TRAPPED: special preview
We were the last seven kids waiting around to get picked up from Tattawa Regional High School. It sounds like an everyday thing, but this wasn’t an ordinary day. It was one of those bull’s-eyes in history, one of those points where everything comes together, where, if you were at that place at that time, you were part of something big. It meant that we weren’t going to get picked up, not on that day and maybe not ever.
It was the day the blizzard started, and it didn’t stop for nearly a week. No one had seen anything like it. It was a natural disaster in the way that earthquakes and tidal waves are natural disasters. It wasn’t a storm; it was whatever comes after that.
The power lines came down, and the airports closed. The snow was so strong that it seemed to hit the ground in drifts. The roads shut down completely. The plows ground to a halt and stranded themselves, overmatched up front and the snow behind already too deep for them to back up. Really, if you want one quick indicator of what kind of storm it was: Drivers froze in their snowplows.
People hunkered down in their homes. They were used to doing that in this part of New England, but in the past it had always been for six hours, or twelve, or maybe a day at most. This was different, and it required a different kind of waiting. You can hear the details in a thousand coffee shops, at the back table where the locals hang out.
I’ll just tell you, though. The nor’easter moved up the coast and stalled, but instead of weakening, it got stronger. From what I heard, it just kind of got wedged there, in between a huge cold front coming down and a massive warm front moving up, scooping up moisture over the Atlantic and dropping it as snow back on land. They still show the picture on TV sometimes: a giant white pinwheel spanning three states.
Inside the homes and shelters, people waited and watched and counted and recounted their canned food. They all asked themselves the same question: How much longer can this last? But they asked it day after day, in lamplight and then candlelight and then in darkness and creeping cold. But that was later on. At the beginning, it was just us, looking out the window and watching the snow fall.
Mr. Gossell stayed with us. He was a gruff guy, a history teacher and assistant football coach. Your school probably has one of those. He sort of carried himself like he was in the army and, I don’t know, maybe he had been. He was the last teacher left, but when he shouldered the door open and headed out to get help, well, that was the last we saw of him. We added his name to the list of people we were waiting for.
We imagined headlights cutting through the snow, there to battle the roads and take us home. The driver would throw open the passenger-side door. “Climb aboard,” he’d shout. “Hop in! We’ll get ya home!”
But we weren’t going anywhere. The headlights didn’t show. Mr. Gossell, Jason’s dad, Krista’s mom, whoever it was we were waiting for, they had nothing to do with us anymore. No one did. It was just the seven of us, the seven of us and the endless snow.
It began falling in the morning. I noticed it at the start of second period, biology, but I guess it could’ve started at the end of first period. Snow isn’t really bound by a class schedule. There wasn’t much to it at first, and it’d been snowing a lot that month, so I didn’t give it much thought. It was those small flakes, like grains of sugar. By third period, the flakes had fattened up and gotten serious, and people were starting to talk about it.
“Think they’ll let us out early?” Pete said as we gathered our stuff and headed for Spanish.
I looked out the window and sized it up. It was really coming down and there was already an inch or two on the sill.
“Could be,” I said. “Is it supposed to be a big one?”
“Supposed to be huge: ‘Winter Storm Warning,’” he said. “Where you been?”
“School, practice, homework, whatever. Excuse me for not watching the frickin’ Weather Channel.”
“Yeah, well, you might want to check it out sometime,” he said. “Then you wouldn’t be wearing Chucks in a nor’easter.”
I looked down at my sneakers. “Well, if it’s as big as all that, they’ll probably let us go.”
“I hope you’re right, Weems,” he said.
My name is Scotty Weems. I prefer Scotty, but most people, even my friends, call me Weems. I guess it’s easy to say, and maybe some people think it’s funny. It doesn’t bother me that much. I’m just glad that Snotty Streams never really caught on as a nickname.
Anyway, I’m an athlete, so I made peace with my last name a long time ago. Since I was a little kid in T-ball, I heard it shouted every time I did something right and every time I screwed up, too. These days it’s on the back of my basketball jersey. I like to think that someday people will be chanting it from the bleachers: “Weems! Weems! Weems!” Chanting fans make any name sound good.
Anyway, that’s me. I’ll be sort of like your guide through all of this. Some of the others might’ve seen things differently, and some of them might’ve told it better, but you don’t get to pick. You don’t because, for one thing, not all of us made it.
. . . .
From TRAPPED, Scholastic Press, February 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Michael Northrop. All rights reserved.