The crunch, slide and slip of tires on a slippery snow covered road. Snow crunching under fast moving feet. A muffled noise! A hastened screeching of wheels! That is how that day started.
Fresh white drizzly snow kept painting the town, trees and window sills. It had snowed overnight and had wrapped the cars parked along the pavement, in white blankets. A pristine snowy postcard-picture perfect street, yet to wake up to the cold white morning. Even the birds had decided to take their own time waking up.
Early morning joggers & dog owners were yet to step out for their stroll, awaiting the first warm rays of their golden sunny friend. But nothing was golden yet, only white! Perhaps, this was how heaven looked like! The heaven stereotypical yet definitive, promoted in movies and books tend to be white all around – white clouds, white silken robed angels with their soft white feathered wings, cupids with bows floating on cottony clouds while rest played harps. If the TV is to be believed, then there is so much of whiteness in heavens, it might be prudent to die with some goggles on, lest you go snow-blind.
The sleepy white pristine snowy morning of the street had only one color prominently displayed at one of the street corners. It was the same corner where Old Man Joe sold hot-dogs, pop and coffee every day noon till late evening. Old Joe’s corner was at a street junction with the convenience store to its side, a pawn shop on the opposite side of the street, while a café and a florist occupied the remaining two corners of the square. A nondescript and ubiquitous town square, that one sees anywhere.
But at that moment, the square held the unique distinction of flaunting color on what could be termed a bleached morning. And of all the colors that could have been; it was painted in the color of love – Red!
This color was usually the dominion of the florist, who always had a bunch of expensive red roses; seducing young couples seeking to express their love while taunting single men to pursue theirs’. But, it was too early in the day and the florist was shut still. In fact, no other store, who could have splashed some color, any color on this monochromatic white landscape, was yet to open for business. Albeit, there was a splash of red on the pavement. The same spot where Old Man Joe would eventually roll-in and would place a red brick under each wheel to keep it from rolling. But then Old Joe hadn’t arrived either.
In fact, the dubious distinction was the handiwork of ‘Runner Tony.’ Tony was not an artist or a painter. He was not an athlete either. He was known as ‘Runner’ because he would barely walk. The only way he knew to move around was by shuffling or running. He was the errand boy of the town, a handy man who did all kinds of odd-jobs. He was always hanging around stores and cafes to help with menial chores they asked of him. Cleaning tables, getting small supplies, fetching a ladder, or some nails. He loved any job that required him to dash from one end of the street to a few streets across. He would be paid in kind or on rare generous occasions in coins.
Evidently, it could be said with conviction, that Tony had no hand in the episode of painting the street. corner in red. His heart – well that was another matter. Tony lay there on that corner while his heart did the rest, bleeding red on the pavement. Warm gushing blood had been mixing with the snow, causing it to melt ever so slowly. More snowfall was creating a reddish-pinkish hue of art beneath and around Tony. A sanguine pool gracefully flowing, as life kept ebbing away from him!
One of those sleepy birds now awakened by the growing light, would gradually fly over this street corner and see this fatalistically daring, bold red brushstrokes distinctive against the natural white canvas. If it could, it might have even critiqued this street-art; Tony’s magnum opus.
So here we are this cold white morning! Tony – who loved running, Tony – born of love, raised with love by a loving single mother, – lay there painting a street corner in a color that symbolizes love; shot in the heart that once loved, felled by a gun that felt no love or saw no color.