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Episode 19: The Scouring

The snow-covered windshield is a moonscape against the achingly clear December sky. That rare quality of winter light sharpening the fine edges of the world. Thin branches. Thin shadows. Treetops. Etched in the white crust near his feet, the frantic scrawl of a timelost sparrow.

The skin of Spenser’s face tightens in the cold. Back to it, then. Another morning, another few inches to scrape off. The tool in his gloved hand must have a proper name, but he has only ever thought of it as The Scraper, only ever thought of it, doesn’t think he’s ever been in a situation where he’s had to name it aloud. One end of it a plastic wedge for scraping away frost, chiseling away ice. The other end a black brush. He uses the brush end first to cast away the powdery layers of the nightfall passed. Everything so still he can hear grains of snow whispering off the edge of the car.

Once the loose snow has been cleared, Spenser switches to the other end of The Scraper and sets to work on the pebbled ice. The plastic wedge clatters against the rough surface of the windshield, producing a shearing scream that gives Spenser pause. The sound is harsh and grating and he feels halfway embarrassed as the alien shriek stings his ears, rattles his teeth. As if his presence now stands in violation of some sacred tranquility, a crime against quietude.

But this is a job that has to be done, and so Spenser gets back to it, still cringing at the horrible sound. I use The Scraper to scrape the ice. I use the Scraper to scrape the ice. Hard work, leaning his weight against the car windshield. His fingers slowly stiffen with boneache, but he’s getting somewhere, carving out and smoothing inch by inch, little rocketchips of ice exploding off in all directions, peppering his gloves, his chin, his taut jawline. I use The Scraper to scrape the ice. I use The Scraper to scrape the ice. I use The Scraper to scrape the ice.

When the windshield is nearly clear, he catches a glimpse of his muddled reflection, stern eyes and gritted teeth and oh so earnest in his ice scraping. He looks down to see that his traverse from passenger side to driver’s side has obliterated the sparrow tracks. No imprint of its transit has survived. No record.

When he gets in the car he is breathing hard, thin clouds drifting up from his mouth and disappearing amidst the cold, plastic interior. He tosses The Scraper behind his seat and hopes against hope that this — all of this — isn’t just a gigantic waste of time and energy.

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