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The Ice Storm

I head downstairs to meet some friends for lunch in the crappy on-site cafeteria, in which I've agreed to risk my health and sabotage my diet with the only "vegetarian" option available, taco salad with a most likely lard-filled pile of refried beans and chicken-stock cooked mexican rice, because the ice storm scheduled to hit the region has everyone running around like madpersons, stocking up on batteries and candles and non-perishable food items, and my friends don't want to leave the building unless it's to drive to their houses. Personally, I'm not fazed by the panic. It's either denial or realism, I haven't yet identified which. I only know that I feel uncanny amounts of indifference towards the frantic, almost gossip-like way I'm being approached by everyone I know, "Have you heard? It's already 27 degrees! They say the cars parked outside are already iced over! They're letting us leave early! You should go!! GO!" I eat my crappy lunch next to two people who are interrupted with phone calls or co-workers stopping by our table every five minutes - all storm-related interruptions. All I feel about this storm so far is annoyance, inconvenience, it is butting into my day. I know the drive home will be uneventful because every time this town panics, it's for nothing. Yes, there will be wrecks, but it will be because someone drove too fast on the ice, not because the driving conditions are too treacherous. I am irritated with all the panic around me, and when I hear that people are flocking to grocery stores as if the apocalypse is approaching, I roll my eyes and sigh. My friends leave their half-eaten food in a sudden decision that RIGHT NOW is when they should head home. As I walk back upstairs, I pass someone from my department, bundled up and carrying her laptop. "EVERYONE IS GONE! YOU NEED TO LEAVE!" I try to seem concerned, but I'm sure I fail, and then I decide I really don't care. "Really? Okay. See you Monday." I drive home after picking Bryce up early from school and he asks if we can stop for ice cream. "No," I say as if programmed, "the roads are too dangerous, we need to get home." He looks out the window at the normal amount of traffic traveling at normal speeds, as if he's trying to figure out why some rain makes the roads any more dangerous than any other rainy day. I'm wondering too, but I don't tell him that. Everybody is saying the ice storm is coming, so we all must act the part.

Bryce has been coughing since I picked him from school on Friday; he's getting worse, it sounds like we have a circus seal living with us. The cars in the driveway are covered in ice and John heads out to thaw one of them so we can go to the gym. I call the gym to make sure they're open despite the end of the world, and they are, but their kids' area is closed. John goes alone and I stay home with the kids. TV has grown old so we spend two hours getting dressed, doing puzzles, playing games, and making lunch. John comes home and tells me to drive slowly on my way to the gym. I do, but there are hardly any cars out, and I don't slip anywhere during the entire five-mile drive there. It's the same on the way back, and I think while John is at his wedding this afternoon, I'll drive over to my mom's house to break up the kids' day since we've already spent the entire morning wearing out the novelty of all the new Christmas toys. I get home and the kids are napping. John tells me they played outside, and as Bryce wakes up an hour later barking and hacking, I think maybe that wasn't such a good idea. My mom calls to tell me their garage door is frozen shut, and also it's sleeting now, so I really shouldn't get out and drive. This storm is starting to piss me off, I think. The kids have been in the house for over 24 hours; at this point I'm not sure how to spend the rest of the day. She suggests making cookies, and I'm shocked to find that I have all the ingredients I need. The kids take turns playing games on my laptop and stirring the dough. I think, this is a great way to burn an hour, and then as I'm cleaning up and the kids are still on the laptop I think, okay, so it was a great way to burn TWO hours. Now it's dinner time and the kids haven't watched TV since breakfast, so I'm golden. Dinner and a movie, kids. Then bath and bed. By bedtime, Bryce's cough is worrying me. My mom tells me pneumonia is going around, I better not let that cough go too long. I kick myself for not calling the doctor this morning because now I'll have to wait until Monday. Quinn gets a second wind while Bryce is trying to drift off into a drug-induced, vapor-assisted rest, and he gets up several times to tell me what he wants for breakfast tomorrow morning and then starts making la-la-la-do-do-do-ding-dong-ba-ba-ba sounds in an effort to annoy Bryce; it works, and I threaten to make Quinn sleep by himself in the playroom. My meanness pays off and he goes to sleep after that. I flip through the channels and the only thing on is the news - storm coverage. The main points are that power is out for some small towns, it's really cold, and more sleet is coming tomorrow. The roads will get worse. Dammit, I think. We're going on three days in the house with the kids at this point. I'm running out of options, and cough medicine, and sanity.

Tap tap tap tap tap. I jerk awake and wonder if a woodpecker has made its way into our house and has mistaken my head for a tree. Bryce is standing right next to me. When he sees my eyes open and hears me gasp in fear, he immediately whispers all of this: "Quinn got out of bed and he went into the bathroom, I didn't even hear him go, he just went in there? And then he knocked a washcloth off the banister onto the stairs, and he closed the gate and slammed my door, the playroom door I mean, and our bedroom door? And I just thought that you should handle that. Because he isn't being very nice, and I wanted you to handle it." Then the circus seal bark assaults my sleepy ears. I look at the clock: 6:15. I remember that more ice is coming this morning according to the doomsdayers on last night's news. I'm sure we won't be leaving the house; John saw someone lose control of their car as he came home from his wedding last night, so the conditions are legitimately dangerous now. Fourteen hours to go. I toast Quinn's waffle and turn on cartoons and tell him to let me go back to sleep, but both kids are in and out of our bedroom with full bladders or requests for chocolate milk or tattle tales, so at 7:00 I decide to give up. Thirteen hours to go. We have cookies, which are helping me cope, but not really part of my attempt at a healthier post-holiday eating plan. The circus seal barks again, and I wonder how hard it will be to get to the store for more cough medicine. Stupid storm.

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