|Under the bridge|
The morning was gray, cold, and unpromising. A ghostly shroud hung over the city. The thermometer read 34oF. Too warm for snow, but too cold for this time of year. The air was bitter on the flesh.
But a man must do what a man must do. So I set out.
|Keepin' the team together|
"Are you keeping warm?" I asked. I directed my question to him.
He frowned in response to my query. He seemed upset. He stammered and mumbled, but couldn't quite get a thought out.
She answered for them: "We're tryin'," she said with a shake of her head. Her chin was long and loose. She had but 4 or 5 teeth.
Between the two of them, they'd seen some times.
"Where ya from?" I asked.
"Here!" she said. "Portland for forty-eight years."
"You know, there are places downtown that'll take you in," I said.
"Yeah, but they wanna break up the team," she said. She patted the blankets beside her. Somewhere under the folds a puppy whined. "We're a team," the woman said. "We gotta stay together. They don't want us to bring the dog."
"What about food?" I asked.
"There's soup kitchens downtown," she said. "We don't have no trouble getting fed." She brightened suddenly. "But you know what helps? Propane. Or sterno. We got us a little stove here." She indicated a camping stove attached to a Coleman's propane bottle. "We run outta fuel."
"You gonna be here a while?" I asked.
"Where we gonna go?" she replied.
|32o and holding|
Her call came just after 3pm. "I'm ready," she said. "Come get me and we gonna go to Winco." Which we did. The place was jam packed. People loading their carts with groceries. "With weather like this you never know," Maty said. "Maybe the power's gonna go out."
"That's true, honey," I said.
On the way home, I took a detour down by the river. The temperature had dropped to 32oF. "It's cold enough to snow now, honey," I said.
"You think so, it's gonna snow?" she asked.
"Maybe," I said. We drove into a parking lot under the ramps of the Marquam Bridge.
"Be right back," I said. I left Maty in the car with the motor running so she could keep warm.
Darkness was coming down fast as I left the grocery bag with the three cans of Coleman propane next to the shopping cart.
They've probably found it by now.