Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Short Story
2879 words
SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Snow Season

by Ron Darian

Vili Kolberg had been working for the Slavs for a year and a half. He fucking liked it. The job consisted of ferrying top-of-the-line calfskin attaché cases between the State Assembly and certain upstanding members of the Central and Upper New York State business communities. Because of his employer’s reputation, Vili never needed to strong-arm anyone; there were months when the Beretta 92 never left its nook under the dash. On the few occasions that it did, Vili liked to say he carried a 9mm because he was against killing people. He noticed that even barmaids laughed at this, even when he knew they didn’t get the joke.

And now he’d been on the road for hours, the shitass winter weather a fitting background for his mood. The interchange to Poughkeepsie was next on the Thruway. After that he’d score some gas, a couple of burgers, maybe think about that phone call. If she answered, maybe he’d give her the ultimatum.

If she answered.

If she didn’t, he’d guess what was what. She’d be at that girlfriend of hers, that flight attendant. Sometimes he’d make a picture of them in his head. The two of them down to their panties. Maybe one on the bed, one on the floor, their limbs splayed indifferently. Needles and spoons and other shit he couldn’t tolerate. Tongues lolling out of their mouths. Drooling.

Sometimes he wondered what would happen if he just showed up unannounced. Just ripped off those panties and got to work. Sometimes he thought about this while he was fucking Kara.


He signaled, got over to the right.

We don’t share needles was what she had tried to calm him with. Last summer, the fucking night she told him. Two minutes before the steaks came. I’m not an addict—I hardly go over there that much, she said. A five-month investment and he was an inch from breaking it off right there.

What the hell was this petite and perfect-looking ex-flight attendant doing with hard drugs? He asked her: What the hell are you doing with heroin? You’re from fucking Great Neck!

Annie is my guru, she said. She trained me. There’s a lot of free time on those overnights. She took me everywhere. I can party in seventeen different languages.

You mean fuck in seventeen different languages.

But you know that I’m crazy. You know why I’m crazy.

That’s no excuse—we’re all crazy.

He made a left at the end of the ramp. He could already taste the two Quarter-Pounders in his immediate future. He roared past the Exxon station, hooked a right under the yellow arches. Those TV commercials had him trained like a good little rat.

He killed the ignition, sat for a second. Fiddled with his phone. No messages. He dialed the homestead. One ring. Two. He decided if she picked up, he’d tell her to clear out by the end of the week. She wouldn’t like that. Three rings. He knew she’d go straight into one of her squeaky crying fits. Then it would be his turn. He’d give her a minute of hell-on-Earth, maybe two, then work his way down into playing the Forgiving Father. When he got home tomorrow night, you better believe she’d be waiting for him.

“Vili?” Kara whispered at her end of the line.

And if there was one thing he never got tired of, it was the way Kara went all-in playing the Grateful Daughter.

Quarter of an hour later, he was cruising on the Taconic for his final appointment of the day. Coming up on four o’clock—not bad. Vili preferred pick-ups during business hours. Not that his employers could give a mouse turd what he preferred.

Sometimes, for first-time clients, he liked to show up early. Put a surprise into them. Occasionally he’d make a tour of the place. Take his time. Evaluate the pussy pool. He got off on being the suit amongst suits.

And now his smartphone told him Mr. Latest Doof was the chief financial officer of the Erland-Brevak Architectural Group, some supposedly fancy outfit whose American presence was a three-story white sandstone building in Hyde Park. With all the weather, he was glad to see an underground parking garage. He had pulled in a little before five and was now handing his keys to some Puerto Rican kid in a white shirt and bow tie.

“No scratches, please,” Vili said.

“Ab-sa-tively,” answered the punk, whose nametag said JORGE.

Vili looked at the guy. Too much smile. Nine or ten lip hairs for a moustache. A freakin’ lunar landscape of acne scars. Being a valet was one thing, but this one wasn’t even close to worthy. Not close to worthy of having his ass touch forty-year-old original-condition vinyl.

The door was open but Vili held off getting out. “I’ll park it myself today,” he said.

“You can’t do that, sir.”

Vili extracted his keys from between the valet’s fingers. He felt the guy’s pulse jump through the air. “You’re absatively poos-a-tive about that?” Vili said.

The dumb fucker took it like a thumb up the ass. At least he provided entertainment value. Lucky for him, and the fucker didn’t even know it.

Vili tapped the juice; she roared. He peeled out and found a spot in nine seconds. He got to the third floor and was bummed. Reception and most everyone had been sent home early because of the snow. The hand-off was uneventful and over in a second. The lack of pomp didn’t do any wonders for his mood. Vili didn’t like seeing himself as just a well-dressed delivery boy.

