Tess Williams lived with her family on Highland Avenue, on the edge of a small town about 70 miles north of New York City. When it snowed there, she and her elder brother, Rick, and younger brother, Tim, would go from house to house along Highland and offer to shovel the walks and the driveways for some money, not a lot of cash, but enough to feel it was worthwhile.
That February came an especially heavy late-winter snow storm, so heavy that some trees were knocked over by the wind and the weight of the snow on their branches. Overnight, the entire neighborhood lost its electric power, as some trees knocked down the power lines.
For Tess and her family it was a bit of an adventure. None of their electric clock alarms went off, so four of them got up late, not a problem for Rick or Tess or Tim or their mom, because school, they soon learned, was cancelled. Mr. Williams, though, was awakened by a call on his cell phone, and left the house for the fire department before everyone else was up and around…a fire had started in a home a few miles away, caused by a kerosene heater being used because the electric power was out. He was likely to be gone all day.
Breakfast was blah, all cold. How long would the electricity be off? The longest outage the kids could remember was 95 hours a few years before, but usually the power company got the power back to everyone within a day or so.
“Let’s make some dough shoveling snow,” Rick rhymed.
“I think money is sweeter than honey,” Tess rhymed back.
“I’ll help, too,” Tim chimed in, not up to rhyming this early in the morning, if ever.
They spent much of the day going along Highland Avenue, knocking on doors, ringing doorbells, getting many of their neighbors to pay them for shoveling walks and driveways. They did not stop in at the house at the end of the street, though. Mr. Taylor, elderly and sometimes grumpy, usually shoveled his own walk and his own driveway. Seemed proud of it, in fact, although maybe he just wanted to save money, being retired.
Evening came. The Williams kids split the money they had made shoveling snow. The family had sandwiches for dinner by candle light, as the power was still off. No TV, no radio, a bit boring. Flashlights let them read, awkwardly. They went to sleep early, without worrying about getting up the next day for school, as it was a Saturday.
That following morning there was still no power. The no-power adventure was getting to be a drag. They decided to go sledding, and all three bundled up and headed up Highland Avenue to the hill they used for sledding.
“Tess, you and Tim go on. I’m going to check on the Taylors. Their walk and their driveway are still not shoveled.”
“OK, Rick, see you there later.”
Rick rang the Taylors’ doorbell. No answer. He knocked. No answer. Knocked again. This time, the door opened, and Mr. Taylor invited him in, putting his finger to his lips to indicate Rick should be quiet.
When they reached the kitchen, Mr. Taylor said, “Sorry to shush you, but my wife is sleeping. She’s not well. You’re the eldest Williams boy, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m Rick Williams. We noticed your walk and driveway were not shoveled and wondered what was wrong. Usually you do it yourself.”
“Thank you for your concern, Rick. My wife’s health is very fragile. Our power has been out for over a day, and I do not want to leave her. Our telephone is out, as well.”
“We have the same problem, Mr. Taylor, but we can use our cell phones until they run out of power. Don’t you have one?”
“No. We try to watch our expenses and did not want to pay the extra money for a cell phone. I think we were mistaken, though, as I would like to be able to call a doctor or the hospital if my wife’s condition gets any worse.”
“Is that why your walk and driveway are not shoveled?”
“Partly. My back is sore lately. Also, I didn’t want to leave my wife alone. If we have to go to the hospital in my car, it will be difficult. If necessary, I could call the emergency 911 number, but what they consider an emergency might not be what I would consider one. They might not want to come.”
“Mr. Taylor, I’m glad I came. I’m going to do two things. First, I’m going to lend you my cell phone, right now. Second, I’m going to shovel your walk and driveway so you and your wife can get out if you need to.
“I couldn’t accept all that.”
“I insist.” So it was.
Late that afternoon, the power came back on all along Highland Avenue. Not long after, the phone rang at the Williams home.
“Hello, this is Geoffrey Taylor, who is this?”
“Are you Rick’s sister?”
“Please tell Rick my wife and I greatly appreciated his help this morning. She is feeling better, and we did not have to get out to the hospital after all. Tell Rick I will be down to return his cell phone within the hour, and please tell your parents they have a son to be very proud of.”
“Thank you, Mr. Taylor. I will go to your house right now and get Rick’s phone and save you the trouble.”
“Very nice of you, Tess. I see the Williams family has two very good children. I‘ll be waiting at the door.”
When Tess met Mr. Taylor, he tried to pay her for the work that Rick had done. She refused his offer, with thanks.
Sometimes, Tess thought, it’s better to give than to get. We made enough money shoveling…it’s a nice little business. In fact, there’s no business like snow business!”
One of a series of fifty short stories for young readers.