The sky at four o'clock on December sixteenth. The sky in mid December when the front shifts from subhuman pre-deep freeze (so cold one breath goes straight to your brian and holds it in a nump clasp, not quite friendly, not quite lethal) to something more human, more gentle; still cold but just enough to be grateful for fires. The sky in mid December just before sunset, blue at the top, marked. Streaked with plane lines, exhausted plane tails trail by a saucy crescent of a moon--the moon just another white mark. The sky in mid December with the naked trees shimmying their branches black black against the sky like the fingers of African dancers. The sky in mid December when the light is fading and the rim red blaze hits the hills to the west and you almost miss it.
You almost miss it because you are filling your gas tank. You almost don't look twice as you're filling your gas tank at the Gibb's station next to the Polish deli. You almost don't look twice when the best part of you notices the sky. You almost space out and keep the gas pump going with the heel of an old high heeled shoe you keep in the backseat for just this purpose: so you can disengage from the pondorous act of filling your gas tank. You could disengage, turn your back, walk a few feet and make a call on your cell phone. But instead you fight through the sickening moment, the moment of engagement and you hold your gaze steady on the scene, as a body surfer off the coast of New Zealand holds the wave; as a climber grips the hold in the rock face; as a prize fighter takes the blows as he waits for the opponant to wear out; as a woman pants through the contraction. Your job is so much easier and the very most hard.