Cold and frightened, Emma and her brother Mikey huddled next to each other in the back seat of Mrs. Dunphy’s Studebaker.
The storm had intensified since they left the Willard Elementary School with Emma’s third grade teacher and her husband an hour earlier. Heavy wet snow blew across Old Marsh Road, causing treacherous driving conditions. The wiper blades rattled as they swept over the windshield. They couldn’t see out of the side windows.
Mr. Dunphy tried desperately to free the rear wheels from the slushy snow. The car rocked back and forth, its tires spinning. The vehicle wouldn’t budge. He cursed out loud.
“Do something, Howard,” shrieked Mrs. Dunphy. “We’re freezing. Why isn’t there any heat?”
“Mildred, the car is stuck. I don’t know what’s wrong with the heater. I’m doing the best I can.”
“There’s a plastic shovel in the trunk, Howard. Try digging around the tires. Don’t worry, children, Mr. Dunphy will get us home safely.”
Mr. Dunphy looked at them through the rear view mirror. “Just sit tight. There’s a blanket back there. Cover yourselves up.”
“I’ll tend to the children,” said Mrs. Dunphy. “Now, go on.”
He swore again, slammed the car door and trudged out into the snow.
Mrs. Dunphy sat in the front seat crying and mumbling. Emma couldn’t tell if she was angry with her husband, the weather or them. She felt guilty. It was her fault they were stuck on the side of the road during a blizzard in a car without heat. She gave Mikey a reassuring smile as she pulled the scratchy woolen blanket up to their chins.
In late February, Emma’s family moved to another part of town. The children had to switch schools. She had a problem adjusting to her new classroom. Emma didn’t like the teacher and missed her friends. On the fourth day, she refused to go back.
After several attempts at bribery, a lot of coaxing, pleading and begging, her parents gave in. Emma’s father arranged for both children to go back to their old school for the remainder of the year. Since her dad traveled and her mother didn’t drive, they went by taxi. Mrs. Dunphy and her husband volunteered to drive them home.
The door opened. A gust of wind blew snow into the front seat. Mr. Dunphy got in the car and tried again. The vehicle lurched forward then rolled back into the ruts several times. He cursed some more, grabbed a snowbrush, got back out and cleared the windshield.
Mrs. Dunphy stopped crying. She didn’t seem angry anymore. “Hang on children. I think it’s going to work this time.”
Her husband got back in the car, yelled, “Here we go,” and hit the gas. The tires squealed and spun, as the Studebaker inched its way back onto the roadway. Mr. Dunphy had to drive ten miles an hour the rest of the way, but he managed to keep the car on the road.
Emma would never forget that long ride home.
© 2016, Lina Rehal. All rights reserved.
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