It's 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The temperature has risen to -35 farenheit, but the wind has picked up too. It's out of the south now at 25 m.p.h.
Jack is getting ready to go outside and start the car again, just like he's been doing every night, every 2 hours for the past 4 nights.
He works 6 days a week as a janitor at the Post Office and the F.A.A. building. He has been cutting down, bucking, hauling, chopping and stacking about 2 trees a day, every day for our crippled old neighbor up the street this season going on 5 months now.
He's more than just a little sleep deprived by this time. You could say punchy.
He pulls on 2 pair of cotton socks, then a woolly pair over them, topped off by a pair of Bunny boots.
He wears a t-shirt first, then a turtleneck, a lined hooded sweatshirt, the lined wool jacket I made for him, his hooded Carhart jacket and finally, the outer layer, a nylon windbreaker shell with a hood.
A pair of silk thermal bottoms, cotton sweat pants, then a pair of heavy duckcloth, wool lined, military issue pants cover his bottom half.
He's got 3 pairs of gloves on. First a pair of silk liners, covered with a pair of cotton gloves and a pair of leather gloves over that.
An insulated watchcap with the 3 hoods cover his head.
He shook the can of ether. His ear told him there was about half a can left in it. He figured that was enough for 3 or 4 more starts.
He's good for about 10 minutes out there before the cold starts seeping into the tiny spaces through the zipper teeth, bootlaces; starts to infiltrate the minute gaps around his wrists, ankles and neck.
That's just enough time to open the reluctant hood, remove the air cleaner and spray some ether into the carburator. When it gets this cold, he leaves the window open on the driver's side of the car, as the outer handle will be too frozen to operate. The grease on the door hinge is cold and thick, the door squeaks loudly in protest as he slowly pulls open the door.
The usually soft, spongy seat is as cold as an ice cube and just as unyielding to his weight. The motor refuses to turn on the first attempt, so he gets out to give her another shot of ether.
He was under the hood with that can of ether when he felt a tap on his shoulder. At first he thought it was our neighbor, come down with his crew of dogs out on an early morning walk. He turned around and there she was, watching him and hovering there in an icy, rolling, frost cloud. She was nearly transparent, but solid at the same time. She was the color of frost with silvery hair that resembled spiders webbing, floating around her head with the breeze. She was tall of stature but not frail of build, possessing a strong, vibrant beauty he could barely comprehend. He looked into her glacier blue eyes and she said to him, simply. " I am cold."
Jack, always the gentleman, replied "Do you want to come into the house and warm up?"
She looked back at him, almost frowning at his silly human reaction.
"You don't understand I AM COLD"
"Oh." He says, now finally comprehending her words.At first he respectfully bows to her, then lowers himself onto a knee. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
She replied "You do not fight me as so many of your kind do. You work with me. You allow me access into your home. I respect you for that. Is there anything that I can do for you?"
After a moments thought, he replied "Well, I'd really appreciate it if you could give me a little space here to start the car."
She smoothly backed away the equivilant of a few paces and as he got back under the hood, he noticed it was considerably, noticeably, warmer under there. He gave the carburator another shot of ether, and this time, when he turned the key, the motor turned and engine fired up.
She said, "I want to let you know I'll be moving on soon."
"Well, thank you. It was nice finally meeting you." replied Jack. "Come on back when you're ready. I'll be here."
Cold- by Susan Barrett 2-14-2005