My wife and I were listening to the radio through snowstorm static. Record snowfalls in England, icebergs floating like ghost ships down the Thames. Whole villages disappear beneath the waves. Wheelbarrows and Pontiacs, patio furniture and factories — going, going, gone. Neighbours lean over their garden fences, clutching their thick wool coats tight against their chests. “Strange weather lately,” they all say, as the tidal waves build above their heads. There are children, holding marigolds and summer popsicles, buried alive in freezing rain.
In other news, the fascists have taken over the Parliament. Another dirty bomb goes off on the Atlantic seaboard. There are skinheads swarming at the mall, a plague in the countryside. Crows perch on telephone wires, spelling out strange messages in a calligraphy of feathers. There is the terrible sound of hooves drumming in the sky.
Sometimes I look for signs of hope in the newspaper. There are these beautiful lullabies on teevee. The nice man with the deep rich voice from this or that institute says it’s all just a bad dream, and we should go back to sleep. I’m not proud of it, but that’s a message I want to hear. I want to believe those reassuring tones and fall asleep at the wheel of an SUV.
I think about how the ice age, when it comes, moves so slowly. We have maybe another fifty years, a hundred years even, before the August snowdrifts reach our front doors. Maybe more if we move north. People my age will be okay. Enough time to read some books, eat some curry at that little place on the drive. Enough time to make love to my wife and sit in front of those Renaissance drawings at the art gallery. A few more summers with mint gelato, the sun on my back. I’m not proud of it, but that is my ace in the hole.
And my daughter? She’s riding her silver scooter through the neighbour’s sprinkler for the last time this year. Already the smell of wood smoke is in the air. I wonder what all her future autumns will be like. I wonder if she’ll have children and grandchildren of her own. I wonder if she’ll enjoy old age, enjoy watching fat trout hiding in the reeds, watching a leaf floating on the current, and feeling the sun against her face. The mid-life crisis and the secret regrets. The birthday candles and off-key Christmas carols. The deja vu and belly laughs, sentimental songs and the hokey-pokey. All those years of suffering and delight. All those years of pleasure and terror. I watch her ride her silver scooter through the arc of water, screaming with delight. She’s screaming and screaming with joy, and her screaming says “wake up, wake up. Wake up now.”