It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. After the past few hours running errands, Murphy gazed out of the train window, thinking about his short walk home from the train station and the homemade soup he would heat up for dinner.
“Trudging through all this snow can rack up some hunger and a wear a person out,” he thought. He wouldn’t have gone out at all, but he needed his prescription and handled a few other things while he was out.
Snow continued to fall and accumulate on the sides of the tracks. Suddenly the train lurched to a stop. Murphy looked up and realized he was the only one in his train car. “Must have nodded off,” he thought. He could see nothing but white as he looked out the side windows of the train. After a few minutes, the lights inside the train turned off, and through the front window of the train car Murphy could see the conductor get out, two cars up from him.
“Hey! Wait for me!” Murphy tried to yell but it came out more of a rasp.
“Hey!” he tried again but it was no use.
Murphy managed to open the door using the manual slide and stepped onto the snowy platform. He walked toward the front of the train, facing into the wind of the blustery storm. The conductor was nowhere to be seen and out of earshot by now. He soon saw the reason for the train’s abrupt stop: a snowdrift had been windswept onto the tracks up ahead. Murphy wiped the snow off his brow and considered what to do. Gripping the rail tightly, he made his way down the platform stairs to the desolate station. A friend of his lived a few blocks away so he decided to make his way there and hoped to find his friend at home.
The wind blew hard against his face and the falling snow pelted him mercilessly. The snow accumulated enough to make every step an effort. As the gusts picked up, Murphy steeled himself, held onto his hat, and bent into the wind.
“Every step gets me closer,” he thought as he did his best to keep moving forward, clutching his day’s purchases close to him. He started to slip and reached to grab onto a light pole just as a wind gust came and blew his hat off his head. He reached to grab it and dropped his bags. Frustrated and freezing, he bent down to get them hoping his knees didn’t give out on him. A gloved hand picked up his bags in front of him. He looked up to see a hooded figure in front of him. The figure said something, but he could not hear what over the howl of the wind. It motioned for him to follow.
Murphy felt he had no choice and that this might be the Lord himself appearing in this blasted cold to help him. They trudged to the nearest door and the hooded figure pulled hard to open it against the forceful wind. They made it inside and caught their breath for a moment. He could now see that the hooded figure was not the Lord himself but a young lady.
“I’m Audrey. I saw you struggling and knew you needed to come in out of that cold. The library is locked but this front community room is open. We can go in there while we figure out what to do.”
Murphy nodded and they started in that direction when they heard something at the door. Someone was trying to open the door but was struggling. Audrey went over and pushed it open to see a young boy shivering.
“Please can I come inside? I saw you go in and there is nothing else open around here. I’m gonna freeze to death!”
Audrey nodded and let him inside. The wind slammed the door shut behind him.
“What’s your name and where is your family?” Audrey asked him.
“My name is Linton. I was at my friend’s house, and we lost track of time while playing video games. I was trying to make it home to my grandma, but this storm is hitting hard.”
Audrey motioned toward the community room and the three of them made their way inside. There were two tableclothed tables at the front of the room and about twenty chairs set up in the audience. A vending machine stood in one back corner and a Lost and Found box was in the other.
“This room was set up for a neighborhood meeting that was scheduled and then canceled because of the weather.” Audrey lifted the coffee urn and was relieved that it was full of water. “We can eat some of these cookies and make some coffee and cocoa to warm up a bit.” She looked down at her phone. “There is no cell signal. Lines must be down. Good thing we still have power,” Audrey said.
“When this lets up a little, I’m going to my friend’s house, a coupla blocks away,” Murphy said to the group.
“I need to get home to my grandma. She’s probably worried and wondering where I am,” Linton said as he blew on his hands and rubbed them together. “She doesn’t have a cell phone so I can’t even text her.”
Just then, they heard a large THUMP! They went out into the hall and Audrey pressed her face up against the glass of the door.
“Oh no! Audrey groaned. “A big pile of snow must’ve slid off the roof and is blocking the door,” Audrey tried to push open the front door. “We’re not going anywhere until they get a plow out here.”
The three went back into the community room and reassessed their surroundings. The vending machine had nuts, peanut butter crackers, chips, and candy. In the hallway, there was a water fountain and bathrooms. They could get by for a little while with the provisions they had. Once the storm was over, the snowplows would be out, and they could surely get someone’s attention to clear the way for them.
