Thursday, February 24, 2011

February Follies

"Whomever it was that laid out the calendar as we know it now, ought to be sent a thank-you," began Mr. Hall, after a long period of silence on the way into work one morning. "Because making February the shortest month of the year was an act of mercy, plain and simple." Mrs. Hall could only concur.
Winter was beginning to look interminable. Where the plows had carved straight-sided canyons surrounding the driveway, strata upon strata of dirty snow told the tale of successive waves of storms throughout the month. Every week, the walls grew higher and higher.
Super Bowl Sunday had come in modestly. Usually, just about the time the Halls are donning their team's colors, the snows come roaring in and make the yearly pilgrimage to Digger's famous Super Bowl Party a logistical nightmare. But this year, the storms, like the really witty television commercials, were a no-show. Mr. Hall had taken care of business prior to the game, and so, courtesy of Digger's generous boards, they came away with $50 on the happy side of the ledger. The food and the crowd were as engaging as ever, and Karen Hadjski graciously sent the Halls home with a couple of containers of their famous Manhattan clam chowder for later week munching. In fact, mushing their way back to the big black car that evening, they had even remarked how calm and beautiful the night sky appeared.
Across the country, however, the weather gods had decided to stage their own little Superbowl, and pitting the East against the Midwest, tried to see which team could lay down the most hurt. While Chicago was racking up the inches in an impressive display that brought Lake Shore Drive to its knees, Syracuse continued its quest to win yet another Golden Snowball award. Master Ian flew in from California for a brief stay, helping out his recruiting station nearby. Mr. Hall was baffled why anyone would willingly leave a temperate climate in the dead of winter, but Mrs. Hall suspected Ian had an ulterior motive. Having watched him fleece several of his friends in a couple of late night tournaments, it appeared Ian may have been funding his modest lifestyle with poker matches and video game playoffs.

One of the brighter spots in the everlasting twilight that is February is the Auto Show, and braving the elements (yet again...) the Halls made their annual appearance. This year the displays were somewhat top heavy with muscle cars, a disparity Ian particularly relished. There is a good chance he sat in the driver's seat of every one of them. Mrs. Hall, tentatively drawn to the bikes, may have flirted momentarily with the Vespa, but as Mr. Hall knows, her heart is wrapped around a beautiful bottle-green Miata in the hanger at home. ("His name is Winston, just so you know..." Mrs. Hall had informed Mr. Hall. "I went in to cover him up and make sure his bumpers weren't touching anything, and it just came to me." A few thoughts had come into Mr. Hall's mind at the time as well, but he let them go unexpressed.)
Getting through the winter had become such an ordeal, that Valentine's Day nearly passed without notice. Noting that it had been a while since they had dined at Ichibon's (and that sake and sushi were particular favorites of Mrs. Hall), he made reservations for a late dinner there for them. Even lunch that day was a surprize; with the wave of his hands, Mr. Hall produced a gift certificate from a colleague of his, and he whisked Mrs. Hall off to a popular pub for some fun and spicy light fare. Ichibons's was packed, even for the late seating, but the crowd so festive and merry, that the dinner was a delight.
As if the weather were not enough for the poor postman to deal with, he had been groaning under the weight of fresh mail coming to the Hall. Ever since Mrs. Hall's appointment to a grand office, she had been inundated with invitations, meeting notices and reply forms. Despite the changing of the millennium and the instantaneous ease of email exchanges, most of the ladies of Eastern Star still preferred the comfort and security of old fashioned snail mail. "Are we going to all these meetings in New York City next week?" asked Mr. Hall. Mrs. Hall thought she detected a slight quiver in his voice, but nodded yes nevertheless. "Oh, and I forgot to tell you," he added, "The Grand Marshal called last night. Don't forget the rehearsal this Saturday." Mrs. H. blenched. The rehearsal she had failed to remember was scheduled to take place on the Masonic Campus in Utica. Local forecasters were predicting fairly steady winds around 20- 25 mph, with gusts topping 40 or 50 mph. Though there was only a chance of three to five inches more of snow, Mrs. Hall regarded the prospect of driving the big black car sixty miles on a whim rather darkly. She called the grand marshal early and inquired whether the meeting was still on. He answered in the affirmative, but upon checking the radar, Mrs. Hall realized he was still driving through the clear as he posted that. Loaded to the gills with her computer cables and emergency power supplies, she hit the highway. There might have been a wealth of stranded motorists along the way, but Mrs. Hall would never have been able to spot them- a virtual whiteout accompanied her nearly the entire trip. The radio reported the NYS Thruway was closing down behind her and the airport had ceased operations until more favorable conditions existed. "The Grand Matron is trying to kill me," she muttered as she pulled into what appeared to be the general vicinity of the parking lot. Approximately a third of the participants were in attendance. Two hours later, after a brief meeting and a quick lunch, she did the checklist, dug out the tires and returned to the Thruway. State authorities still had the road closed to the east, but heading back west and generally ignoring good sense and the suggested state speed limits, Mrs. Hall managed to ease into the parking lot at the funeral home by 2:00 pm. "Back already?" asked a surprized Mr. Hall. "You made good time. The funeral procession was a mess this morning. What would you like for lunch?" But Mrs. Hall was already settled back in the co-pilot's chair, eyes closed, warm and cozy, and trying to decide if she wanted one martini or two when she got home.

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