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“Viewers can expect up to 14 inches of snow from today’s winter storm With the worst of the system expected to affect the Black Hills around 9 p.m. All area schools and government offices are closed. Officials advise residents to please stay off the streets and remain home. Travel advised only for emergencies.”
“Hey Maggie, how about turning off the news and put a ballgame on? We can all see it’s snowing for Christ’s sake,” Tommy said as he took another drag off his Marboro. His tired bloodshot eyes looked up from his half finished beer and fell upon the TV that was perched on a shelf above the vast assortment of liquor bottles. Home to some of his best friends: Jim, Jack and don’t forget dear Old Grandad.
Maggie, who had been cleaning mugs stopped and turned toward her longtime friend. She slung the dirty rag she had been using over her bare freckled shoulder and gave her pruned hands a few quick drying flicks, sending soap bubbles to the floor.
She strode over to Tommy, who had been planted at the stool at the end of the bar for the past few hours, and sighed as she turned and faced him. Her deep green eyes met his.
After a moment of silence, Maggie cleared her throat, “some of us want to know what’s going on out there, Tommy.”
“What else do you need to know. It’s shitty out there with a probability of we’re fucked,” he playfully replied.
Maggie was not in the mood for jokes. The owner of the Saloon No. 10, Dean Thomas, had scheduled her to work a double due to a staff shortage, and naturally with her luck, it’s on a day of a big winter storm. Not only was she sure that she wouldn’t make it home after her shift but it was bound to be slow and the chances of enough money distrubing the dust in the tip jar was low.
“Alright, I’m too tired to argue with you,” she said slapping the wooden counter. “ESPN, right?”
Tommy simply nodded has he took another swig from his beer and pulled a fresh cigerette from a rumbled pack.
Maggie brushed her flowing blonde hair from her face and glanced around for the wooden stepstool she needed to reach the television. She reminded herself while kicking the stool under the TV to take some time tonight to find the remote.
She stepped up on the stool and reached her full 5-4 frame toward the TV. After a few precarious moments of balancing on the balls of her feet, her finger finally came to rest on the channel button.
Tommy was enjoying the show. His eyes feasted on her tanned legs as her short denim skirt rode higher, flashing him a glimpse of silky pink panties delicately kissing what appeared to be still an unblemished ass.
Tommy has known Maggie since their school days at Lead-Deadwood High and always thought she was the prettiest girl in town. Not that she had much competition. In a town of only a few thousand people it wasn’t like pretty girls were a dime a dozen. But, she was and still is the cream of the crop. In his opinion.
Once on a blistering hot day during the summer of 2008 a bunch of teens, including Tommy and Maggie were cooling off in Deadman’s Creek, appropriately named late in the 1800s after several prospectors died while panning for gold during a flash flood.
Danny Peterson, who became a folk hero among his male classmates after setting up a hidden camera in the girls locker room, suggested they all skinnydip. Naturally, the hormone crazy adolescent boys were all for it, but the girls were less willing. However, the boys manage to convince the girls to strip down to their underwear because, as good old Danny argued, “ain’t underwear the same as a bathing suit?”
Tommy still vividly remembers that day and how Maggie looked in her white panties with a yellow flower pattern and blue bra. He even more fondly recalls how those white panties clinged to her wet body and how her flawless skin showed through the wet thin fabric. Her nipples erect from the cold water. A memory Tommy has locked away in his memory.
“Still got that killer ass, girl,” Tommy said smirking putting his third Fat Tire of the afternoon back down on a tattered coaster that proclaimed, “Come to Saloon No. 10. Where history comes alive.”
“And I see you’re still an ass,” she cooly replied stepping back onto the rubber mats behind the bar. She readjusted her skirt and kicked the stepstool under a cabinet to avoid tripping over it. “But, I’ve known that for years. Why don’t you go home before the storm starts to really blow. While you still can.”
“Might be too late for that. Look at that street there,” he said getting up from the stool with a groan and heading toward the front door. Tommy rubbed his back as his feet kicked up sawdust with each step. Above the front entryway was a display of the chair Wild Bill Hickok had supposedly been using when he was killed by Jack McCall in 1876.
