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Forecast Fears

An elderly lady carried her wire basket to the cramped counter at the front of the shop. The shop's owner leaned across and helped her lift it onto the desk.

'Mornin' Mrs Mackay. Getting some supplies in before the weather hits, eh?' he said with a smile.

Mrs Mackay smiled and nodded. 'Good morning, Mr Thomas. I thought I ought to get my bread before your shelves are wiped clean.'

Mr Thomas began swiping her items through the checkout. 'Well, I've already seen brisk sales of bread and milk this morning. The forecast has got everyone in a spin.'

Mrs Mackay sighed and looked out at the street. The sky certainly looked pretty threatening, but it had been her experience that the shops always managed to open, even in the worst of weather. People these days tended to panic so when they heard the word 'snow'.

'I remember my old Dad borrowing the farmer's tractor to pick up the delivery from the truck on the main road,' said Mr Thomas, pausing wistfully. 'He would never close the shop. Wouldn't hear of it, and neither will I.'

'Your Dad was always a keen businessman,' said Mrs Mackay diplomatically.

'He was that,' he bagged up her purchases and carried them around to the front of the counter for her. 'That'll be eleven pounds and thirty five pence, please. Are you okay carrying it home, or do you want me to drop it around later?'

'I'll be fine thank you.'

She paid her bill, then stooped to pick up the bags. She took a moment to arrange them to her liking, then bade the shopkeeper goodbye and set out for home. In truth, the bags were a little heavy, but Mr Thomas tended to be rather careless with his deliveries. She could not be sure when she might receive her shopping, nor what condition it would be in, if she asked him to deliver. Besides, old she may be, but she wasn't geriatric yet.

Mrs Mackay had just started cooking her dinner when the doorbell rang. She muttered under her breath, turned the heat down on the burner and walked through, wiping her hands on her apron. She could see who it was through the frosted glass panel in the door.

'Hello Jean,' she said as she opened door, grimacing against the blast of cold air.

'Hello Rose. I just wanted to check you were alright,' said the shrivelled old woman standing on the step.

'I'm fine, thank you. Just cooking dinner. Are you okay?'

'Isn't it awful?'


'This weather, dear! Just dreadful! I shan't go out at all once it gets started.'

Mrs Mackay smiled wearily. Jean had no need to go outside. She lived in the large house next door with her son and his family. They took excellent care of her, she had no worries about her heating bill, or loneliness, or shopping, and yet she was never one to miss a chance to fret.

'I'm sure it won't last long.'

'Oh, they say we're in for a week of it, dear! I do hope you have plenty of supplies.'

'I went shopping this morning, thank you. I must dash, I've left something on the stove.'

'Oh you don't want to do that, dear. That's how fires start! Remember Enid? And that was just a can of beans. Who would have thought they could burn a house down?'

'She left them on the burner for three hours, Jean.'

Jean nodded sadly. 'She never was much of a cook. Well I can't stand here all day. You want to keep your door closed, Rose. You don't want the cold getting in. If you need anything just give us a shout.'

Mrs Mackay watched as the old lady shuffled back down the path, only closing the door once she saw she was safely back inside her own house. She rubbed her arms as she walked back to the kitchen to rescue her dinner. She liked Jean well enough, but she had little patience with her fussing.

The snow started to fall at nine that evening. Mrs Mackay stood at the window, watching the drifts accumulate against the garden wall. She pulled her blanket around her shoulders and sipped her coffee, her eyes bright as she stared out at the thick clumpy flakes. At last the chill became to much and she drew the curtains tight and went to bed.

She slept well, snug in her all season duvet, and woke early. She threw the duvet back and rolled out of bed, shuffling her feet into her slippers as she stood. She could tell from the light creeping through the top of the curtains that there was a good covering of snow. She opened the curtains and looked out at her garden, transformed into an arctic scene.

The breakfast news was full of stories of people getting stuck in the snow, old people trapped in their homes, gritting trucks sliding into ditches. Mrs Mackay thought back to the snow days of her youth. They never troubled themselves with the problems back then. They just strapped rough planks of wood to their boots and raced outside to 'ski' in the fields. She remembered the grand toboggan built by her father. He had lovingly crafted it, painting it a glorious bright red so it would be seen against the snow. She smiled as she recalled the hours spent on the hill, squealing with delight as they careered down. She supposed they had never achieved such speeds before.

The phone rang.


'Hello Jean.'

'Isn't it dreadful? Are you alright dear? I've been so worried for you.'

'I'm fine, Jean.'

'If it gets any worse you must come and stay with us, Robert insists. He's such a good boy.'

Mrs Mackay grimaced. Robert was a fifty three year old bank manager with three rather beastly children of his own. He was a decent enough chap but surely not 'such a good boy'? She looked around her cheery kitchen with its oak table and bright orange pots. She would rather stick chopsticks in both eyes than move out, even temporarily.

'That's very kind, but I have everything I need here.'

She spent several more minutes trying to placate her anxious neighbour before making her excuses and putting the phone down. She took a moment to enjoy the silence of her own space, then pushed away from the table and hurried to the stairs.

She pulled the clothes horse away from the wardrobe in the spare room and hauled the door open. She rummaged through the assorted contents, piling up boxes and old shoes and coats on the bed. At last she found what she was looking for, pulling them free with a triumphant smile.

She carried them downstairs, pulled on her coat, hat, scarf and gloves, then opened the door on the waiting winter wonderland. Anyone in earshot might have been surprised to hear the girlish giggle from such an elderly lady.

They would have been even more surprised when she soared expertly away from her house on a pair of gleaming red skis.


© 2013 Kay Lawrence.


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