Two Minutes Past Midnight on a Winter's Night in Chicago
The frozen-fingered wind goes mad and howls, beating the lid of the overflowing green dumpster in a metal-against-metal tattoo. Ba-bom, boom-boom.
Through the narrow slit between the concrete of the two high-rise buildings, Lake Michigan, not quite frozen at the shore, throws dirty ice chunks onto the narrow beach and retreats with a warning roar.
"It is cold, man. I tell you. I don't care what you say. I don't care how you say. It is cold."
George DuPelee, his huge body shivering, his shiny black face contorted and taut, shifted from booted foot to booted foot. George wore a knit hat pulled down over his ears and an oversized olive drab military overcoat draped down to his ankles. He was hugging himself with unmatched wool gloves, one red and white, the other solid purple.
George grabbed the frigid rusting metal of the dumpster lid and pushed it down on the frozen plastic sacks of garbage inside it. The angry wind rattled the lid in his hand and it broke free. Boom-boom-boom-boom.
"What are you doing?" Raymond whispered irritably, adjusting his glasses.
"Goddamn noise driving me nuts," George whispered back. "I don't like none of this none. I don't like this cold."
George certainly looked cold to Raymond Carrou, who stood beside him in the nook behind the massive garbage cans. Raymond was lean, not an ounce of fat to protect him under his Eddie Bauer jacket, and he, too, was cold; not as cold as George DuPelee, but cold.
It was December in Chicago. It was supposed to be cold. People like George and Raymond didn't come here from Trinidad to enjoy the warm days and cool nights. People came to the States to make a dollar or to get away from something.
George DuPelee was a complainer. Raymond had known George for only a few days and he was now deciding that, however this business turned out, after tonight he would deal no more with the whining giant whose teeth rattled loudly as the two men waited for an acceptable victim to come out of the apartment building.
By the dim light of the mist-shrouded streetlamp, George watched the cars no more than twenty yards away on Sheridan Road lug through the slush, sending sprays of filthy ice over the sidewalk. Sheridan Road at this point north of Lawrence was a canyon of high-rise condominiums through which the wind yowled at the cars that passed through on the way to Evanston going north or downtown going south.
"Tell me you ain't cold," George challenged. "Tell me. Skinny thing like you. Got no fat. Wind go through your bones and you no more used of this than me." George concluded with a grunt of limited satisfaction, pulling his hat more tightly over his ears and continuing his steady foot-to-foot shuffle.
"Cold never bothered me much," said Raymond, watching as the door to the building opened and an old couple came out already leaning into the night as the blast of icy air ran frozen across their faces and down their backs.
"Them, they old, rich, no trouble, no bubble," said George, his bulky body nudging Raymond toward the light beyond the shadows of the buildings and the dumpster.
Raymond watched the old couple struggle against the cold wind. The old man almost toppled over, but caught his balance just in time and moved cautiously forward, gasping through the wind, reaching behind him to pull the old woman with him.
"No," said Raymond, stepping back into the shadow so the old couple wouldn't see him.
"No," moaned George, turning completely around in a circle like a frustrated child. "No. Man, what we come all the way down here for? Places closer. Over back there on Chestnut, you know? Look at those old olds. They got money, rings, stuff. Just take it, throw them old people in the air and let the wind take them."
"Up," said Raymond, his eyes back