New York City, February 23, 2014

★★★★ A crushed rat, a large one, lay in the street, its guts a chopped-looking red pile beside it. The morning was bright and mild; the scaffolds were still dripping. Half-trapped plastic bags stuck out of the dwindling snowbanks, along with every other sort of garbage. Birds sang on the Broadway median. The gutters were mucky. Every transition from the warm sun to the still-chilly shade was a binary switch from pleasant to unpleasant. Someone outside a bistro on the sunny side of the street had gone ahead and hazarded bare legs and a miniskirt. Whole expanses of the schoolyard playground were still surfaced with snow, or with the thick layer of fat ice-crumbs that the snow had become. Orange cones had been put out on one of the snowy spots, to emphasize the obvious. The toddler, in sneakers, was determined to get off the cleared pavement and into the crunchy parts. The map of the United States on the ground was glaciated from end to end, save for one swath of Wisconsin and Iowa beside the drain cover, and what might have been part of the Kentucky-Tennessee border. On the far side of the frozen territory, a woman sat on a bench painting in a notebook. The sheeting on the rising apartment building glowed in the afternoon light, casting its reflection across a string of puddles. The toddler kicked an ice lump back and forth for minutes upon minutes, then stomped it into particles.