A stranded traveler struggles through a blizzard to reach an isolated cabin.
| The flurry of snow across the windshield blinded and startled me. The steering wheel almost took off my thumb when it spun violently to the right. The car lurched to a stop that threw me hard into the seat belt and snapped my head forward. The headlights showed only an unending whirl of white.|
Muttering things I was glad my mother couldn't hear, I tilted my head carefully back and forth to be sure it was still attached. I tried backing up, then rocked the car. No go. Stuck tight as a mouse in a trap. Unfortunate image.
I unsnapped the seat belt and wondered what to do. The recommended action was to call for help, then remain in the vehicle, crack a window on the downwind side to avoid asphyxiation, and wait for someone to come by. Not to likely on this country lane; I hadn't seen another vehicle for half an hour.
My phone, toque and gloves had slid from the passenger seat to the floor. I leaned over, butt up and head down, and searched until I was dizzy. The phone had vanished--under the seat? behind the dash?--so after a few minutes of fruitless search, I put on the hat and gloves and pushed the door open against the wind.
Snow blasted into my face and swirled into the car, and I stepped out into a knee-deep drift. The front end of the car was buried to the hood and I couldnt even see the front tires. Dang, it looked I was now a temporary resident of rural Alberta.
Through the blizzard I could see a lighted window maybe fifty metres off the road. It came and went through the flurries, but I thought I could reach it easily. I shut the car off, locked it, and set off.
Wading through the snow was harder than I thought, and the light vanished from time to time in wind-driven whiteness. Shivering despite my parka, I stumbled up the front steps onto the veranda of the rustic cottage and banged breathlessly on the door.
"Who in the bloody blue blazes?" A gruff voice came through the crack as the door opened. I stared, dumbfounded, at the tall, slender old man, taking in the grizzled hair, the clear and penetrating eyes, the silver moustaches, the mouth twisted in a familiar wry grin. Of all the people to meet out in the middle of nowhere!
"Come in, young man. Close your mouth. Catching flies? Hardly. In this weather? Choke on snow. Get in, get in. Familiar face. One of my classes?"
"Uh, yes. Good evening, Professor Samardjic. Phil Jarvey, Philosophy of Law, class of '2015. Uh, please forgive my surprise, but I had heard you were dead." The warm light of coal oil lanterns filled the room with a gentle glow.
"Hah! Rumour. Dr. Jenadizin, no doubt. Vile man. Jealous. No, merely retired. Came here to write. Isolated, you know. Wanted privacy. Now beleaguered by grad students at all hours. Hang your stuff there." He pointed at some hooks beside the door. "Hot buttered rum? Just made myself one. Power's out. Propane stove. Wood heat."
He all but pushed me into a chair by the wood stove, and after much clinking and tinkling thrust a mug into my hands and stood beside me expectantly. A wonderfully warm mug that took the chill from my hands and a wonderfully warm drink that drove the cold from my innards.
"Thank you, Professor, I needed that. Do you have a phone here?" I explained the stuck car.
"No phone. No pool. No pets." His twisted grin accompanied the joke. "Stuck here. Grader comes in the morning. Get you out. No one to miss you?"
"Not at the moment. I'm not in a relationship, and Tillman and Associates won't expect me until Monday morning. They're the firm I'm with."
"Weekend alone? Hmm. Too bad. For you."
Samardjic walked to the cupboard and pulled a wicked-looking knife from a drawer and returned to hover over me, pointing the knife. My gut clenched and the rum toddy threatened to erupt. I shrank from that vicious point and tried to flatten myself into the chair.
He had some kind of small sharpening device in his other hand. Whit-whit, whit-whit, whit-whit, it flicked back and forth along the blade. He sat in the chair on the other side of the stove and continued honing the knife. The better to cut me with? Suspicion stiffened my body and I got my legs under me, Better to dart out into the storm than to be eviscerated.
"You studied Waddam's book, yes? "Introduction to Philosophy of Law". Now, his central thesis is threefold: that law is a social matter, that law is authoritative, and that law is for the common good. Let us consider the implications of his first point....."
We argued law and philosophy into the small hours, after which I enjoyed a sound sleep. In the morning, the wicked knife was used to slice a block of Spam for breakfast, with eggs and toast, before the grader came.