The building was long, and very narrow. There were doors all along the front. On the end, was a door that had a sign. It said, ‘Office’. Dad opened the screen door, and then the white wooden door. We walked into the tiny office. There was a desk, with papers and envelopes and just general junk covering the top. A filing cabinet stood beside it. One of the drawers was open, and papers exploded out of that, too. I could tell this was going to be a very interesting stay.
A door behind the desk flew open. A middle-aged man stepped out. His hair was a mess. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. A gold watch dangled from his vest pocket.
“You want an apartment?” he asked, gruffly. He narrowed his eyes when he saw me and Robby.
“Yes, we would. We’re on our way to Clarksville, but the roads aren’t plowed,” Dad replied. The man nodded. Dad paid him, and the man opened a desk drawer. He lifted out a pile of papers, some scissors, and other things. He mumbled to himself. Finally he found what he was looking for. He handed Dad a key, and told him it was five doors down.
“Thank you,” Dad said. We left the office, and walked down the sidewalk, past all the other apartments. We reached ours, which was apartment E. Dad unlocked the door, and we stepped inside. It was cozy, and definitely small. There was a fireplace, and a couch with matching chairs. There was a kitchen, which mom was pleased with.
“It’s dated, but it works,” she said. Down a small hallway, were two bedrooms. Behind the kitchen, was a small room with a folding couch and a TV.
We unpacked our things, and headed sleepily to bed. Mom and Dad took one room, me in the other, and Robby chose the folding couch.
Later that night, I lay awake in my bed. I sighed and snuggled down deeper in my covers. We would have been at Grandma and Grandpa’s house by now. In fact, I probably would have been enjoying a nice thick, juicy piece of pie at this very moment. I stared at the ceiling. Now, we were stuck in some motel out in the middle of nowhere. I really hoped they would plow the roads before Christmas. I snickered. I couldn’t imagine having Christmas in a place like this. It almost seemed humorous. Almost.
It was the distinct smell of Mom’s peppermint coffee that I woke up to the next day. I was used to it, since Mom made it almost every day during the winter months. I got up and put on my robe. I walked into the kitchen, where Dad was talking on the telephone.
“Yes,” he said, speaking into the receiver. “All right. Thank you.” He hung up.
“Who was that, Dad?” I asked, turning the morning news on the radio.
“Mr. Haber. He’s the man who owns that general store,” he replied. “I called him to ask about the roads. He still doesn’t know when they will be plowed.”
“Maybe if the sun comes out today, the snow will melt a little and we can get through,” Mom said, hopefully.
Suddenly, the morning weather forecast blared through the kitchen.
“Cloudy skies, 30 degree temperature, and 40% chance of snow,” said the announcer. Dad sighed.
“There goes that.”
Robby staggered into the kitchen wearing his usual morning attire; wrinkled pajamas, messy hair, and an “I am so not awake, yet,” look on his face.
“Morning, bud,” Mom said, handing him a box of cereal. He poured it into a bowl with some milk.
“You sleep well?” I asked. Robby nodded his head.
“That folding thing is pretty soft,” he yawned. “Except I fell off of it a few times.” I laughed.
“How’d you manage that?”
“I think I was dreaming that we were sledding at Grandma and Grandpa’s,” he replied.
“Speaking of sledding, are there any good hills around here?” I asked. If we were going to be stuck in the snow, we might as well make the best of it.
“I have no idea,” Dad said. “Why don’t you ask Mr. Stanley, the motel owner?”
“Mr. Stanley?” Robby and I glanced at each other. Neither of us really had the desire to talk to him. But, our great want to go sledding got the best of us, and right after breakfast, we went over to the office. When we walked in, Mr. Stanley was not there. The door behind the desk was open, and it appeared to be an apartment. A lady in a pale blue dress and messy bun was in the apartment, scrubbing the floors. I walked to the doorway.
“Excuse me, are you the cleaning woman? My brother and I are looking for Mr. Stanley. Do you know where he is?” I asked. The lady looked up. She narrowed her eyes.
“Why do you want him?” she asked.
“We want to ask him a question,” I replied. She started scrubbing again.
“He ain’t here.” I was starting to get annoyed.
“But do you know where he is?”
“Look, I’m busy and I don’t got no time to be chatting!” She slammed the door shut. I just stood with my mouth open. Robby gasped.
“That wasn’t very nice,” he said.
“I’ll say! Come on, let’s go.” We left the office and headed toward our apartment. Suddenly, a black sedan skidded into the parking lot. It parked in the space in front of the office. The engine turned off and Mr. Stanley stepped out. We ran up to him.
“Mr. Stanley!” He stopped and turned.
“What?” he asked, gruffly.
“Your cleaning maid wasn’t very nice to us,” Robby blurted out. Mr. Stanley looked puzzled. Then he laughed.
“We don’t have a cleaning maid,” he said. I frowned.
“Then who was the lady cleaning the floors in the apartment behind the office?” I asked. Mr. Stanley’s face turned from a laugh to snarl.
“What were you doing back there?” he asked. Before I could answer, he dashed into the office. Robby and I stood there, dumbfounded.
“Well, we got him to laugh,” Robby smiled. I just stared at the office door. Why was Mr. Stanley so concerned that we were in that apartment? And who was the lady?
“Robby, I think we need to watch Mr. Benjamin Stanley. He’s hiding something, and I intend to find out what it is,” I said. Robby grinned.
“Me too,” he agreed.
“Ouch!” I got bombarded with snowballs. Whack! One hit me right in the face. I wiped away the snow and glared at Robby.
“Now you’re going to get it!” I grabbed a huge handful of snow and launched in into the air. Sure enough, it landed right on top of Robby’s head.
We were in the middle of a snowball fight. It seemed like it was the only thing we could do around here. We had built a fort, out of snow and ice. It had walls, and a neat entrance. Right now, Robby was safely behind the fort throwing snowballs at me every five seconds. I had no idea how he could make them so fast.
I was about to send him a whopper of a snowball, when the strange lady came out of the office. She was carrying laundry, probably to take to the nearest Laundromat. She went to the black sedan, and put the bags of laundry in the back. An orange shirt fell out into the snow. She picked it up. It was a child’s shirt. I thought that was kind of strange. I hadn’t seen any children around here.
The lady got in the car and drove away. I suggested to Robby that we go ask Mr. Stanley our question. He agreed and we walked into the office. Mr. Stanley was at his desk, writing on a piece of paper. After standing there for a few seconds, I cleared my throat to get him to look up.
“What do you kids want?” he asked, sounding very annoyed.
“We were wondering if there were any good sledding hills around here,” I said. Mr. Stanley looked up.
“I haven’t been sledding since I was 10 years old. How should I know?” He exclaimed. Frankly, I was a little surprised. I just stood there.
“Well, I mean, you live here and-“
“I have no idea,” was all he would say. I shrugged my shoulders. We would just have to find a hill ourselves.