In 1992, two nine-year-old boys have an adventure filled day saving the planet, shoveling snow, and catching a criminal.
Aaron spun the steering wheel hard to the right, leaning his whole body into the evasive maneuver. “Prepare the torpedo, Lieutenant Saxton!”
Sam matched Aaron’s body movement and leaned to the right as well. “Aye, aye, Captain!” He pulled on a faded red plunger on the dashboard that always made him think he was shooting a ball on a pinball machine. “Torpedo armed!”
Aaron narrowed his eyes and stared at the snow falling on the empty road like a cowboy about to duel. In his gruffest voice, he turned to Sam and said, “We have to remain vigilant.”
Sam nodded and rubbed his hands over the arms of his winter jacket. “The last car we saw over an hour ago.”
Aaron pulled on the gear shift arm to his right. “Which we blew up and saved the world!”
“I’m getting hungry,” Sam said. “Maybe we should take a break?”
“Hold on!” Aaron pointed at a car down the road. The car was nearing the bridge’s underpass and about to turn the corner into their territory. “Enemy sighted!”
Sam sat up. “Ready for action!”
Sam pushed button and after button, firing torpedos, missiles, lasers, and every weapon available at the enemy vehicle. At the same time, Aaron drove, dodging the enemy’s counterattacks. As Sam fired each gun, he made matching sound effects as Aaron rattled off system status updates. The enemy car drove past them, undamaged from their attacks because the buttons on the broken down 18-wheeler truck did nothing.
The two nine-year-boys high-fived each other.
“Enemy destroyed. Mission accomplished.” Aaron pretended to park the truck. “Now, let’s go see what my grandma has to eat.”
Aaron and Sam shuffled out of the truck, watching their footing and keeping a tight grip on the various handles as they climbed out. The truck’s wheels were taller than them, prompting them a while back to install some concrete blocks below to get in and out easier. They ran past the automotive repair shop where the broken-down truck lived and headed straight to Aaron’s grandmother’s house next door.
“Where’s Margie?” Sam asked, not seeing her car in the driveway.
Aaron shrugged. “I think she’s working. She should be home soon.”
Margie’s house partly hung over the Hoquiam River. The house was technically not under the traffic bridge but close enough for the boys to describe the place as being under a bridge. During the summer and low tides, the two would explore along the river’s shore, looking for treasure, only finding trash. Sometimes they found old boards and tires, which they would drag to their fort in the woods south of them.
Sam and Aaron stepped on the deck to enter the house through the kitchen, and Sam noticed several large folded cardboard boxes against the house.
“Wow, look at all of the boxes.” Sam held up an enormous box. “I bet I could put you this one.”
Aaron looked at the box. “Yeah, you could. I could pop out of this and scare my grandma.”
Sam laughed. “Let’s do it. But when you pop out, you should hug her, so we don’t give her a heart attack.”
Aaron nodded. “That’s a good idea. We should hurry because she will be home any minute.”
Sam unfolded the box, and Aaron climbed inside. The two giggled as Sam closed the box, sealing Aaron inside. Sam agreed to keep watch while Aaron waited. Several minutes passed, and still no sign of Margie. The boys talked about how clever they were and how funny this prank would be. The two also discussed some ideas for what they could do with the other boxes. Sam suggested making pinball machines, which Aaron supported. Aaron enjoyed the various games Sam would make from cardboard boxes. The excitement of their plans allowed the boys to ignore the cold, but the weather soon began to wear on them.
Before the two were about to give up, Aaron’s younger brother by two years, Adam, and his friend Chris approached Sam.
“Hey, Sam,” Adam said. “Where’s Aaron?”
Aaron popped out of the box with a scream. Adam and Chris jumped back a little bit while Aaron and Sam laughed.
“Man, we sure got you,” Aaron told them.
Adam shook his head. “No way. We weren’t scared. We knew you were there.”
“Sure, whatever,” Sam said with sarcasm.
