Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:
Parking Space: A Love Story!
By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 8 - The Snowplow: Part 2
On Tuesday, January 9, eight of Noah Pitt’s ten winter employees were out with the flu and the other two — a bookkeeper who could barely operate a toaster let alone a construction vehicle and Noah’s secretary, who was almost eighty years old — were winter-weather useless. Which was why, when he should have been in his office scheduling men and machines, he was fulfilling his contract with The Big City, and manning one of the snowplows by himself.
The day and date are relevant because it was the day after Lilly Snow had gotten off a bus in The Big City, dragged her suitcase down the middle of the street, and sang her “Lilly Snow in the snow” song in the parking space outside her new home.
Early that Tuesday, snow accumulation was less than three inches, and the weather report predicted that by 10:00 a.m., the temperature would rise to 40 degrees. So the president of Pitt-Goode Construction, who had been itching to operate the joy stick that controlled the blade on his new snowplow, remained in his office, attended to his paperwork and waited for the snow to melt.
Happily for him, though, the weather report was wrong. By 11:00 a.m., snow was falling steadily outside his windows and the temperature was plummeting.
The telephone rang and Noah lifted his receiver.
“Ready to saddle up?” Amos asked without offering a greeting.
Noah’s old friend laughed. “I know. Only five inches. But it will be ten inches in ten minutes. And, drum roll, please. As the new Director of the Department of Public Works, I just declared this is a Class Three Event.”
Per departmental specifications, a Class Three Event describes snow accumulation of nine inches over a period of 24 hours, requires activation of all DPW operations personnel, assistance from other City departments, and the use of private contractors.
“Okay, Amos,” Noah said joyfully. “I’m on it!”
And within minutes, he was on the road.
Primary routes in The Big City were assigned to DPW and Sanitation Department trucks fitted with snowplows and salt spreaders.
Secondary routes were assigned to independent contractors like Pitt-Goode.
It was going to be a long day.
By 6:00 p.m., Noah had been plowing for over seven hours. The streets were empty of traffic, and cars on both sides of the road were blanketed in snow. Chestnut Avenue, running north-south for over three miles, was next on Noah’s route.
All Pitt-Goode Construction trucks were equipped with variable wing snowplows that could be locked into a straight blade or adjusted in a “V” position.
In order to clear one two-lane street, Noah had to plow south from 185th Street with his snowplow blades configured in that “V.” First he would clear the middle of the street, pushing snow to both sides until the road dead-ended downtown at Hunter Street. At Hunter, he would turn the truck around, re-adjust the snowplow wings into a straight blade, angle the blade to the right, and drive uptown, pushing snow towards the curb and burying most, if not all, of the parked cars along the way. At 185th, he would reverse direction and retrace his route on the opposite side of the street. By the time he had completed his third run, the streets would be clear, and if any car owners managed to dig themselves out on the following morning, they would have a fairly easy drive to wherever they wanted to go.
Lilly Snow’s apartment building was nearer to Uptown than to Midtown, at the top of Noah Pitt’s northward trajectory on Chestnut Avenue. From his first foray into the streets that morning until late that afternoon when he saw Lilly standing beside him in the street, Noah had encountered few obstructions: a metal trash can upturned in the middle of an intersection, a taxi cab stuck half-out of a parking space, and an abandoned Jack Russell terrier leashed to a light pole (he called a dog-rescue friend to pick it up). His vehicle, with a full tank of gas, was operating smoothly. Most citizens had heeded the mayor’s advice to “Stay inside and keep your cars off the roads,” so the streets were blissfully free of traffic.
There were one or two people out and about, but most walked with their heads down and their booted feet moving cautiously, mindful not to slip on the snow.
Lilly, being Lilly, walked with her head up, not wanting to miss a single thing. She clasped a small shopping bag in one hand, and was on her way home after buying groceries from the supermarket and ordering a sofa-bed at a department store on 86th Street (brown corduroy floor model—fifty percent off).
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com