Part One: "Heavy Snow Warning"
All right, where's the snow?

I arrived at work extra early. I had anticipated streets piled with a foot of white stuff, no salt on the roads, and one big hassle getting to work on time. All last night, the weather-people kept saying, "Heavy snow is expected by tomorrow morning, possibly six to eight inches."
'Six to eight inches?' Try the same light dusting we had on the ground since Monday! The streets were clear; there was no snow. As far as I was concerned, this was just another routine Thursday morning.
Besides, Fern was coming by the building today and have lunch with me. So, snow or no snow, I'm spending an hour with my good friend.

I received a nice message from Claude Frollo last night. He was well, and he said he missed me. I had planned on taking that trip to the 15th Century, just to spend the weekend with my Claude. We hadn't seen each other since the Feast of Fools (see Feast of Fools fanfic), when my friends and I treated medieval Parisians to some 20th Century music and fun. It was a festival that Claude would never forget.
But with the threat of bad weather, I decided to skip my weekend plans. Even Claude couldn't come visit me now, for Jacki had yet to figure out how to make the time travel device work in sub-zero temps.

And that was another thing the weather people got wrong. Where's all this bitter-cold Arctic blast that's to follow the 'snowstorm'?

Ah, well --- No Matter

Anyway, so much talk of heavy snow and bone-chilling temperatures prompted me to stock up on groceries and other necessities. Lord knows I did not want to be stuck indoors for several days and run out of food, batteries, firewood, or anything else to help me cope with cabin fever. So what if I spent more than I should -- better safe than sorry.

As the morning progressed, I paid little attention to the weather. Of course, my classroom is located in an interior corridor -- no windows!
By ten o'clock, when I walked downstairs for my hall duty, I happened to glance out the window. It was coming down hard and fast! A total white-out! I could've sworn that there were at least four inches on the ground.
"We had the TV on Channel 6", said Diane, one of my favorite colleagues. "They're saying this could be one of the worst snowstorms in twenty years."
I just stood there at the window, staring out at heavily falling snow. "Two inches an hour! And it's only mid-morning!"
I then said to Diane, "That means the storm started around eight!"
Diane nodded, then she said something about school letting out early. "I heard they might dismiss before noon."

Fern! I have to call her...tell her lunch is off...Can't have her drive all the way up here in a snowstorm...

I called Fern's house, and got nothing but the answering machine. I was really getting concerned. Not only was the snow coming down heavier and faster, the wind began to pick up, blowing and drifting snow everywhere. Almost like the Blizzard of '78...Now I wish I had gone to Paris last night...I'd be with Claude right now...and away from this weather.

Around eleven, came the official announcement: School will dismiss at eleven-thirty.
I packed up a few things; after all, if there's to be no school tomorrow (this was Thursday), I would need the extra time to catch up on work.

It was twelve-thirty, when the last of the students finally left for home. Several buses never arrived on time; some got stuck in snowdrifts. Those poor kids...I hope everyone gets home OK.
I was ready to brave the snow and wind, ready to plow my car through deep, deep snow. As I headed out the building, I heard a familiar voice behind me.
"Hey! How 'bout a ride!"
"Fern! What are you doing here? I left messages...Don't you know there's a snowstorm going on?" I was relieved to see Fern made it to the building OK, but what she had to tell me was not all that pleasant.
"My car got hung up down on Crestview -- down by the old Monon trestle. I already called Triple A, but in this weather..."
Huh? Fern walked almost...SIX BLOCKS?!...through all this? Just to meet me for lunch? This gal's got guts...

I immediately embraced Fern. "Girlfriend, I'm glad you are all right." Then I grinned and told her, "You do know school let out early."
Fern grinned right back and said, "What's this? School's out? Gee, I wonder what for?"

I invited Fern to come home with me, since I lived not too far from my building. After all, I told her, "I got the pantry stocked, the fridge and freezer full, new CDs, lots of movies --- Hey! You name it, I got it!"
Fern just laughed. "Drive on, child, drive on!"

What is normally a ten-minute drive from my house to my job became a plodding, treacherous journey that took nearly a half-hour. Snow clogged the major thoroughfares, and visibility was cut to less than a few feet.
"Dang! This is almost a white-out!", exclaimed Fern as we both glanced at several hapless motorists trapped in snowbanks, their cars refusing to budge in heavy drifts.
Oh please...just let me make it home in one piece...don't let my car go out on me...

Finally! We managed to wheel into my driveway, but not before I noticed a familiar figure standing on the front porch.
"Jacki! What are you doin' out in all this weather?"
Fern shook her head several times. "Girl, why aren't you home where it's safe and warm?"
Jacki was frantic when she replied, "I've been waitin' for you to come home! I knew school let out early, that's why I came by! Where's your pager? 'Cause Claude's called me four times this morning -- asking about you!"

We -- Jacki, Fern, and I -- sat at my kitchen table. The coffee pot was gurgling away, and I raided the fridge for lunch.
Jacki told me that Claude had sent her several messages. He was worried about me since he learned of the impending inclement weather.
"Claude was so worried about you, Nisha", Jacki said. "He said he wished you had taken his advice, and gone to Paris."
"Wait a minute", said Fern between sips of coffee, "I thought you said that device doesn't work in sub-freezing temps."
Jacki replied, "It didn't, but Tony and I made a few modifications. It works great now, regardless of the weather." Then she turned to me and said, "That's why Claude sent all those messages; he was expecting you to travel to Paris--last night."

