Thursday, 24 June 2010

'Her chest ached in that old, familiar way'

It was a summer of natural disasters, so Allie really should have been expecting the worst. First the temperature dropped steeply one afternoon, and the tourists, in their shorts and t-shirts and sandals, stumbled and shivered their way back to their guest houses, marvelling at how, on such a perfectly beautiful August afternoon, frost could be glazing car windshields. That night the pretty stream that ran through the town froze over, leaving the ducks to quack their indignation on the grassy banks. Then the next morning, as the local residents got up to go to work, they watched in wide-eyed wonderment as three feet of snow fell as they ate their breakfasts, and they shook their heads and muttered things like global warming , even though there was nothing warm about it.

Allie laced up her boots and got the shovel out of the cupboard under the stairs, where it had been buried since its last use in spring by coats and shoes and the old vacuum cleaner that Michael has said he’d try and fix, but which he had never gotten around to. Allie, usually carefully in tune with, and wary of, bad omens, dug her way up the garden path, shovelling fluffy white snow into glacial walls on either side of her, but she couldn’t think of what might be about to happen; all she could linger on was the last time it had snowed so hard and so fast, and the memory left a taste in her mouth that was as delicious as it was bitter and unsatisfying.

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