm but kind, and he didn’t tolerate bullshit. So nobody dared to make a funny remark about the governor or the city administration. He made them understood that everyone’s job was tough.
He went down the list and before he could finish his deputy came from the crowd and said. ‘Jerry and Martinez are out of commission. Jerry’s wife got in a accident on the turnpike, some jackass was sledding down the hill and she swerved into the shoulder to avoid him. Martinez is stranded in Jersey, they are hit pretty hard already and the bridges are closed.’
‘Tell Jerry that our thoughts are with him and to keeps us posted on how is Lisa doing. We will leave the patrol car here. You take Martinez’s, I will take Jerry’s truck and let’s get to work.’
‘Got it boss. Listen up! Let’s get to it. No patrol car tonight. Jerry and Martinez couldn’t make it. Me and the chief will be riding with you boys. Let’s show this Goddamn storm where to shove it!’ The deputy had a flare for public speaking.
The trucks hit the streets. Frank was sipping his coffee and going slowly east on 57th street when he saw a German Shepard tied to a street lamp. Frank looked around for an owner, but the streets were completely empty. What kind of sick person would leave their dog out in the blizzard to freeze to death, thought Frank.
He stopped the truck, got out and walked to the dog. The poor thing barked desperately. Frank untied it and put it in the cabin with a warm blanket. Then he came back to the street to take one last look around for the owner. In the stillness of the night, he heard an unnatural banging. A young man was pounding at the door knob of a bodega across the street with a hammer. He probably thought Frank was back in the truck, but when he came into view, the vandal froze. Frank was a few feet from him, tall and fearless. The vandal panicked, and in rush, he gripped the hammer hard and threw it at Frank with all his strength.
Frank didn’t have time to react. He was as frozen by the shock as his nose was from the blistering weather. The hammer flew by his left ear, the cold metal grazing his skin and knocking off his hat. As the hammer disappeared in a pile of snow behind him, the vandal ran off in a hurry, not stopping for even a moment to see if he inflicted any damage. Frank was above anger, it was a miracle. He didn’t chase, he stood there. He stood and looked up because he believed this was a Divine intervention. He slowly walked to the truck, without a worry in the world. He looked up and down the empty streets, saw only snowflakes glittering in the light of street lamps. He climbed back to cab of the truck and found the dog sleeping peacefully on the passenger seat.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. Thankfully the storm was carried further east by strong winds, so the heart of the city was not hit hard. Frank met his team back at the base at eight in the morning.
‘Good job guys, get some rest and keep your families safe.’
Then he drove home to have breakfast with Gina. She had just woke up. ‘How was it, any accidents, issues?’
‘Jerry and Martinez could not make it. Lisa is the hospital but she will be fine. Other than that it was a beautiful night out there.’
‘Oh, and Moses has a new friend.’
more by MILEN VASILEV
photograph by Samuel Zeller