Cold Hands

Specs shook his right hand vigorously, holding his papers for that morning in his left hand. When he could feel circulation returning to his right hand he switched the papers into that hand and began shaking the left hand. The harsh December winds felt like pins against the bare skin of his hands and before he had even finished warming up the left hand he could feel his right hand freezing up again.

That morning when he and the other newsboys had woken up he had shoved his hand in the pocket of his coat where he usually kept his mittens only to find that they were empty. Surprised, he had checked around his bed to see if he had accidentally left them on his bed the night before. He searched under his blanket and pillow but found nothing.

"Donít you have a hole in that coat pocket?" Race asked when Specs told him about his missing mittens. "Wouldnít be surprised if you stuck them in there and they fell out."

Racetrack was right about there being a hole in the pocket, but Specs knew the hole wasnít large enough for the mittens to fall out of. Obviously someone had stolen them.

If I catch that bum who took them, he thought, Iím gonna hit him so hard he canít see straight! Sure the mittens were a couple of year old. Sure the seams had begun to come apart, giving way to small holes here and there. But they were still his mittens.

Feeling his left hand thawing out he glanced down at his worn coat, eyeing the pockets in particular. He knew that if he put his hands in the pockets they would provide at least some warmth. But how could he conceivably put both of his hands in his pockets while still holding on to his stack of papers?

Grumbling, he shifted the papers from his right hand to under his right arm. While squeezing his right arm against his side, he carefully placed his hands in the pockets of the coat. When none of the paper fell he breathed a small sigh of relief. At least one thing was going well for him that day.

Not sure of where he wanted to sell that day, he opted instead to walk around rather than staying in one spot. Maybe the walking would help keep his hands warmer. He had only been walking for five minutes or so when he felt the papers under his arms begin to slip. Instinctively he jammed his arm harshly against his side, but to no avail. He stomach sank as he watched his papers fall from his into the half melted snow.

For a second he stood there just looking at the pile of ruined papers, glaring at the print, smudged from the snow. He fell to his knees, hesitantly pulling his hands from his pockets, and slowly collected the papers, deciding which ones were still sellable and which ones were lost causes.

"Hey, Specs!" Dutchy was approaching him. His cheeks along with the tip of his nose were a bright red and he was shivering as he stood there, but he was smiling. "Having a little trouble?"

Specs glowered at him. How could he be so happy when he was obviously freezing? Then Specs spotted Dutchyís hands. Dutchyís gloved hands. A small part of him felt contempt for his friend for having those gloves. "Yes!" he snapped. "This entire day so far has been one little trouble after another." He grabbed at the last paper in the snow. His hand stung as the snow brushed against it and he inhaled sharply, dropping the papers in his hands and fighting back the four letter word he wanted to shout at the top of his lungs.

Dutchy noticed his bare hands. "What happened to your mittens?"

"Somebody stole them."

"Stole? Youíre sure you didnít just lose them?"

"Yes, Iím sure," Specs all but snarled. He really didnít mean to, but his hands were still stinging from the cold and he was almost positive they were turning a little blue.

Dutchy knelt down in front of Specs and took Specs hands into his own. Specs didnít protest because Dutchyís hands felt so warm. "Christ, Specs, your hands are gonna be frozen solid!" Dutchy began rubbing Specs hands. Like Specsí missing mittens, Dutchyís gloves were beginning to tear in certain places and Specs noticed every now and then he would feel a brush of Dutchyís skin.

"Your hands are blue!" Dutchy exclaimed. Lifting Specs hands to his face, Dutchy began to blow warm breaths on them. Specs had stopped even noticing his hands. Now he noticed how nice the breaths against his skin. His fingers began to relax and soften. His heart, on the other hand, sped up with every burst of warm breath he felt against his hands

"There," Dutchy said letting go of Specs hands, "doesnít that feel better?"

All thoughts of missing mittens and ruined papers were gone. "Yeah," Specs replied softly, "it does. Uh, thanks."

The two stood up. "Letís go back to the Lodging House," Dutchy suggested. "I think Kloppman may have some coffee and you can warm up a bit better." He slipped off his own gloves and offered them to Specs.

"No, I couldnít take them," he said.

"Itís just for the walk back. Iíll be fine."

"Dutchy, I canít take your gloves. My hands are fine; Iíll just stick them in my pocket."

Dutchy shoved the gloves into Specs hands. "Youíre wearing them."

Specs looked down longingly at the gloves. They did seem inviting. Then he had an idea. "How about I wear one and you wear one?"

Dutchy folded his arms, considering the suggestion. "What about your other hand?"

Specs put one of the gloves on his left hand and then handed the other one to Dutchy. "Put that one on your right hand," he instructed. When Dutchy had put the glove on, Specs wrapped his bare right hands around Dutchyís bare left hand. "See? Now both of our hands will be warm."

Dutchy grinned slightly, but then his face grew a bit more serious. "Specs, I think I know who may have taken your mittens," he admitted. "I saw Tumbler wearing a pair that looked a lot like yours."

Specs wanted to be angry, but instead he felt guilty. Tumbler was just a kid. Specs knew Tumbler probably needed the mittens a lot more than he did. "Thatís okay," Specs said. "He can keep them. Consider it a Christmas gift."

"Hey, speaking of which, what do you want for Christmas Specs?" Dutchy glanced down at their hands. "I guess mittens could be on the list."

Specs leaned over and softly kissed Dutchyís nose. "Nah, I think Iíve got a perfect gift right here."