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COLD

They say cold is nothing more than the absence of heat. They say there’s this thing called heat or heat energy and that’s all cold is, just less and less heat till nothing, till everything stops. But those who say this have never stood in the Dakota high plains or on a frozen lake and watched cold come oozing across frost or ice like a living wall. Daren knew cold. He knew it like a bloodhound knows raccoons and bobcats. He knew it like a lab knows ducks. He knew cold and was sensitive to cold in a way he could not comprehend. For Daren, cold wasn't a nothing. Cold was everything.

Daren was drinking alone in a little raggedy bar he enjoyed because the owner barkeep displayed lines of bright blue cold sweeping around under the layer of grease from the fryer where he cooked hamburgers or sometimes steaks for patrons if he felt like it, and not if he didn’t. Daren loved it when a drunk would demand a steak and Brezelwould stand up a little straighter, whispers of cold gaining speed, gathering up and sweeping around his body like an artic vortex, and he’d stare the dude down. “I only cook when I want,” he’d say.

Daren sipped down his vodka neat and turned toward the door when he felt a lingering sad chill enter the room as a man with strange blue eyes walked in and shook himself off like a dog after swimming. Mere cold arced over him, as if he were scarred with it, scarred for life.

Brezel’s cold and the man’s cold leap together as if they were long lost friends. When that happened, Brezel ordered everyone out. Daren made no protest. The cold from the man, and the cold from Brezel mingled together and then drifted outside away from the men. Daren followed, lighting a cigarette. The bright, hot ember at the end of his cigarette fought with the cold. Daren tried to hear what was happening inside—Brezel did things his own way, but he never cleared the bar for anything. Daren watched as the cold, blue and white, blew from the door and dissipated into the wind outside.

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