The wood was so dry that it ignited almost as though it were paper. Paul stood up from the fireplace and grabbed the keys from the bowl. He also grabbed the thick hat.
It took him only a few seconds to get to the car, but his fingers were already cold. Thankfully the engine had caught on the first try. He sat, waiting for it to warm up. The weather folks loved this. Apparently, Minnesota was going to hit a new low temp record later tonight. Currently, it was minus 20. Paul grinned as he thought about it and even his teeth felt cold.
He finally threw the car in gear and inched onto the icy street. Mornings were considerably easier sober. There was no shaking. No fog. A few months ago a morning like this one would have been unthinkable.
At the post office he collected several bills and was about to close the box when he saw a smaller letter wedged in the back corner. He tugged it free and saw that it was dated from last week. He saw the return address, too.
He didn’t open it. Instead he walked back to the car slowly, and laid the envelope on the seat next to him. Even though the car was already cold again, he didn’t turn the key.
He remembered the last thing Dave had said to him. Paul still had three more weeks to go in the clinic…but Dave was done that day. When his ride came into the parking lot Dave had turned to Paul and he said, “Call me when you get out.” Then he left.
Paul had called. But Dave never picked up. Sometime later Dave’s mom had called him. She called him several more times, each time more fraught.
He sat in the cold car, staring at the envelop next to him. He didn’t open it. He didn’t need to.