Being youngsters in the third grade of a grammar school in Maine, we were always hopeful that the next winter storm would give us a day off. Perhaps we would spend the day with the firemen at Portland’s Engine No. 11 nearby. It seemed especially delicious because the fire barn was right next door to the school.

Lt. McAlister was also the chef for the men, and always welcomed us for lunch. It being Friday, we knew he would make a wonderful fish chowder. We might even get to help Fireman Tim polish the chrome on the fire truck!

As the storm clouds gathered on Thursday morning, we could barely quash the urge to look out the windows instead of listening to Mrs. Bulger challenge us with arithmetic questions, or to spell a word that must have been very important from the way she glared at my inattentive self.

Sure enough, not only was school canceled for that day, the roads were clogged with drifts of snow, several feet deep. Totally impassable.

But Todd and I exulted that it was the perfect day! He told me that his only chore that day was to go to the little market down the avenue and get his mom a loaf of bread.

Despite the struggle to get to the market through the drifted snow, that chore was underway and we were on our way back to Todd’s house with the bread and the change from the dollar bill his mom had given him.


We slogged up the avenue towards home, and suddenly he and I sunk almost over our heads into the snow. Our struggle left the bread and his mom’s change at the bottom of the snow drift. We tried going head first down to get it, but to no avail.

Retrieving a ski pole from his garage, Todd and I returned to the scene and eventually speared the loaf of bread. However, his mom’s change was lost to us forever. Nonetheless, his mom was pleased with the ski-poled Nissen’s bread.

Following that adventure we made it to Engine No. 11 in time to help Tim polish the engine. He was a fat, jovial man, and he escorted us into the steamy kitchen area. We joined the men for a wonderful bowl of Chet’s fish chowder.

Dad did not make it home for two more days. Thrilled to see him, he regaled our family with his description of his treacherous drive home.

I saw Mom nod her head toward me. Then Dad asked, “What did you and Todd do after the storm?”

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