Early Winter

The spanking hand of frigid winter weeks before Thanksgiving hit the land like an icy stab of a knife. Walking on 17th Street to work, I bent my head down slightly to bury it in my soft gray scarf. But the blasts kept coming, cutting into my face like ice water. The wave of air swirled the half-pipe between the walls of buildings on either side of the street. I pressed into the oncoming surge, using the top of my head like the nose of a jet to cut through. The aroma of pancakes and bacon at Little Pete's came and went in a second as the gush of wind cleansed the air of all but the pure smell of cold. Again, the smell of Peet's coffee escaped a café but the force of Winter's vigilant hand scooped that up as well, leaving nothing behind.  For just a moment, I imagine sipping a hot cup of rich coffee from that shop, comforting my cold body. The trucks and buses seem quieter today. Even they take a secondary role in the symphony of city sound when the wind tramples on stage. The trees on the street still haven't gone dormant yet--they still flash green here and there. But the hard slap of this skyward hand will steal what little remains on their branches.


In a Stolen Car

My heart was pounding as I sat kidnapped in the passenger seat of my car. When I stopped at the intersection, all I saw was a gun barrel glaring at me from the left and the guy shouting at me to get out. But then he told me to get in the other side. This isn't good, I thought, as I obediently got in while he was hurling profanities at me. I feared he would pull the trigger at the slightest wrong expression on my face or movement of my hands. I began imagining the explosion of the bullet, then the burning, searing pain of it penetrating my side. I wondered how quickly I'd pass out and what damage it would do inside of me. Would it rip through my kidney or liver or intestine? A lung or heart? He jammed the shifter into drive and jerked the car forward out of the intersection as some people stared aghast at what just happened. My car no longer felt like my car the way he was driving. And it no longer smelled like my car with all his sweat and booze breath filling the space. I wondered if and when I'd hear sirens of the police. I had to keep my hands on the lap of my jeans even though I wanted to grab the door handle just to steady myself as he veered right at the next intersection. Oh, this isn't going to end well. In my stolen car.



Under November's heavy hand of cold, the trees are shedding the last of their glorious coat of leaves. They stand more and more naked, exposing the stark gray sky that stares down on the browning surface. Pavements and buildings look drab without the cheery, lush commentary that lawns and flowers speak. At best, we want to embrace winter with warm sweaters and coats comforting our bodies. We like the facade of snow to hide the dreary brown and dull green ground. The smell of cold air replaces the warm tartness of decaying leaves. Now, our spirits are jolted into resistance against the dreary face of winter without its white mask to disguise the barren skeleton of the sleeping earth. We long for holidays, snow, closings to cheer us up. Until then, we retreat inside and wait.



She reached down into a cabinet in the kitchen and grabbed the big yellow ware mixing bowl with her strong, chubby hands. Standing upright, she set it down with a thump on the cutting board table in the middle of the kitchen. A pot was steaming on the stove filling the air with aromas of turkey gizzards. But the giant creamy white turkey lay on the counter, ready for filling. Into the smooth pottery bowl she heaved in a bowlful of white bread  cubes. To that she added melted butter, salt, pepper, and some concoction of herbs. She mixed it all around with her arms that jiggled as she thrust around. This, too began to give off a wonderful aroma. She kindly turned to me and invited me to have a taste. She put a mixing spoon in and scooped up just a mouthful and held it out to me. I took in the now moist, mottled bread and yes, it tasted wonderfully buttery and seasoned, awakening my appetite for this wonderful feast that was about to begin.



For days--almost a week--he's been clean

of the venom of cannabis smoke in his lungs

or whiskey sliding down his throat, burning his stomach

followed by the delirious high that quickly swells over him.

Right now, clean feels good. Like clean, cool air flowing into his nose

and crystal clear water, cold, from a spring,

drinking it down and feeling no high, just satisfaction from thirst.

He writes endearing messages to his friend. He ponders what could be: a new song, using words from an old Psalm.

He becomes a philosopher, musing on the reason for the common theme of devotion and love in so many

songs, written by so many different people.

It's all there, in everyone. He sees it like the green of spring that shows on every leaf, every blade of grass.

There it is! They all praise, no matter what they confess.

He sees the trail, the fingerprint of the Creator and their common aspiration to praise--God?

Or do they just praise the object of their desires?

He's run out of ambition for now. The fresh air is getting stale. The endorphin has faded. He's tired, discouraged.

His shoulder throbs from a small ball of fire inside. He has nothing but his mind. And his mind quits easily.

Time for a trip to the store for more whiskey.

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