After sitting quietly for a while, Linton started walking in and out of the rows of chairs while humming a little song to himself. Audrey and Murphy followed him. Linton switched to a march and the two started marching. Linton was delighted and let out a little squeal. The room was cold so keeping moving was a good thing for all three of them. Murphy cut in front of Linton and started walking while shaking his fists in the air. Audrey then went to the front of the line and started snapping to the left and then to the right while taking small steps forward. The three continued the maze walking for a while until Murphy needed a seat.
“There’s some good stuff in this Lost and Found box,” Linton announced. He pulled out a toy car, a pocket flashlight, and a notebook.
Audrey started digging through the box. She took out a battered deck of cards and a hat.
“To replace the one that blew away,” she said as she handed Murphy the hat. He inspected it, shook it out, and nodded thanks. “We can play some cards,” Audrey offered. She used to play cards with her grandfather and was the self-declared Queen of Gin Rummy.
They pulled three chairs to the table and Audrey and Murphy taught Linton how to play. They laughed when Linton finally won and shouted “Gin! Gin! Gin!” When they grew tired of playing cards, they used the white board to play hangman and a made-up version of Pictionary until the marker started to wear out.
Linton headed back to the Lost and Found box and pulled out sunglasses and a puffer vest. He strutted around for a bit before settling down in the front corner. He rolled the toy car up and down on the carpet and hummed to himself.
After a rest, Linton headed to the vending machine. He tried shaking it, but nothing moved. Audrey and Murphy checked their pockets for change and considered the best snacks they could get for the money they had.
“Let’s get nuts and peanut butter crackers. These must last us until tomorrow. And make sure you drink some water from the fountain, Linton,” Audrey said. Linton nodded and took the crackers.
Audrey considered some duct tape she found in the room. “I have a project for you,” she said and motioned for Linton to join her at the front table. “Let’s make signs that say ‘Help! Trapped inside!’ and put them on the front windows. Linton tore out sheets from the Lost and Found notebook and started making the signs. He and Audrey hung them on the windows by the front door. Who knows if anyone would see them, but they had to try.
“Hey, what’s this?” Linton asked. Murphy looked up. Linton held up something he pulled out of the Lost and Found box.
“It’s a yo-yo. Bring it here I can show you a few tricks,” Murphy said. “I used to be pretty good with a yo-yo.” Murphy showed him the basics and then wowed him with a “Walk the dog” trick. At first, Linton could do the downward move with the yo-yo but couldn’t get it to wind up. He practiced for a while with Murphy coaching him.
“Audrey, check this out!” Linton showed her his moves. “This is so cool!” Audrey and Murphy smiled at each other.
The three had a second round of snacks and some water and Murphy took his prescription. They decided to try to get some sleep.
“Let’s check the Lost and Found box for stuff that can be used as pillows and blankets,” Audrey said to Linton. The two pulled a hoodie and a sweater out of the box, and then took the two tablecloths off the front tables. Murphy settled down using the scrunched-up sweater as a pillow while Linton used the hoodie. Audrey covered them both with a tablecloth. She wrapped herself in the other tablecloth and scrunched part of it to make a pillow. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep.
Murphy awoke to the sound of machinery. “Audrey, Audrey, I think the plows are here,” he said. Audrey and Linton both jumped up, following Murphy out into the hallway. They began yelling and banging on the doors. Linton pulled the pocket flashlight out of his coat and started flashing at the man on the plow. It worked! The man turned to see the source of the flashing and looked shocked to see them standing there. He moved the plow to clear the snow in front of the door. Audrey pushed open the door and spoke to the man.
“Thank goodness you are here! We were trapped all night!” she said. After a short conversation, the man on the plow offered to give them a lift to where they needed to go. Audrey insisted that Murphy and Linton go first. Murphy said he would make sure Linton got home to his grandmother before heading home himself.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be here with anyone else. I rather enjoyed myself. Thank you for rescuing me from that storm, Audrey,” Murphy said.
“I am here every Tuesday and Thursday. Stop by when you can. I would love to see you both again,” Audrey said. The three embraced before Murphy and Linton climbed up on the plow and waved to Audrey as the plow moved away.
Audrey went back to the community room. She shook out the tablecloths, folding them up for the laundry, and pushed the chairs back into place. She then gathered the clothes, cards, toy car and yo-yo and put them all back in the Lost and Found. She nodded at the box, satisfied, and relieved.
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