Features, Column

The Myth of Shovelus

One winter day, I walked into my house soaked in sweat, panting madly, and carrying a large shovel. Before you jump to conclusions, this was nothing like the “Silver Casket” incident of ’02. This time, I was carrying a snow shovel and I wasn’t covered in splinters, maggots, and confetti. I had just finished shoveling the sidewalk and driveway, successfully fulfilling my sacred civic duty to maintain a cleanly and presentable yard. Washington would be proud.

The events that followed would soon be a defining moment in the fictional, columnized life of a man named Archer Parquette.

That man was me.

Which makes sense because we have the same name.

A momentous struggle would soon occur, a struggle between a man and the world, between existence and temporality, between overwrought prose and excessive clauses. That man, Archer “The Papoose Goose” Parquette, was about to face his personal Myth of Sisyphus, except without the eloquence, philosophical weight, or Frenchiness.

To celebrate my shoveling success, I blasted Carrie & Lowell over my “TinnitusSwaag” brand speakers, brewed a cup of cold black coffee, and stared out the window, quietly weeping. This was all usual stuff for me, but then I saw something coming down the street.

A monstrosity rolled around the corner, a gigantic plow. Mounds of deeply-packed snow rolled in front of the plow, huge chunks of ice scraping against the street. I saw my driveway entrance, the first one on the block, and knew what was going to happen.

Like the stoic, Gary Cooper-type that I am, I clenched my jaw and stared firmly out the window, facing the cruel world head-on. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass and saw that I looked like a constipated goblin, so I stopped.

The plow plowed straight past my driveway, dumping a wall of ice and snow all over the freshly-shoveled cement.

That was when the self-pity hit. I had spent the past hour breaking up the encrusted ice like a young Ferdinand von Wrangel and tossing it on the curb with my shovel like the big man himself, Étienne Desmarteau. Now it was all piled up again, even worse than before. My life was clearly the hardest of all the lives. Starvation, repression, disease: nothing stacked up to this injustice.

I walked back outside and got to it. The new blockade of ice and snow was only up to my calves, allowing me to chip away away it and clear the drive within a half hour. Another victory in the ol’ Archer Victory Catalog.

Back inside I turned the tunes back on, crossed my arms, and introspected to “Blue Bucket of Gold.” I had finally achieved what needed to be achieved. I was satisfied. My accomplishment was complete and happiness was about to flood into my life. The only thing that could ruin this was if the snow situation turned into an extended metaphor for futility and—

Eight more plows rolled down the street, one after another, and dumped ice and snow at the foot of my driveway. I stood shell-shocked at my living room window, unable to stop staring at this new monstrous wall of ice.

The song playing on my speakers ended and “Let It Be” by a little-known throwback band (from like the ’30s or something) came on.

I stumbled outside and looked at the colossal task ahead of me. Everything I had just done was pointless. I was nowhere close to my ultimate goal. Actually, it seemed as though I was ever farther behind than when I started.

“Hey, Fartcher.”

I turned to see my neighbor Boris Karloff (no relation) standing on his porch, laughing and waving a large, foam middle finger at me. My feud with Boris goes back years, all the way to the South-Central New Hampshire National Pastry Day Massacre (dear God, the Bruttiboni).

“Have fun cleaning up,” Boris yelled. “Or should I say farting farts fart farter … because you’re a fart.”

I couldn’t even muster up the strength to toss a snappy comeback his way. The neighborhood association had agreed to shovel Boris’ sidewalk for him after he broke both his legs falling down the stairs at his girlfriend’s funeral last week, that lucky son of a biscuit. All I could do was walk back inside.

Sitting in a living room of my own fictional, columnized creation, trapped behind a wall of ice and snow, I knew that now was the point in the column where I was expected to break it down, to hit you over the noodle with a lesson. Something easily digestible and snappy would make all these weird happenings and vague lies worthwhile, because the reader would come away with an improved outlook, an optimistic sense of the way forward.

I looked out the window again at the ice and snow.

I was going to be here for a damn while, and wasn’t going to spend every day sitting here quietly. They could send a million damn plows down my street, but I couldn’t let them stop me from hacking my way through the ice and achieving what I wanted to achieve. It was time to finish the job.

I stood up from my couch just as the drums on “Let It Be” kicked in and picked up my shovel. Scrunching up my pale orc face, I pushed open the front door and walked straight for the wall of ice at the end of my driveway. Not hesitating a second, I reached my obstacle, lifted the shovel over my shoulder, and swung the end straight into the icy mess, breaking a chunk off the middle of the wall. Standing over the broken ice, I felt myself faintly smile. Then I lifted my shovel again and got back to work.

And then I slipped on the ice, threw the shovel out into the street, slammed my elbow on the wall, tripped back the other way, kicked myself in the arm somehow, and fell flat on my back.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

February 20, 2017