Who Will Stop the Rain?
CHAPTER 1: WINTER CHILLS AND TEENAGE THRILLS
You don’t really understand winter until you meet it. They call it winter south of Connecticut, but that stuff isn’t real. Ask any New Englander or Canada native, the southern winter is really a masquerading late autumn. For them, when it snows, they think it’s nice out. When it’s a blizzard they chain up their tires and go. Buffalo New York gets eight feet of snow regularly while most states south of Connecticut deem eight inches nearly apocalyptic conditions.
Ana happens to be in the southern sweet spot. Or had been until she decided to drive north on the whimsy that it would be nice. In November, New Jersey had been chilly with driveable roads. Connecticut had only offered gummed up traffic and Massachusetts had been indistinguishable from Connecticut. Vermont and New Hampshire were tougher, rougher. Then Ana hit Maine and wondered if she was ever qualified to drive to begin with.
The snow is trying to make the world one white shit storm- her words, not mine. Every ten feet, and yea she’s counting, her car makes this awkward back slide that has her die a little bit on the inside. Her windshield wipers are clicking furiously as they push snow banks off the glass. Ana is begging that the gods are listening and that they really, really don’t have it out for her. “I’m too young!” she cries at the terrible conditions. Her knuckles are whiter than the snow as they grip the steering wheel.
Then, like a beacon in the night, there is an ugly, mottled sign piercing the storm. It has a harsh yellow background and red-faded-to-orange lettering that reads “Blue Bell Motel”. The vacancy sign has power and Ana imagines the hot albeit grungy showers awaiting her. To her it looks like heaven. To the locals it’s where you get your crack.
Regardless, it’s the Blue Bell motel and one of those beds has Ana’s name on it.
Pulling over is a lot harder than Ana had thought and another backslide nearly rams her into the guard rail. “I am an idiot,” she berates as she rides over a snow bank into the parking lot. Her little Corolla is whining up a storm. The heat finally breaks just as she shifts into park. Angrily, she punches the radio off, the guy who was discussing the ‘normal road conditions’ finally giving over to silence.
Eerie silence, actually, Ana notes. Having lived in the bustle of a small city and the constant movement of a suburb it’s hard to understand this total silence. The world is just whited out. There are no other cars except for the owner’s (and hers) in the lot. There are no planes passing low overhead. The wind is even dampened by the heavy precipitation. As the windshield starts to fog, Ana desperately wishes she was back in civilization and not—well not here wherever here is.
Negotiating the door open is not too difficult. However, looking at the snow brushing the underbelly of her car, Ana is regretting not wearing taller boots. Granted she doesn’t own taller boots, but right now all she sees is the likelihood of frost bite and her glaring lack of taller boots. She slams one laced boot into the snow, quickly followed by the other, and swings the car door as she stands.
Snow is already piling in her hair and on her eyelashes. Looking out, everything is hardly distinguishable from the snow. The sign is even slightly hidden as she tries to discern if this place really exists. The building kind of looks like a lump, a long sprawling lump with black windows. There is a bit of an arch by the entryway and another sign, this time slightly green, that reads “Blue B ll motel”. “Why do people live up here?” she wonders aloud as she clumps towards the door through the mounting blizzard.
It’s slow going. The snow has sneaked into her boot and is making this soft squelching sound. Her socks don’t feel wet, but maybe her feet are frozen already. She tries to huff some hair out of her face, but damp lock doesn’t even move. It just stares at her mockingly over her left eye; her normally bright red hair edging towards brown.
The glass door into the office gyrates a bit before sliding along its track. The assault of heat nearly sends Ana careening into the tight and very eclectic space. Straight ahead is a heavy wooden table with fitted cubbies behind it, all labeled neatly. To the right is a fish tank, but Ana could not name the type of fish. One kind of looks like a tuna, but who keeps a freaking tuna in an aquarium in a motel?
Ana’s inspecting the sort-of-but-can’t-be tuna when someone clearing their throat grabs her attention. Self consciously she runs her hand through her hair and a veritable snow drift falls with a fwump to the floor. She looks at it sheepishly as it soaks through the red and orange carpet. “A room?” the owner asks gently.
Dark eyes meet the tired one of the owner’s. Dark bags hang heavy under both sets of eyes, but the owner’s are deeper and darker. Age can do that, Ana supposes as she steps up to the desk. The old man gives her a tired smile and his face stretches funkily. She can see a liver spot behind his ear, tucked beneath his clinging tufts of grey hair.
He slides a key across the table—not a magnetic strip card key, but a solid metal key with ‘14’ engraved in it. “Lot of the heat’s broke in the building,” the owner explains and he reminds Ana of her grandfather—if she, you know, had a grandfather she got along with. The one she has doesn’t quite count. “This one is also, uh, more in line with your tastes,” he offers politely and Ana helpfully translates to ‘cleaner’.
‘or has more porn channels’, she sniggers internally as she takes up the key. “When’s check out?” she asks. The owner studies her face before his eyes watch the building storm.
“The roads won’t be drive-able for another two days at least. I mean—the little toyota’s yours, right” Ana nods to that and his face twitches in paternal condescension. The little man does not approve of her car choice, go figure. “Well the plows won’t come through until tomorrow and even then the salt won’t help with the ice ‘til the day after.”
“So whenever I please?” she hazards.
He showcases his teeth, his lower left canine missing. “2 in the afternoon, day is your choice—60 a night.”
“Fantastic,” she grimaces and leaves. Maybe she deserves this kick in the proverbial nuts. After all, the whole point of this road trip was stupid. It’s all stupid, Ana has decided. But despite all the stupidity that is a middle-of-the-winter-road-trip she really doesn’t have to pay upwards of 120 to survive a stupid blizzard.
Ana pauses by her car, hand gripping the room key too tightly. The metal bites into her skin. The cold chews down to her bones. Maybe she could freeze here and never, ever have to go back. She’d never have to go on the plane. She’d never have to leave the States behind. “Oh stop being so dramatic!” she shouts into the howling wind. Because she is being dramatic. It’s an amazing job. It’s with an amazing company. And, dude, it’s in Switzerland!
Just forget the fact that she’ll be a glorified (and very much legal) arms dealer and it’s heaven sent!
Actually, heaven probably doesn’t give a shit about weapons. Like the crusades. Like the inquisition. Like the witch trials. Heaven doesn’t give a shit about weapons. To be perfectly honest, heaven doesn’t really give a shit about much of anything.
Whatever heaven thinks, though, isn’t what Ana thinks. Ana may love helping save lives and that’s the pitch you always try to give. Sure there are (heavy) undercurrents of death counts in the defense industry, but it’s all about protecting your people from them. And in that position, well, Ana will be saving lives. She just hopes it’s at least as many as she’ll be taking away.
Ana eventually has to haul her bag by foot to room 14, which is conveniently located very far away. She had tried to get her car to move, but the tires just spun on the snow and it started making this funny noise that reminded her of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Ana’s also pretty sure her kicking it probably didn’t help. But, come on, she has to slog like 50 something feet in the bitter cold.
“I did not get a college education for this,” she grumps as she crosses the parking lot. The only good that comes out of this lot is that she finally figures out where she is. Emblazoned on a dumpster that she has to pass in her epic journey is “Whiting, ME”.
She stares at it for awhile, kind of willing it away because she doesn’t want to own up to her own stupidity. She decided to drive through New England in winter for a fucking road trip—she deserves to be snowed-in in where-ever-the-hell-this-even-is Maine. “At least I’m not in Canada,” she mollifies but it’s hardly enough to stop her from kicking the dumpster.