“We’re shut in,” I said the next morning. “The blizzard dropped almost ten feet on the cabin. I can tell because there’s only two inches at the top of the big window to see out of, and the top is ten feet off the ground. The door won’t budge. It may be days, even weeks, before we can get out.”
“Great,” said the buddy I’d come hunting with. He was laid up on the sofa since I shot him in the leg yesterday afternoon, before the snow. It was just a flesh wound, heaven be praised. “At least the central heating is working. And the lights. And the cable. And the phone.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But the water’s off. Frozen, I guess. And there’s no food.”
“Damn,” he said. “There was food last night.”
“I ate it.”
“What’ll we do?”
I stood on the sofa and looked out the top two inches of window.
“Just pray we can get out soon and make it over to the McDonald’s across the street. Looks like they’re open, or will be when that kid finishes shoveling the lot.”
“Christ. Can’t we phone for delivery?”
“The phone just went out.”
That night we turned in without breakfast, lunch or dinner, and sipping only a few handfuls each of melted snow. About midnight, when my “pal” was sleeping, I went upstairs to the attic and opened the chest I had up there, full of boxes of saltines and jars of peanut butter. I had another trunk of bottles of water. I ate half a box of crackers and half a jar of peanut butter and drank two bottles of water before going downstairs and getting back in bed.
The next morning Dennis, that was my friend’s name, and I had a few pinches of snow for breakfast. I belched, and he sniffed the air.
“I could swear I smell peanut butter,” he said.
“You’re probably hallucinating, you’re so hungry.”
“I guess,” he glared at me. “How’s it look out?”
I stood on the sofa. But I didn’t need to, since all the snow had melted in a heat wave and the window offered a clear view. I saw green grass and a few trees in front of the cabin, the highway, and across the highway, McDonald’s, open for business. But my “pal” was facing the wrong way to see out the window.
“Bad news,” I said. “We must have got more snow, since now I can only see out the top half inch of the window. McDonald’s is dark inside.”
“Listen,” I said. “You just rest up. I’ll get you a little snow to eat and then go upstairs to, uh, finish up a wood project I’ve been working on. I’m building us a sled.”
“Somehow, we’ll pull through,” he said.
“You know it,” I said.
After his nap he thought he smelled peanut butter again.
“God, don’t mention peanut butter to me,” I said. “You have no idea how that tortures me.” This was true, since by now I was sick of the stuff.
I moistened his lips with rubbing alcohol.
“God, that stings!” he said.
“That’s a sign you’re dehydrated.” I didn’t mention that the reason I hated his guy was, he wasn’t my friend, he was my boss. The worst boss I ever had, no lie. I hated his butt. “Better take some more melted snow. It’s good for you.”
“One thing I can’t figure out: how come you’re not dehydrated and weak too?”
“I haven’t figured that one out yet either,” I said. “Now get some rest.”
While he rested, I went back upstairs. The fire escape was thawed now, so I went out the window and down to the ground. I crossed the street and feasted on cheeseburgers, fries and malteds, then went back up the escape to the second floor.
“How’s it going?” I checked on Dennis. That was my boss’s name, I think I mentioned.
“It’s worse. I can hardly move. But I thought I heard someone on the roof. Rescuers?”
“Yeah. They’re trying to get in to help us. But it’s like digging out a collapsed mine. We’ll have to be patient.”
“Did they bring any food? I smell McDonald’s.”
“You’re hallucinating again,” I said.
I checked on him later.
“You’re getting out, aren’t you?” he said.
“No way,” I said. This was true. Another blizzard had dumped another ten feet of snow on us. “The rescuers had to give up because of worsening conditions. We’re still sealed in, just like they’re sealed out.” I wished he’d fall asleep so I could get upstairs to the peanut butter. Or maybe he was weak enough now that I could go ahead and eat in front of him without worrying about how he felt about it.
“How’re you feeling? Can you hang on a little longer, say a few more days?”
“With nothing to eat, and on the handfuls of snow you feed me? How could I?” he demanded. Then he sat up on the sofa. “Haven’t you wondered why I haven’t died yet, or at least passed out?”
It had crossed my mind. It’d been three days since I’d last seen him eat anything. He got up off the sofa and pulled a suitcase out from under it. I didn’t recall seeing him bring any luggage in the cabin. He put the case on the sofa, unlatched it, and showed me neat rows of candy bars. If he’d started with a full case, he’d probably eaten about 250 by then. He closed the suitcase and slid it back under sofa, dislodging a can of lager that rolled toward my feet.
“But your parched lips,” I said.
“They’re just chapped. I always get chapped lips in the winter.”
“Do you think I still have a job?” I said.
“I doubt it,” he said. “I was debating it, but the rubbing alcohol was the last straw.”
He was pointing his hunting rifle at me. I couldn’t find my deerslayer.
“Look,” I said. “I’ll file, type, answer the phones, for God’s sake. Anything.”
There was the explosion of a shot, and a section of the wall beside me broke and splintered. “Bring me the peanut butter,” he said. “And whatever you’re spreading it on.”
“That would be crackers,” I said. “Coming right up.”
“We are having some crazy-ass weather, aren’t we?” I said while he ate. He was shoving peanut butter and crackers into his mouth with one hand and holding the rifle on me with the other. “I think we got more snow. I can’t see out the window any more.”
“It’s El Nino,” he said, cracker bits flying off his lips. “Or the breakdown of the saline engine in the Arctic Ocean due to global warming, like in The Day After Tomorrow. That means a new Ice Age is upon us. Man, I can’t tell you how sick I am of candy bars.”
“Listen, I’m really sorry,” I said. “It’s just that when I didn’t get that upgrade to assistant team leader, I blamed you and lost my head. But I’m now willing to stay in my old job and work even harder, if you could see your way to letting me do that.”
Another shot just missed my left shoulder.
“Do you think I could at least have a candy bar?” I said.
He shook his head no. “When you’re too weak to move,” he said, “I’ll get you a handful of snow. If I don’t shoot you first.”
Just then the rescuers burst in and shot Dennis to death, figuring I was his hostage.
“You just shot my boss,” I said. “I’m suing. Candy bar?”