Absalom Angus Armstrong was a curious fellow. He was a natural born observer, a man who enjoyed watching people with a keen mind for sardonic commentary upon the same. Commentary, sometimes, he was happy to broadcast to whomever would listen.
McCarron lived at the corner of Tree and Sunrise Avenues. The former was so-called because the housing developer and town bosses could not settle on the species of tree (which the town council had to approve and assigned to a later time and meeting which never occurred).
The latter was also problematic. If you were living in a house on the street that faced east you would certainly have a lovely view of the sunrise. Not quite so if your dwelling faced west. You could see the sunset but because the sun was going down, the houses across the street (the aforementioned ones facing east) would block the beauty of the sunset.
Rumor has it that nobody questioned the street name because the developer’s wife picked it. She was known as a regular and famous guest at the town council meetings, and irritable nuisance. But nobody fucked with her because she her father, August Spotts, was the longtime State representative for the town and surrounding county.
On this particular morning, a chilly late January Monday, Absalom was about his one of his many daily routines. Absalom along with Briscoe his ever faithful and patient Corgi Cow Dog (named after the character in Law & Order), was watching the kids marching their way to the high school two blocks away. Absalom observed with his usual inquisitive interest, while Briscoe sat quietly and wagged his tale as each student passing by.
Mind you: there was nothing sinister about Absalom’s activity, a late fifties widower watching school children. Absalom was not a pervert or child molester. He barely said a word or gave a nod as they went by. Until today.
On this cold, 22 degree, morning, a group of six students were ambling by, an equal amount of boys and girls (which means three each if you’re counting). Absalom judged them to be, perhaps, ninth or tenth graders. One young man was wearing nothing more than a light wine-colored Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol hoodie and a pair of very baggy and wrinkled tan cargo shorts with socks and sneakers below. This was not a new sight for Absalom. Kids, both male and female, did this all the time.
At first, considering the climate, he used to find this peculiar. Then, after seeing the same dress routinely every winter, he simply thought that their parents did not supervise their attire before leaving the house. Not that this mattered to him; he was not judgmental when it came to parenting. (Though some neighbors would disagree.) Mostly, he thought these kids, lacking a smidgen of sense and being raised by idiots, were also idiots. Which, again, was none of his business and he was not judgmental, so he would say nothing.
Today would be different. He decided to fuck with the teenage boy.
Pointing to the boy’s legs, he said loudly to get his attention, “Aren’t you cold?”
Which got a look from the sextet, only because some old guy was talking to them. What was up with that?
The kid shrugged, “Nope, I dress like this all the time.”
Pointing again, “You know, if you keep dressing like that in cold weather, you’ll never be able to have kids later.”
Now the gang stopped, looked at each other, and some thin girl in back with blonde hair under an Eagles knit cap and skinny jeans with tears across the knees, said, “What the fuck?”
The boy said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Thinking the door was now open for some sage adult sarcasm, Absalom said, “The cold air,” pointing to his legs, “it gets up your shorts and freezes your balls.”
“What?” he said.
“Yeah, it’s true. Your balls will freeze. Fifteen minutes tops at 30 degrees or below, less if there’s a wind chill, they’ll tighten up like knot and become oval ice cubes. Do it often enough? No kids, ever. Believe it.”
They began to murmur among themselves, giving each other looks of, Who is this adult fucker and why is he even talking to us?
The boy summarized, “You’re full of shit, old man.”
Old man, really, I’m 57; that’s not old, Absalom thought. And what’s with the foul language, you fucking teen degenerates.
He replied, “Oh fuck yeah …”
To which Briscoe barked because he recognized profanity.
“… I knew this guy as kid. Used to wear shorts with no underwear in the winter … you wearing underwear? … his balls froze up every winter. Then he got married right after high school but couldn’t have kids. He went to the doctor.”
The students were now fixed on him.
“Doctor asked him if he wore shorts in the winter. Guy said, “Yeah, all the time. What’s the big deal?” Doctor looked at him and says, “Buddy you are fucked; you’ll never have kids. You froze the life out of those little swimming sperm fellows.”
Silence on the sidewalk. But the boy did look down at his shorts and legs.
Another boy said, “Fuck that shit, Desmond. He’s just fucking with you.” Everybody else murmured their approval. “Let’s go.” The crew marched off.
But the boy looked back. Absalom only smiled.
When he got to school, Desmond went to the bathroom. His balls were as cold as ice icicles.