Warm sunshine strikes unwashed, smoke- streaked windows at the rear of a shabby brownstone. A gas-fueled furnace, one not turned on in fear of escalating oil prices, does not work well anyway. What little heat is emitted from rusty, dust-covered ventilators here on unswept, thin wooden floors, rises to roach and mouse filled upper levels in a run down, cold, three-story complex.
Everything is expensive; even a dozen eggs. One must cut corners where one can; recycle Stryofoam egg cartons and start seedlings inside this time of year.
It is better to suffer and freeze in winter than to be broke and unable to afford $12 cigarettes. A little of the heat from the second floor oozes downstairs somehow, even though heat is supposed to rise. There are holes in the ceiling; gaps in the drywall created by rivers of water that cascaded downstairs, summers ago. The kitchen sink and bathtub from filthy, upstairs neighbors overflowed numerous times over the years. Now they must pay. Heat seeps down the holes– one of which, just above the first floor’s kitchen sink, looks like the crack of a flabby ass of an overweight, hairy, white man. The landlord, a man who does not believe in leases or Jesus, did not have the holes patched, and with this streaming sunshine and down-draft of heat, the place is tolerable in winter, even on the coldest of January days.
The tilt of the Earth on its axis causes winters to be brighter than summers on the South-East side of the house, away from busy, non-shoveled sidewalks up at the front of the apartment. This is why two cats with so much fur have not died this winter. They sit in these bright, sunny windows, warming themselves for nights that are far too cold for the humans that feed them. Somehow they all survive. The sun, streaming across a snow-covered garden, is heavenly bliss for all who live inside. The cats must learn to stay out of those windows now. The time has come– “Shoo! Get down. Do not spill those egg cartons filled with dirt or you will spend the rest of the winter outside!”
New pets have hatched and need some of that abundant January sun. Every January, for the past ten years, seeds of the gods have been placed in the windows on the back side of the house– away from all those blood-shot city eyes. The seeds will rise come Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as surely as Christ resurrected. These seeds, started in a home and not a depot, grow so well when planted in January. There will be green peppers and red tomatoes by the Forth of July.
In July, those on the first floor of a poorly heated Brooklyn brownstone will be as high as the sun on a mid-January day. All will have forgotten the cold price that one must pay to have a private back-yard in the hood– a plot of land owned by someone who does not care, but for the rent– this place sustains the godly. A few egg cartons, a bag of Miracle Grow, and a dirty ray of sun go a long way in a depression.