No one to blame
(This is a treatment for a future film or one act play – I’m working on the script)
The snow started as soon as I got to my uncle’s cabin, mounting up inch by inch for every hour we stayed
Frank had insisted on bringing me up here so we could talk, though he really intended to give me a lecture.
Turning myself into the police, confessing to my crime, even my plans for marriage did not seem enough to ease his or the family’s rage. They had a punishment of their own in mind, condemning me to a life sentence working in the family business.
I felt myself getting sucked up because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had spent so much time in seeking to escape them, I had made no other plans as to what I might do if my first plan failed.
Frank was not a mean man. In fact, over the years, he was the closest to me of my uncles, trying to share pieces of his world with me, helping me paint my room as a kid, taking me for a ride on his boat on the lake (He never imagined 60-year old wall paper was so hard to remove or that we would run out of gas in the middle of the lake.)
We shared so many mutual disasters that the fluke blizzard seemed to fit the pattern of our lives, designed to throw us together once more before life and the rest of the family made our connection impossible.
Like Frank, I always had aspirations to become some kind of artist – something he seemed to admire in me.
Of all in the family, he would sit through my pathetic efforts at poetry, song-writing and story-telling.
He always told me I would make something of myself some day.
Here in the cabin, he blamed me for spoiled all of that with my crime.
He said stealing the money and getting my girl pregnant put me on a whole different life path from the one I originally walked.
I couldn’t go dancing through life like some beatnik now. I had to get a job and work.
Outside, the snow continued to mount, making it clear we would spend more than the originally planned weekend together.
Frank’s anger made me angry, and I told him my life was none of his concern.
Just because he got stuck as a wage slave to the family business, didn’t mean I had to.
Crime or not, illegitimate child or not, I intended to follow my dreams.
And as soon as the snow stopped, I would head back to the city and my own life.
That peeved Frank even more.
He said my life wasn’t as divorced from the families I as I imagined, that my stealing the money had changed Frank’s plans for marriage since he had to put in extra hours at the shop to make up for the cash I sold – after all, my theft put the family business in a deep whole.
His girl couldn’t wait, and so now it was unlike Frank would ever marry.
Now, the snow became less of a friend, building a wall around us, making me think I was already serving time, not for stealing money, but for ruining Frank’s life as well as my own.
Yet trapped together as we had in the past seemed to soften Frank’s rage. He told me he loved me, and that he really hadn’t brought me here to dump a load of guilt on me.
He pointed out that he was as trapped inside our family as I was becoming, and brought me here to see if we could work out a new plan for me to escape when he could not.
I kept thinking of that snow storm in 1956 when I was five and how he had come out of the old house without hat or gloves to help me build a snow fort – and how we had managed to do it again all these many years later we had done it again, the walls of snow, keeping us free from the forces of the family and that world.
Frank wanted for me what I wanted, and wanted to help me find a way to achieve what he could not achieve.
But how does one drowning man save another drowning man when we’re both up to our chins?
Frank, a huge man, seemed a sad and shriveled version of the man I once thought of as bigger than life.
The family had imprisoned him by taking him into the business – presuming to rescue him from his uncertain wanderings when they really wanted to bind him so that he could not escape.
And with me, they held my crime over me, using it like a chain, so I would be bound to them by guilt.
Once I actually started working for the story, I wouldn’t have time for anything creative any more than Frank had at my age.
I knew the snow storm couldn’t last forever, and that once the roads were clear they would drag us both back to that old life.
Frank, however, said he had a way to foil the family.
If I found another job – outside somewhere – I could refuse to get caught up the way he had.
While I would still have to work hard, I could eventually find time for other things that mattered and finally do what Frank could not – and I would do it for both of us.
And as I had back during the 1956 storm, when Frank and I huddled in that small snow fort, I felt warm and safe.
We tossed another log on the fire and waited for the snow to end.
“Whose turn is it to deal?” Frank asked. “Get another pack of cigarettes from the drawer.”