a short story by Jon Anderson
(Cover Art | Jeff Larvia)
About the Author
Jon Anderson is seemingly forever scribbling short quips that might someday be useful in a tale (now nearly filling an entire file drawer) . “K2” is a result of someone’s challenge for him to write something uplifting for a change. He resides in New York.
The sidewalk scene was business as usual. Had anyone been there, though, to witness how playful the first rays streaking down 23rd street were, they would surely have believed heaven was mingling with this filthy spot of humanity. Such miracles occur routinely after all, we just fail to notice them. Imagine, if you will, the city steam climbing upward, and as if a switch was thrown, it turns from solemn gray into a brilliant white flame, its purity breaking the rich golden rods into a soft easy luminance or the roar of a bus accelerating to its next stop, an impatient car service blasting his horn, the ever present stench of urine. All of this had no effect on Leo; however, the sound of water near his head caused him to throw open his door to see the underbelly of a dog and a growing, steaming puddle. The walker at the other end of the leash hurriedly tugged and begged the poor beast, “come on.”
“Ahh well, maybe I should come piss on your bed? ….. Say, I could use a cup of coffee,” said Leo, “…ave a heart, why don ya?”
The dog walker and dog trotted on. Leo fully emerged from his corrugated cocoon and brought out with him a dirty moving blanket. Wrapped in this, he stood as close to erect as was practical given his stiffness and perpetual headache. The headache was a gift from his ex-wife and past life. The stiffness, he liked to say, was from getting old, but he knew that sidewalk sleeping in February required fortitude and was not something for the faint of heart. Luck, anyhow, had been with him of late, so how could he complain? Who was in the right place at the right time when the city health people took away the old guy who had maintained his box on the grating where Leo’s box now was? It was really just dumb luck. Leo happened to be passing when they dragged the poor old bugger off kicking and screaming into the waiting van. It was quite a scene, everyone on the street stood still, like stone sculptures. That is everyone but Leo, who wound like a rat through the maze of spectators to lay claim to the prize. He felt bad for the old guy, but it was for the best, really. Shouldn’t be out on the street at that age in February. No, just too cold for brittle bones. The memory made him feel all warm inside, and the thought occurred to him that it was almost as good as a cup of coffee, almost.
Just as a matter of course, he had to leap frog from that happy memory to last week when a messenger gave him this blanket. He guessed the guy probably used to be on the street and knew what February was like on a sidewalk. What a marvelous thing it is! Warm and soft and pulled over his head, the blanket muffled the sound of the city so that he thought he was in a Rocky Mountain Meadow. He had never actually been in one, but he always thought about going. Too cold in the winter, maybe this summer.
“Good morning, Sunshine! …Any change?”
“Wonderful choice of a tie sir! …Thank you,…preciate it.”
“Top of the morning, Ma’am. …Have a nice day.”
“Morning ladies, can you help a cold fella get something warm? …Ahh thanks so much! God bless.”
“Such a beautiful princess tows you thus, kind lady.”
“Yes,” thinks Leo, “got a smile, that counts yessireee bob, I’ll get something on their way out.”
“I say, Yo Yo Yo, homey, what’s say you help a cold bro, …right then, next time.”
Traffic’s picking up but the pace is quickening, then aloud but to himself, “Wait , I bet…,” while spinning on his heel to face the store front windows of Krispy Kreeme and that which he could practically feel on the back of his neck, the lighted neon sign, “Hot Now.”
“Yeah, I figured as much, the mad dash to get the freshest of the fresh.”
He was fully accustomed to the red neon sign beckoning the masses past his humble abode. Completely understood the whole phenomenon, had experienced it once himself when they were giving away free samples, truly nothing else like it in the world.
“Good morning, Mr. Rockafeller! …No ehh? …Okay, next time.”
“Ma’am, that dress is you! …Thank you. “
“Ahh, our kind Lady again, but where is our lovely princess?”
The child, beaming, stepped through the opened door that Leo held for her.
“Come right along now, Angela,” demanded the woman.
The little one, however, stopped and turned to Leo, proffering the box. Looking him in the eye, she said, “Would you like a Krispy Kreme? They are the best, my very favorite!”
She opened the lid, and Leo saw six circles of happiness. As daintily as his shaking hands would allow, being careful not to touch anything but the one warm donut he would take, he plucked a ring from the box.
The girl’s eyes met his again, and her real living smile tore through him. “You’ll make it yet,” she said before a sharp jerk pulled her off and away.
For Leo, standing there with the warm Krispy Kreme in hand and an image of a little angel steady in his quaking mind, the world stopped, ceased to exist. No sounds, except the repeating echo of hope ringing in his heart –nothing, nada. Couldn’t say for how long, but time doesn’t matter in any case.
“Here pal, get yourself a coffee to go with that,” brought him back, and he realized that there was now a dollar bill in his other hand.
“Fuck you asshole! – I don’t need it anymore! I’ve been given a gift by the very hand of an angel! Everything is different from here on in!”
His vehemence blinded him of the scene being played out on the corner: a young girl sobbing and pleading, pointing at a trash barrel, being pulled across the street by a woman flushed with anger or disgust. The child trying every caper that comes to a young mind to get back to the barrel. A cab stopped, the child ushered in, the woman right after her. A pedestrian heard the defeated youngster weep as the cab pulled away, “But his hands were clean, Mommy!”
The hump that was the focus of Leo’s vexation ducked into the foyer of an office building and shaking his head, said to the security guard, “You just can’t win anymore.”
The security guard grinned and replied, “Yeah,” but he didn’t understand, didn’t have a clue.
Leo licked his fingers clean of the glaze left from the gift. As he stuffed the buck into his pocket, he thought to himself, “Now all I need is a plan.”
“K2” Copyright ©2000 by Jon Anderson.
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations for the purposes of critical reviews or articles. Educators who wish to print or photocopy in part or whole this story for classroom use, or publishers who wish to include this story in an anthology should send inquiries by email to the author.