Cheryl never knew whether it was exactly midnight when the snow silently started falling; but the morning’s thickness of covering indicated it must have started at least as early as that – judging by the current steady rate of fall seen through her bedroom window, a rate projected into the past until reaching the time it must presumably have begun falling. Not that the process was as scientifically thought out as that.
Cheryl was as old as she could ever remember being, and that was not very old, but legally old enough to drive alone in a car but only if she could first pass her driving test. Today’s driving lesson had already been cancelled, not because of the weather but because of the instructor being ill, but, of course, if he had not been ill, Cheryl assumed, it would have been cancelled first and foremost because of the weather. Cheryl was not old enough to bear disappointments very easily but, in her heart of hearts, she was not really disappointed at all as driving lessons often made her feel nervous, nervous enough for her then never to do justice to her driving abilities.
It was difficult to identify her own emotions – as if she were someone else, someone even more inscrutable than the teacher she never understood; his lessons were always just above her head; his lessons steadily increased in difficulty but she was always just that one degree short of comprehension however quickly her intelligence grew with age.
Was she disappointed at her driving-lesson being cancelled? Nah!
The answer had come quick: a snap judgement that Cheryl was used to exercising whenever wonder hit wonder’s solution head-on. She would be able to lie slug-a-bed watching the snow powdering past upon puffs of wind; she would be able, too, not to worry about meeting her parents head-on, as it were, until much later in the day. It would be just their voices through the door that she would need to face at the moment. She may not have been old enough to make major decisions, but she was still young enough to cherish making minor decisions against the grain of others’ major wishes.
“Can you put the dish-washer on, Cheryl?” she heard her mother’s voice shout from downstairs.
“Is it already unloaded?” she counter-queried.
“Yes, you’ve just got to load it with the new stuff,” came the reply.
Old stuff, you mean, thought Cheryl. The dirty old stuff.
“Is it snowing hard?” Cheryl asked, making small talk between the two floors of the house.
“Yes, but not hard enough to stop me going to work,” came the next reply.
“Shame!” Cheryl called back, puckishly.
“Yes, I could have done with a day off!”
“Yes, he had to clear the drive with the wooden shovel.”
“Shame!” Cheryl replied, with a different tone of voice. She now remembered the earlier scraping sounds, gradually growing more distant the nearer, she now assumed, they approached the other end of the drive.
“I think he did his back in. Good job they already cancelled your lesson, Cheryl.”
“Well, bye. Don’t forget the dish-washer.”
“No, I won’t.”
The back door banged, just as Cheryl sat up in bed again to look through the window so as to check the hardness of the snowfall for herself. The increasing daylight revealed that it was dirty snow, as if it had come through layers of pollution. Or as if it had taken on the stains of its Midnight starting-point.
She was old enough to assume she must have dozed off again, because waking again, as she did, would indicate either the simple fact of having dozed off again or a more inscrutable dovetail with a dream that she forgot as soon as she remembered it ... and she maturely believed that it was more mature to believe the straightforward reasons for things rather than the more indefinable wishful-thinking reasons connected with dreams or religion.
She had been woken by a car crunching slowly over the snowy road with a barely perceptible engine noise. Then silence. She looked through the window. The snow had just stopped. She looked at her watch: exactly twelve noon. She must have imagined the crunching tyres. She slumped back on the bolster pillows. She mustn’t forget the dish-washer or they’d have her guts for garters.
It was then she heard the distant scraping noise – growing louder as it grew nearer. More a groaning than a scraping the nearer it grew, as if the implement used for scraping was grinding against its own internal knots thus making its business-end less edge-efficient for dealing with the encrusted ice and snow on the drive. Her Dad must have been allowed home early because of the weather. Dozing off again made her wonder against wonder. It was all part of a dream ... or of learning to dream.
But she was woken yet again by the back door slamming.
Dad never came through the back door. That was Mum’s way. Cheryl found herself now fully awake, eager to discover which of them it truly was. One was more fiercesome than the other and she was newly conscious of the dish-washer.
She’d better face the music straightaway, rather than let retribution catch her still in bed.
“Foot lightly on pedal ... through to the spinning brushes...ignition off...”
She could hardly see anything in front of her face. Flakes of sleep rather than simply dirty snow. Waking was never quite so difficult and one needed to reverse before going forward again....
It was dark in her bedroom when she finally woke. She looked at her watch. One minute to Midnight. She looked out the window. It was now not snowing at all. Cheryl felt relieved that the only parts being manipulated in and out of gear were her mind and her mind’s dreams, not any other parts of her. She was old enough to understand, but still young enough not to understand that she understood.
(written and published today)
THE WELSH WRISTWATCH