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  • Burt Rashbaum

The Set-Up

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

Blind dates almost never work, but this one just might. Maybe it's the storm, maybe the sound of the snow. Hear it?

The Set-Up

It’d been a set-up, for both of them. She refused to call it a blind date, but she’d never met him before tonight. Her friend asked if she could invite him to the dinner, with the purpose of hooking them up. This was friendship, she figured, so she said yes. Her friends knew she was coming off a bad breakup, the poor guy out on the street, calling her name, hysterical. She couldn’t go to the door. Finally he made his way down the street, sobbing loudly. She didn’t come out of the house for two days.

And from what she’d heard, he’d had a similar thing—some kind of horrible breakup, but she didn’t want to hear any details, so she'd said, sure, invite him, I’ll have a good time, don’t worry.

It was the typical dinner party—ten of them, windows fogged from the warmth, a snowstorm revving up outside, some whistling wind that would calm down once the snow got heavy enough, five bottles of red going around, a pipe too, laughter, music.

It was awkward from the first hello but he was kind and she liked the fact that he was a normal guy who just wanted to sit next to her. She knew most of them at the table, and he knew a few. Their mutual friends were surprised they didn’t know each other. That was sort of the icebreaker. Soon they were both talking at the same time, and she thought, okay, he seems normal.

After hours of food and talk, one couple got up and said they were heading out to beat the storm because there would definitely be ice on the streets.

She hadn’t thought of how she’d get home. She’d walked here, but it was just a cold day when she left her place. Outside was like looking through gauze. She saw a hazy glow from a streetlight and the snow was so thick she couldn’t see air. It would take her an hour to walk home.

“Maybe I’d better go too,” she said to him.

“I live just a couple of blocks away,” he said.

She didn’t expect that.

“Then you won’t have much to walk,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” he said.

“Was that an invitation?”

“It sort of was,” he said, “badly stated.”

Why not?

“Sure,” she said. “But we’d better go or we’re staying here.”

In the few seconds they’d spoken, the snow seemed to get even heavier. They said their goodbyes to obvious glee from their friend who’d set them up, and two people applauded. She wanted to smack them both, but he just took her hand and led her out and suddenly they were on the street in the heaviest snow she’d ever seen.

There were no cars, no buses. There’d been no plows, and the street already had maybe 15 inches of fluff. On the sidewalk the snow came almost to her knees. They trudged, trying to make tracks, lifting their legs, pushing through.

She wrapped her arm around his. He pulled her closer. She wanted to get out of this storm as fast as they could. Just walking from the house to where they were, which wasn’t much, was exhausting. This was physical labor, walking through this snow. So she pulled him a bit, speeding up.

“Wait,” he said.

“This is a bad storm,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said. “But wait.”

He stopped walking and by the time she realized it she was a few paces away. Suddenly she was alone. She turned around. He stood there, slowly being covered in WhiteOut, being erased by the snow.

She walked back to him.

“Okay, we stopped. What?”

“This is beautiful,” he said. “Look. There’s no traffic, there’s nobody out here but us, and we only have a couple of blocks. It’s like walking in a snow globe. Listen.”

He was looking at the sky. She did too, and what she heard surprised her. It was the snow, a quiet sort of sound. It was so thick that it made a sound. She’d never heard snow before.

He took her arm. Their attempts to make tracks were delicate, and after a few feet they used each other for balance, partly hugging and partly trudging.

It was still work, but it was so quiet, the silence part of the beauty. A ton of snow was falling, inches an hour, piling up before their eyes as they worked their way through it, with only the snow’s barely whispering sibilance surrounding them.

She found herself smiling as they hung to each other in the cold white storm.

He stopped again under a streetlight. The light seemed focused directly below onto them because the snow was so thick the light couldn’t get further from where they stood. Before she asked him why, he kissed her, quick, his lips warm.

Okay, she thought, okay.

They continued on, arm in arm, not saying a word, part of the silent storm.

Shelby Van Pelt | Author

By Burt Rashbaum

Twitter: @rashbaum1

Burt's most recent book of poetry is Of the Carousel (The Poets Press, Pittsburgh, 2019), and last July, Burt was anthologized in Art in the Time of Covid-19 (San Fedele Press). This piece, The Set-Up is from a recently completed collection of flash fiction titled Inside the Kaleidoscope.

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