Winter is a terrific season for B. Not her favorite season—in fact, she detests cold and snow, really can barely pull herself out of her chair the entire season, and she dearly misses her childhood summers with her grandparents in Sarasota, where to her the heat and humidity were like a deep hug, something she has said so often and to so many people that they are left with the suspicion that no one ever hugged her, or that she finds hugs suffocating, perhaps a near-death, experience.
No, winter is a terrific season for B because her car’s license plate expires in December. And in the Midwest, the end of December usually means that fresh-fallen snow rests on the indented surface within which rests her car’s license plate, obscuring the sticker on the lower-left corner that indicates the plate’s expiration month. And that in turn means that B can drive without fear of being pulled over for her expired plates.
Of course, even on the cold days, a brisk wind can blow away or bright sunshine can melt away the bit of fresh-fallen snow covering the sticker, but, happily, good-sized piles of snow are omnipresent in this part of the world, and so when natural snow coverage fails as camouflage for lawbreaking, she can simply scoop a handful of snow and pack it over the sticker. Because she refuses to acquiesce to winter’s footwear demands and sticks with summertime’s thin tennis shoes and no socks, this hunt for snow means potentially wet feet and certainly cold ankles, but this discomfort is worth the benefit of resisting the arbitrary dicta of authority.
Trouble, however, begins in early March, as temperatures occasionally bob up past freezing, and as piles of snow, even those mountains resting along the perimeters of plowed parking lots, shrink. The hunt for a handful of snow becomes more demanding, sometimes requiring a walk down the street before she can leave for work in the morning, or even a drive around the neighborhood to scout remaining pockets of snow. Also, she is aware that a small pile of snow covering her license plate sticker looks more out of place as the temperature rises, and that any coverage she achieves in the morning is unlikely to last the day. Still, this is the Midwest, and she usually receives only one or two citations—sometimes when her car is parked on the street, sometimes the result of being pulled over—before another blast or two of snow arrives, even toward winter’s end.
Inevitably—even when a surprise snowfall comes in May—snow season ends, and B must go back to collecting tickets on her parked car, turning into unknown neighborhoods when a glance in her rearview mirror reveals a police car behind her, and feigning surprise when a police car she did not see or was not able to evade pulls her over. The pile of tickets under the sweatshirt on the front seat of the car grows until some fall onto the car floor.
Still, she reasons, summer is coming, and with it the lovely, enveloping hugs of heat and humidity.
Robert Fromberg's memoir, How to Walk with Steve, is coming soon from Latah Books. He has prose in Indiana Review, Litro Magazine, Bellingham Review, and many other journals. He taught Very Serious Writing at Northwestern University for many years, many years ago. Twitter: @robfromberg.