On the way back to the elevator, he passed a row of those all-white 3-D architectural models. Each of them lit up from beneath its fancy pedestal. Without breaking stride, his fist came down on Syracuse, New York’s brand new seventy-million-dollar Visitors Center, flattening the octagonal dome onto three polystyrene tour buses and a slew of innocent school children.


He finally kicked off his Bruno Magli’s at an Econo-Lodge outside Albany. Peeling wallpaper and twenty-year-old porn on the tube. He thought about calling home but liked too much where the last call had left things. And Kara knew the deal. If he was mired in work shit, she shouldn’t expect to hear from him. She knew he was a thug. He had told her.

Early on, after their third time together, they lay in bed awhile. She was the one who started it. She told him about St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School in the Bronx and living in a pretty red-brick house until she was eight. Then about how a car accident—of which she still had no memory—subtracted her mother and father and little brother from the world. And about her crazy up-and-down life ever since. Her grandmother, soft and lovely, painting honey roses above Kara’s new bed, insisting only that Kara look for the good in the bad. Sigrid Tollefson’s death a year later, and Kara looking for the good in that.

Sometimes I need to run away from things, she had told Vili that night, before they run away from me. You know what I mean?

Maybe, he had said. She lay in his arms while he waited. After a while he figured what the hell.

He gave her an ugly sketch of it. His history, his work. If she stuck around after that, good for her. He told her about growing up in the war zone that was Howard Beach. How the blacks hated the whites, the whites hated the blacks, and how everyone hated the police. He told her about the men his mother would bring home with his father passed out in the next room. And about his seventeenth Christmas, when he sent Dear Old Dad halfway to the morgue on a baseball bat scholarship. He also told her about how his twin brother, Omar, had caught a playground bullet when they were twelve.

His dead twin brother.

He told her about Iraq and how it was graduate school for him. And how working for first the Sicilians, now the Slavs, was more lucrative than he could ever have imagined.

He also told her a few bad things. Like the time he drove a sharpened No. 2 pencil deep into a fund manager’s thigh. Even hinted about a little poppity-pop here and there—though he made sure she knew that the only lives he ever took were for Uncle Sam.

That’s good, she had said.

When he was through, he was surprised how much he’d shared. And then he realized something else. With Kara he wasn’t that bad a person.


The snow had left a big mess overnight. By late afternoon all he could think about was home, but he dropped by the Statehouse anyway to shake a few hands. To his knowledge no one ever actually did anything in state government. A cocktail here, a cocktail there—he let himself be dragged to dinner by a couple of bottom feeders. Turned out to be Delmonico’s on Central—so nothing to complain about there. When the cigars came out, he slipped the Habana into his breast pocket and excused himself, leaving the schmucks with the check. It was still early but past dark, and the snow was at it again. Watching his breath roll over the dash, he hit the heat and the Creedence, and estimated his time back to Queens.

He got in a little after 11 p.m.

Roadwork on the Tappan Zee had added an hour to his trip. Given him a laser headache. Nice that it was just the light from the TV, the nightlight from the kitchen. She’d pulled up some cushions, made a little love nest off the couch. But now she was on him like Christmas morning. Still with the cold coming off him in waves, squeezing her felt all warm and buttery in her pink-elephant flannels.

He thought about checking her eyes. But he could do that later.

“I’m too tired to talk,” he said.

“Who wants to talk?”

They kissed carefully. Slow, like teenagers. Worked their way to the cushions, but not all at once. After, Jack Daniels and Marlboro Lights at the foot of the couch. Both of them watching the gas-flames sputter in the instant-on fireplace. Both of them sugar-plum sleepy, leaning into the warmth of each other’s sweet breath. Vili’s last thought: The hell with the bedroom—bedrooms don’t matter.

They stirred in spite of themselves—the sun hitting them in the face through the open drapes. Vili took the initiative, got them both off the floor and into the shower. They held each other under the hot Shower Massage. Ten minutes later they were laughing at each other, scalded, and kissing again. Another school-girlish giggle and a slap at his hand got him thinking about the caretaker uncle again. The son-of-a-bitch who’d died of a heart attack eleven years ago, who would’ve died of something else if Vili had gotten there first. But now there were other things she needed protection from. While they were toweling each other off, he got the ball rolling. “You’re not gonna see her anymore. Say it.”

“I’m not going to see her anymore—but she’s my friend.”

“You’re not gonna see her anymore. Because if you do, we’re over.”

“This is hard,” Kara said.

“Say it and mean it.”

And then she did and Vili believed her. He really did.


The plows had done a decent job, but he still needed his gold-tinted Aviators to keep from going snow blind. His first appointment was a construction firm in Nyack. And though the road usually calmed him, helped him see things philosophically, right now he was worried about Kara all alone, staring at the drywall with baby-doll eyes. Maybe he should have broken rule number one. Maybe he should have brought her along. Or at least left her at one of those places that handle stuff like this. But traffic was light, the sun was shining, and at least on the surface, everything was good. He’d just have to remember to check in with her a bunch, that’s all.

