Winter Morning

January 23, 2012

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The following is a work of fiction.  This story is not based on any events, it is purely the imagination of the author inspired by the weather conditions expected at his home at the time of writing.

William awoke at 3:59 in the morning.  He stared at the clock until it changed to 4:00 and the radio turned on.  He left the radio playing as he took a quick shower and went to the bathroom.  He listened as he brushed his teeth.  Every morning for the past five years had been the same.  He worked six day a week, but had the same routine on his one day off a week, either Wednesday or Thursday.  He heard all of the national, local and political news, but paid little heed.  The sports report was also just background noise.  He did not participate in any of those things.

William’s life was simple.  He worked hard to make enough money so that he could live independently.  His teachers had thought that he would never amount to much.  He put forth a good effort for every task they had given him, but it was all very hard for him.  He never took drugs or drank.  When he lived with his mother, he had gone to church all day every Sunday.  A really nice lady from the state, Alicia McMichaels, had gotten him the job.  He had to check in with her every month.  He always remembered to send her a Christmas card every year.

So in the morning, William did not care about who was running for what office or who had won the big game, no, all he was interested in was the weather.  He had to walk the ten blocks to the donut shop.  He had one very important job, open the front door and turn on all the lights.  He had to be there at exactly 5:00 each morning.  He didn’t have keys, he had to go in through the back where Donald was making the donuts.  Donald today and tomorrow, then Samuel the next day.  William liked Samuel, he was always nice to William.  Both Donald and Samuel were very large men, but other than size, they were not the same.  Samuel would greet William on his way to the front, but Donald would stare at him like he had a lizard’s tail or something like that.

The weather was all that concerned William.  He needed to know if he should wear a coat, or take an umbrella.  He had a uniform, so he did not have to think about anything else.  The weatherman said that it had gotten colder over night and the rain had changed to freezing rain.  He said that travel was not advised.  “I am glad I am not travelling anywhere”, William said aloud.  When the weatherman told his daily joke to the news reporter is when William usually turned off the radio, but today there was no joke.  Instead, both men started talking about how bad it was out and how many accidents had occurred on the roads overnight.  In fact, they were saying that even pedestrians should stay indoors.

William knew that he would be considered a pedestrian.  After all he walked to work every day.  He was worried.  He had never called in sick or missed a day he was schedule to work.  On several occasions he had gone in to work by accident on his day off.  He had even filled in for a nice young lady named Victoria until she was “let go”.  William liked Victoria, too.  She would always smile at him when they worked together, and she would kiss him on the cheek when he agreed to fill in for her on his day off.

William turned off the radio and walked over to the table with the telephone.  There was a laminated card with several phone numbers.  Next to one was the label “work” with a note “Call this number when you are sick or will miss work”.  It took him a while to make up his mind.  If it was a Samuel day, he would not have hesitated, but with Donald answering the phone, William was scared.  He thought about calling Alicia, but it was too early in the morning.  He thought about calling his mother, but Alicia had told him that he had to be independent.  Finally, he picked up the phone and called the number.

“A.M. Donuts” boomed Donald’s voice.  “Donald, this is William.”  “Who?”  “William, the clean up man.”  “Oh, yeah, what do you want?”  “The radio said that I should not go out.”  “What?  Are you saying you aren’t coming to work?”  “Yes, sir.  The radio said so.”  “Look Billy, it is your choice, but if you don’t show up, I will have to tell Mr. Jensen.”  Mr. Jensen was the owner of the shop.  William had never met him, but he had heard Donald say the Mr. Jensen had taken a big gamble giving William a job.  “If you are missing work just because the radio said something, I don’t think Mr. Jensen will like it.”  “Oh.”  “I’m just saying.  It’s your choice.”  “Please don’t call Mr. Jensen.  I’m coming in.  I will be on time.”

William hung up the phone, threw on his coat and shoes and headed out the door.  He slipped on the ice at the entrance to the apartment building, but did not fall.  He moved gingerly from tree to tree, then a mail box, then a lamp post.  He had forgotten his gloves.  His hands were getting very cold.  It was still raining, sort of.  There was snow in the air too.  He kept moving at a slow pace, following the same path he always followed.  He only had to cross 7th avenue once.  All of the other streets that he crossed were not travelled very much, but getting across them was hard with nothing to grab hold of.  When he finally got to 33rd street, he had to cross 7th avenue.  This was the main road.  Five lanes plus parked cars on both sides.  He held onto the lamp post as he waited for the pedestrian signal to change.

When the walk symbol came on, he started across.  It was like skating.  He found a couple of dry patches to regain his balance, but he was only half way across when the light started flashing.  His heart rate went up and he tried not to panic.  When he tried to move faster, his feet slipped and he almost went down.  He was concentrating so hard on just walking that he never saw the city bus sliding on the ice.  The bus was sliding sideways, the driver too scared to even honk the horn much less notice William in the crosswalk.  The sound of the impact was sickening.  William felt the side of the bus hit him.  He flailed his arms wildly as he slid on the ice then ran into a parked car.  That same car save him as it stopped the bus.

The bus driver may not have seen William, but the driver of the city plow saw the entire event.  It all happened in slow motion.  The bus sliding, the young man bouncing off then sliding like a puck until he hit the car.  He was on the radio calling for help before William rolled off of the car and onto the ground.  The city plow driver circled the area several time dropping sand and salt so that the emergency vehicles could get there.

William woke up in the hospital.  Alicia was holding his hand and smiling.  “Good morning.  What on earth were you doing out on the streets on a morning like this?  Didn’t you listen to the weather report?  They said stay home.”  “I did listen.  I was going to work.”  “Why?”  “I have never missed a day.  I did not want Mr. Jensen to be disappointed.”  Alicia laughed.  “Don’t you worry about Mr. Jensen.  He has always reported that you are a good worker.  Now you just rest here.  I will come and visit, and when you are ready to go home, I will come and get you.”  “Am I going to miss work?”  Alicia laughed again.  “Yes you are.  Think of this as a vacation.  You will have your job when you can get around again.”  “Thank you Miss McMichaels.”  “I have told you William, call me Alicia.”  She patted his hand again, then brushing his forehead with her hand she told him, “I am very proud of you William.  Now rest.”

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