By on Feb 19, 2013 in Fiction

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Snowy landscape

“Daddy, what’s summer?”

“You know, when the sun gets warm and all the snow melts and the leaves grow on the trees, and there’s grass and flowers everywhere.” Bryce Frost, down on one knee, looked up from tying the laces on his eight-year-old daughter’s figure skates.

Her little nose wrinkled, and she tilted her head the way she did when she thought he was pulling her leg.

“Don’t you remember?” Surely she was old enough to remember last summer.

She shook her head. “When does summer start?”

“Just a few more months,” Bryce responded automatically, trying to count the months in his head as he gave her laces a final tug.

“I’m cold,” the girl complained.

Even with his heavy sweater and a scarf, Bryce felt it, too, so he sat close beside her on the low bench and put a protective arm around her. “Yes, Misty, I know, but you have to practice. The big skating tournament is next month, and you have a good chance of winning a medal.”

Misty sighed. “I know. I’m just so tired of skating.”

“Only a few more weeks, dear. Then you can start with indoor soccer.” He chucked her under the chin, and she managed to smile for him.

“That’ll be so much fun I can hardly wait, but I’m still cold.”

“Skating will warm you up.”

While Bryce watched his daughter skate away, he tried again to count in his head the months till summer, but for some reason, he could not pin down a number. Putting his gloved hands into his coat pockets, he wondered why the rink didn’t turn the heat up just a couple of degrees.

After skating he took Misty to The Ice Castle for ice cream, and then he let her rent a movie, “Cold Fury: The Ice Queen, Chapter 3,” starring Janie Frost. He dropped her off at home to watch the movie with her mother, then headed for work, unloading reefer trucks at Berg Foods, the biggest grocery store in town.

An inch of fresh snow made the road slippery, with more snow falling. In order to avoid being stuck in traffic behind an accident blocking the intersection ahead, Bryce ignored the “Do Not Enter” sign and made a right turn into the long, narrow alley behind Berg Foods. The truck had the right of way through here, but he was already parked along the back of the grocery store, its trailer in position at the loading dock.

The truck’s lights went off, and Bryce realized he never saw these reefer trucks from the outside, and he never talked to any of the drivers. As he approached the truck, he raised his hand to wave to the driver, but his hand dropped back to the steering wheel before he completed the gesture. The driver had no face.

Bryce slowed the car and looked again, this time through the side window. A rough, stubbled face scowled down at him from under a baseball cap. Startled and embarrassed, he broke eye contact and quickly drove away, parked, and went in to work.

All through the first half of his shift, he wondered, first about that faceless truck driver, then about the layout of the store. Maybe he had imagined the driver being faceless, but he was certain the cap had not been on the man’s head the first time he’d looked. And why were the cargo doors the only doors in the back of the building?

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Rik Hunik is over half a century old. He lives with a woman named Jo and a cat named Mister. They have no children and don't drink coffee, which apparently makes them social outcasts. He's worked on a farm, in a sawmill, a plywood plant, a tire retreader, and a water bed manufacturer. He's sold some of his paintings and a few of his photographs, but in order to earn a living, he's been working in construction for the past nineteen years. His fantasy stories have been published in a variety of small-press magazines and e-zines.