No Room

Twenty-four degrees in Carbondale…with a chill factor of 12 degrees. It was cold enough to cause pain almost immediately. Raul and Rebecca had been staying in an apartment that had been cold on a mild late fall day. The door had a wide gap along the threshold and the single- paned windows rattled as the wind shook them to the extent that Rebecca believed that the glass would break. Raul had lost his job picking fruit in the orchards of Little Egypt…and the remainder of he and Rebecca’s money had been spent on doctor’s visits as Rebecca was ‘Great with child.’ Raul was a proud man and he and Rebecca had journeyed to the United States…fleeing for their lives from the local drug lord in Guatemala…who had threatened to kill them if they would not sell drugs for him. Raul had witnessed his brother being murdered by the Drug Cartel.

Mrs. Westbrook lived upstairs and coughed inncessantly from either a cold or Covid…and Rebecca fixed her hot soup and baked bread for her neighbor. Rebecca looked in Mrs. Westbrook’s refrigerator and found one egg and a half can of dog food for her dog Bruiser…a Boston Terrier. Mrs Westbrook had been a teacher at Carbondale Grade School. She had no family left…and far less money than her monthly expenses allowed for. She often had to choose between her prescriptions or food…and her thermostat was set on 50 degrees. Bruiser was a loyal companion to Mrs Westbrook. He was 12 and had seen a lot of life. He remembered when he was two years old and he and his friend attended a Christmas dinner invitation from Beth, one of Mrs. Westbook’s former third grade pupils. His friend laughed more than he had ever seen her. She talked of old times and her years teaching and her husband, Jock, who had passed away twenty years ago…and then they came home…and warmed themselves by the fireside of their memories.

Ronnie lived in the other apartment of the three in the complex. Ronnie was somewhat autistic…but he had worked all of his life. He spent his career at first KMart and when it closed he began working at Walmart and Kroger. Ronnie always greeted everyone that he met with, ‘Greetings, my friend!’ He loved people…and he loved Jesus. His mom lived with him until her death in 1989. Ronnie lived on a small Social Secuity Check that he received monthly. He enjoyed eating peanut butter and french fries. During the Christmas Season he put out his mom’s aluminum Christmas Tree and the Nativity that he had purchased at KMart…30 years ago. He loved to watch Christmas movies on his 12 inch tube television. He had rabbit ears on his little TV…as he could not afford cable… Ronnie had a red Santa Hat that he wore during the Holidays…and for the past several years he had served as a Bell Ringer for the Salavation Army…which was a point of great personal pride for him. Ronnie did Mrs Westbrook’s grocery shopping since she had fallen ill…and he saved $50 for Rebecca to see her doctor…before her baby was born…Ronnie called the unborn baby…Baby Jesus…

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