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           Tonight, the tumbling snow and frigid winds cut me to the quick, as I look back and try to forget.

           Just yesterday, I was but a boy, watching the same white torrent as it pelted against my window, no more than 50 yards from where I now sit. Of course, my heart was full then, of both hope and fear. I already knew the torment of being outside as the giant doors swung closed and the bitter winds reminded me that I was alone. So, what has changed, in the ten lustrum since?

            Rome still decays in arrogant pablum as the white smoke curls from the red tile pipe and rides the wind to Babylon… and beyond. To the Euphrates, once a friend, but conqueror in the end.

            And so, as the days grow short and darkness overtakes the land, I look back again, searching for the Path, unable to feel my heartbeat. My steed is winded and time thrusts its angry claws at me, mocking my resolve, as the masses strain to see,  faraway, gathered on the ancient cobblestones… searching for a sign.

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  December, 1967

              “Matty… Matty… MATTY!!!!”  The distant, angst- filled summons stirred the blond boy from his frozen stupor. He stopped, turned in his tracks, and squinted into the descending shadows as they stole the last warmth from the ice covered field.

              There it was again, only this time the 13 year old boy knew the voice and recognized the approaching figure with the flailing arms and the staggered, sliding gait. Even on sheer ice, Bobby was graceful. Strong. Confident.

                Matty sighed, and frowned, forcing the smile from his lips. After all, this had been a breach of sorts, he reminded himself. He waited, shifting his weight from one frozen foot to the other, as his best friend negotiated the last 50 yards across the icy tundra.

                  “Damn! Been looking EVERYWHERE for you, Koles! EVERYWHERE…” Bobby grinned, sheepishly, as he slid to a stop in his black Converses. “I… uh… thought you said… uh…”

                    “Oh,quit it already, Bobby! I was there, waiting like we said… like a jerk, for over an hour! I started to worry that something happened to you even… Until I saw Paul that is…”

                       “Paul?” Bobby said nervously.

                        “Yeah. Paul. You know, Paul! As in Paul, the guy you said you had to meet up with at his house to get your radio back from. The guy who knew nothing about that…”

                        Bobby raised his hand as if to interrupt and then dropped it just as quickly, as a look of despair crossed his face. He looked down at his sneakers and  mumbled something…

                          “Huh? I guess you didn’t think I’d run into him at the library, eh? “

                        “Damn, Matty. You oughta be a detective, or something…”

                          “Detective! Geezz… I didn’t even… Forget it. I don’t get it. I never lie to you. Why did you make up such a story? And then leave me sitting there wondering?” Matty’s voice started to crack as he struggled with the words… “Is it a girl, or somethin’?” His voice trailed off as he choked on the thought.

                           Bobby recoiled at that… “NO! It has NOTHIN’ to do with a girl! Cripes, Matty! You know me better than that! I was… Oh dang it, Matty! You’re gonna believe some crap like that? You know me better than ANYBODY! ” A bitterly cold gust of wind buffeted both lads suddenly. Bobby turned his back to it, but Matty stood his ground, searching his best friend’s face for the truth. Something was amiss. That, he knew. But, Bobby was obfuscating, and doing his best to end what had become an uncomfortable interrogation. For the 13 year old blond boy, it was too much as well. He hated the sickening feeling in his gut, at the moment. It was terrifying to even consider that something had happened between him and the one person who he trusted so much.

                        The tall boy brushed at his eyes with the back of his right hand, and swallowed hard. “OK. Don’t tell me then. It’s none of my business. Gotta get home. Ma will think I froze to death out here, and give my brother the Chicken a la King I’ve been thinking about all day.” What had started out as a statement of recrimination, ended in almost an attempt at a joke. He glanced at Bobby, and then started to turn away.

                       He didn’t get far… A strong hand grabbed him by his right shoulder and spun him around. Then, he felt the crushing bear hug of the wiry farm boy as Bobby drew him  close and refused to let go.

                      “You’re all I have, Matty. Don’t be mad, OK? . Please… OK? “

                       Matty still clutched his books under his right arm, but slowly they toppled from his grasp, onto the icy ground, as he struggled between anger and sadness, and then… A melting but uncertain joy. He cleared his throat and hugged Bobby back. ” How could I be mad at a jerk like you? “

                     A wry grin erased the sadness on his frozen face, as he inhaled the familiar scent of Bobby’s clothes and felt the velvety softness of the boy’s cheek against his .

                       Bobby heaved a sigh of relief and then he growled menacingly.  ” You won’t be sorry, Bub!  I promise!”

                     Both boys savored the moment for another few seconds until another cold blast of wind brought them to their senses. Darkness settled over the cold valley as the boys said their goodbyes and headed off in different directions, glancing back several times to catch one last glimpse, something neither one ever admitted.

                     There was only one week of school left before Christmas. And, the strengthening of a friendship that would last almost another eight years. To both boys, an eternity. At least then…

{cont’d in Part 2}

Writer’s note– written on December 15th of last year; left in draft form until now… tman ❤

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