In the meantime, I went into my room, took a nice hot shower in preparation for hot water becoming a scarce commodity for a bit, put on some comfortable sweatpants, and broke out the whiskey.
I didn’t drink often. It just wasn’t my thing, and when in the company of friends, a couple of beers was all I wanted. Drinking alone just seemed sad most of the time, but there was something so cozy about having a little drink while a storm raged. Especially if it was mixed with something else delicious.
Pouring some soda into a hotel cup and adding in a couple of shots of whiskey, I sat on my bed and flipped on the television. There wasn’t a whole lot to do now but wait. Around eight, I ordered a pizza from the hotel kitchen, figuring that at least cold pizza leftovers would be good for breakfast tomorrow, and I settled in for the night by binge-watching a streaming show and slowly dozing off.
Snapping awake at two in the morning, my first instinct was to check outside. Shoving my feet into the slippers that I always brought with me, I padded over to the window and peered through the curtain.
The storm had started, though it was gentle at the moment. A fresh blanket of new snow was on the ground, covering the grass, but not even enough to weigh it down. Long strands of green still stuck up through the white all over the yard behind the hotel. My view wasn’t a spectacular one, mostly looking out over the highway that rode past, but there was a little dog-run area back there behind the building.
The wind was blowing, pushing the trees around a bit, but nothing like what they were calling for. So far, it looked like any other mountain-town winter storm in its early stages. It would dump a bunch of white stuff everywhere and move on east, where it might have a little bit left for the coastal cities but most likely would end up just being rain and slush.
It reminded me of my childhood, going back and forth between the more coastal areas near Williamsburg, VA, and then to where the majority of my family lived in the mountains past Blacksburg. The winters there were not the same. Just a couple of hours apart, in the same state, snow would be heavy and thick or wet and slushy. Visiting Richmond or Norfolk resulted in some snow, but mostly just nightmare-inducing traffic problems. In the mountains past Roanoke and Staunton, it was a blanket that children could sled on and build snowmen out of.
I flipped on the television and turned the station to the weather channel as I crawled back into bed. The forecast was still the same. Lots of snow. Ice. Dangerous conditions. Don’t drive if you don’t have to.
Content that nothing had changed, I flipped the TV off, sank my head into the pillow, and drifted off to an immediate deep sleep.
Which was promptly interrupted twenty minutes later by a phone call.
Groggily, I sat up, confused. I wasn’t even sure I had actually gone back to sleep yet. How much time had passed I wasn’t sure until I grabbed my ringing phone and saw that it had only been twenty minutes. Also, Carl was calling me. At two thirty in the morning.
“Hello?” I answered after swiping open the call. “Carl?”
“Ian, thank goodness,” Carl said, sounding frantic. It was enough that it made me sit up in the bed, and my heart picked up the pace a bit in my chest.
“Carl, what’s wrong? What’s going on?”
“It’s the hospital,” Carl said. “I realized I had left one of my toolboxes up here on the fourth floor, and since I might not come back, I wanted to go get it. So, I came up here, and Ian, one of the big pane windows has a tree branch through it.”
“Oh no,” I said. “Those were supposed to be stormproof windows. What the hell?”
“Well, I’m sure that a normal storm would have been fine. But this tree came down hard and did some massive damage. Going through that window is the least of the worries, though. You have a bigger problem.”
“Bigger than a major aspect of my job being obliterated?” I asked.
“Yup,” Carl said. “The window that got blown out was in Dr. Sutton’s office. And there is a ton of equipment in there getting snowed on.”
“What?” I thundered, now fully awake. “What do you mean equipment? Mine?”
“Your crew’s,” he said. “Bunch of saws and stuff to build out walls. It looks like it got moved in here for safekeeping while they cleared out another area and then forgot it because of the evacuation.”
“You have got to be kidding me. How much is there?”
“More than I can put away myself,” Carl said. “I wouldn’t bother you if it were just a few things, but I can’t get all this by myself.”