Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: CHILL (10/29/15)
- TITLE: Winter Love
By Pat Small
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He tugged the rags around his frail body. Goosebumps speckled his skinny limbs. He shivered. He was late getting to the heat vent tonight. He should have known better after years on the streets. But he had been so hungry, and when he saw scraps being tossed in the trash, the gnawing pangs in his stomach overruled his need for warmth.
Now what? The meager comfort provided by the dirty remnants would never be sufficient to keep him from freezing. If he could just get some whiskey, that would warm him, he knew. But how could he score a bottle at this time of night; he didn’t have any money anyway. Well, he would just have to tough it out. Who knew? Maybe he would get lucky and live to see the daybreak.
Trembling and almost in tears, Herman scrunched himself into a fetal position, and wrapped his arms around himself as much as he could. Hopefully morning would come soon. But he knew in his heart the chances of that were slim to none. Tonight might be the night he would cash it in. No one would even miss him. That was the worst of it. If he just had someone who cared…but he had rejected every loving overture.
His wife had given more second chances than he deserved. He had no illusions about that. His beautiful baby boy had been just two years old when he had walked out. He had not been a father, a husband or a son worth crying for. Any money he made had gone down his throat in the form of a drink. It left a bitter taste in his mouth now as he imagined how the night might end.
And then, out of nowhere, a kind voice spoke. “Hello, there, I brought you a blanket, but if you come with me, there is shelter in the church a few blocks away.”
He must be dreaming. He could have sworn someone just spoke to him. Did they really offer a blanket or shelter? Impossible. Nobody cared about the likes of a dirty, smelly, shivering wreck of a human being.
But there it was again. “Sir…sir…won’t you come with me? A bowl of hot soup on a night like this…”
He lifted his head slightly. Sam, the voice in the night, knew then that the wino had heard. He tried again. “Sir, please come with me. May I help you up?”
The trembling derelict hesitantly extended his hand. If he was dreaming and there was no one there, he’d stuff it back inside his heap of rags and hope for morning.
But a strong hand clasped the icy flesh, and slowly raised Herman to his feet. Sam wrapped the blanket around the scrawny shoulders, and led him to his car. As the freezing scarecrow leaned back against the cushions, he couldn’t believe his luck. He didn’t believe in angels, but surely this must be one.
They rode back to the church, and the homeless soul was guided to a warm dining room and given a seat. Soon a bowl of soup and a huge chunk of bread was placed before him. He just stared. Was it a mirage? The young benefactor dipped a spoon in the soup and directed it to the man’s lips. Like a tiny child, the weakened gentleman opened his mouth and received the nourishment. He could feel the heat begin to warm him ever so slightly. Shaking, he took the spoon and, with great care at first, continued to swallow the steaming, life giving liquid. Chunks of potatoes and carrots, and even meat, worked their magic.
The young man smiled and fetched a hot cup of cocoa, complete with marshmallows. “I must have died and gone to heaven,” was all the derelict could think of at that moment.
When the old fellow had assuaged his hunger, Sam maneuvered him to a shower. He handed him soap, a towel and clean, dry clothes. As Herman stripped off the filthy clothing and stepped under the hot stream, his soul began to thaw as well as his body. Later, as he stretched out on the offered cot, he thought how glorious it was to lay flat and warm, instead of balled up on a dirty sidewalk. He could hear the steam radiators hiss. The younger man covered him with blankets.
“Thank you,” he stammered, unused to hearing his own voice.
“You’re welcome. Sleep well, friend. We’ll talk in the morning.”
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