Woody gaped at his older brother. "What'er you talkin bout, Ralph? We grew up in Georgia. We had winter. We even had snow, fer cryin out loud."
"Nah man, you don't understand." Ralph shook his head. "I'm talkin winter. Like nothin you ever felt before. So cold you could snap your ears clean off." He turned his head and spat into the ditch. "Made me wanna get outta that state as fast as I could. Don't care if I never go back there. Course Vikki'd have a conniption fit.
"'Christmas just isn't Christmas without snow, and cutting down our own tree, blah-blah-blah.'"
Ralph's whiney Vikki impersonation made Woody choke on his chaw laughing. Woody managed to wheeze out, "Ah, man, you sound just like'er." A chortle started another coughing fit.
"Plus she don't want our kids to miss out on all that, either. So, as much as I hate it, I gotta go back." Ralph shuddered. "You just don't know, man."
"So tell me. What?"
"Well, there's the whole gettin in the car thing. No such thing as a garage in Wisconsin, near as I can tell. You'd think these people woulda figured it out by now, but no. If you can manage to turn the key in the lock without heatin it up first, you jump in yer car as quick as you can. Course it don't take long for the frozen seat to freeze YOUR seat."
"Man," Vern said. "Sounds colder than I ever been."
"But that ain't the worst part. Poor Vikki."
"What?" Woody smacked his brother. "What happened to Vikki?"
"Nothin, Vikki's fine. It was her house."
"What was her house?"
Ralph nudged Woody. "Keep up man. The worst part.
"So anyways, me and Vikki get to her house, and before we're even outta the car, she says to me, 'I'm sorry. It's not the Ritz.'
"I tole her, 'Quit worryin about it - I didn't marry ya for yer money.' She smacked me for that, but at least she smiled.
"So we go in and meet her folks, and she's showin me around. She's got this pitiful look on her face. 'Course I knew why; she'd told me some about growin up there, so I wasn't that shocked. Still I could tell she felt kinda embarrassed."
"That bad, huh?" Woody launched another hawker into the dirt.
Ralph shrugged. "It's an old farmhouse in the Midwest. Ever seen Green Acres? But it din't bother me like she was afraid it would. And the wood stove in the kitchen kept the downstairs toasty."
"So it wasn't the worst part? What's the deal, man?"
"It was goin to bed that was the worst part." Ralph's eyes grew wide and he hugged himself.
"Vikkie asked if I'd rather sleep on a mattress on the living room floor or in her old bunk beds upstairs. I picked upstairs; her mom and dad'd be up early, and b'sides, Vikki did it for 18 years, I could do it for a week."
"Bunk beds, Bro? Seriously? Did ya share or split up?"
"Well, we started out split up. Vikki wanted to share, but I nixed that idea. Too cramped. She asked me, 'Top or bottom?' I picked bottom acourse.
"Now Vikki'd tole me 'bout her room bein so cold she'd had to scrape a hole in the frost to see out the window in the mornings. But I didn't figure it'd be that cold. I didn't even get undressed. Just dowsed the light and zipped up into the sleeping bag her mom'd put on the bed.
"Man, my teeth were loosenin up in my head, all that chattering they was doin. Vikki warbles, 'Night hon.'
"I'm a-shakin and a-shiverin, and I chatter,'Night.'
"I swear I hear her snicker.
"So I'm tryin to git thawed out and fall asleep, but every time I turn over, it feels like my face is layin smack dab on sheet of ice. Finally I say the heck with this. 'Git yer fanny down here ... and bring yer sleeping bag.' Body heat's good'n all, but still ya don't dare move outta the spot you got warmed up."
Woody thwapped a wad of tobacco into the weeds. "Body heat, huh? Finally, this story's goin somewheres."
"Naw, man, I din't even want to think about baring any skin. I snuggled into'er and finally started thawin out enough to whisper, 'I reckon we can come back next Christmas ... on one condition.
"We're stayin at the Motel 6."
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