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A MISSION IN WINTER


My ninety pounds crunch along through October’s first snow bed. Its wintry sting stabs my earlobes. Perhaps it’s folly that drives me forward into the night air. Frost paints my lungs as I suck it in deep.

Greg natters on something about Mozart, but I can barely hear from my teeth clattering. Clusters of wet flakes flit past the bluish light of the streetlamp and I only now do I think that we may have made a spur-of-the-moment mistake.

Two rods of light prick my eyes as a cop car rounds twelfth street and slows as it comes near. Officer Sterenberg only gawks at us puzzled as he slides by. I cough in protest as the exhaust from his tailpipe assaults my nostrils.

Although I cannot see the front of my scarf, I have a hunch that dinky, ice pills dangle off of it. I look at my best friend. The front of the balaclava that covers his mouth churns out clouds of steam as he insists that the melody from Symphony No. 40 inspired the chorus from “Stayin’ Alive.” This life-changing dialogue causes me to question the wisdom of speaking at all under such conditions.

However, in my heart I know we make a noble trek. The danger of frostbite and the risk of pneumonia notwithstanding, anyone burdened with a duty such as ours commits to see it through. Sure, I acknowledge that blind tradition plays a role in it all, and both of us would concede mild insanity to regularly do what we do, but with the wearing of the bulky uniform comes duty. We push on, as we have every winter for years.

“The Bee-Gees and Mozart have nothing in common except poufy hair.” My rebuttal is both brilliant and timely as we round the bend, gazing at the glow of the familiar sign. My body temperature has dropped notably, and the end couldn’t have come at a better time.

We approach the door, not a person to be seen. As Greg swings it open, the warmth begins its recovery work on us. I cherish the caress of indoor heating as we stomp the last three miles off our boots.

All this for Coke Slurpees, I think and shake my head as we scurry into the warmth of the 7-Eleven.