The Visitor
Cookie Rogan

"Oh, Ruth, it looks really bad out there ..." mom said in a singsong voice while peeking out the window of the doctor's office. 

I was thinking the same thing, but I wanted to get home and it didn't look like it was going to stop dumping this junk on us anytime soon. 

It was getting colder and sleet was coming down when we left home but I would never have thought that, while we were in the eye doctor's office for mom's appointment, we would come out to find a snowstorm worthy of Alaska. 

We gathered up our coats and waded through the fresh couple of inches of snow to the car. After we got in and buckled up, mom took out her rosary beads and started whispering the Hail Mary. I don't think she had much confidence in my driving in a snowstorm and to be truthful, I didn't either. But … off we went.

Traffic was really bad and I decided to take a major highway home, figuring it would be safer. My usual route was a four-lane street with a canal in the middle. Even though it was still early, we heard on the radio that everyone was leaving work and stores were closing.

It wasn't too long, but I was really wishing we had cancelled mom's appointment and rescheduled for another day. Every time I applied the brakes, the back end of my ZX would slide and I would wind up aiming partially sideways. It had rained the last couple of days and the cold front and sleet this morning had made the roads icy under the snow. Most of the other cars seemed to be having the same problem. When I'd start again, I'd manage to get the ZX going in the right direction … until I had to stop again. 

It wasn't too bad with cars on the side of me, but after an hour of this stop-and-go driving, with everyone just creeping along, a huge truck pulled up next to me, taking up more than his share of the road. When I next had to stop, the back end of my tiny ZX went under the trailer of the truck. 

"Oh shit!" I yelled as mom started saying the Hail Mary in an extremely loud voice. 

I decided that this highway was not the best place to be so I decided to exit at the first turn I could make. My usual route, even with the canal in the middle, might have less traffic and it was only a few blocks over. 

I was in the left lane trying to get into the right lane to make a turn and no one would let me in. Mom finally rolled down her window and stuck out her seventy-year-old upper body. She started waving her arms, with the rosary dangling from her hands, yelling "Stop!" repeatedly 

A bunch of cars slammed on their brakes, all doing the snow slide as I started calling it. Cajun folks are superstitious and seeing the rosary waving at them, they must have thought mom was going to put a curse on them if they didn't stop. 

The canal street proved to be a little better but mom was still trying to wear the finish off her rosary beads. 

I jumped the curb and got two tires on the grassy edge of the canal. Mom wasn't too happy about this, but it enabled me to have more traction and I could stop without doing the terrible snow slide. I still had a problem at intersections where I had to get off the grassy edge and the Hail Mary's would get louder at these times. 

There's no way to get to my side of town without crossing a double set of train tracks. All the roads leading to the tracks either have a hill going up to them or an overpass over them. I picked the intersection I thought had the lowest hill up to the tracks and headed for it. I didn't want to even think about attempting an overpass. 

When I got to the intersection where the tracks were, I found a few others had chosen the same one. There were a few people standing around at the bottom of the hill, checking it out, and cars were backed up, about ten deep, pulled over on the side. I stopped behind them to see what was going on. 

As I watched, one car pulled out to the middle of the street and started up the hill. It got half way, then slid down backwards and almost hit a telephone pole. 

"Oh, shit," I said softly. The hill had been turned into a giant slide. 

After a few minutes another car tried getting up the hill. It didn't make it either, and Mom's Hail Marys got louder again as the car slid down; this time sending the spectators running for their lives. 

After a minute or so, a car came from behind me going at a high rate of speed. It hit the hill moving flat out. When it got half way up, it started slowing down. I thought it was going to slide down like the others but, even though it slowed to a crawl near the top, it made it up and over the hill. 

"Yeah!" I shouted. "It can be done." 

This seemed to rally everyone and they all started trying to get up the hill. Most wouldn't make it. They'd slide back down and then drive off to find another way home. But … every once in a while one would make it and this would rally everyone to try it. More cars were coming but most were leaving. We sat there for about thirty minutes … me just watching and mom saying her Hail Marys. 

Finally, I plucked up the courage to try the hill. I knew if I was going to make it all the way to the top, I was going to have to have a fast, running start. 

I pulled out to the middle of the road. Everyone knew by this time that when a car did this, they were going for it! I could see everyone staring in my direction. 

Mom was a wreck and started saying the Our Father, this time, for all she was worth. I think she thought it was time to call on the big guns. 

I put my car in neutral and revved my engine a few times. I had done some powder puff racing and I know there's nothing like hearing an engine roaring to give spectators a sense of excitement. Then, I put the ZX in first gear and floored it.

I just sat there … spinning my wheels. With my head hanging, I could just imagine everyone laughing. I had forgotten about the slick roads. 

Ok, I thought to myself with my face still red, time to regroup.

I revved the engine again so everyone would think I'd done that on purpose to melt some of the ice under the snow. I started out more slowly this time to give the wheels a chance to catch. As soon as they did, I put the pedal to the metal, gunned it for all it was worth, and we were off! 

I stayed in first gear, until my Z had given me all it had, and then I quickly shifted into second. I knew I'd need more power to get over the top. I don't know which was louder, the roar of the engine running flat out or mom screaming the Our Father. 

The whole way up I had the steering wheel in a death grip and I was repeating, "Come on baby, you can make it." I felt like I was urging the Z on with every ounce of will power I had. 

Finally, we reached the top. I was elated and Mom was yelling "Thank you, Jesus!" over and over at the top of her voice.

But … there was something I hadn't thought about … What goes up, must come down. 

I still had the Z floored in second gear when I hit the railroad tracks at the top of the hill. The Z leaped forward with the speed it was built for. We flew over the tracks barely touching them. I did what came naturally and slammed on the breaks. 

I had forgotten about the snow slide when I hit the brakes and we went spiraling down the other side. 

"Oh shit!" I screamed as we made two complete revolutions all the way down before we came to a standstill, luckily not hitting anything. 

When I got my breath back, I reached over toward mom and pried her hands off the dashboard. She was muttering something but I couldn't make out what it was. When she became coherent again, she went back to the Hail Marys. 

The rest of the trip home was a piece of cake after the hill. It took us three hours for a drive that usually took fifteen minutes. 

When we got home, I fixed myself a drink and made mom's a double. 

Later, I found out that with the Z's rear wheel drive, I should have put it in neutral when I braked. That way the back wheels would have stopped spinning and I wouldn't have been doing the dreaded snow slide. Too bad I didn't know about that on the way home, but I'd never even seen snow before. 

Mom said she was going to pray that snow never visits us again. I'm positive she's got connections in high places because it never has. 

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