Julie Andrews by Matthew McGuire

Only a few short weeks after his marriage, the young C.P.A. arrives at his brother’s cabin in rural ND for a weekend of recreational winter activities with his high school friends. The youngest C.P.A. at his ND commercial accounting firm, known for his punctuality and low human error rate, arrives before anyone else so he can inspect, clean, and prepare the cabin for a weekend of ice fishing and snowmobiling. His new wife, who left her PR job at a charitable organization for persons with disabilities after he proposed, said that it was OK for the young C.P.A. to spend the weekend away so soon into their marriage; it was a tradition, that she said she respected. They could take their honeymoon when he got back she said while pulling her face apart. She was, after all, the one who insisted on having a winter wedding so that her military brother could attend before shipping out for IET, thus creating a scheduling conflict with the young C.P.A’s tradition. So the young C.P.A.’s conscience is opaque as he pulls into the driveway, unpacks a cooler of food, and heads into the cabin.

His brother believes that a cabin should be like an actual cabin and not a second home like some of the newer places on the lake, fully decked out with central A/C, 72” plasmas, and wireless Internet access. Why would I want to check my email when I’m trying to get right with nature, he repeats. The young C.P.A. agrees, but now regrets not having network coverage necessary as he raises it to the ceiling to try to boost the signal. He sets his keys down and takes a look around the place. The cabin is small –three bedrooms, one poorly lit bathroom, and a small storage basement that the brother requests be untouched until he can repair its fixtures. The living room’s fireplace is old and brass and there is an old brown leather couch cracked and worn like the professionally tanned skin of the young C.P.A.’s new mother-in-law. The small CR-TV across from the couch projects nothing but a static blizzard, no matter how much The young C.P.A. adjusts the antennae. He purchased enough wood for the weekend from a nearby gas station and soon the fireplace pops as he unpacks in the master bedroom. His mother-in-law has an annoying laugh where she opens her entire mouth and made a sort of rapid ‘ah-Haw’ noise. At the wedding, it had taken a great deal of the young C.P.A.’s will power to not stare at her very visible uvula, bouncing up and down like a boxer’s speed bag. He spends the rest of the day shoveling the cabin’s sidewalk and driveway’s fishtail before applying a dry rub to some of the larger cuts of meat. He didn’t bring too much packaged food as he expects the guys and he will be able to catch enough fish to feed them the entire weekend, but there are chips w/dip, bread for sandwiches, a few cans of beans and jars of pickles, and a peach cobbler that his new wife made special, her superficial blessing. He sets out the fishing poles and tackle boxes before turning in at 10:00pm, remembering that he forgot to pick up some beer, but no problem, he could do that tomorrow.

The young C.P.A. wakes up at 8:00am and walks to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. No water comes out of the faucet; he looks out the window above the sink and is surprised to see that it’s snowing and has been for some time. His phone once again reads “No Network,” but if he could check his voicemail, he would find that his high school friends called him saying that the roads were looking pretty hairy and they didn’t want to test their luck, so it’s looking like they won’t be able to make it, but they’ll have to reschedule. His new wife called also, just to check up on him because the morning Weather Man said that the snowstorm moving into his area was shaping up to be the Exalted Grand Poobah of all snowstorms, a total freak of nature occurrence and suggested that everyone try to stay indoors, but she wanted him to know that she loves him and hopes he is safe and warm. The fire is rebuilt while the young C.P.A. weighs his options. He puts on his hat, jacket, and some warm pants before heading out to the garage. There’s no way that his compact is going to be able to make it through the snow piled on the driveway, and even if he could get out of the garage, he couldn’t make it up the sharp incline to the connecting road leading to the nearest town. He heads back inside and tries his phone again with no success.

Luckily, the gas stove still works and The young C.P.A. boils a pot of snow gathered from the front door’s avalanche to drink later. He’s got enough food and wood to outlast the snow, so it’s only a matter of time until he can leave. All he has to do is wait it out. The TV still doesn’t work and there isn’t anything to read except for some old Cabin Living magazines. He doesn’t want to burn out his cell phone’s battery playing solitaire in case a call eventually comes through. While looking for a deck of cards, the young C.P.A. finds an old VCR player and a VHS tape of The Sound of Music at the bottom of one of the guest bedroom’s closet. Soon, Julie Andrews’s voice waves from the television. The young C.P.A. resolves into the couch.

Once the end credits start rolling, the young C.P.A. makes a lunch of pan-fried hamburger on Wonder bread with a glass of snow-water. He checks his phone before gathering more snow to drink later. Outside, the storm still whistles and the snow now reaches the crease of the young C.P.A.’s knees. He resumes the search for a deck of cards, but finds only a stack of coasters and a novelty ashtray shaped like the face of Mickey Mouse. It’s a little after noon when the C.P.A. rewinds The Sound of Music and watches Julie Andrews dance across the German mountain range and explain musical scales to children. The second viewing is much more nervous; the young C.P.A. can’t seem to focus as it occurs to him that if the snow continues, he won’t be able to come into the respected ND commercial accounting firm  office on Monday. He tries to call his boss and then his wife, but there’s still no network. He can’t to remember if its fifteen or twenty miles to the gas station, though it really doesn’t matter because there’s no way he could walk that far in this weather. The pipes are still frozen, so he washes his face and arm pits with snow water before brushing his teeth.

Outside, the frosted lamppost emits a pale orange. The sun is not visible through the surrounding forest. It looks as though a small child emptied a full can of shaving cream over the landscape. The young C.P.A. is accustomed to accessing his emails at his own leisure. No doubt his inbox is overflowing with emails. It is likely that he will have to spend Monday catching up, a task that the young C.P.A. finds more tedious than the balance sheet inspections that his boss places on his desk every other Thursday. The thought of answering a large backlog of email stresses the young C.P.A. and he very much wants to leave. He curses his brother for owning just the one video, yet there is little to do but rewind the tape for a third viewing.

