The Washington Post

Snow lovers find that a true winter has given Washington the cold shoulder


The White Witch mindlessly rolled two pieces of Turkish delight around in her hand as she waited for the meeting to start.

She was sitting in a nondescript conference room in a nondescript office park just off Interstate 95 in a nondescript part of Springfield. She liked it that way. Narnia had become a drag, while the Washington area was known for its strong economy, varied nightlife and abundance of minions.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

The White Witch sat at the head of the conference table, the other attendees arrayed on either side of her. There was the Snow Queen, of course, dressed in shimmering white and radiating an air of helplessness that, frankly, rankled the White Witch. There was Mr. Freeze, wrapped in conversation with Quinn the Eskimo. There was someone she didn’t recognize, but he wore a uniform shirt stitched with the words “Bud’s Towing,” so she figured he belonged. To his left was another stranger: a woman dressed in a puffy parka and with the wind-burned cheeks of a downhill skier. Ski resort owner, she guessed.

“Shall we begin?” the White Witch asked, tenting her tapered fingers in front of her.

“I don’t think we’re all here,” said Mister Freeze, his voice muffled by the helmet of the cryosuit he was forced to wear at all times.

“Who are we missing?” the White Witch began, but just then the door opened. Two men grunted as they carried an aquarium into the room, gallons of water rolling around inside. As they muscled the heavy tank onto the conference table some water sloshed out. One man took a sponge from his pocket, sopped up the liquid, then carefully squeezed it back into the aquarium.

Resting at the bottom of the fish tank were a button and two pieces of coal. A corncob pipe floated on the water’s surface.

“Ah, Frosty, you made it,” the White Witch said.

Out of all of them, Frosty had suffered the most over the past few winters.

Winters. Ha! The season had been that in name only. The days got shorter, true. And the temperature dropped a bit, but where was the snow? Where were the blizzards that blanketed the region in mantles of white?

“We all know why we’re here,” the White Witch said. “We all, in our ways, depend on a true winter. And we all have been denied that for far too long. I, who once reveled in a time when it was always winter but never Christmas, have had to make do since moving to Washington with a time when it’s never winter and always, I don’t know, Columbus Day or St. Patrick’s Day or Administrative Professionals Day — one of those quasi-holidays where it doesn’t snow.”

She turned to the man in the uniform shirt. “Bud, is it?” she asked.

“Yeah. Bud. Here’s the deal: Cars in ditches. Cars in medians. Cars slid down hills. Two hundred bucks a pop, cash. It adds up, you know? This year: nothin’. I got a boat payment that don’t go away just ’cause it don’t snow.”

The Snow Queen piped up. “It’s been just dreadful,” she said, her voice simpering. “If it wasn’t for the help of Mr. Freeze, I don’t know how I would have survived.”

The White Witch didn’t particularly care to know what was up between those two. She’d had her own brief fling with Mr. Freeze, a one-night stand that had left her . . . cold. And now here was the Snow Queen. . . . So much for being pure as the driven snow.

“Excuse me,” the woman in the parka interrupted, rising from her chair. “I don’t know why I’m here. We don’t mind making snow. Fresh powder is nice, but . . .

Silence, human!” the White Witch thundered, pulling out her magic wand and snapping it at the parka’d woman, instantly turning her to stone. But the woman had been standing, one foot already moving toward the door, and the sudden transformation had left her statue unbalanced. It teetered, then crashed against the aquarium, shattering it.

“Frosty!” shouted Mr. Freeze, fumbling for his ice gun.

Just then there was a loud knock at the door and a green-skinned woman dressed in widow’s weeds and a black pointy hat barged in. She took two steps and met the rapidly spreading puddle that had once been a magical snowman beloved by millions.

“Is this the dermatitis support group,” she asked. Then: “I’m melting! I’m melting!”

The White Witch slumped in her chair and buried her face in her hands. “You and me both, sister. You and me both.”

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