Thursday, July 16, 2015

Winter Houses

 (A Chick Evens story out of Minnesota, 1957)   

The Icy-Mississippi

Snow is on the sidewalks, and in the streets, a thin layer covering the Mississippi River, on top of four-inches of ice —the winter houses and buildings are all lit, fires glowing inside of them: hearths, furnaces burning red hot, as I rush out into the cold early Saturday morning brisk air to sell newspapers “Five Cents!” I’ll soon be yelling once I get downtown, I tell myself.
       It is December, 1957 and I’m ten-years-old, just turned ten-years-old in October matter-of-fact. Come summer, mother says, that grandpa says, we’re going to move a mile or so away, to a street called Cayuga, I guess they’re going to build a housing project hereabouts for low income families, I thought that’s what we are?
       I see people sitting in their houses as I walk by: men, women and children—as if their minds are unoccupied, it’s 6:00 a.m., some of the houses are covered with blotches of snow, Minnesota snow can get heavy if it gets sticky, or hard, yes snow gets hard, and even harder when compacted, try to walk in it under these conditions, then you’ll know; some even appear to smile back at me as I glance from one white house to another, they are all white even if they’re not white underneath the coating of snow, one to the other—with their shadowy silhouettes, they are all brothers or sisters today.
       In the quiet morning cold, the houses seem to whisper to me—as if they have secrets to tell—but I’m too young to stop and listen, I’m not yet a hunter of tales.  Moreover, they can only tell me things I am too young to fully understand.
       Some of the houses are completely dark, solid gray dark inside those windows, with a white outside; I suppose the people haven’t crawled out of bed yet. In other houses, I hear laughter as I walk down Jackson Street to the St. Paul Pioneer Press Newspaper to get my stack of papers to sell on the corner of Forth and Robert Streets. Once I get down there, I’ll be able to see the icy-Mississippi River from where I’ll stand and sell the newspapers. The ice get so thick people drive their cars on the river to fish.
       I pass a dozen more houses, two, then three dozen, now I pass tall clusters and bulky looking buildings—with locked tight doors, but I know they will open soon for the Saturday morning window-shoppers.
       I start to yell “St. Paul Pioneer Press! Get your St. Paul Pioneer Press…FIVE CENTS!”
       Slow moving, and slow speaking people walk by and drive by in cars. I think my business is the most interesting in town—but of course at ten-years old, who wouldn’t think so. There even seems to be a touch of romanticism in this newspaper selling business, I haven’t a clue what’s in the newspapers though, don’t care either; I’m too young to be bothered with such worldly things. Incidentally, my name’s Chick.

No: 539 ((12-5-2009) (reedited 5-12-2010)) / Reedited 2nd time, 7-2015 / Note: The author lived at 109 East Arch Street, moved to 186 Cayuga Street, the summer of 1958.