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The Bright Night Effect
by Jon Chopan

Rochester is snowed in. Like the rest of New York and all the cities layed down along the lake. The city is under siege. There is gray in the sky and the smoke funneling from Kodak. The lake threatens to wash away the summer homes of people who do not stay to brave the winter but anxiously watch the weather report. The city council has been gassing up the plows since August in preparation. Grade schoolers still walk to school, tunneling through six-foot tall snowdrifts and arriving late after epic snowball wars. The parking lots conquered and reconquered with the removal and arrival of fresh snow. Rush hour traffic and holiday travel go unaffected except for the out-of-towners who are going too slow.

The bars along the river have closed their doors until April and handed out what was left of the summer stock. We're moving into the city, moving closer to one another. The warmth of 100,000 people melts the snow on Saturday nights. But we don't retreat into our homes. There is ice fishing and snowmobiling and games of hockey to be played on the frozen canal. Everywhere you go you hear whispers: hypothermia, through the ice. Children are not praying for snow days because they know there is never enough, that more snow only means longer walks and salt stained pants. The hills of salt at the town hall become smaller as the snow piles higher, as shopping carts from Wegman's grocery become mangled and lost, as the inevitable child goes missing, a snow fort caved in.

On R News Yolanda Vega is calling out the numbers for the New York "Take 5" and we are on the edge of our seats because my mother always buys a ticket and because we are mesmerized by Yolanda's voice. When she calls out her name, "Hello New York, this is Yo-LAN-dah VAY-ga," drawing it out, it almost makes it all right that we will never win. We love Yolanda. We love the snow. They are constant. They are here to stay. Or they will return again. There will be no layoffs, no jobs shipped to other cities never to return.

After the break the news reports that sales are down at local retail outlets, and they explore the connection between that and decreases in Kodak bonuses and layoffs at Delphi and cutbacks at Xerox. It is no wonder everyone in this town is holding a lottery ticket. The weatherman comes on with spectacular photos of the city covered in snow, and he describes some kind of effect with the light. There is always something new to learn about snow and winter weather. My friends and I, though we are too old and do not have the right winter gear, find old sleds in our garages and go out into the snow with beer and a camera. We have forgotten flashlights but the weatherman, for once, was right. The light from the city is bouncing off the clouds and it is bouncing back off the snow and it is almost like the sun is just now rising, even though it's well past midnight. All at once the world feels beautiful, more than I can say. From the top of the hill where we stand, in one of those silent moments that comes when the world appears covered in snow, every inch of the city is burning.

About the author:
Jon Chopan's work has appeared in magazines like
Glimmer Train, Hotel Amerika, and Redivider. He currently works for a construction crew in Rochester, New York.

© 2011 Word Riot

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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
Nick Antosca


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