It was the week of Thanksgiving and the city was as frozen as a summer-killed prize turkey. Darla had taken her life in her own hands, wearing heels on a day like this, but she walked across the ice slicked sidewalks towards her apartment building satisfied that if she did eat concrete her four-hundred dollar shoes would make her look fabulous as she went down.
It had been a tough year for Darla, but things were finally looking up. She took in a deep gulp of air, finding pleasure in the taste of snow that made her nose and lips tingle, like eating candied sugar. The divorce had finally gone through. With no needy husband holding her back, she’d been able to take the promotion out-of-state without hesitation. It would be a long way for the kids to come and visit, but that was just as well. Darla knew that pulling down two-hundred K a year came with some sacrifices; when they grew up, John and Yvette would understand. Anyway there was no point in worrying about them; they were Paul’s responsibility now.
There was an empty building next to Darla’s apartment. It had been one of those luxurious mega-bookstores, but they were tearing it down soon to put up more lofts and condominiums. No one had time for reading anymore; Darla herself had been happy to bid goodbye to her friends in the book club if it meant an extra hour to recuperate for the next day’s work.
Andy was in his usual spot in the sheltered doorway of the vacant store. Ragged work boots stuck out from under the stained hotel comforter he had rescued from a dumpster a few streets over. A bright red snow cap with a brown pompom on the top sat snuggly over his head, white frazzled hair sticking out at every odd angle it could underneath it. Darla thought Andy looked a bit like Albert Einstein, if Albert Einstein had been a crazy homeless man in New York with a yappy old dog.
Darla stopped, as was her custom, bending down to pat the mutt on its head as she rooted through her bag. “Hello, Trevor.”
The dog, wrapped snuggly under the blanket on his owner’s lap, barked happily, his entire body vibrating as he wagged his stump of a tail. Darla smiled politely, silently thanking her lucky stars that the leasing company didn’t allow pets in her building. “Awful cold tonight, isn’t it, Andy?”
Andy nodded, his long beard tickling his pet’s nose. “Yes, ma’am; December must be coming soon, with weather like this.”
Darla finally tugged a twenty free from her leather wallet. She tucked it safely away in the bottom of the soup can Andy used for collections. “You and Trevor better stay somewhere warm tonight! And get a hot meal in you too.”
“Ol’ Trevor don’t mind the cold much,” said Andy, smiling, his several missing teeth subtracting nothing from the warmth in his voice. “He’s got a bit of sled dog in him. Don’t you, boy?”
The mutt barked on cue, black spotted tongue darting out to lick the old man’s knotted knuckles.
Darla gave a nod, not really listening as she recovered herself, buttoning her downy coat a little tighter round her throat. “Well, good luck to you, Andy; and Happy Thanksgiving!”
“Thank you, ma’am, and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you too.”
As she entered the warm, quiet lobby of her building, Darla wondered if it might not have been cruel to have wished Andy a Happy Thanksgiving. She sighed, stepping onto the elevator and shaking her head. No job, no home, no possessions, no prospects, no money – what could a man like that possible be thankful for?
Outside, Andy wrapped his aching, shivering arms around Trevor, holding him tight. Trevor nuzzled his nose under the man’s chin, whining affectionately.
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