So was he falling in love with this one? He got hold of a smile in the rearview mirror. The smile made him smile. He checked the updated smile.

What the fuck was happening to him?

Twenty-six-year-old Miss Kara Bell Tollefson?

The one-year anniversary of meeting each other was a month away. February nineteenth. She’d flip out if he planned something big. He’d heard about Belize. On the news recently—he couldn’t remember if it was good or bad. But where’s a place that doesn’t have bad?


The name sounded right. Exotic. Maybe a week or two there. He could call her after Nyack, drop a few hints, get the female looking-forward-to-shit apparatus going. Couldn’t hurt.

And that was when he realized it. Hit him like a sweet ton of bricks.

He fucking loved this woman.

The Throgs Neck Bridge was on his right, but he had already decided to blow past it and make a little detour into Manhattan. East Twelfth Street. The exact address was on his BlackBerry. Copied off Kara’s cell a few weeks back while she’d been scrambling his eggs.


The lobby had looked nice enough. Mottled mirrors. Ornate this, ornate that. Shit that looked like white marble by the elevators. Reminded him of the Buffalo Marriott. Though no doorman—thank god for the little things. Even a studio had to be at least three grand in this neck of the woods. So someone had a revenue stream going, besides flying the friendly skies.


Vili took his finger off the buzzer.

Still nada.

He gave it another try.

Slippers shuffling under the door.

“Who’s there?” the voice said.

Vili had his thumb over the peephole. “Super,” he said.

“Manny?” She opened the door.

“A second of your time—it’s important,” Vili said. Though they’d never met, he could tell she knew it was him. A pair of veins in her neck throbbed like delicate fingers.

“You’re Vili,” she said.

He had known she was as pretty as Kara. He’d seen a photo. The two of them bundled warm, arms around each other; in the background whatever that fucking colorful church is in the middle of Red Square. Other than them both being nines or tens, she was about as different from Kara as a woman could be. This one was tall, blond, closer to his age. And serious to the bone.

He was distracted by what he could see moving around under her bathrobe. He reminded himself that if he rolled up those elegant sleeves, he’d find a roadmap of ugly.

He smiled. “Like I said,” he said softly, “a second of your time.”


He watched the fluid disappear into the crook of her arm. The flash of blood inside the barrel of the syringe—how heavenly the end must be to justify such means.

“Thanks for the demonstration,” Vili said. He didn’t need the Beretta to wave around anymore. Sitting on the closed toilet seat, he slipped it back into its ankle holster.

“I did what you wanted—now, please,” Annie said. She arched her back and moaned, her head knocking against the faucet of the tub she lay in. She moaned again, her red-and-white silk bathrobe open and floating like a bloom in the water around her.

“Just relax,” Vili said.

She tried to pull herself up. “Never again I promise.” The words came out sloppy and earnest.

“I appreciate the gesture,” Vili said, “but when you love someone, you don’t take chances.”

“I swear.”

“I believe you,” he said. “One more thing and I’ll go.”

She looked at him dumbly from the corners of her eyes.

“Do it again,” he said.


He called on his way to Nyack. After getting the okay from his employers.

“We should leave tomorrow morning,” he said. “Get a jump on things.”

She went nuts. Squeal-squeal. Vili savored every bit of it. For a chick who’d seen every corner of the globe, you’d have thought she’d just won both Price Is Right showcases.

“I love you, you know,” she said. “We’ve never said that to each other. Not really.”

“I wanted to wait until I saw you in person, but yeah, I love you too. Sweetheart.” He didn’t have to check the rearview. His face was doing it again.

“I have a surprise too,” Kara said. “I wasn’t sure I should tell you. I called her one last time to say goodbye—I swear it was just to say goodbye—but she didn’t pick up. So I took her numbers off my phone. Unfriended her, everything—are you proud of me?”

He passed a rattling flatbed on his right. A quick look at the dash—how long had he been doing eighty?


“I’m proud of you,” he said.

“I don’t want to lie to you ever again. People who love each other don’t lie.”

A blue airport van knew to get out of his way, got over to the right. “They don’t lie,” Vili said. He could feel the rush of morning traffic on his tail.


SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Ron Darian

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ron Darian has spent the bulk of his professional career in the entertainment industry. He began his stage career in the original Broadway production run of Grease and then moved on to stand-up comedy, performing at colleges and clubs across North America.

He has since shifted to off-screen work, having written and produced such television shows as 7th Heaven, Frasier, The Gregory Hines Show, Mad About You, and The Master of Horror and Suspense.

New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fiction International, Zone 3, The Bitter Oleander Press, Euphony, Limestone, and The MacGuffin. Darian is the winner of the 2012 Kirkwood Prize, and a recent Pushcart Prize nominee.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury