Pg. 1 Chapter Part (1)
The brisk winter cold chisled at his nerves, and no better was the tightened snow that crinkled beneath the feet of shoppers bustling to get inside the grocery store, more for warmth than shopping. The annoying sound made it hard to stay jolly. Cradling a cup of hot chocolate poached by a palm full of inch sized marshmallows sounded better. Yet, that was neither here nor there. But he’d planned for tonight, bundling down in a tan trench pea coat, red and green scarf, black cotton filled leather gloves and a black tabogon, a get up that assured three hours of minimal freeze while ringing the bell.
kettlers were required to kettle for four hours a day–six to ten. The captain thought it to be enough time to meet the quota, an assumption that often times proved true and rarely missed its mark.
Breaks were fifteen minutes per two hours, surely not too long and certainly short enough. Each kettler worked the east and westside wing of store entrances and whenever one took a break their kettle would be unlatched and the coworker would keep an eye on it.
Two people were normally placed at each store location so another didn’t freeze, but on this night because of his great history with the salvation army’s kettling program he was able to kettle alone.
Steven had been kettling at the giant eagle since he was thirteen. After high school he gave the winter job a break to attend college, but upon graduating last year with his degree in psychology, Steven returned and was happy to be back for his eighth winter.
The snow suddenly begun to fall in droves of white clusters, then slowed to gradual droplets. He loved all sorts of things about the winter–its faint smells, the snow’s creativity as it lay on the contours of objects and nature
Nothing could screw up this night, because for this day he was
kettling with purpose, and if not for the flexibility given to him by his boss at his full time job as a counselor for boys at a group home he would not be here tonight prepared to put it all on the line, and escape the thralls of irrelevance.
This was the last night of the kettling season, and unfortunately the last night he intended to ever ring the bell again.
But first he was intent on seeing a face he’d fancied seeing over the years, especially during this season. He knew the schedule, knew this day was no different than previous years–every third Thursday of the month was their shopping day, right before christmas, and he had been ringing all night to do so, only stopping when traffick in and out of the store slowed. Yes, this night was meant to be.
It adopted a dry cold out, to where it was barely cold at all, no blowing winds, just a resemblance of exhaust pumes streaming from departing or parked car mufflers.
It was 9:09, closing time was nearing, and still the person he was anticipating on seeing hadn’t arrived, but hope was still alive, this night had been routine one that hadn’t changed in years. Back then he would help place groceries in their car, but tonight she was late and he was beginning to think he would never get the opportunity to say what was planned the entire week.
There was so much to ask so much to do, and strangely he felt this day was the only chance he had to change his life.
He flipped the cuff to his coat, the time read 9:25 on his wrist watch.
More cars had begun to disappear out of the parking lot. A black Sebring sat alone, not like others who were mixed among the few still left. Its hazard lights flashed repeatedly. Steven figured it to be driver’s error taken none of the passing shoppers stopped to check, a bump of a knee or inadvertent flick of a switch.
Five minutes later, after a scan of the lot his eyes fell back upon the isolated car and its blinking lights. His civil moral
concern kicked in, he gathered the kettle and stand, stopped by his car and placed everything inside. On his way over to the hazard lit car lagging customers appeared to watch his movements, those who never once bothered to check whether the car’s occupant was okay inside.
He approached carefully, peering inside the passenger’s side door. The driver was slumped against the door. Steven knocked but his gloved hand muffled the sound. He removed the glove and tried again. The knock was loud, enough to stir awake a hibernating bear, yet he got no response. Following a third knock a capricious intuition told him something was wrong.
He tried all four doors, but it was to no avail, they were locked. He palmed the back end of his car keys protruding their chiseled grooves through the grasp of his cold fingers. It was a trick he’d saw on television, never really believed it would work but he was desperate. With one forceful blow and a reverberating pain the glass shattered the passenger’s side door.
It worked! He was thrilled.
He wasted no time, entering the car He searched for the driver’s pulse. It was faint. He stretched the body out across the front seats and tore open the woman’s jacket. He couldn’t really make out her face. She was black, late middle aged, he surmised, a presumption he got from her fragile size.
He’d taken CPR classes at the YMCA, but didn’t know how much pressure was necessary on this occasion, however there was no time to think.
He begun chest compressions with care considering the woman’s weight. Anxious and determined, he counted, paused then breathed air into the woman’s lungs. He planted his ear to her chest and listened, but heard nothing. He repeated the process with one hand the other fished his cellular phone from his coat pocket. Subsequently he called nine one-one. Seconds later as if he’d called fifteen minutes ago sirens wailed into the
lot relieving a weight off his back. He dropped his phone to the floor and continued the compressions. Soon someone with experience would replace him and give the woman
Categories: Terry Little