“What are you guys doing anyway?” Chris spoke up.
“We’re going to scare my grandma,” Aaron told them. “I’m going to wait for her in this box and jump out when she tries to open it.”
“But he’s going to give her a hug,” Sam added.
“Yeah, we don’t want to give her a heart attack,” Aaron said.
“Cool!” Adam said. “I wanna help.”
In his annoyed big bother voice, Aaron told Adam no. “This is our idea – not yours. Now, go on. You’re going to ruin everything like you always do.”
“Come on, let us stay and watch.”
Aaron crossed his arms. “No.”
Chris took a step back to avoid the brother’s bickering.
Adam sulked his shoulders. “But, Aaron…”
“She’s coming!” Sam interrupted.
Aaron ducked down, grumbling at his younger brother along the way. Sam packaged Aaron closed. Adam, Chris, and Sam stood together on the porch, watching Margie drive her car up. Aaron and Sam had cleared the driveway in the morning, making the walk over to them safe.
“Hi, boys,” Margie greeted.
“Hi,” Sam said first before Adam or Chris could say anything to ruin their prank. “This package came for you.”
“Oh, really,” Margie said as she looked at the package.
Before Margie could open the box, Aaron leaped out with a roar. Margie stepped back, waving her hands up in the air and shrieking. Aaron wrapped his arms around his grandmother for a hug, holding her to keep her from losing her balance. The four boys laughed.
Margie supported herself on the deck’s fence. She waved her finger at the kids, trying not to crack a smile. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“That’s why we had Aaron give you a hug,” Sam grinned.
Margie chuckled and opened the wooden gate. “Okay, how about I make you boys some lunch.”
The boys rushed inside into the warm house. As Margie prepared lunch for everyone, Aaron and Adam talked about their day. Aaron told his grandmother that his brother and his friend weren’t part of the prank, but Margie said if Sam were alone, she would’ve known something was up. Aaron didn’t comment or admit she had a point, but Adam did snark at his older brother.
Adam and Chris left the house first, leaving Aaron and Sam alone to discuss their afternoon plans. Margie suggested they could shovel people’s driveways to earn some money.
“Yeah, let’s go shovel some driveways!” Sam said with a cookie in his mouth. “We’ll call ourselves Snow Shovel Inc.”
Aaron slapped Sam’s shoulder. “You can get that new Super Nintendo game too.”
Sam swallowed the cookie. “Yeah!”
The boys said thank you and ran outside, grabbing the shovels they had used earlier. They had to walk a few blocks before getting to their first house. Aaron’s city block only contained his home, Margie’s house, the repair shop, and a skating rink. Behind them were some woods, which covered several city blocks and followed along the Hoquiam River.
The first house they knocked on was a simple, single-story house with a snow-covered driveway and garage. Behind the house were the same woods. The door cracked open, with the latch still on. A gruff, bearded man looked down at the boys with suspicion. He lifted the latch and opened the door.
The man tightened his plush house robe against the cold. “What do you kids what?”
Aaron stood tall and confident. “We just wanted to know if you would like us to shovel your driveway. We’ll shovel it first, and then you can pay us how much you think we deserve.”
The homeowner glanced up and down the street. He opened up his robe, revealing he was fully dressed in jeans and a clean t-shirt and pulled out his wallet from his pants. “Here’s five dollars for each of you if you go away.”
“Thank you!” Sam said as they each took the money.
Sam studied the tattoo of a star on the man’s right hand before he pulled his hands back inside. The man slammed the door, turned the locks, and stomped away. Sam and Aaron exchanged confused glances and carried on to the next house. As they got back on the sidewalk, a police car drove by.
For the next few hours, Sam and Aaron shoveled driveways and sidewalks. Some people said no thank you, and some said they would shovel themselves tomorrow. By the end of the afternoon, they earned a total of $35 together. Sam was a bit bummed he didn’t have enough to buy a new video game, but he had enough to rent some.
