Door County Writes: ‘Black Ice’

by June Nirschl, written in response to: Tell a story about a time when you were very cold. Help your readers picture exactly where you were and what you were doing. You’re allowed to use the word “cold” only twice!

I gave a sharp twist of the SUV steering wheel to the right, pulling the car out of the vortex into which it had been sucked. The car lifted high above the road, perpendicular to the highway, the ditch and the farmer’s field. In that hesitation, the sky appeared flat, drained even of December light. Then the power of the engine caught up, compelled the car forward and crashed it through the barbed-wire fence and a sharply cracked wooden post with unsparing vengeance. 

The car hit the clods of roughly plowed field, light snow frosting the dark tips, and each jarring thud after thud of the car skewered me to my seat. The steering wheel disintegrated as I still clutched it with the thumb of my right hand. Four tires burst, and every airbag exploded, synchronized in those final seconds. “Stop!” I shouted, pleading that the vehicle stop before it reached the end of the field.

When all was silent and I became aware of this moment, I lifted the airbags at my left, cautiously opened the door and turned to exit, knowing no one would see my dark vehicle out in the field, 40 feet below the surface of the road. I would walk or crawl up the steep bank. I lifted each leg over the threshold of the door. But neither leg would move.

Frozen by uncertainty or terror, I recognized the air was cold. And growing colder.

After living in Door County for 20 years, June Nirschl experienced her first confrontation with one of winter’s treacherous conditions.