Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Madonna's Gifts

“At every tick of the clock, in every inhabited part of the world, and unimaginable richness and variety of “history” falls off the world into total oblivion.”
C. S. Lewis

The snow began quickly falling like sifted flour over the neighborhood just a minutes before 8p.m. a week or two ago and we trundled down from the warmth of the attic to let the dog out for a trot. As I opened the door I was struck by the fact that someone with small feet had come up our driveway to a point just past the back door, turned around and retraced their steps back down the drive and to the left up Millard toward Warren.

The night was cold and whoever it was had been in the last few minutes because the prints were already blurring away into the falling snow. I walked beyond the last couple prints beyond our door and noticed something different on the falling-down porch connected to the kitchen:

On one of the hooks that supported awnings in a better time in the house’s history was hung a drab-green-enameled, battery lantern with an aluminum handle that had a large white light on the front and a red one at its top and bottom. One of the red lights was cracked and the switch was rusted in place. There was nothing else to indicate someone had been near the house and the tracks went no further.

Once back inside the house we came to the conclusion that there was only one person who might have left such a gift and I had to make sure in that cold night that she had not gone to squat someplace and freeze.

We went back out with the dog and followed the almost-erased prints up Millard across Warren toward Weadock. If she had gone left on Weadock, that meant she was warm and mostly safe; if she went right on Weadock, then she was in the basement of a partially-roofless house that had been empty for the better part of a decade and some thinking would have to be done.

When we got to Weadock, if was obvious she had gone to the left and warmth so we went home and took the Madonna’s gift into the kitchen thankful that our roof was whole and the attic was a warm place from which to watch the weather as it wiped the neighborhood’s features clean for another day.

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