Winter Lane

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The sun never shines so brightly on Winter Lane. When it isn’t raining, dark grey clouds still gather overhead, hinting that they could open up and drench the woebegone waterlogged neighborhood any time they please. This is in part a result of the location — gloomy Doleville — but the sun’s unwillingness to show baffles even the most experienced of meteorologists.

Some speculate that it’s because the sun is too tired by the time it gets to Doleville to continue shining. Others say the regular cloud coverage and shady location make for optimally dismal conditions.

But perhaps the sun is simply afraid to illuminate the street, for in doing so, it would shed some light on the sad goings-on of all Winter Lane’s residents. The fearful and the cruel, the angry and the forlorn all seem to gravitate to this somber street. Together, they wallow in their self-doubt, melancholy and desolation, pitying themselves and putting others down. They live in the fog of their downcast spirits, soaking in each other’s sadness.

There’s Nelly, who spends all her time locked up in her house, worrying her hands and peeping through windows. Deborah slinks up and down the street, stopping only to loudly sigh at whatever catches her eye — a dark cloud, a new crack in the pothole-studded street, or perhaps another one of Winter Lane’s sad residents, who will always sigh back at her.

Judy causes trouble of all sorts, and leaves behind a bad feeling wherever she goes. Gus is skilled — he kills the mood of every room he walks into, while Tom unsettles all as he watches from outside. Smart Alec makes everyone feel inferior while he internally agonizes over his own inferiorities.

Ned glares down anyone daft enough to cross his path; Jack Shit (who thinks he knows everything but is really quite dim) bugs almost everyone with his misinformed rants, quieted only by Bill, who can shut down anyone mid-sentence.

All the residents of Winter Lane trudge around, snarling and snapping at each other, bemoaning their own existences and the existence of everyone else, too. They call each other names, they make a show of not holding doors open, they hoard belongings and they scoff at small accidents. Countless psychiatrists and therapists, pediatricians and consultants have braved the fractured streets of sunless Winter Lane, but all have been scared away by the residents’ collective misery.

However. There is something different about today, and all the residents can feel it. Winter Lane awoke today with a buzz and an odd sense of anticipation that no one can explain. Someone new has been pulled into Winter Lane’s dismal orbit; someone in a chunky, dirty-white truck, topped with a comically large plastic scoop of ice cream, as bright pink as it could be.

A blithe, cheerful song threads its way through the speakers settled on either side of the truck, and worms its way under doors, through windows, and into even the most despondent ears, casting a jarringly lighthearted mood on the otherwise murky day.

The ice cream truck driver has arrived.