Snowfall on Voting Day
A half-baked short story that I should've edited more. How's that for a pitch?
Every Sunday night, Carrie’s family ate dinner together at her grandmother’s house. It had been tradition for so long that she never really gave it any thought, at least until recently. Even after starting college last year — a 2 hour drive upstate — Carrie had clung to the warm familiarity of home and the time with her family. For the first time, though, cracks were starting to show.
Yes, she relished the chance to catch up with her parents and grandmother. They loved to ask about college life, and she loved to tell them (a little) about it. Once the foursome had exhausted the what’s new/how’s work/how’s school/how’s he/how’s she-type questions with one another (usually about halfway through dinner), though, they entered a danger zone. The conversation almost always tripped backwards into politics.
Carrie and her family didn’t mean to open the political can of worms every Sunday night, but it was hard these days, right? The culprits were books. Technology. Sports. Entertainment. The weather! You know, the things you talk about once you’ve finished talking about everything else. Once-safe topics were now just a couple degrees removed from fiery, of-the-moment political debates.
Carrie and her grandmother couldn’t help themselves but to go at it, much to the quiet horror of her totally apolitical parents. She and her grandmother were completely, unbelievably, almost comically divided. The conversations (they were debates, but “conversations” sounds more civilized) had been intensifying since Carrie started school. Up until that point, she had mostly listened wide-eyed to her grandmother’s rants, while her mother and father would poke at their food and nod intermittently. Over the last 18 months, though, as she tentatively began to find her footing in the world, she asked her grandmother more provocative questions, and found herself increasingly disgusted with the stubborn 86 year old’s worldview. The election, now only hours away, electrified the banter.
The culprit tonight? The Red Sox. Which led to the Patriots. Which led to the NFL. Which led to Colin Kaepernick, a well-worn Sunday night subject. Within minutes, Carrie and her grandmother were in it knee-deep.
“BUT HE DIDN’T EVEN VOTE IN 2016, CARRIE! He didn’t even vote!” her Grandmother said, putting down her wine glass with more force than she meant.
Carrie protested. “That’s because his whole point is that he’s against-”
“I don’t care why or who or what he was against. I don’t care if you’re black or white or purple or blue. You can’t complain about whatever nonsense he’s complaining about-”
“Systemic racism-” Carrie interrupted.
“You can’t complain about whatever he’s complaining about,” her grandmother finished, “and not go and vote.”
“At least he didn’t vote for HIM!” Carrie spat incredulously. “Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, they’re all rolling in their graves right now. You get that, right? In 10 years, people will deny they ever voted for him!”
“Darling, I’ve voted in every election but one since 1952. Ei-”
“Eisenhower, I know,” Carrie finished.
“Eisenhower was my first one. Old Ike. I’ve voted R up and down the ballot, ever since, and will until the day I die. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than the alternative. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ll get it,” Carrie’s grandmother said assuredly.
“It’s not about party, grandma. It’s not even about politics. He’s a liar and a bad person, and it’s going to catch up with him. Do you really not see it?”
Carrie’s grandmother thought about this for a second, and Carrie let herself think for just a moment that she may have gotten through.
“You know, when my mother was your age, she couldn’t vote?”
“Yes,” Carrie said.
“Imagine that? She cherished the right and instilled that sense of civic duty in all of us. But now, here I am, sitting across from her supposedly college-educated great-granddaughter, who’s trying to tell me it’s OK to not vote-”
“I never said that-”
“Who sides with the illegal aliens, who hates the President, who maybe hates our country-”
“I love this country,” Carrie said softly, taken aback and hurt that her grandmother would suggest otherwise.
The conversation spiraled violently away into the “fake news media,” “the caravan,” “the Russian witch-hunt,” and all the other topics du jour, but Carrie was on auto-pilot. She was seeing red. How could this woman who has accumulated eight-plus decades of wisdom be so ignorant? Her parents tried to temper the conversation but it got away from everyone, and Carrie drove back to campus alone.
By 2 PM Tuesday, it was already a good day for Carrie. Blinking away a couple snowflakes as she left the voting station, she felt a sense of pride, having cast her first-ever ballot. Classes were cancelled, as an early-season snow (that was supposed to be an overnight dusting) had blanketed the region and continued to fall. The polls looked mostly good for her choices, though it was unclear how the weather would affect turnout. And, to complete the day’s festive mood, Carrie and her roommate were going to meet the candidate they volunteered for at an event in the city later that afternoon, before watching the results roll in with the rest of the campaign staff, and (hopefully) celebrating later that night. Carrie was excited; she could feel a sense of belonging and meaning stir inside. She liked this new world. Still, something small nagged at her.
Carrie returned to her dorm room and watched election coverage with her roommate. The cable talking heads repeated the same points over and over, but somehow, it was still interesting on this day. After a while, Carrie’s roommate changed and got ready for the campaign party.
“You coming? They said we need to be there by 4.” asked the roommate.
“I’m gonna take my own car,” said Carrie. “I’ll text you.”
Her roommate left, leaving Carrie to the TV. They were showing lines of people all over the state, waiting for the chance to vote. Carrie, lost in her thoughts, eventually made it out of the dorm, up the street, and through the snowy parking lot to her car.
She drove slowly, to an unexpected but familiar destination, for what seemed like forever. After parking her car, she walked up the steps, and rang the doorbell.
Her grandmother came to the door and looked at Carrie, surprised.
“Did you vote?” Carrie asked.
“No, the snow…” her grandmother replied, still confused.
“Voting closes in an hour,” Carrie said. “And I have four-wheel drive. Let’s get you to the polls.”
Carrie’s grandmother looked at her for a couple seconds, slowly smiled, and gave a slight nod.