Weather Advisory (again)
Author: Nihit Kaul
The warmth spread out over his body like ripples across a cold lake. It enveloped him in a hot blanket, bringing this chilly night to an end.
It had gotten really nippy last evening, a warning sign that Jamie missed as he tried to find a place to crash. His faithful shopping cart, his mobile home, hobbled along with him. Banged and broken, limping just like him - it was his only constant companion. At times he would push his cart, and at others, his cart would pull him. Always holding their hands. A symbiotic relationship. A platonic, metallic love affair.
The critical thing missing from the cart, and Jamie, was food. His stomach had growled at the thought, trying to remind him how long it had been since he had eaten. But he shrugged it off and slapped its hand by biting into his tobacco.
They wandered around, looking into their usual spots to sleep. The public library porch was packed, and the bridge underpass was overflowing with people. Jamie didn't feel like being around others tonight, so he continued his hunt, and it finally paid off outside a liquor shop, where he found a bottle with generous leftovers. "Everclear" hmm…he hadn't heard of that name before, which was surprising to him. Must be one of them tourists! He smiled nonetheless, knowing that it would be a comfortable night. "95% Alcohol By Volume," he read on the bottle. Yeah right - he thought to himself. The lights outside the liquor store flickered ominously, seemingly suffering as they waited to be put out of their misery.
Maybe it was the swigs he kept taking, but Jamie got less fussy about his spot and eventually settled into a rickety bench in a park. The bench rocked along with his incessant back and forth, as if trying to keep up with a more experienced dance partner. He drained the bottle, one sip at a time, relishing the bitterness, forgetting the cold. He hadn't even heard of the news about the deep freeze expected overnight, nor had he received any calls from loved ones to warn him. Loved ones were a luxury he couldn't afford. And he certainly hadn't seen the snug weather journalists in fur coats excitedly explaining how temperatures would dip precipitously to record lows.
At first, the alcohol helped as it warmed him up and knocked him out. But it also held him down as the frigid winds started blowing in. Halfway through the night, Jamie got up, frozen stiff, and stumbled to his cart. His cart offered a few worn-out rags with which he crashed back into the bench, mumbling incoherently, hugging the meager blankets for life. The forlorn cart looked on as Jamie curled up into a fetal position. Life moving in reverse.
The last thing that Jamie remembered was the icicles on the bench, growing like claws in front of his eyes - surrounding him and closing in from all sides - scratching, teasing, taunting him to run away if he could. But all he could do was watch with eyes frozen open as the icicles speared his heart. And that's when the warmth started spreading through his body. Maybe the icicles weren't evil - maybe they were a type of syringe that he was being given medicine with. Whatever it was, he didn't want it to stop. He let it flow all over him and take him out of his pain and his misery. He was saved.
"Dang! This one has been dead a while," exclaimed the police officer as he looked at the frozen body of the homeless man.
They called it in and started clearing out his belongings. There wasn't much, and once they were done, the only thing left under his bench was a crumpled newspaper that had housed Jamie's bottle last night. The headline was clearly visible even in its filthy, torn state: "Extreme weather danger tonight: Best to skip those night skiing plans!"
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