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Jenni Clarke - Author

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The tramp paused his shuffling steps and bent down. He grunted as he grasped the fallen carrot, and failed to pick it up. Leaning on the low garden wall he kicked the carrot free from the snow. Tucking it inside his damp coat his mouth watered.

‘Oi, you, clear off.’ The tramp glanced up at a man in his dressing gown, standing in the warmth of his front door.

The tramp touched the side of his battered hat in a silent salute and continued down the road to the park. He cleared the snow from a bench and sat down, peeling off his damp gloves and hanging them on the bare branches of the bush behind him. He tucked his hands under his armpits, turned his face to the rising sun, and closed his eyes.

A dog’s bark and children’s laughter woke him from his doze. He stood and stamped the numbness from his feet. Sitting back down, he picked at the rope around his waist until the knot unravelled and he could open his coat. He rested his hands on his knees, allowing the warmth from the sun to ease the aches.

He smiled, watching children and adults enjoying winter’s gift.

The park quietened as midday approached. The tramp removed his hat and unwound his scrawny scarf, hanging them next to his gloves, before pulling off his coat to spread on the bench. Seeing the carrot, he lifted it to his nose, inhaling its sweet scent. He put it on the bench to thaw. Rummaging in his trousers he found a greasy paper bag. He chewed on the piece of fish within, and watched a family rolling a snowball until it was large enough to be a jolly snowman’s body. Another ball was created for its head. The children scattered searching for eyes and arms.

‘Hey mister, those yours?’ A small red-cheeked boy pointed at the bush behind the bench. His eyes gleaming with excitement as he danced on his booted feet.

‘Need them for your snowman?’

‘Yeah.’ The boy grinned.

‘He looks colder than me. Help yourself.’

‘Thanks.’ The boy grabbed the hat, scarf and gloves, joy echoing in his voice.

‘He’ll need a nose too.’ The tramp nodded to the carrot.

‘Wow.’ The boy snatched it up, and ran back to his family. ‘Look what I found.’ The woman stared across at the tramp, whispered to her husband and left.

The tramp stood and pulled on his coat. Time to move on. He nodded as he passed the fine-looking snowman, following the path towards town.

 

‘Hey mister.’ The tramp shifted his cramped legs and opened his eyes. A small boy stood in the alleyway. ‘Found him.’ The tramp groaned, then his eyes widened as the boy handed him a new hat, warm gloves and a long, thick scarf.

‘The snowman says thank you.’ The boy’s mother handed him a flask. ‘He hopes you like carrot and ham soup.’

‘And me Mum’s homemade bread rolls. They’re the best.’

 Fiction - A Snowman's Gift

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