Streetlamps in the Snow
Snowflakes flit in the wind and glimmer in the dim light of the lampposts. The snow falls in a steady stream of dancing fairy-flakes, and the wind bites and gnaws at Eric’s cheeks and ears. He pulls up the collar of his long, woolen overcoat and sticks his hands in his pockets.
What a sudden change of weather! The morning was almost warm, and the sunshine played on his forehead as he walked to work. The evening is now black and dense with creamy, snow-filled clouds. He wishes for his hat, scarf and gloves, but can only bow his head to the wind, and trudge onwards. He only has a few more blocks to go before he reaches the warm comfort of home.
Ahead, a lamppost flickers, and Eric discerns an old man standing under it. He hunches in the way only an old man hunches, and his hip juts out sideways, though he gazes in Eric’s direction.
Eric approaches and prepares to nod a greeting, but the old man turns and, leaning on his cane, totters around the corner. Eric shrugs and slogs on through the fluttering snow. He reaches the corner and looks out for oncoming cars; the nearest lamppost flickers, and Eric sees the same man beneath it, gazing towards him.
Eric means to cross the street and not to turn the corner. But the man, dressed in a three-piece suit — coatless and hatless — seems to wait for him. Eric raises his arm to wave and bid the old man goodnight. He steps off the curb. His heart lurches when he slips, but regains his footing. The wind howls at Eric; the street lamps blow out and plunge Eric’s path into cold and speckled darkness. He turns towards the old man, still waiting beneath the only flickering lamp around the corner. His way blocked by black night, black pavement and black ice, Eric traipses towards the man, who turns and hobbles further down the street.
The snowy darkness devours the man, but Eric hears the soft thud of the man’s cane moving away. Eric pauses beneath the now darkened lamppost as the light before the next corner flickers. The old man with the crooked hip pauses and turns towards him, waiting. Eric picks up the pace and reaches the corner just as the old man rounds it.
The street is dark, lit only by the lights streaming from one window. All houses are dark, and Eric reasons the inhabitants have not yet arrived from their workday.
The lonely lights in the window flicker, and Eric detects the old man standing beneath it. He crosses the street towards the house. As he approaches the front walkway, he hears a low moan. Eric glances at the old man beneath the window. The old man points towards the stoop.
Painful groans break the snowy silence as Eric reaches the lump sprawled upon the stoop. Eric gasps; the old man with the crooked hip and three-piece suit is lying supine on the icy steps. His cane is out of reach, and a full and knotted garbage bag clings to the skeleton bushes that line the stoop.
“Help,” the old man whimpers, “I fell.”
“Is anything broken?” Eric asks and fumbles for his phone.
“No, I don’t think so, but I cannot get up without my cane.”
Eric drapes the man’s arm around his shoulder, then slips his other arm around the man’s waist and pulls him up to standing. They limp through the open door, and Eric gently sits the man down on an old high-back chair.
“I was taking out the trash,” the man stammers as Eric wraps a blanket around the man’s shoulders, “thank goodness you came along. My neighbors won’t arrive until much later. Do you live nearby?”
Eric shakes his head, “This street is not on my way home.”
The old man’s kind eyes fill with gratitude as he gazes into Eric’s face, “Then, what brought you this way?”
“You led me here. I followed you.”