American Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

When I looked out the window at the cold gun metal skies over Lake Superior, I knew there was some weather blowing in from Canada.  Sitting on the couch in my trailer located just a few feet from the barbed wire fence separating my small plot from a nuclear storage area.  This is where the Security Police patrol the perimeter and will shoot to kill anyone trying to breach the wire. 

I feel safe here.  People not in the military pay good money for this type of security that I get for free.

Still the wind began to pick up.  As if on a timer, the snow began to fall at five in the evening, filling the air with big fluffy flakes.  Eating a frozen meal I had cooked in my microwave with the local news on my television screen and my feet propped up on my mushroom shaped footstool, I began to feel relaxed, snug after a long day on duty.  Wearing only my boots and fatigue pants with a holey sweatshirt, I was what one might call “at-home-comfortable.” 

Snow came down even heavier as the flakes were being blown sideways.  As the sun was squeezed from the dreary sky, I saw the hard spin cycle of the sky take over.  Sure glad I was safe and warm at home. 

The phone rang.

Carefully putting my dinner on the cluttered table in front of me, I picked up the receiver.

“Yeah.” I figured it was my roommate letting me know he was stuck somewhere.  Tough tea-bags, I wasn’t leaving my cocoon to come get him.  He was with his girlfriend and I figured he could ride it out on her couch. 

“Hey sarge, can you do me a favor?” It was my supervisor.

“What do you need?” I held my breath.

“Siggy got popped with a DUI and he’s at the Cop-Shop being in-processed for the night.” There was a pause, “Could you cover his shift tonight?”

“Have you seen the weather?” I whined.

“Yeah, but you live on base and have a Dodge Ram that can get through this shit.” He said matter-of-factly. 

“Alright, I’m on my way.” I sighed heavily.  

Here’s the deal, I worked in a place called Demand Processing in Base Supply which is open twenty-four-seven.  This was the Walmart for maintenance. We were the central call-in place for aircraft parts for the base.  Just a few miles from Lake Superior that Gordan Lightfoot had sung about in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” a few years ago.  This turned out to be the biggest thing that had ever happened here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where KI Sawyer Air Force Base was located.

It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.  It was well known that this saint’s day had a long sad history of having some of the most severe snowstorms occur. Witch of November, my ass, the real witch came in during late March.  I went out where the snow was already over a foot deep in the hour since the snow started falling.  I started my truck and then brushed the snow off of my windows.

Putting my truck into gear, I began to drive.  I lived in a trailer park on base, but Base Supply was about five miles away.  Normally this was not a big deal, but as the streets disappeared under the snow, I had difficulty determining where the streets were.  I curse Siggy for getting popped with a DUI.  It was all his fault.

In what seemed like a difficult journey across the snow swollen landscape, I arrived at my destination twenty minutes later where our commanding officer was waiting for me.

“Sarge, could you get out the snowblower and help get my car out of the parking lot?” He looked anxious.

“Yeah, no problem.” I shrugged.  I knew the shift ahead would be boring and uneventful, so this would help kill some time.  There was now over two feet of fluffy white snow on the ground. It was difficult to locate the parking lot anymore.  Still I rolled the snowblower out and began the motor.  Snow began to blow from the chute as I rolled it into the parking lot.  When I looked behind me, I was quite startled to see that the path I had plowed with the snowblower had already filled in with new snow.  After spending nearly an hour of futility, I killed the motor and walked the snowblower back inside where I gave the lieutenant the bad news.  Looking at the rising snow, he decided he would make a run for it anyway.

“Thanks.” He said as he left the building.  As it turned out it would be the last I saw of him for the next three days. Driving or swerving as he got out of the parking lot, he made it to the street and then he was gone. 

“He sarge.” Bones sniffed as he shuffled from his hibernation spot in the warehouse, “Things are pretty slow.  They aren’t letting any of the planes takeoff.”


“Where’s Siggy?” He asked, “Isn’t he supposed to cover this shift?”

“He’s in jail.  DUI.” I informed Bones.

“Knew he’d get himself in some shit.” Bones began to shuffle back to his place in the warehouse while I trudged into the Demand Processing office.  On a counter were four phones and a shortwave radio providing five places for maintenance units to call in for part.  During the day, all of them were occupied with callers, but even the radio offered no action at the moment.  The office was dark and I had no intention of turning on any of the overhead lights.  

The base was a major link to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) that flew B-52 bombers and C-140 refuelers.  It is a little known fact that these huge bombers can not take off with full fuel tanks.  Instead the B-52s take off and are met by the C-140 who refuel the bombers.  Each day, the Russians would fly into our air space to be met by our fighters and bombers.  Why?  Because if the Russian pilots reported that the United States did not meet them, their superiors would give orders to drop their ordinance.  Sleep tight, America.  