Tommy probably has been at the No. 10 hundreds of times, but he always gazed at that chair every time he exited the place. He liked to remember the history of the town and how the sawdust on the floor was put to better use back in Old West times when it came in handy cleaning up blood. Now, it’s just to add ambiance to the place.
Tommy came to the door and leaned against its heavy wooden frame. He peered through the window in the door. The wood was cool against his forehead and Tommy could feel a draft of arctic air whisper over his face.
“The snow’s already got to be at least a few inches deep and you know the city won’t plow the roads until after the storm passes,” He partially yelled over the constant din of music, slot machines and clinking of poker chips. “Hell, even if I left now there’s no way I can drive home, especially up Boot Hill Road. You know how steep that road to my house is. It was dumb of me to drive the Sentra today. Two-wheel drive ain’t worth a damn in the snow.”
Maggie barely hearing a word circled emerged from behind the bar and joined him at door.
“You’re probably right about driving. If the city won’t do anything maybe Petey could help. He’s got that old snowplow of his and I’m sure he would do it if you offered him a six pack for his trouble.”
Her warm breathe felt good on his neck.
“Shit, it’s already 2:30 p.m. Petey’s probably already too drunk or too busy screwing that skank of a girlfriend to help. Besides, I don’t think the city would look too kindly at him plowing a path from here to my place. I’ve already gotten enough flak from those clowns on the council about not getting approval to paint my house. I’ll just walk. It’s not too far. Unless you’ve got some sled dogs or a snowmobile out back?”
“Nope, no sled dogs. Just some rats freezing their filthy tails off.” She gave Tommy a pat on the shoulder and headed back to her post.
“Are you working until closing,” he asked.
“Yup,” She replied clearing mugs off a table.
“So you’re probably pretty screwed then,” Tommy asked still peering out into the street.
“Yeah, but I brought a change of clothes just in case, and Dean said earlier that I could sleep in the office upstairs tonight if I get stuck, which is probably a sure thing.”
“Well, the last thing I need to be today is stuck here so how about one more for the road then,” Tommy said pressing his forehead againt the frosted windowpane, as he tried to get a better look at the conditions down Main Street.
The wind was beginning to howl. He could feel the glass bow slightly from the force of the gusts. The snow was also falling move heavily than when he drove into town a few hours ago. The visibility was getting so bad he could barely see the Lucky Nugget casino across the street. The most he could make out was the flashing neon sign that proclaimed, “World’s Biggest and Best Chicken Fried Steak. Only $6.99.”
Inside, he was kicking himself for venturing out with a storm rapidly approaching but after spending the morning listening to a toddler and newborn baby cry and whine and catching hell from the wife about not doing enough around the house, well, a man can only take so much and needs to get away for awhile.
Tommy felt bad about running out but he promised himself he’ll make it right once he got home. Take the kids for a while downstairs so his wife, Anne, could get some much-needed sleep. But first he had to get home and by the looks of the brick cobbled street, the snow was already above ankle deep and walking home wasn’t going to be easy, especially since he forgot to bring a hat to protect his ears from the fierce wind.
Tommy had lived long enough in South Dakota to know how quickly a person could get a bad case of frostbite. Maybe Maggie would let him rummage through the lost and find box for a hat or earmuffs to borrow. It was probably his best chance, he thought.
Tommy was about to turn and head back to his barstool when something, a streak of light in the sky caught his eye. It was difficult to see through the falling snow and cloud cover, but it was there. A faint blur of red and yellow streaking low over the hills. If he didn’t know any better he would have thought it was a comet or a trail from a shooting star. But during the day? And during a storm?
“Probably nothing,” he muttered rubbing his eyes, which haven’t seen a good night’s sleep since the birth of his daughter, Maggie, 6 weeks ago. He turned his gaze back into the smoky haze of the darkened room. He was about the head back to his stool when the lights on the wall flickered. The neon signs followed and suddenly he was struck by calm. The gambling machines and jukebox fell silent.