A man, tattered and torn, knuckles bleeding from exposure to the below freezing temperatures of the last few days, looks ahead. With what looks to him within the next 10 miles, he'll be at the doorstep of the homeless where he hopes a bed would still be available at this last hour of the evening, between 5 and 6, when the last of the homeless are accepted for the night. He struggles ahead up a slight incline to travel the next 200 feet to meet the curfew in time.
A tall, stately looking woman with horned-rimmmed glasses, hair severely pulled away from her face, looks down upon the man before her and waits for him to speak as if she isn't yet sure why he knocked on the door. "Good evening, Ma'am. Have you a bed left for me tonight?" The shivering man studied the corner movement of her paper-thin lips before parting them to answer him, not sure whether the slight upturn was a smile or a look of disdain that would better complement the coldness of her eyes.
"We have several beds left," she finally answered him in a tauntingly hollow voice. "Thank you, Ma'am, thank you so much," his exuberance caused him to prematurely sputter.
"Have you an ID, sir?" "No, Ma'am, I don't," he replied.
"We don't admit anyone without an ID, sir. Even if you had one, you're too late this eveining. I don't recognize you from being here in the past. Newcomers must arrive between 1 PM and 3 PM, the hours designated for an intake and background check for those who have never stayed with us in the past. I'm afraid we cannot accommodate you tonight."
He pleads, "Ma'am if you please, I've walked from the downtown area, and you know that is several miles. I've been told of your kindness to others in the past and how you never turn anyone away if there's room, especially on an evening when the temperatures are in the single digits." "Oh," she curtly corrects, "that was last winter when this shelter was still owned by those brainless Xtians. We have strict rules that are in everyone's best interests even though they might seem to inconvenience some at the moment. I'm sorry, but you'll have to return with an ID tomorrow."
Tears welling in his eyes, the man turns without a word and starts down the incline as he hears the door slam shut behind him. If his hopes had not been so high that he would not be walking down this dark incline, he would have made a note to himself on the way up to remember the large, treacherous patch of black ice that almost caused him a spill on the way to the shelter.
He suddenly felt his feet go out from under him and landed flat on his back, the pain less intense than it would have been if not for his lack of circulation. As he struggled to right himself, he rolled over and looked up to see the shelter from a different angle this time, in the same place he stood about a half hour ago, his heart now emptied of the hopes he had then. He could only hear it thumping uncontrollably as he struggled to rise from his postion.
Freezing rain descended on the city that night and the crews were out early to salt the roads where they spotted him a little off the road up the path. A policeman knocked at the shelter door and the same woman answered.
"Good morning, officer!" "Good morning, Ma'am. Just stopping by to let you know that it appears as if someone didn't quite make the little hill up to the shelter last night. He was found dead by the work crew. There would be so many more of these casualties if not your kindness." "How dreadful, officer. Thank you for letting us know. Have a good day." "Good day, Ma'am."