On this snowy night, however, neither American or Russians would be flying. 

The radio crackled to life.

“Hey we got an aircraft attempting to land!” 

Even Bones wandered in when he heard my radio.

“Whatsup?” He scratched his chin as he had been woken from a deep sleep. 

“I dunno.” I shrugged.

“It was a B-52.” Another voice on the radio reported.

“Holy shit!” The voice on the radio sounded what would be the last time for the next three days.

The phone rang two hours later, waking me from a disturbing nap. 

“Sarge.” It was my supervisor again.

“Yeah.” I wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth.

“Bad news.” He sniffed, “You are snowbound.”

“I’m what?” I was now fully awake.

“We’ve got four feet on the ground.” He reported.

“What the--” I managed to say.

“Check the front door.” His voice was dry.

I put the receiver down and got out of my chair.  Like some terrible science fiction movie, I saw snow covering the glass door top to bottom.  The door swung out which meant it was now completely unusable. 

“I didn’t bring any food.” I could feel my face draining of blood.

“Don’t sweat it man.” Bones shook his head, “The dock is just about snow free because of the fierce wind. The Chow Hall is just a block away.  They will be serving boxed food.” 

“I’m hungry.” I suddenly felt as if I had been completely emptied of my frozen dinner that I left half-eaten on the table in my trailer.  I was pretty sure that Yawper, my roommate's dog would have found it by now. 

Bones and I walked to the Flightline Kitchen as it was officially known.  Each of us got a box in which was a sandwich and an apple.  

“It’s not the Ritz, but it will fill the hole.” Bones declared as we walked back what would wind up being our home for the next three days.

Morning came and the snow continued to fall, at times harder than others when it seemed it would clear.  Even in the bluest of skies, the flakes continued to fall intermittently.  

“What if we die here?” I asked after getting two more boxes from the Flightline Kitchen.

“Shit dude, we got box lunches and nobody to tell us what to do.”  Bones swallowed, “We’re living like Huck Finn.” 

“But still, I feel like a castaway.” 

“Listen.” Bones held up his finger.


“Exactly.” He grinned. 

“Are you nuts?” 

“Nope.  It’s pure silence.” He shook his head slowly. “Think of how many times you have heard absolutely nothing.” 

He was right.  His off-center brain had put together this concept that we spend our lives in white noise, surrounded by sound we oftentimes don’t even notice.

“Enjoy it, dude.” He leaned back on the receiving dock where we were eating our lunches in complete silence.  The snow was still falling, but it fell in complete silence. “I figure we have four feet of snow.” 

“More is falling.” I pointed to the sky.

“More time to enjoy the silence.” 

“Aren’t you bored?” I asked, peering over at him.

“Naw, I just play games in my head.” He chuckled.

“Who’s winning?” I asked. 

“Does it really matter?” He glanced at me with one eye open. “You know that the natives called this lake Gitche Gumee?”

“Just like the Lightfoot song?” I chuckled.

“Yeah, cool tune. The last place that saw the ship before the wreck was Marquette right up the road.” He nodded. “Think about that.” 

Believe it or not, I did just that.

Fighting boredom was the hardest thing to do.  There was no television and after a while the radio played the same AC/DC for the fifth time in an hour.  Bones was sacked out in the warehouse.  There was a deck of cards with only forty nine cards.  

Playing the skill game of sticking a sharpened pencil into the styrofoam ceiling was fun for about twenty minutes.  The short wave radio was dead.

The second day the snow finally stopped falling.  There was easily four and a half feet of new snow on the ground.  The pine trees that surrounded the flightline were sagging from the heavy snow as the temperature began to slowly rise beyond freezing.  The wind also had stopped blowing.  The silence once again took over.  

By the end of the day, I could see a strip of sunlight shining through the front glass door. I figured it would be another week before the snow would melt enough for a rescue of Bones and me.  My supervisor called me every three hours or so to check on me, but I could hear his television in the background. 

“So sarge, how is it going?” He would ask as I heard him swallow from the beer he had just opened. 

“Just as good as it was the last time you called.” He could not see me roll my eyes, but I could hear him toss the beer bottle top into the trash can.  

“Hang in there.  We’ll get you out of there as soon as possible.” He promised. 

“Looking forward to it.” I said as I hung up the phone. 

The floor was hard even with the low pile carpet covering it. I could feel the concrete that it was covering.  

Strange dreams filled my head on my second evening of my captivity. I was on the deck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as Gordon Lightfoot sang his epic ballad.  

“Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.” The old cook proclaimed. “But I have some beer for ya.” 

He handed me a bottle of Molsons.  We clinked bottles and then I drank it down.  

Waking up, I had to wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth, but there was an ache rising up through every bone in my body.  

Bones came walking in, “Dude that floor is hard.” 

“Tell me about it.” I groaned.

