A Fated Choice

Samuel and Jason listened to the snow; a mountain lion stalking back and forth across their roof. Through the window, Samuel watched the iced over lake, three miles around the perimeter, gather snow for its spring harvest. The storm was just half an hour old, but the small lake bungalow was already sandwiched between wild, white drifts.

“Fuck, fuck–fuck me!” Jason said. He watched the phone. Beads of sweat sat on his forehead in the unheated cabin, an occasional droplet bleeding down the side of his red face.

“We shouldn’t have come.” Samuel said. He tipped his cup to his lips and sipped warm coffee from the blue glass. The smell of the opened package of beans on the kitchen table was stronger than what lay in the glass.

“No, we should have left by now. Now we’re here until Monday–two fucking days!”

“She has your number. She’ll call when the baby comes.”

“I’m going to start digging out of here,” Jason said. He walked to the front door and took the shovel in his hands, just waiting for its opportunity to play in the snow.

“You couldn’t dig fast enough.” Samuel’s soft laughter filled the walls between the door and the back window overlooking the lake.

Then the door slammed and Samuel watched Jason from the window near the door, carving a path to the pickup truck, where he vanished half way to the Silverado. The storm coughed him up ten minutes later as the door burst open, and the tired, angry father-to-be came in to stomp his boots on the floor.

Jason’s wife was pregnant. He checked her into the hospital as a precaution the day he and Samuel left for the cabin, and everything had been fine. Her due date was Monday. The day was Saturday. Then the phone rang with the news that his wife was in labor.

“How’d it go? Are we leaving?” Samuel drank his coffee, sloshing the black liquid between the sides as he let the cup down from his mouth.

“Up yours!”

“Hey, I told you not to go out there. I knew you’d shovel a foot and the storm would burry two.”

Samuel drank his cup of coffee, offering to make more for Jason who agreed, and ran off the caffeine as he paced between the walls. Time passed slowly: five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. An hour fell by and then two. Light conversation filled some of the void, and the wind and snow filled the rest.

Jason was sure it wouldn’t snow until Sunday night. He had been glued to the television at home before he and Samuel left. They drove forty miles to his father’s cabin, along the public lake, with the radio on the local station. Prayers were spoken, wishes hoped for, and the snow appeared to be a long way off while they celebrated the first time they met as ten-year-olds.

They were thirty now and the opportunity to come back to their old haunt was overpowering. It had been planned down to the weekend. The way it first appeared, nothing was going to come in the way of their rendezvous.

“Who’d have thought it’d end like this?”

Jason ignored Samuel for the moment. They were out of food and the storm was growing wilder by the quarter-hour. It was no longer about getting back home before his wife had his third child, but about getting home before they froze or starved, whichever came first.

“Maybe it won’t happen ’til we get back…” Samuel said.

“Or maybe no one will call, or they won’t get through.” He contemplatively touched the surface of his silver cell phone.

“Well, they can’t be mad at us, can they? I mean, how many times can you celebrate something like this?”

Jason shook his head. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

“Right.”

Jason opened his phone and dialed. He prayed to God the lines weren’t down. They weren’t and a nurse picked up, gruff, not sounding as though she wanted to play operator.

“Yes, this is Jason Fischer and I would like to know if I can speak with Lisa Fischer?”

Samuel mocked him in the corner, his arms crossed, pretending the phone was in between his shoulder and cheek as Jason had it then.

“No? Okay, thank you. Can you tell them to please call when her baby comes? Thanks.”

The phone clicked dead.

He went back to pacing the floor, wall to wall. Night came and they hardly noticed. Sleep came in spurts as the night progressed. Samuel slept in the corner cot and Jason slept in the old rocking chair by the lake window.

At 6:17 in the morning, Jason’s the phone rang, waking both sleeping bodies.

“Everything is going to be fine,” Samuel said in the dark. He had plenty of time to speak.

On the fourth ring, Jason answered, speaking in a tired, anxious voice, “Hello?”

Silence ensued on Jason’s end. Samuel turned the light on and walked to the rocking chair. Jason nodded his head emphatically and hung up after a brief good-bye.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“The baby didn’t make it,” Jason said. “Lisa…she’s fine.”

Samuel stayed by his side as the storm stayed above them. The weekend would pass without anyway to get home. Forty miles; but it felt like it could have been thousands more.

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