The steps were covered with a frost. It was foggy. It made him remember sitting in church.
“What was it?” he asked himself, trying to remember. “Wasn’t manna from heaven like a frost?
It was in a passage from Exodus, something about those that took a lot didn’t take too much, and those that took a little, didn’t take to little. He used the phrase often when he spoke to explain how people understood the idea of fairness.
“Those that have much shouldn’t have too much, and those that have little, shouldn’t have too little,” he’d say. He’d scan the faces in the crowd for some recognition. Sometimes there would be a nod or a face would light up. More often now the faces were blank.
He learned the phrase a long time ago. So many sermons and hymns. It definitely took hold somewhere in his mind. Maybe just because it was early in life. Maybe they know that, the Sunday school teachers. Maybe nothing else really sticks after about 10 years old. But not everything they taught stuck with him, just phrases and words.
He made his way into the hotel bar, vacant now in the morning. Last night it was the usual kind of crowd of disconnected visitors from out of town, maybe a local at the end of the bar, and always some pal of the bartender. Like every bar in the capitol it had its own brand of gossip, noun and verb.
He didn’t drink. He just ate and tried to go to bed early. It didn’t work. He just couldn’t get to sleep. As he sat down this morning, a waitress approached.
“Coffee please,” he said. “And you mind if we meet here. We won’t be long.”
“Sure,” she said. “You’re waiting for someone?”
“Yes,” he said.
“It’s been awhile since you’ve been in,” she said.
“I know,” he replied. “Lucky I made it with all this fog.”
Weather talk. What people do when they can’t think of what to say. He wondered why anyone remembered him, and wished they didn’t.
The man spotted him from the front and walked toward his table in front of the big windows overlooking the pool and the lake in the distance intermittenly obscured by fog.
They were dressed about the same, suit and tie with an over coat.
He slumped down in the chair.
“Coffee?” he asked the new arrival.
“I can’t” he said holding up his hand. “Maybe next time.”
“Ok,” he said, and reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys.
“Thanks,” said the other man. He reached in and dropped an envelope on the table. “Count it?”
“I’ll count it on the way home,” he said.
“Fine,” he said, “it’s all there.” He looked a little stunned for a minute. “How are you getting home.”
“You don’t worry about that,” he said.
Just then the waitress brought his coffee in a thick white mug with a little tray of sugar and cream in little containers. When he was a kid he’d peel off those lids and drink the cream.
The other man stood up.
“See you around then,” he said somewhat hopefully.
When the coast was clear, he peeled off the lid and drank one of the little containers of cream.
“Those that have much shouldn’t have too much, and those that have little, shouldn’t have too little,” he thought to himself again. What made him think of that now? Why wasn’t that message resonating?
The fog was lifting enough that he could see the bridge through the window. He had a long day ahead of him.
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