A Gathering in the Cold (Ginger Man 19B)

But as he was driving his pickup back to his trailer that evening from his job at the post office, Charlie suddenly realized it wasn’t over. There was one more task that needed to be performed before he could close this little book that had been opened in his life.

He made the calls that evening — Rick, Mike’s mother, Rune, Jimbo, Penny. Charlie was relieved to hear them all agreed with his idea, was happy in his follow-up calls over the next two weeks to hear everyone had collected everything that was required. They met at the date and time he’d suggested; it was a week before Christmas, and everyone was bundled in parkas and hats, the chill of winter having settled in the air like a concrete foundation. But the Indian River (which Mike had always preferred over the East) was still flowing, ice clinging to the banks like a threat.

Charlie turned from the river, saw that the people he’d called had gathered around him in a crescent, exhaling their breath in white wisps of steam. He suddenly felt like a priest, officiating a funeral. He shuffled his boots in the snow, and cleared his throat.

“Thank you, everyone, for coming today, and humoring me in my weird request.”

“It’s not weird.” Maggie stepped forward from the crescent. She hadn’t been close to Mike, so Charlie hadn’t thought to include her in the plan when it first came to him. But she was living him now almost nightly, with a plan to move all her stuff in from her parents’ home in the spring; there was no way to keep the plan secret from her even if he’d tried, and once she was aware of it, there was no stopping her participation. “We all needed to do this, Charlie.”

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