They gathered by the old, tattered oil drum and waited for Flint. Ninth pulled his sock gloves out of his pocket and shivered. Skids tried to blow circles with his warm breath in the cold night the way he used to when he could afford smokes. The Kid bounced around like his pants were on fire and swatted things in the air that only he could see. None spoke to each other; what was there to say? Could anything improve their situation?
“Finally,” Ninth said as Flint shuffled down the alley. “It’s getting cold.”
Flint stopped and looked into the sky and laughed at the lightly falling snow. “It’s beautiful.”
“Won’t be when we freeze to death,” Skids muttered under his breath.
With a flick of his wrist, the fire was soon raging and the four men felt their fingers again.
“I remember one Christmas,” Flint said. “My little girl ran down the stairs three at a time to see what Santa brought her. A sparkly red bike with training wheels and tassels on the handle bars.”
The others listened in silence as Flint recalled happier times. They each had a story. A story of life before then. A time when they had names.
Winds blew the fire out and snow blanketed the streets. All was silent. Peaceful.
No one said anything. They knew it was a personal choice. The Kid pulled his fleece tighter around him and exited the alley to go find a heating vent for the night. Flint sat by the oil drum and smiled as his little girl rode her bike into the alley.
“Daddy, Daddy, did you see?”
“Yes, baby.” Flint smiled and held out his arms. “I saw.”
Floral perfume and a melodic voice danced on the swirling wind. Skids smiled and started to cry. “Oh, Lucy, Lucy, you’ve forgiven me.”
Ninth closed his eyes and tried to remember brighter, warmer days, only to find the warmth of hatred and anger. Faces of all those he wronged appeared in the blizzard. “I’m not afraid of you,” he muttered.
The evening news headline read, “Three homeless men froze in last night’s storm.” The Kid lifted the newspaper from the trash can and tucked it under his shirt. His body longed for his next hit; his heart longed to hear his mother’s voice.
“Billy? Billy, is that you?”
“Yes, Mama. I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”
The headline read, “Another death due to overdose. When will it stop.”
Four men buried without markers in the indigent cemetery by the town dump. Four men forever without names.