May 19, 2024 Flash Fiction

Blind Man In The Snow

Blind Man In The Snow Artwork by DALL·E
Blind Man in the Snow

I was troubled about something, I can't remember what. It might have seemed important at the time, but what of it now? Nothing. Forgotten. Yet there I was walking down Summer Street, that bit of thought caught in my maw making my gut clutch. Some mental irritation, a worry or a fear that I couldn't get out of my mind, like a grain of sand in a clam's mouth.

It was February, the short, ugly month. There had been loads of snow all winter, storm upon storm, the city was choking on it. At first, the fresh fallen snow had been clean and bright, and the snow that had slid down from the roofs stayed nice and white for awhile, but the snow that had the misfortune of falling in the road or in a parking lot was soon dirty, sooty, the color of car exhaust, and by and by, the pollution of the air around the city sullied all the snow, and by February, the white quilt of winter wanted washing.

All winter, plows had pushed the stuff up off the street, burying parked cars and blocking sidewalks and driveways. Front end loaders filled dump trucks with scraped up snow and they took it away somewhere, but after awhile, where could they put it all? Everywhere there was snow, so much snow everywhere. It began to pile higher and higher around the sidewalks, where people shoveled channels in front of their dwellings as required by law. But where the footpath ran past a vacant building or an empty lot, there the winter weathers' work heaped untouched, and many a pedestrian found his way impassable and had to walk in the slurried street.

Down this one dark, dank part of town where I lived, the city had more or less abandoned removal efforts and let the snowfall collect unchecked. Massive mounds of snow rimmed the roads where the plows had deposited it, and the streets were still six-inches of filthy slush. It was not long after rush hour, so plenty of people were still roaming around and plenty of cars were still churning up the sloppy avenue.

I noticed up ahead of me that a fellow pedestrian who had encountered a massive white wall where a warehouse had plowed its parking lot was slowly maneuvering this way and that in an irrational fashion instead of seeing the impossibility of circumventing the snowbank and simply turning back and crossing the street. I thought the man must be shitfaced, rendered senseless at some happy hour and incapable of comprehending the obvious.

As I got closer, I thought that my suspicions were confirmed when I heard him swearing at the snow, but then I saw him poking into the snow-wall with a stick. A-ha, I surmised the man had lost something in the giant pile, the snow had buried it, a car or companion, a bike or barrow, and the man was probing in the drift to find it.

I was about to wade away into the roadway when I glanced back at the guy and noticed that his old down jacket was too small at the sleeves for him, he wasn't wearing a hat and was nearly bald, he was wearing dark glasses although it was night out, and his probing stick was white with a red tip. Then I realized that he was a blind man who couldn't find his way around in the snow. The blind man was visibly perturbed, seething through clenched teeth, thrashing at the snowbank with his cane and cursing it. I spoke to him from two canes away, and asked if he needed any help. He seemed relieved to hear a friendly voice and replied in a rush like steam escaped.

"Yes, I'm trying to cross the street and I can't find my way in this fucking snow!"

I told him I'd take him, and as I stepped toward him, he reached out in front of himself with his free hand, his fingers spread wide as if receiving some signal. I held my arm out for him to hold, and when his fingertips felt my coat his fist instantly snapped around my bicep like a trap. As we crossed the street, his grip cinched, as if he was afraid I'd take him out in the middle of the boulevard, then dash off and ditch him. A car was approaching through the slush like a jet-boat, making a wake of the oily icy slurry. I told him about the car. "The goddam cars!" He swore, his fingers nearly piercing my flesh.

He had a grasp like a raptor, and I was glad when we got to the other side and he let me loose. I started to ask if he still needed me, but he interrupted testily, snapping at me, "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine", five times and then hurrying away as fast as the sidewalk would allow. Knowing that neighborhood, he'd probably been mugged before by dirtbags posing as do-gooders, so naturally he'd be suspicious of some strange Samaritan.

As for me, after that, how can you be blue? Some troubles don't seem too bad, compared to the blind man in the snow.