#fridayflash: long night, still night

"What does it say?"

"Dunno. Turn the headlights on." Darryl heard Gina clomp through the snow to the car. So dark, so quiet — they hadn't seen another car for the last half-hour of driving before they stopped outside the Christmas Tree farm. The few houses, like the one Darryl figured must be at the end of the driveway they were parked beside now, were so far back you couldn't see them from the road.

Gina opened the car door, fumbled the keys into the ignition, and sat in the driver's seat to turn on the headlights. She yelped and jumped out again.

"What's wrong?"

"The car shifted when I sat down, shit... Darryl, it's gonna be stuck now."

"What about the front wheel on the passenger side?"

"Um..." Gina edged around the front of the car. "It's in the snowdrift too."

"Shit." Darryl stepped through the knee-deep powder, reached through the still-open door, and got the headlights on.

He stepped back into the frozen ditch and sighed. "This was your idea," he said.

"It was not. I wanted to go downtown to that pop-up shop..." said Gina. The car was pointing the wrong way to illuminate the signs on the fence directly with the headlights, but there was enough ambient light to read them. "Darryl, this isn't gonna work."

"Huh?" He turned and read the sign.


Darryl laughed.

"See? Tomorrow. Downtown."

"Screw the pop-up shop," he said, reaching into in his coat pocket. "Watch this." He put an old lighter into the top of an empty pack of cigarettes, and wrapped it up with the foil liner from the pack.  "This should toss okay." He lobbed it at the fence.

The wad of garbage connected with two wires on the fence links. Orange sparks splattered into the night, and the paper backing the foil ignited briefly as the package fell into the snow.

"I'm glad you tested it first." She said it sincerely.

"Let's get the damn car out of the ditch and go home." Darryl turned to get into the car and spotted something moving towards them. Finally, another pair of headlights on the road.

The lights were attached to a well-used pickup truck, which turned in to the driveway to the Christmas Tree farm and stopped a couple of metres from the gate.

A man got out of the truck, black watch cap pulled almost all the way down to his bushy grey eyebrows. "Engine trouble?"

"Huh?" said Darryl. "Ah, no, no, but we might be stuck."

"Funny place to pull over," said the man, shielding his eyes from the glare of the car's headlights and walking to the passenger side. "I'd say you're stuck. Did you not check our web site for the business hours first?"

Gina stepped into the light. "The thing is, we didn't want a full tree. Just some boughs. There was an article in Seasonal Decor and, you know, I wanted to try it." She gave the smile that had melted the hearts of nightclub bouncers and TSA agents.

The man grunted. "Right, we've heard a lot about Seasonal Decor this year. We didn't sell any boughs off the farm, though. Shipped a bunch wholesale to one of those pop-up shops or whatever you call them, in the city. Right downtown."

"Oh, but we came out all this way," said Gina, not ready to give up yet. "Couldn't we just buy some deadfall, something that wouldn't be too much trouble..."

The man held up a leather-gloved hand. "You two have already been too much trouble," he said. "No offence. I'll pull your car out, and then you should get going. There's a freezing rain storm due in a couple of hours. You want to be home by then."

Darryl started to protest, but one glance from the man reminded him that if this farmer didn't help them with their car, they might not get home at all that night.

"I'm Gord Arden, by the way," said the man as he walked back to his truck. "Why don't you introduce yourselves while I get the chains hooked up?"

Thirty minutes later the car was back on the road and the chains were put away. Gina apologised so profusely that Gord gently told her to stop.

"Come back next year, when we're open for the season," he said. "Today was our last day." He wagged a finger. "Check the web site first. And get home before you have to worry about that freezing rain."

"We were lucky," Gina said as they drove away. "He could have been a real asshole about that."

"You really want to go back there next year?" said Darryl.

"Sure, why not?"

Gord knocked the snow off his boots and let himself in.

"You're late," Marilyn called from the living room. "Anything wrong?"

"Just two lost surburbanites in a snowbank."

"Want a coffee to warm up?"

"Nah, we got to get to sleep. Big day tomorrow. You didn't have to wait up."

"I just kept reading my book." She appeared at the doorway between the living room and the entrance hall, hugging her soft grey cardigan around her. "You're right, though. Big day. Let's get to bed."

"The kids all still plan on coming?"

"By lunchtime, yeah."

It was still dark when Marilyn nudged Gord awake. He groaned and stretched, then got dressed and met her in the kitchen. They each had a cup of coffee before bundling up and setting off into the heart of the spruce grove.

Past the well-ordered stands of commercial trees, past the edge of what looked like the "farm" to outsiders, there was an empty, snow-covered circle where trees never grew. Gord and Marilyn stood at the western edge, holding mittened hands, watching the eastern sky. There was nothing to be heard but their own breath and the crunch of the snow beneath their boots when they shifted their weight.

At first light they began to sing. When the sun crested the horizon, they blew it a kiss and went back to the house to make breakfast.

Thanks to Eric J. Krause for the prompt, and to Larry Kollar for tweeting it!