At first, Cordon Pruitt was all torso. He could not touch his toes without squatting. And no matter how slowly he walked, his legs had to hurry to catch up with the rest of him.
This is not to suggest that he was a freak. He was not. To the casual observer, he was simply another person one would choose not to sit next to on the bus.
At the moment, Cordon Pruitt was seated on a vinyl recliner wearing a pair of boxer shorts, his arms opened wide as if in the midst of a morning stretch. On the upturned palm of each hand he held a copy of The Funnercise Handbook.
The windows were open and a February breeze blew from one end of his garden-level apartment to the other. His outstretched arms, veins blue from the cold, muscles bulging from the burden, jittered. Breath hissed in and out of his flared nostrils. Crystals of frost grew round his lips, nose, ears and eyes. Snow fluttered through the windows.
His heartbeats widened. The blood, almost slush, crept through his arms, legs and torso. Outside, a car honked its horn. A woman shouted.
Cordon's eyes dilated, his jaw closed. His hair, thick, black, straight and frozen, clattered like tiny windchimes. His arms slid out from under the books and they tumbled to the floor, flinging icy dust into the air.
Cordon raised himself off the recliner. Bits of skin and hair remained. His joints made grinding noises. He walked, then lurched to a desk where he lifted a pen and scratched upon a notepad, yielding indentations but no lines. The ink was frozen.
He tugged. Punched the desk over and over until the ice around it cracked and the drawer slid open. Within it he found handfuls of pencils embossed, "From the Desk of Cordon Pruitt." They were all brand new. None of them had been sharpened.
There was no pencil sharpener in the apartment, only a pocketknife on a string hanging from the desk. The knife had been given to Cordon by his stepfather who had gotten it, in turn, from his father. Over the years, the blade had been honed to a narrow wisp but it was sharp and, fortunately, open.
With creaking tendons, Cordon pushed away all the objects on his desk. A computer, stacks of paper, a wire basket, two cans of soup, and a pair of headphones landed on the floor, raising whirls of ice dust. It was getting hard to see from one side of the room to the other.
Cordon dug the knife into the top of his desk. His face was very near the wood. His breath came in thick tugs.
Given enough time, this is what he would have written:
I have no sympathy for anyone who walks into a cold, windy, snowy day without a hat. I saw dozens today. Why would any person of means walk through winter weather in shorts, tennis shoes and a cut-off tee-shirt? People like this should spend the night outdoors and understand what it truly means to be cold.
Give them everything, they beg for more. Give them nothing, they beg for more. Look at them. They're freezing themselves so they can lose a couple of pounds. Idiots. That little girl? She's dead because she made a mistake. But those people out there? They don't deserve to live.
This is how far he got: