Savannah Smiles

Shoveling dead bodies was taxing work. Well, the snow was as heavy as a dead body when it was piled on the end of a curved, plastic shovel. Scoop up a mound of white death and heave it off to the side, building a mound. Sweat beading on my forehead even though the temperature hovered around 12°. My blue cotton gloves were no match for the biting air, they were numb at the tips and almost useless but snow needed to be moved and sitting on the couch wasn’t going to solve the problem. Dead bodies of frozen molecules needed to be cleared so I cut another path with the shovel, my back was protesting but the ever-growing mound needed more, much more.

Last night, the plump and affable TV weatherman, a local version of Willard Scott, the doofus weather guy on national TV, announced with a seriousness that belied the giddiness he truly felt, that a major storm was headed our way. Well, at least according to his fancy Doppler radar. Louisville was in the direct path of a snowstorm that pelted St.Louis with nine inches of the slick stuff. This might not rival the infamous storm of 1977 that hit this area and according to lore and gross hyperbole, killed thousands or maybe millions. A generation wiped out. A snowy mass-murder. Stories always get more doctored and enhanced the more often they’re told, it’s human nature. Like the old-timers that walked to school barefoot on glass shards dipped in acid to reach their school, located atop a steep cliff, 76 miles away. People exaggerate. People embellish. It’s what we do. But the Willard Scott doppelgänger said a storm was coming and that news pleased me.

After a quick break from shoveling, coffee and a smoke, I headed back out to my backyard. The mountain of snow that I brought from my driveway stood about four feet high now, which should be an adequate amount. I grab the wheelbarrow from the garage and start phase two of my operation, moving the pile to another location. As the evening sun hid behind a birdless sky with thick and spent clouds hovering low,  I rolled the snow into the woods behind my house. The Sycamore and Maple trees bore the brunt of the storm, their branches covered in white and laboring, the weight sagging and bowing them under the strain. It was a picturesque scene, though, a Hallmark card waiting for an artist. I push the wheelbarrow over to a hump of leaves next to a tree stump. I dump the snow over the leaves and use my foot to trample it down a little. I sit on the stump and light a Pall Mall. The woods are empty and silent this evening, all the critters seeking refuge out of my sight line. The cigarette tickles my throat and proceeds to kill some membranes in my lungs, a small treat for the hard work I just put in. I glance at the pile of snow and rub my crotch softly.

My mind drifts back to Wednesday, three days ago. I was making plans in my lambskin notebook. A detailed account of each step I would need to take, no detail was too trivial. Every contingency had to be accounted for, every possible outcome needed fleshing out. What tools I needed, directions to and fro, including various outlets that I could use in a pinch. I wrote down what clothing I would wear, exact descriptions of the person involved, a plan B and plan C, the movements of traffic at certain hours. Everything needed going over, a plan wasn’t executed until I spent weeks going thru every conceivable outcome. I wrote it all down and studied and studied.. Until the door rang that day.

A young girl who introduced herself as Darcy. She stood on my porch in her Girl Scout outfit, her stitched-on patches and insignias indicating her proficiency at whatever Girl Scouts do. She appeared to be around 12 years old and she was cute, with her wavy blonde hair and a touch of red lipstick making her appear older. She came peddling cookies and I told her I’d buy an entire case, just come on inside and let me grab my wallet. She eagerly entered my home, prospects of a big sell pulling her in with ease. The way she said my name, Mr. Henry Crespo, turned me on.  Blood starting flowing to all the right places. I wanted my name to form on her lips for eternity. She was such a sweet and innocent kid. I put my notebook away, plans had changed.

I flick the cigarette into the air, the orange ember tracing an arc until it landed and extinguished on the ground. I reach for the shovel to finish off the job, covering Darcy’s upper body. She looked so serene lying there, a beautiful snow angel in her green uniform, her hands resting on her chest, clutching a box of Savannah Smiles. You knocked on the wrong door, sunshine, I thought, as I concealed the rest of her with a final shovelful of snow.

I grab another cup of coffee as I lounge on the couch and turn on the local news. The plight of the missing girl is still the big story. Her parents give an interview, choking back tears as they tell the world that they believe she’s still alive because she’s a tough little girl, she’s a “fighter.” I can only smile at that nonsense. She wasn’t a fighter at all. The first punch that shattered her nose, she pissed and shit all over herself. She begged and begged for me to stop. She begged for daddy and God. And her troop leader.

I dip one of those Savannah Smiles into my coffee, those Girl Scouts certainly produce a solid and delightful lemon and powdered-sugar cookie. Her parents drone on and on about little Darcy’s resilience and strength. People exaggerate. People embellish. It’s what we do.

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