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It must be a new year after all.

The new day, the new year, was encased in ice. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.
The new day, the new year, was encased in ice. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.

HE ROLLED OUT OF BED the morning the calendar rolled over to a new year.

He glanced out the window and surveyed the landscape around his farm.

The year didn’t look new.

Nothing had changed.

It was snowing yesterday.

Snow was still coming down.

The winter world outside was encased in ice.

George looked at the clock.

It was six-twelve.

He waited a minute.

It was six-thirteen.

George smiled.

That’s what he liked about time.

It was always changing.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t.

Six-thirteen yesterday was no different from six-thirteen today.

Common sense said it had been twenty-four hours.

The clock didn’t know the difference.

George poured a cup of coffee and walked out onto the back steps.

A brisk wind slapped him.

Snowflakes touched his eyelids.

A damp cold began to sink into his bones.

Just beyond the barn, the last star of night, or maybe it was the first star of morning, was hanging above a thicket of oaks.

A coyote howled.

A calf bawled.

A dog barked.

He heard an old pickup truck grinding its way down the road, its motor complaining about the cold.

Must be Henry, he thought.

Henry wanted breakfast.

Two eggs.

Buttered toast.

Burnt bacon.

And coffee.

His breakfast never changed.

Only one thing was for certain on the cold, snowy morning of a new year.

The Corner Café would be open.

Agnes had the coffee hot.

Agnes was cooking the eggs.

She knew how Henry liked them.

She knew Henry was on the way.

Henry owned the café.

He never had a holiday.

Farmers didn’t take one.

And farmers were hungry.

George would have taken the road to town.

But George didn’t farm anymore.

It was always too cold, he said.

Or too hot.

And he was too old.

And too tired, he said.

The government sent him his social security check.

He didn’t drink as much coffee as he once did.

George was doing just fine.

The sound of the old pickup truck faded in the distance.

The snow kept falling.

The snow didn’t make a sound.

He glanced at the clock again.

It was six-eighteen.

She would be pulling into his driveway in eight minutes.

She was never late.

And this morning, she might even be early.

He closed his eyes and could smell her perfume.

He figured it was Avon with a fancy name.

Dorothy Ann was right on time.

The Buick was new.

The day was new.

The year was new.

She had the kind of smile George had never seen before as she rolled down her window.

He walked through the snow toward her.

“I’ve had it,” she said.

Dorothy Ann was not a happy woman.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m leaving Henry.”

George quit smiling.

“He know it?”

“No.”

“You didn’t tell him?”

“I left him a note.”

George had no idea what to say.

He waited for Dorothy Ann to climb out of the car.

She didn’t.

He waited for her to smile.

She didn’t.

“I’m leaving you, too,” she said.

George folded his arms.

“At least you didn’t send me a note.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I love you better than Henry.”

George raised an eyebrow.

“I could go with you,” he said.

“Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Riley wouldn’t like it.”

“Who’s Riley?”

“Does it matter?”

“Don’t guess it does.”

Dorothy Ann backed out of the driveway and headed west away from town.

George looked around.

He sighed.

He guessed it would be a new year after all.

My latest novel, Night Side of Dark, takes place in a war-torn world that is encased in snow and ice. Winter can be a terrible foe.

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