It started snowing at seven in the morning. By seven-thirty, it was coming down at about an inch an hour. Social media filled with pictures people took of the snow in their yards, their neighborhoods, their towns. No one had seen anything like it.
“It never snows this far south,” one woman said as she was interviewed by a local TV reporter. I don’t even have a snow shovel!”
Estelle turned the TV off. It was February. Why did they all panic at the sight of a snowflake. She got up and went to the kitchen to make some hot tea. Estelle had come from upstate New York. Snowfall of a foot or even two was pretty normal. It was just after noon and she’d already been out twice to shovel her short driveway and even shorter front walk.
Big improvement over New York, she thought as she waited for the electric kettle to bring the water to a boil. There it would have taken me two hours just to get the driveway cleared, let alone the walks and the decks. No, she decided. It is much better here.
Tea made, she took it into the living room and settled in under an afghan her mother had made for her and read a book. Three hours later, it was time to clear the driveway again.
She dressed lightly. Shoveling snow was a workout. Estelle grabbed the shovel out of the garage and began. It was wet and heavy, this late in the day, not like the fluffy, dry snow from the colder morning. Working steadily, she cleared the walk, then began the driveway. Halfway done she stopped to rest. The street where she lived was populated but no one was out. The snow was still falling at a fast clip, big, fat, wet flakes, drifting down, smothering all the sounds she normally heard in the area.
When she got to the street, she realized the city plows still hadn’t been through, no one had. She shook her head. What if one of the neighbors needed an ambulance. She glanced next door. Trudy Willa had been carried off by ambulance twice in the last year. There was no sign of Trudy or her husband, Dave. Obviously, they were going to wait to clear their drive. They always hired someone.
Estelle knocked the wet snow off of her shovel and got back to work. The cloudy day made nightfall that much sooner. She wanted to get this done and get back inside and make a little dinner. Spaghetti, she thought, with jarred sauce. That’ll be quick and easy. She stopped shoveling to move her shoulder around. It was hurting. No wonder, she thought. She hadn’t had to shovel snow in the six years she’d been here.
After two more shovelfuls, she stopped again. She was a little nauseous, too. Good thing she was going to make a quick dinner. Estelle looked around. The driveway was nearly done. Good. She shoveled more, tossing the snow as far as she could. This storm was supposed to last through tomorrow. She didn’t want the snow to pile up too much right next to the driveway. She rubbed her arm again. Going to have to do more arm work in the gym, she thought and went back to work.
She was close to being done and the daylight was fading fast. Just in time, she thought. She was ready for another hot cup of tea. That’s when the pain hit her in the chest, radiating out to her arms so hard and fast Estelle fell to her knees, the shovel falling from her hands. What the…, she thought as she gasped for breath. What was going on?
The pain wouldn’t stop. She wanted to get up, get inside, call someone, but she just couldn’t get her legs to move. Another sharp pain came washing through her. She fell over on her side, still gasping from the intensity of it. Get up, she told herself. You can’t lay on the driveway. You’ll freeze. But still, she couldn’t move. Estelle lay there, the snow drifting down on her. She concentrated on just breathing. Slow and steady, she thought, but any deep breath made her hurt even more.
Ridiculous. I’m not going to just lay out here. She tried to roll to her knees, but any movement just set off more chest pain. Heart attack, she thought. I’m having a heart attack. She lay her head on the cold, wet, cement of the driveway, her knees pulled up to her chest. She could feel the wet soaking into her jeans and the shivering start.
Gently. Very gently. Get inside and call the ambulance. You can do it. Don’t worry about how much it hurts. So slowly, very slowly, she rolled up, gasping with the pain and began to crawl to the garage door. It was fifteen feet away. You can do it, she told herself. This will teach you to carry the phone in your pocket. At ten feet from the open maw of the garage, she had to rest. Her knees were protesting the crawl on the hard cement. Shut up, she told them. We’ve got bigger problems. Ten feet, let’s go.
It was getting darker. The lights weren’t on. She hadn’t needed them when she’d first come outside. You can’t lay here, Estelle, she told herself. Get inside. Do it! She raised herself and crawled. Her gloves had soaked through and her hands felt like ice. Three feet from the edge of the door, her arms collapsed as another chest pain hit. She fell over and pulled her knees up to her chest, her head next to the wooden door frame. Please no, she thought. Not like this. Then she felt nothing.
Dave found her the next day when he took his fat little chihuahua for its walk—Estelle was a shapeless blob of snow near the open garage door, frozen.