Aaron said he was curious about their fort in the snow, and Sam was too. The two decided to cut through the woods back to Aaron’s grandmother’s house. While the woods were part of an urban area, they contained no proper trails. The location was considered private property for a shipping company. No fences blocked the area surrounding the woods, and the “No Trespassing” signs held no consequences as the boys never got in trouble playing back there.
After hiking through the snow for several minutes, they saw their fort. Their fort didn’t look much different in the snow. The walls were a mix of whatever Sam and Aaron could scavenge but lightly covered with snow. Surrounding the base were piles of junk from people illegally dumping their belongings there—nothing new to them.
Outside their base was the first person the two had offered their services. The boys ducked behind a fallen tree and watched the man dig a hole. They placed their shovels on the ground behind them as they peered over the tree.
“What do you think is in that box?” Sam whispered to Aaron.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It could be a body.”
“Or stolen money,” Sam said, louder than a whisper.
“Hey!” the man shouted. “Get out of here, you kids!”
“Run!” Aaron and Sam said at the same time.
Neither bothered to call jinx on each other as they ran out the same way they entered, leaving their shovels behind. Sam was one of the fastest kids in school while Aaron wasn’t, but Sam was used to pacing himself so Aaron wouldn’t fall far behind. Sam kept looking backward to ensure the man wasn’t chasing them. Sam didn’t see him, but they kept running as they couldn’t be sure.
As Aaron and Sam bolted out of the woods onto the main street, a police car stopped at the sight of their panicked run. The officer rolled down his window. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Aaron took several deep breaths, trying to explain. “This guy is burring a dead body.”
“Or something,” Sam corrected. “We couldn’t see. He chased us off.”
“What does he look like?” the middle-aged officer asked.
Aaron took a puff from his inhaler. “He’s kind of scruffy, but not.”
“Yeah,” Sam added. “He also had a tattoo of a star on his hand.”
“A star tattoo?” the officer repeated. “Stay there.”
The officer rolled up his window and radioed an update to the station. He parked the car and asked the boys to lead the way, which they obliged. The man was where the boys found him, covering a large chest with dirt.
The officer drew his gun. “Stop right there.”
The man dropped his shovel and raised his arms. He cursed under his breath. Sam and Aaron stayed back as the officer handcuffed the man, reading him his rights.
“We’ve been searching for this guy,” the officer said to Aaron and Sam. “He’s responsible for some high-profile home robberies.”
The officer opened the chest, looking over the stolen items. He closed the trunk and asked the kids to follow him back to the car. The boys grabbed their shovels and followed the officer. After placing the criminal in the back, he collected the boys’ names and addresses, telling them there was a small reward. Sam gave his home address while Aaron gave his grandma’s address because he knew his parents would force him to save his reward.
After giving the cop their information, Aaron and Sam rushed back to Margie’s house – avoiding the woods. They told her what happened, which she laughed and said she wasn’t falling for anymore of their pranks today. Sam insisted they were telling the truth but gave up when she wouldn’t budge.
A few weeks later, when the snow had left no traces of its visit, Margie checked her mailbox. With the bills and junk mail was a letter from the Hoquiam police department. She sat at her kitchen table. Inside was a thank you letter from the officer and a check for a hundred dollars as a reward.
“I think I owe those boys an apology.”
Snow Shovel Inc. takes two short stories I wrote like in the early 2000s for school and updated for my fictional universe. The first half of the story, which was originally from a work titled The Box, was inspired by my actual childhood where my friend and I did scare his grandmother. The second half took another story of those characters in a fictional story of catching a criminal.
Barely anything survived expect for some lines of dialogue in this revitalization. I changed the me character to Sam Saxton from Tales Unveiled as part of the updating to the 16th Phoenix Universe. I had fun telling this story, seeing how I’ve improved as a writer, and I plan to give the same treatment to some of other older works.
Thank you for reading and thanks to Janine De Guzman and Mikey Marchan for bringing the discovery scene to life.