This was only a few years back, snow fell and fell and blinding winds heaped huge drifts around my old house and at night it seemed some furious kingdom of darkness had descended on us, our sedate world overtaken and altered permanently.
The problem is that our old-timer team has a hockey game, a game miles away in a country arena. Do we go out on a night like this? The few vehicles visible are spaced out in hesitant convoys, roads looking terrible and blurry and the ditch beckons.
Coach phones with the word, the game is on and he will pick me up at the usual time. We may be the only old timer team with a coach.
We drive back-roads and loopy hills and hollows where sawmills once buzzed beside rivers and now the mills are gone. Coach is a good driver and we make it to the old sheet-metal arena that smells of chicken fries and our goalie’s Tiger Balm and, a bonus, we win the game and, another bonus, Darcy invites us afterward to his garage, to his iron stove and beer and deer sausage sizzling. He played pro for Montreal and Ottawa and has some good stories. He played pro, but we are bringing him down to our level. We stay up late and devour all of his victuals as the storm rages.
Coach drops me at the end of my driveway; he treats me far better than I deserve. All night the blizzard argues outside my house, old wooden windows leaking air and thumping in their frames, but I pile on blankets in my cold room and during the night I dream a warm grocery cashier puts her lips to mine.
In the morning the snow and wind stop. I go to the back door and pull it to me, but wind and snow have formed a second door, an exact imprint of my backdoor, every detail pressed in the snow, the rectangular panels, the screen, the handle, an exact white copy of my door filling the frame.
It seems a shame to alter such a creation, but I leap through this new door, destroy this doppelganger door. Outside the sky is blue, my yard calm and sunny, the wind’s fury gone, our world back, restored to order.
I shovel around my doors. Out front the sidewalk snow-ploughs have pushed through and cut high perfect walls in the drifts, beautiful white hallways that travel miles across the city like some complicated art installation, like trenches from the Great War, but the war is over and it is bright and cheery and clean, no rats, no mud, no snipers in this stunning new world.
Cars pass by, but the snow is heaped so high I can’t see them and all sounds are muffled. White walls, but open ceilings, like passageways in an albino Pompeii, roofless and bright, infinite and surreal, and I can follow these weird perfect hallways all the way across town saying good morning, how are you.
The new walls glow in the sun and I want to hang a thrift store painting where the perfect white hallway passes my house; I expect to see light switches and doors and offices with photocopy machines humming inside the huge snow-banks, offices printing out more white, the light everywhere so bright it’s a form of distilled noise.
Italy, Cuba, Mexico, California. They all boast admirable climates and painterly light, they have limos and palaces and glitzy pop stars with thread count concerns, but they don’t have this, this strange and beautiful winter world. They have no idea what I’m talking about.
—Mark Anthony Jarman
Mark Anthony Jarman is a short story writer without peer, heir to a skein of pyrotechnic rhetoric that comes from Joyce and Faulkner and fuels the writing, today, of people like Cormac McCarthy and the late Barry Hannah. He edits fiction for a venerable Canadian magazine called The Fiddlehead which, in the 1970s, published some of my first short stories (and another story is coming out in the summer, 2011, issue). Mark has written a book of poetry, Killing the Swan, a hockey novel, Salvage King Ya!, four story collections, Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, New Orleans is Sinking, 19 Knives, and My White Planet, and nonfiction book about Ireland called Ireland’s Eye. He teaches at the University of New Brunswick and lives in a very large house fronting the Saint John River. His story “The December Astronauts (or Moonbase Horse Code)” appears in Numéro Cinq’s Best of Vol. 1. See also his interview with NC Contributor Mary Stein here. “Hallway Snowstorn” was originally published in a special Christmas fiction issue of the Salon section of the Saint John Telegraph-Journal.