Gregor McGillicutty was on his way to work. The day was actually evening. Everything was washed with different tones of blue and gray that he had become familiar to, not that he really noticed anymore. Life had become a routine for Gregor and he was comfortable. He knew every step, every action, almost every moment even, that he would encounter that day and the next day and the next day. Gregor was unfazed by the repetition in his life. It gave him time to think, to remember, and to observe.
If he was ever asked to, Gregor could articulate a scene of his small town to every last detail. He could tell you how many windows that office building on Main Street had, which screens were missing, and which ones were their replacements. He could tell you how many cracks the sidewalk on East Elm had, and how many steps until he reached an older brown building that made Gregor think of funny looking carpets and business men in strange suits.
This was his life: walking, working, walking, eating, sleeping, cleaning, sleeping, and walking again. The sidewalks, the streets, his path, his work, his home – they were all his life. His life, without Margie. With the dark tones of nighttime falling, every day seemed like the dead of winter of Gregor. Tonight especially Gregor felt the chill in his bones, despite the fact that it was seasonably warmer than usually. He could feel the bumps on his arms arise the further he walked.
He wondered if he was coming down with something. He thought about trying to stop at the pharmacy and see if he couldn’t pick up something just in case. It would have to be close to closing time, and no one would want to chat with someone delaying their release from work. Gregor paused for a moment to think, when he saw a flash of bright blue from the corner of his eye. It had come and gone so quick Gregor was sure he was imagining things. With a slight nod of his head, Gregor continued his walk to work. He thought back to the night before where he had seen a similar shade of blue on a lovely young woman. He had meant to say something, but as things go in Gregor’s life, it didn’t pan out.
Gregor glanced at his pocket watch, he was moving slower than his regular pace. He wasn’t usually a dreamer, but Gregor felt as though his mind must have been racing all night, for he wasn’t nearly as rested as normal. Thinking about that young woman’s blue coat had brought that unnerving feeling back to him; the one he now believed was responsible for his goosebumps. Gregor tried to focus on the decaying bricks from the building to his left. The building itself was something familiar, but which bricks had lost some color, gained some holes, or had disappeared altogether was something new. Gregor hadn’t observed his building in a few weeks. He was surprised to see the increase of decay on the building’s corner. Not too long ago there had been weeks of storms punctuated by days of rain. Some of the largest leaves Gregor had ever seen in his life were strewn across the streets, onto building windows, everywhere as if he lived in the jungle. He thought that might have been what caused the excessive damage.
The area between the brick building and the next was particularly muddy. That kind of mud was made for children or pigs. To Gregor’s sadness a small duck had attempted to brave the miserable conditions and had not survived. There the duck laid contorted by what Gregor could only have imagined to be the wind; the duck’s neck was twisted and its body was draped over the neck almost like an upside down “2”. The last time Gregor had seen a dead animal in such a horrific position was a number of winters ago.
Gregor and Margie had gone for a walk around the pond. Margie had been bundled up in her long, gray coat with black felt trim, and stunning black buttons. On her delicate hands were black gloves with gray buttons on the sides by the wrist. They were unusual and perfect for Mrs. McGillicutty. She always wore them with her coat and the hat that somehow went with the rest of her winter ensemble despite the fact that it had no black or gray coloring. Gregor had been wearing the brown felt hat Margie had given him. It wouldn’t have been something Gregor would have picked out himself, any brown hat would have done for him, but the felt, Margie said, is what made it special, just like Gregor.
They had almost completed a full lap, when something ahead had caught their eyes. At first, Gregor had thought it was a cardboard box torn to shreds by the snowfall. Margie had been the one to see it for what it really was… the dirty white snow mound that Gregor had thought he had seen crushing the box was actually the dirty white underbelly of a goose. The cardboard box were the goose’s wings spread out and turned upside so that it looked, from some angels, like a bowl for the body. The neck had been twisted and bent as if the goose had been trying to dip its neck backward into the water before it froze. Like a party trick, a way to impress the female geese. It certainly hadn’t impressed Margie. She was torn between wanting to rescue the dead and imprisoned goose, and turn away to cry and scream. Instead, Gregor took Margie’s hands in his left and wrapped her up into his shoulder shielding her vision as she wept gently into his brown overcoat. It was the least he could do, since he had failed to protect her in from it all in the first place.
This time would be different, Gregor thought, as he slowly set his belongs down on the sidewalk. Gregor hated dirt, and certainly hated getting dirty even more, but he couldn’t bear the thought of that young woman in the peacock blue coat walking by, and seeing the duck in such a dismaying sight. He also knew Margie would have wanted to help the duck so far removed from life. Neither the goose nor the duck could be saved, but Gregor knew he could he could give the duck a more gentle resting place.
Fighting against every impulse to run away from the germy, dirty mud he was about to encounter, Gregor squatted down and after adjusting to such a foreign position he picked an oversized leaf clinging to the splinters in the fence. Gregor hadn’t realized how long he had been holding his breath for until he reached forward toward the duck and exhaled a long, deep breath empting his chest. With more coordination than Gregor knew he had, he was able to untwist the body and scoop the duck into the leaf. After managing to lift himself from his squatting position, Gregor turned to see the gray eyes he had dreamt about the night before staring back at him. He followed the gray eyes down to a box, the young woman was holding opened.
With no words exchanged between them, and only the slightest of movements, Gregor and the woman were able to bury the box into the soft ground. When they were finished, the young woman took Gregor’s hands in his and wiped the dirt from them using the hem of her dress.
In a combination familiar to Gregor was both afraid to ruin the moment, and at a loss for words. Instead, he reached into his pocket and glanced at his pocket watch. He would still make it in time for work, if only he could fare to hurry a little. When he looked up, the young woman was gone. All Gregor could see was the sidewalk he knew like the stairs to his house, leading him back to his normal routine, and to his work.