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Contents Page: April 1, 2011, vol 7 no 1

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Jerry Gill

 

Homeless

An unusually frigid, snowy winter has settled down on this tiny village in eastern North Carolina just below the Virginia border. The river, ponds, streams, and ditches are crusted over with a thin glaze of ice. People huff and puff around town well bundled up, many carrying cups of coffee or hot chocolate. They talk only of the weather. It's not supposed to be like this down here!

Night comes. The thermometer outside the pharmacy reads 17 degrees. A brisk, constant wind blows over the river and through the village from the northwest, making it feel much colder. The stores are closed. The streets and sidewalks are vacant. The village sleeps.

A thinly-clothed man of about 30 emerges from the icy darkness into the subdued brightness of the street lights, carrying a small bundle. He's stooped-over, haggard, bearded, dirty. He approaches a cast iron bench in front of one of the town's many churches. He takes a ragged brown blanket from the bundle, brushes the snow from the bench, and spreads half of the blanket on the bench. He pulls his ski cap low over his ears, lies down on the bench, and wraps the other half of the blanket tightly around him. He's completely hidden in the blanket. He shakes and shivers from the cold for about 10 minutes. Then he's asleep.

The next morning about five a.m. a police officer notices the form on the bench as he drives slowly by. He pulls over, gets out of his warm car, and gently prods the form with his night stick. It doesn't move. He prods again--nothing. He pulls the blanket open at the top. It's a man's head. The eyes are open but the head is blue and icy cold. The officer checks the pulse at the neck. No pulse. The man is frozen dead.

winter moon
full...isolate
above the sleeping town

 

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