It was deep in the deep midwinter when old Michael was found frozen to the bench in the park; stuck fast he was - frozen by the seat of his pants, firmly affixed by an involuntary discharge of bodily fluids. Later, after a passing jogger had raised the alarm, he was prised off like a horrible old gnarly limpet and conveyed to the morgue - where his cadaver took two days to thaw out.
It was obviously an accident (in the pants) that was waiting to happen and none of us were particularly surprised by the misadventure; his tragi-comic exit was an occupational hazard and no-one was immune. Were the winters getting colder or was it us getting older and more susceptible to the el fresco life? I think the truth lurks somewhere in between.
Michael's unfortunate passing, although heavily freighted with comic potential, reminded us all of the stark truth. There were indeed some who guffawed and chortled as to the nature of Michael's death, but we were all morbidly aware that we too could go the way of Michael: fixed into place on a cold bench like an AirFix air-man.
So I thought of roaming further afield than the parameter's of our preferred frontiers - namely the park where Michael breathed his last and the off license. I looked at the park differently now and it seemed to have about it a mournful, despondent atmosphere which was hardly surprising really. The trees and bushes which were once shelter, bereft of any foliage,now looked sinister. The branches and boughs were skeletal and seemed to be straining and stretching to be free of the frozen earth.
I needed to be away from the this cheerless place, despite the uncertainty that movement and a new surrounding would bring. I decided to walk towards the weakling sun, low in the sky, the colour of bitter lemon.
I drifted for many days, desultory and aimless, sleeping in the most incongruous places: the gable end of a bus shelter anyone or how about a derelict Transit van? However to call it a "van" would be far to grandiose, it would imbue the van with far too much glamour and allure. It was a shell; gutted and ripped and pillaged, it had been left on a scrap of wasteland, redundant and useless like some huge stone carried aloft on an ancient glacier and then deposited amongst the brambles and the rusty refuse.
I left the van to it's lonely decomposition after it became apparent that although fairly watertight and relatively draught free, when the sun rose in the morning and the temperature rose a little, and it didn't feel like my vital extremities were in danger of clanging to the frigid earth to lie amongst the dog shit and discarded Sun newspapers like relics from some antediluvian ice age, the condensation would melt showering me in liquid breath and physic fluid and sweat - the latter two being mutually exchangeable. Had it come to this, was my life so wretched, wasn't it desperate enough to wake up to the sight of an eviscerated dashboard, a mouldy, tatty "Magic Tree" hanging from the (broken) rear view mirror like an executed despot, well has it, has it..has it come to this... this baptism by breath?
Well actually, yes it has - you crazy, useless, dipsomaniac.