Winter Hits the City

Steve Mullett

The cold wind stung Collaborator’s ears as he walked down the hill for a hot cup of joe. "If it’s like this tomorrow, I’m either wearing my ear-flap hat or making my own joe at home," he said to the squirrel which was frozen at his feet. "Whatever," the squirrel would have said if it were alive and could talk.

Inside of five minutes, Collaborator thought he was about to freeze to death, but fortunately, he reached The Joe Joint just in time. The manager, Extra, looked very, very glad to see him as she looked up from her book of crossword puzzles.

"Hi, Collaborator. You’re sure a sight for sore eyes. I haven’t seen a soul all day."

Collaborator looked at his watch, which had stopped on the way there because the battery acid froze, but it said 3 p.m. "Good Lord! not a soul?"

"Not a single, solitary soul."

"You opened at six in the morning as usual, right?"

"Six in the morning as usual."

"And in nine-plus hours, you’ve had just one customer?"

"Assuming you order something, I’ve had one customer. Looks like everyone’s making their own joe at home. I can’t get anyone to come into work, not that I need them. I wouldn’t be here myself if I didn’t live upstairs. Hot cup of joe?"

"Yes, of course. I didn’t know you lived upstairs, Extra. Come to think of it, I don’t know a thing about you. I come in here every day, get me a hot cup of joe, chat with you about the weather or the lottery jackpot or the reasons Sanskrit died as a language, but I don’t know you at all."

"That’s true," said Extra, handing him his hot cup of joe. "I don’t know where you live either. You must live awfully close to have come here on a day like today. I’m sure your car couldn’t start."

"Quite correct, and my camel won’t leave his hut," said Collaborator, sipping his hot cup of joe. "So are you just going to stay here and work the whole day yourself?"

"No, it’s hardly worth the gas to keep the heat on down here," she said, tossing her pretty head coyly. "I’ll probably just go up to my apartment and watch a movie. Do you like movies?"

"Sure do," he said on his way to the door. "Welp, see you tomorrow."

Extra watched him walk the block-and-a-half up the hill to his house. After the spring thaw, she’d throw rocks at it.