“The path needs doing again.”
“Uh,huh.” He looked out of the window at the snow flakes falling from the darkening grey sky, obliterating the track that sloped down to the road, where even the four by fours were struggling to keep moving. It was only an hour since he’d last cleared it, but already another two inches had fallen. The snow drifts on the lawn had risen to seven or eight inches and were so densely packed that they were almost reaching the bottom window panes.
“I said the path needs doing again.” This time her voice was edged with insistence.
He did not look up from force of habit, but simply turned over the page of the paper he was reading, “It’s Someone Else’s Turn.”
She rose from her seat and walked, back erect, with deliberately paced steps to the door.”I won’t repeat myself. I have supper to cook.” She departed down the stone-flagged corridor for the kitchen.
He sighed, put down his paper and followed her into the dark hallway where the heat of the radiators barely penetrated. His Barbour jacket was still damp from his last outing, his boots were icy when he put them on. He picked up the spade he’d left by the front door, and went outside.
The job took longer than expected. His back and knees were not what they were, stabbing him with pain each time he bent over.The snow fell almost as fast as he could clear it. Large wet flakes splattered his eyes, blinding him, so he had to stop and wipe them every couple of minutes. It was frustrating work, but the dread of being snowed in was enough to keep him at it. He dug and scraped until the path was clear. Though by the time he’d stood at the door for a couple of minutes to shake the snow from his boots, the path was white again.
“Supper will be five minutes,” she called.
“I said, “Supper will be five minutes.” Her yell had more insistence in it.
“I heard you the first time. I’m just changing my trousers.”
Thud, thud, thud – he climbed the stairs, as she took the cutlets out of the oven and put them on the plates. She sieved the steaming potatoes, and dabbed them with butter, watching it melt into yellow liquid running down through the pan. Typically, he was still not down when she put the peas on the plates. She put the food back in the oven till she heard his thudding descent.
As he entered the room, she placed the plates back on the table, and they both sat down.
“There’s no gravy,” he said
“Someone didn’t go to the shops.”
He said nothing more, and they ate in their usual silence. The only sounds were his masticating jaws, the clink of cutlery, and, outside, the snow-muffled engines of the last cars to make into the village tonight.
The food was delicious as always, though’d he never say. When he’d finished his final mouthful, he pushed away the plate, rose from the table and disappeared to watch the news. She cleared the table, as was her custom, and began to wash up.
Clink, splash, wipe, clink, splash, wipe. There was something soothing about washing up at the end of the day. Outside the snow kept on falling. The sky was black.
“They say this is going to last till Thursday at least,” he called from the living room.
“Uh, huh,” she said, looking at the ice that was beginning to form on the steaming window.
It would be a long time till the thaw.