“I got some sleeping bags on the shelf in the back.” He jerked his thumb toward the warehouse. 

“And you are now telling me this on our third day?” I was steamed that he waited to tell me this. 

“Well tonight you will sleep like a king.” Bones smiled.

“I do not wish to spend another night in this hotel of hell.” I proclaimed. 

“Snow is melting.” He shrugged.

I walked to the front door where I could see that nearly half of the snowbank left still pressed against the glass.  

“Shit, I’m walking home.” I said as I tugged on the door, but it would not budge a single inch, dashing all my hope for the day.  

“When this is all over, I’ll bet it would make a great book.” Bones squatted next to the immovable door. 

“I can’t take another day here.” I put my head against the wall.  

“Chill sarge.” 

“I can’t.  I can’t take anymore of the silence.” I was on the verge of tears. “I’ve counted the number of holes in the ceiling panels.  There are over a million.” 

He just nodded. With a deep sigh, confessed, “I guess I am going a little stir crazy myself.” 

It was good to hear him confess.  I was beginning to think that I was the only one feeling this way and that meant there was something wrong with me.  

Patting me on the back, Bones said, “I’ll get you one of the sleeping bags.” 

“I sure hope we go home soon.” 

“Me too.” He turned back to look at me before continuing to the warehouse. Turning my head to look out the glass, I could see my truck emerge from the snow bubble it had been buried under for the past two days. 

The sun went down as I got my sleeping bags arranged for another night’s sleep, but as I lay in a more comfortable bed, my eyes remained open.  Sleep would not come no matter how hard I tried.  This led to an observation I have held to this day, “Sleep will not come if you keep trying. It’s the one thing you do not need to try to do.” And another observation is, “time moves slower when you are trying to get to sleep.” 

My eyes stared at the dark ceiling knowing I had not done enough to earn a good night’s rest. 

When I first heard the clatter of the treads of the vehicle, I was already awake. 

“Sarge, there is someone coming.” Bones yawned. 


“How the hell should I know?” I sat up pushing the sleeping bag aside at the moment I heard someone knowing on the glass of the front door. 

“Maybe it’s some murderer.” Bones brown eyes went wide. 

“Or someone here to get us the hell out of here.” I moved toward the front door.

“Be careful in case it is a murderer.” Bones warned me as I saw the shadow of a short person at the door wearing a parka and thick gloves.

“Anybody in there.” She said.

“Yeah.” I managed to open the door a few inches.

“Getcha gear and we’ll get the heck out of here.” She pointed to the threaded vehicle in front of the building. 

“I’m ready.” I squeezed myself through the narrow opening. 

“Me too.” Bones was next out the door.

I did not waste a moment finding a seat inside the vehicle.

“We should have ya home in a few minutes.” She sat in the driver’s seat, “My name is Wanda.  I am from the Transportation Unit.”

“So happy to see ya.” I sniffed, “I live in the trailer court.” 

“Yeah, I know where that is.” She nodded as she put the vehicle into gear. 

“I live in the barracks.” Bones nodded.

“They had to dig the folks out of those buildings yesterday.” She chuckled. 

Yesterday.  Yesterday was not a concept I could comprehend as we bounced across the ice and snow.

She stopped in front of the barracks.

“Sarge, it’s been real, but it hasn’t been real fun.” Bones jumped out the open back door and managed to walk through the snow to the front door of the barracks. 

“Close that door.” Wanda ordered.  I grabbed it just as the vehicle jolted forward.  I closed my eyes as Wanda drove me home.  She picked up the radio, “This is E-45 on my way to the trailer court before I come back to the garage.” 

The E-45 pulled into the trailer court and after one arcing loop, I was home, “Here.” 


“Yes, this is it.” I pointed. 

“Alright.  Have a nice day.” She smiled as I exited the open back door.

“Thank you.  Thank you so much.” I waved before closing the door with a thump.  I waited until she drove the vehicle out of sight.

Walking inside, my roommate was putting a can of hash into a dish.  He put the dish into the microwave.

“Hey.” He nodded. “Glad you’re home. It was a rough few days.  I got stuck over at Rachel’s place for two days.” 

“Sounds rough.” I sat down on the couch where my empty dish sat on the table where I had put it. 

The whole three day ordeal no longer seemed real to me as I turned the television on. 

December 03, 2023 00:44

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Jack Kimball
02:08 Dec 08, 2023

Hey George. I kind of thought the story began with: The radio crackled to life. “Hey we got an aircraft attempting to land!” You showed intense interest as the writer in the subtext. That was cool. Good luck in the contest!


17:54 Dec 09, 2023

Thank you, Jack


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Mary Bendickson
15:39 Dec 04, 2023

Sounds like a vacation.


17:54 Dec 09, 2023

Not a very good one, Mary. Believe me.


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