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Winter Promise
by Fred Miller



Silent flakes drift down in a stately pavane, a white blanket curdling across the floor of the alley where I sit. On the other side of the avenue where streetlamps form angelic halos, poor chilled souls in line at the mission patiently wait to be stripped of any remaining vestiges of dignity. I hear the soft strains of the hymns of salvation and grace coming from behind the frosted windows where dinner awaits all who’ve agreed to surrender to the rules.


I spot a small rat who peeks out from the shadows of a corner and lifts his head to listen to the voices. No doubt he’ll soon smell the aroma of this hunk of bologna I recently filched. Should I share with him? A frigid wind races down the wall of the tenement behind me and nips my hands and cheeks before wafting the smell of the meat over to my new friend.  From the twitch of his whiskers, I sense he is now aware of what I have. With nothing but time on my hands, I reach out toward him with a small tidbit I’m sure will please him. My pulse quickens at his cautious approach. Streetwise and wary of strangers, he stops and cants his head as if to say, can I trust you.  Realizing he will approach no further, I toss him a nibble. He soon takes his newfound treasure and scurries away into the deep shadows of discarded boxes and detritus.


I notice the snow now rushing down at a blinding pace and I realize my coat is a bit thinner than I’d thought. Shall I boldly walk over to the mission and declare my sins in public contrition? My cheeks and hands feel a stiffness brought on by the cold night air. And like a fresh hit for an addict, my eyes droop as sweet slumber creeps up on my soul.


The morning sun will bring new opportunities for hot oatmeal and biscuits as well as a temporary thaw.  Will I offer a sad smile and drop my head in humble confession? Perhaps the smell of hot coffee will mesmerize my tongue into forging a temporary truce. The new snow, whipped up by a wind from the nearby sea, advances over my shoes, my coat, and my longshoreman’s hat. Frost tiptoes in with a quiet, wicked numbness and I sense a new warmth

I know it is not really there. Will I encounter the winter promise of good friends in harmony on the morrow? Perhaps we’ll bide our time, me and my little friend, who’s so hungry he’s now decided to timidly advance in my direction.




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