He knew it right away, the second he got out of the taxi and saw the footprints in the snow. He had expected to see footprints in the snow, yes, because his wife was walking in front of him – while he carried their luggage.
He didn’t like seeing his wife’s footprints in the snow, either, but he had stopped raising the issue a long time ago. She just didn’t think it was important, not like he did. On the other hand, he didn’t think vacuuming was important. She did. For example.
To him, keeping the front yard clear of snow was a matter of not a small amount of pride. Every morning, as he went out to get the newspaper – also something he wasn’t ready to give up – he grabbed the broom and swept the slates clear of snow.
His neighbor had brought it up once. He’d said he didn’t need an alarm clock because he could hear the sweeping every morning at 7.30.
“Sweep, sweep, swoosh, swoosh,” he had said, “I love your energy.” The neighbor had said it with a big smile on his face, which made it hard for him to know whether he was telling him to stop it or not.
Either way, he was not going to stop.
It was a safety issue, to begin with. He didn’t want his wife to slip and fall and that was inevitably going to happen if you let people walk on the snow. Given the chance, snow would turn into ice, and ice would turn into broken wrists and ankles.
A clean walkway was also pleasing to the eye, he thought. It was nice to have that path from the front door to the sidewalk, and vice versa, coming home and seeing it from the sidewalk, it looked inviting. A teacher had once made a big deal about a drawing he had made because the house in it didn’t have a road to the front door, and instead, the house was standing on its own on a hill.
“That shows you’re an introvert, a person with no emotions. I think you should talk to someone about it,” she had said but he had never talked to anything about the drawing or about being an introvert.
But now he knew that people walking past their house would see the path leading right up to the door, and they’d think, “now that’s nice.”
Mostly, though, he kept up with his sweeping because it was something his father had always done. Yes, his father had said that it was safety issue, but also that it showed that the house had its affairs in order.
So when he saw footprints in the snow coming back from a holiday in the sun, he knew the house was in trouble, and sure enough, as soon as his wife got to the front door, she screamed.
“The door,” she yelled, “it’s open!”
“We’ve been burgled,” she shouted the second she walked in.
He dropped the suitcases and hurried inside. She had been right. Of course. The house wasn’t empty but he could tell some things were missing. His laptop. The small change jar. The TV. Lamps.
He stood at the front door and looked at the footprints in the snow. There were a lot of them and he could tell some of the had already frozen.
“I wonder how they knew we were out of town,” his wife said. “I’m absolutely sure that I set the lamp timers before we left.”
He sighed and reached for the broom, but there was nothing there. It was gone.