Oh no! My Claude's worried about me...and he wanted me there, in Paris, in the 15th Century...with from the bad weather. He can be so thoughtful...

"I wonder then if Claude's planning on coming here", I said as I tended to a pot of soup. "Surely he wouldn't show up in this!", I said, nodding to the window. The snow was still heavily falling.
Fern got up, picked up the phone, and began dialing Triple-A. "Nisha, honey. Once Claude Frollo's made up his mind to do something, nothing -- not even a snowstorm -- will stop him." She then focused her attention on her phone call. It seemed Triple-A was swamped with calls from stranded motorists; Fern will just have to wait her turn.
In the meantime, Jacki, Fern, and I enjoyed a hot, comforting lunch of homemade vegetable soup, chicken-patty sandwiches, and apple cobbler.
"Girlfriend", said Jacki, spreading mayo on her sandwich, "this is so good!" Then she wondered if "Tony made it home all right." She must've had an ESP attack, for at that moment, we heard someone frantically ringing my front doorbell.

I went to the door, and to my surprise, there stood Tony Terrell, Jacki's fiance, covered with snow and shivering from the cold.
"Tony! Come on in here!" I took his coat and hat. "Jacki's in the kitchen with Fern."
Tony stomped the snow from his boots, then told me that he knew Jacki was here. "She left me a note sayin' something about Minister Frollo and urgent messages...Man! That Hawk is blowin' out there!"
I invited Tony to join us for lunch. He was more than grateful when he saw Jacki was safe and sound. "I'm glad you're OK, baby." Then he focused on the food. "Mmm boy! Is this your homemade veggie soup? And your famous apple cobbler?" I nodded, then Tony added, "Anyone who gets stuck in snowstorm should head for your house; you treat folks right!" And with that, he helped himself to soup and sandwiches.

I must've lost track of the time, because Fern called Triple-A a fourth time. She would still have to wait. She then called her husband, Dwayne, who was away on business.
"Wonder how the weather is up in Chicago? Probably worse...poor Dwayne. I hope he's all right; he was supposed to come home tonight." Fern was now very agitated, with her car still stuck in the snow, and her husband stranded in Chicago.

Jacki and I finished clearing away the remainders of lunch. Then I suggested that we head for the basement. "There's something I want to show you all."

At that moment the phone rang. "Maybe that's Triple-A", said Fern, picking up the phone, only to find out that it was her son Kyle calling.
Kyle, knowing that the weather would shut down school early, was out all day, clearing driveways and helping stranded motorists. Kyle told his mom that he and Shelli would be by soon, and that he was also bringing another personsomeone who was stranded by the storm.

Hmm...I have all these people over's still snowing, and....though Jacki and Tony just live down the street...Fern's house is not far either....but I can't let them go without supper...or a good time...let's see...what can I fix for supper...

"How about staying for supper? After all, it is almost five", I suggested. "I bought half of a Honeybaked ham; got some greens I cooked the other day; I can put together some cheese grits..."
Then Fern interrupted me, "...and some hot-water cornbread!"
I motioned to everyone to come downstairs; after all, most of our feast was downstairs in the kitchenette.

Did I say that my friends were flabbergasted when they saw my newly-finished basement with its well-stocked bar, big-screen TV, VCR, and sound system? They were totally blown away!
"Damn!", said Fern, "You got this place lookin' mighty good! Is this your kitchenette?" I answered, "Yup. And I have a spare bedroom down here. I tell you, on certain nights, I just bunk down here." I looked over my basement hideaway with satisfaction. HE helped me with the financial end of this little project...If he was here now, he'd be so pleased...

Tony then espied something in my 'dance area' actually just a couple of bistro-type tables and chairs, and mirrored walls. "It's a jukebox! Where did you find a jukebox!"
I explained that I bought the used jukebox "at some place on the Southside". Besides, I told them, I needed something to house all my old 45s.
While Tony and Jacki marveled over my new 'toy', Fern and I got stuff out for our supper. Then the phone rang again. It was my mother, asking if I was OK. While I talked to Mom, I heard the front doorbell.
"Jacki! Tony!", I called out. "Could one of you guys answer the door? I'm talking to my mom."

Jacki ran upstairs to answer the door. After a couple of minutes, we heard voices from upstairs. Fern yelled up to Jacki, "Is that Kyle?"
Jacki replied, "Yes. Kyle, Shelli, and two more people."
I finished my phone conversation with Mom. I then laughed as I put the grits casserole in the oven. "Glad I fixed extra food! Tell 'em to come on down here!"

In a matter of minutes, my extra company came downstairs. There was Kyle; then there was Shelli, Kyle's fiance, both bundled from head to toe. I welcomed them, offering both a cup of hot coffee. I looked around for the others, but I didn't see them yet.

"They should be coming down, shortly. Nat just wanted to get better acquainted with..."
I interrupted him. "Nat? My cousin Nat?"
Kyle then went on to explain that Nat's car was towed away. "WreckedSlammed right into the back of a bus. He's OK, but the car..."
Kyle then told me that he spotted Nat, and offered him a ride home. But seeing that the snow was getting worse, and my home was closer...
"And that's when we spotted him. Nisha, he just popped up on the front porch the minute we drove up!"

"Popped up on the porch?" I didn't quite understand, but at that instant, two figures appeared before me.
One was my cousin, Nat. The other person? A tall, slender man, dressed in casual medieval attire...Claude Frollo!

On to Part 2!

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