The young C.P.A. notices that Julie Andrews is sexy in the way that women in very old cigarette ads are sexy. He watches her intently while eating spoonfuls of cobbler straight from the glass-baking pan. He thinks of a female coworker he once overheard humming “My Favorite Things” in the break room. It was, the young C.P.A concluded, an exceptionally catchy song, but it seemed like a non-fictional grown woman’s favorite things would be slightly more mature than raindrops and whiskers. He tries to masturbate but cannot. At the respected ND commercial accounting firm office, his boss, a man not ten years older than he (the young C.P.A.), once told a the male accountants a dirty joke comparing pizza delivery men and gynecologists and though he laughed, the young C.P.A. did not think that joke was especially appropriate given the professional environment and that the female coworker, who was standing just outside of the male’s conversational circle, abruptly stopped humming, but he laughed all the same. The tape plays.

The next morning, the young C.P.A. sees the television’s static and cannot remember just when exactly he fell asleep. The sticky plasma of the cobbler’s fruit filling has congealed and hardened in the room’s night air, cementing spoon to pan. When the young C.P.A. opens the cabin’s front door, a miniature avalanche of waist-high powder greets him. He can’t dig his way out, not with the $3.99 plastic shovel he purchased at a chain hardware store in preparation for the weekend and his cell phone is still better suited for weighting paper than communication. Not to mention the driveway is unassailable with his car’s low horsepower. The young C.P.A. knew this. Now the young C.P.A. puts the videocassette on just for the background noise while he prepares cold beans and bread. He thinks of the words ‘cabin fever.’ It’s starting to get a little chilly, so he adds a few more logs to the fire and wraps himself in a flannel blanket. A ray of light reflected through both thin white cloud and glass pane lands directly on the couch where the newly married C.P.A. sits, painfully unaware of his own aloneness, viewing The Sound of Music for the fourth time in twenty four hours, totally bored, as by now he has memorized the film’s progression, not quite sure of why he watches. Dishes from yesterday and today’s meals balance precariously in the sink like a ceramic game of pick-up sticks, the cobbler still caked with sugary glue. The young C.P.A. considers napping but cannot bring himself to leave the warm turban of blankets to lie down in the master bedroom. Julie Andrews has ceased to be sexy. Her enthusiasm runs the C.P.A.’s patience thin. He almost turns the tape off, but doesn’t. He drifts into an uneasy pre-REM sleep; no dreams, only a vague memory of darkness and animal sounds.

Urgency. The nap leaves the young C.P.A. unsatisfied. The film reaches its dramatic climax, but fail to stimulate, emotionally or mentally. After the credits the young C.P.A. sits and watches the film over, this time focused. Little else can be done. Again, one viewing directly after the other. His hair is thick with oil and sweat and the front of his brain throbs with pain. Again. He mouths lines of dialogue along with Julie Andrews. He feels like an active participant in the film’s drama. Once more. And again. By now the magnetic tape on the VHS is beginning to deteriorate. The picture becomes fuzzy and white with grain, more and more so after each subsequent viewing. There is nothing else the young C.P.A. wants to do other then watch the film. Bathroom breaks become less frequent. Again. The day is spent, a shift change in the sky. The picture deteriorates more, now missing whole frames. More and more white grain until it stops. Nothing. No sound, no picture, only a feeble click as the tape player tries to start winding but cannot.

The young C.P.A. howls and then whimpers. He lays himself before the dark screen that now shows only varying depths of black. The TV set is shaken, hit with the flat of a palm, and turned off and on. The same is done to the tape player. The cabin is silent except for a light sobbing. Time can be killed no longer. The young C.P.A.’s face is wet and crumpled. He stays folded up on the ground until his eye catches upon the playful light of the fire. He feeds the fire until a giant pillar of orange flame climbs up the chimney and he takes a place in front, watching as he did the TV. The heat is intense and multiplying and the young C.P.A. struggles to keep his eyes open. Not five minutes pass and the fire burns itself to cinder.

The young C.P.A. picks himself off the ground and hugs himself. He is aware of his aloneness, missing the relentless mirth and energy of Julie Andrews. The size of the cabin seems halved from when he first arrived. He needs something. The basement door is cracked open, a tiny ] of darkness creeping out.

He descends the stairs without any light. The darkness of the basement shifts and reacts, fluctuating depth and intensity such that the young C.P.A. is not so much moving but feeling his way, groping for some solid object. He steps in a small puddle and now his right sock squishes with each step. He thinks the basement is expanding and contracting with his own panicked lungs. His hands attempt to weave through the darkness, no sound but damp sock against cold cement. He cries a little. Shapes emerge and then vanish before him.

A shock as his second toe strikes a small but decidedly cardboard box that is scooped up and then rushed back towards the [ of light at the top of the stairs. The young C.P.A. did not recognize the handwriting of the “HERS” written across the box’s side. As he plundered its contents his eyes widened and he was relieved, for he had found what he desired.

And two days later when his brother arrived with four-wheel drive, tire chains, and an axe, the snow finally stopped. It took some work to reach the cabin’s door as the young C.P.A.’s brother waded through the penis-level snow. He could hear strange sounds coming from inside, like music played through a prism. Not so much produced from any place, but rather borrowed.

The axe removed the frozen lock from the door. The music sounded familiar, the brother thought he recognized a lyric. And thus, when the door swung open there stood the young C.P.A. lips red and hair curled, spinning, the hems of a blue dress billowing with his motion, the hills alive, and the young C.P.A. turned and his eyes met those of his brother who was still holding the axe, and his former soul hovering above like a held note departed and the new tenant gently sunk in its claws.

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