Thursday, February 03, 2011


In honor of the Ice Storm of 2011 (hope everyone is okay!), harkens back to the Scribe-Award winning ATWT tie-in, The Man From Oakdale, and Henry's first encounter with Vienna's frosty homeland, along with her idea of a cozy getaway....

“Oh, Henry,” Gjord smacked him heartily on the shoulder, “What a sense of humor!” Henry winced. Vienna’s father had a grip like a small cookie-cutter shark. “Come,” he said. “We will show you to your room.”

Henry didn’t know what to say. Would a hug and a kiss be appropriate? An equally hearty handshake in return? A quick Irish jig followed by a uniquely American fist pump? Unable to decide between the three, Henry settled merely for accepting their generous invitation by proceeding to make himself at home. He took off his coat.

“Oh, no,” Martina said. “You had best keep that on.”

Henry shot Vienna a quizzical look. She just smiled innocently and, linking her arm thought Henry’s, followed her parents.

“You two will be staying in the guest-house,” Gjord explained.

“Oh, Papa!” Father and daughter beamed at each other. Henry, figured that when in Sweden, join in. He beamed, too. Even though no one was actually looking in his direction.

Chattering all the while about how lovely it was to have Henry visiting with them and oh, how they wished Vienna brought her friends by more often; it was ever so lonely to have their precious child living so far away, the Hyatts led Vienna and Henry through their living area, around the kitchen with its simmering pots of exotic aromas that Henry told himself he couldn’t wait to try -- someday, and out the back door.

The gust of frigid wind that hit Henry the moment they stepped outside was as close to a “wind” as the Hyatt castle was to a modest little “home.” This was no wind. This was a semi-permeable block of ice floating through space like the Plexiglas prison Superman trapped his SuperEnemies in. Henry could feel his eyeballs blistering from the cold. His lashes froze into pointy spikes. He could feel the wind whistling through his cheeks, for Pete’s sake. This was not good.

“This is cold,” Henry managed to croak out through a mostly paralyzed face.

“It is,” Vienna agreed. “We are 200 kilometers inside the Artic Circle. The weather here is a bit more brisk than in Stockholm.”

“You brought me to the Artic?” Henry wondered how she could have left out that little detail while planning their itinerary. What was his lovely vixen thinking?

“Lester Keys Enterprises,” Vienna reminded, as if reading his mind.

“Cold,” Henry reminded back.

And now they wanted him to trudge through the snow? What was wrong with these people? Did they think toes breaking off was a natural condition? Like tarantulas shedding their skin? Did the people of Sweden re-grow frost-bitten extremities? Did they realize that the people of America did not?

Nevertheless, Henry did as the Hyatts commanded, learning a valuable lesson along the way. Even the nicest of Italian shoes were not made for a trudge through sludge. And Henry’s shoes weren’t particularly nice. Or Italian.

Fortunately, after the first few steps, he couldn’t feel his inferior shoes anymore. Or his toes, for that matter. His feet were on fire. Which, considering he was knee-deep in a snowdrift, wasn’t particularly likely. But the sensation still was not very pleasant.

“Here we are,” Gjord said. He took out a ring of keys and proceeded to unlock a snowdrift.

Wonderful. Now the cold was making Henry hallucinate.

He had to be hallucinating. There was no other explanation for it. Now he was hallucinating that the snowdrift had a light shining inside of it, and that Vienna’s father was beckoning them to come in.

Sure. Why not? In for a penny, in for a phantasm.

They’d passed through a snow-covered tunnel that grew narrower and narrower the further they went. However, once their party reached the point where Henry and Gjord’s heads were brushing the icy ceiling, the floor unexpectedly descended into a sequence of steps carved out of ice. The steps led to a slippery, sparkling floor and a series of carved columns, all made out of ice. A bed stood in the center of the room. The blankets appeared to be sleeping bags sewn out of cured reindeer pelts. The surrounding frame -- headboard, legs, diamond lights twinkling at the base -- was fashioned completely out of ice. Even the bar had been configured completely out of ice. Though the dozen bottles of vodka chilling invitingly atop its crystal blue surface did take the sting out of that particular desecration somewhat.

At least the igloo’s walls weren’t made out of ice.

They were made out of snow, with intricate mosaic patterns chiseled from floor to ceiling to break up the otherwise blue and white monotony.

“What is this?” Henry whispered. “Hell’s refrigerator?”

“Is it not glorious?” Vienna asked. “Every year, my parents invite artists from all over the world to come in and create this masterpiece. It takes many weeks. They start in November, setting up the molding. Then, once the temperature dips below freezing, they spray the shapes with snow and bring in ice blocks from the Torne River to sculpt out the inside and the furniture.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re in the Artic Circle and you have to import ice?”

“It is like living in a magical fairy tale!”

“Isn’t this what they did to Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Matchgirl?”

“You will stay here during your visit,” Martina said.

“Really?” Vienna cried.

“Really?” Henry yelped. Thankful to see that her stay in America had at least imbued Vienna with a touch of common sense when it came to sleeping in below zero weather....


The Man From Oakdale is now available as a paperback at

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