The coldest knight of the year

Sack of a face. All dragged down by gravity and surrendered muscles. It’s supposed to take more of them to frown than to smile, but nature disagrees. And what’s he doin’ now, that old Aqualung? Shufflin’ along the sidewalk. Dangerous as a stage player. There, he’s found the metal grate, the rising heat curtain. Marilyn Monroe ain’t around today. Takes off his cracked vinyl mitts, sets ’em on the steel, then, by God, his shoes too! Turns ’em upside down for the free warming. He has a small buckle-down suitcase that has kids’ cartoons on it. This is his seat while he warms his feet. It’s funny, you know. He’s at his ease, if you please, as he parts the stream of the flowing crowd. Made his peace, knows his destiny. Has already had his talk. The disdain is theirs. Maybe they see. Some of them stop for our Joe, and they know where to put the coins on him. One woman told him she was coming today with new mitts. If he can stand here long enough, he can store up the warmth for a while. Just yesterday, Joe got told to move on, because he made a mistake. He’d let his bitterness get the best of him, and had jumped out randomly at passers-by, scaring them. Never would hurt anyone, not really. But it’s hard. And now, there she comes. The lady with the red scarf. She waves and smiles, gives him a purple velvet bag with a drawstring top. “Your mitts, Joe”. She smiles and pats his shoulder, then walks on. Joe had nodded and hung his head. He sat a while longer before he opened the bag with cracked fingers. There were his new insulated mittens, and some other things. Some other things. He closed it quickly, put it inside his coat, and hugged himself tightly.

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