February and Frozen Fingers

Right now, I’m read­ing Feb­ru­ary by Lisa Moore. In the novel, one of the char­ac­ters deliv­ered papers, and it got me think­ing about my own paper route. I was about 12 years old when a nice car coasted over the dirt road towards me and a group of my friends. Win­dow down, and a heavy-set well-scrubbed man asked if either of us were inter­ested in earn­ing some money. Tak­ing on some respon­si­bil­ity. I wasn’t sure of the gig, but the men­tion of a few dol­lars perked up my ears, and I stepped for­ward. Told him I’d have to check with my mother first.

Some­how I ended up in the car with that man, and I remem­ber think­ing how stu­pid I was. To do that. Get into a shiny car with a strange man. I plot­ted ways to escape and ways to attack. But no moves were nec­es­sary. He was sim­ply some­one from The Evening Telegram, and didn’t want to wait for me to walk all the way home.

So, I got my paper route. I was no thicker than a whisker, and those papers weighed nearly as much as I did. I was a decent paper girl, marched all the way up each dri­ve­way, opened unlocked doors, tossed papers into the hall­ways, or placed them neatly inside the screen door. Some­times there would be a smell of cab­bage and salt beef in the air. Cats would run out between my legs. Peo­ple were nice, too. Often they’d chat, ask about my fam­ily, or invite me in to dry off or warm up for a spell. I might leave with a cookie, or if I needed to, the wash­room was available.

I remem­ber deliv­er­ing papers after a big win­ter storm. Some peo­ple had not yet shov­elled their dri­ve­ways, so I was traips­ing through snow up to my hips. Drag­ging the paper bag behind me. I came upon a group of kids drilling tun­nels through the heaps of snow made by the plough, and I stopped, joined in a snow­ball fight. Ran about, sweat­ing up a storm until the sun began to set and the sky turned pur­plish grey. When every­one else went in for sup­per, I picked up my paper bag and slogged on with damp clothes, wet feet, wet hands. Mit­tens lost in one of the tun­nels. No proper hat — I con­sid­ered myself too hip to wear one.

Quickly, I began to shiver. By the time I reached the end of my route, my body was stiff, and I could not open my hands. I tapped on the doors with my boot so that peo­ple could take their papers directly from the bag. Some peo­ple wanted me to come in, but I was too stub­born to admit I was freez­ing. It was a long walk out and back, ice par­ti­cles in the wind felt like a straw broom against my skin. I fell more than once, and my hands stuck in the snow. I can clearly recall the sense of them tight­en­ing into bird’s claws.

When I arrived home, I couldn’t open the door or press the door bell. I bumped against it, and bumped against it, but no one answered. I slumped on the back step and waited. And finally my old­est brother hauled open the door, and yanked me into the warmth. He was mad at my stu­pid­ity, told me not to cry as the sting set into my cheeks and bare hands. He hoisted me onto the counter near the sink. Pulled off my boots. Then he filled a large bowl with cold water and took my hands gen­tly in his and held them in the water. It burned. I cried some more, and he swiped a cup towel over my face. Grad­u­ally he added warm water to the bowl, and he moved my fin­gers around under­neath the water. Slowly the throb­bing eased, and my white and red hands were sore, but feel­ing bet­ter. After that he made me some­thing to eat – two cored apples cooked in a bread pan, cen­tres stuffed with brown sugar and cin­na­mon and butter.

Such a tiny mem­ory of my late brother, but I’m happy to have it back. Like a lit­tle gift.

Read­ing Feb­ru­ary reminds me of what good fic­tion really does. A novel can take you far, far away. But some­times, with a lit­tle sweep, it car­ries you home.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.