The cold December frost made my teeth chatter involuntarily as I came out of Kroger’s grocery store. I remember I needed red and green lace for my second grade social studies project, which would depict various holiday themes of the season. Hurrying through the parking lot, I searched for the cream-colored Chevrolet. It was so cold and all I could think about was getting into the car. Finally, the door unlocked and entry was permitted. Relieved by the warm air, I felt the blood in my face and hands return to regularity. Noticing the mist form on the windows, I wiped it away with my pastel blue sweater. I looked at the embroidered edge of the pretty blue sleeve. As my eyes moved from the interesting lines of the sweater back to the window, I noticed a tall, thin stranger approaching our vehicle.
“Let’s go,” I said to my parents. The stranger frightened me because it seemed as though in between his skin and bones he contained no noticeable amount of flesh. His forehead and cheekbones protruded greatly giving him the look of some ghoulish skeleton that had wandered far from his place of burial. My father trustingly rolled down the window.
“Clean your windows, mister?” the skeleton asked my dad with a painful apprehension.
“All right,” my father replied.
Encouraged by the reply, his long, ripped fingers moved to a badly torn pocket to take out an ice scraper and rag. I watched on with curiosity. He noticed my glance and returned it with an awkward yet prepossessing smile. The smile was not from any obligation on his part and made me feel strangely guilty for having been so afraid of him simply for his appearance. He cleaned the small layer of residue that had formed on the windows. The ice scraper made a funny, screeching sound, which held an echo in my ear. As he moved from window to window, my eyes followed him without flinching.
“Done, sir,” he stated after a minute. His hand shivered slightly as he held out his hand for the money which he had earned. He must be cold, I suddenly thought to myself.
“Thank you, sir,” he said before he walked away. Though the payment my father had given the stranger did not amount to a huge sum, it was enough for him to buy a cup of coffee which would warm him for at least a minute before he would again leave the warmth for a winter of frozen skin and frozen dreams.
Note: this piece was the recipient of The American Association of University Women’s (Lansdale Branch) Excellence in Writing Award and was originally published in the 1996 Anthology of Poetry and Prose.