It had been a long winter. Even though it was nearing the middle of March, small patches of snow still dotted the sidewalks; small drifts where the sun did not reach for any period of time. Janet Krendel shivered. There hadn't been a cold season this long since… well, since she'd been a little girl some seventy or so years ago. Back then she had enjoyed the lingering chill… now it just made her bones ache. If only her son hadn't left Wheeler… she wouldn't be out here trudging down the cold street to the store at six in the morning, especially not on a Sunday. Most everyone that was usually about at this hour was up at morning service in the chapel. A few years ago she would have been joining them, but she had long lost the ability to climb the steep hill to get to it, and ever since Harold had died… well, she just didn't feel like attending anyway. She sighed softly as memories of her late husband began to come back to her. She missed Harold.
Lost in her memories, she barely noticed the man walking towards her on the sidewalk. At this distance, she couldn't quite make out many details, but she could tell he was a rather tall man. A foul stench filled the air. Was she passing by the gutter? She stopped, looking for the source of the smell, her nose wrinkled in disgust. Not able to discern its source, she turned back up the street. The tall man was right in front of her, flashing her a crooked smile that looked more like a grimace of pain. He looked sick to Janet, his cheeks and eyes sunken into their foundation, a visage made more eerie by his jutting brow. What little of his face that was not covered in thick, matted, gray streaked hair appeared worn and beaten, wrinkles lining his dark, sun burnt skin. Despite this, the rest of his body was in considerably good shape; hard and corded muscles dominated his frame. She got the feeling that if he wanted to, he could toss her from here back to Old Mother Russia. He did not appear to be very old. Perhaps in his mid-thirties… maybe early forties. All things considered, it was hard for her to tell.
His clothing was in sorry disrepair. The baggy jeans he wore cinched around his large waste were torn in both the knees, exposing his flesh to the biting cold. A baggy hoodie stained by countless meals eaten without a proper plate hung over his massive frame, the hood pulled over his head, casting his face into shadow. His shoes were in need of replacement; the toe was missing from the left one, showing his newspaper-wrapped feet. Over his hoodie, he wore a letterman jacket, preserved pristinely in contrast with the rest of his attire. Janet realized that the horrible smell was coming from him.
"Good morning, madam," despite his rough exterior his voice was as smooth as velvet, "can you spare a few dollars for a man in need of a decent breakfast?"
At first she had trouble finding her voice. "Oh… my. Um… well yes, I believe I can spare something…" She reached around in her handbag and withdrew a five-dollar bill. She held it out to the man. "Will this do?"
The man smiled (if it could be called that) even wider and took the bill, brushing her hand in the process. Janet cringed at the contact. His hands were unnaturally cold, sending shivers down her spine. She quickly withdrew her hand. "Yes, this should do quite nicely, madam. You are quite generous…" He said as he slipped the money into his jacket pocket. He made a slight bow, then, almost mocking in its execution. "If you will excuse me my good woman, I have a meal to attend to. Thank you again for your charity."
Janet flushed. "Oh… w-well you're welcome. Take care…" Harold had been a gentleman, too. Oh how she missed him...
He chuckled. "Don't worry, madam; I'm very good at that." He laughed as he walked away, a deep throated bellow that carried far in the still morning air. Harold had had a laugh like that.
She missed Harold…