The narrow city streets were choked off even thinner by the slick, craggy piles of snow browning at the edges, and he stalked along each cowpath like a jungle cat in heat. The streetlights shined down halos on each haphazard parking job that lined the one-way road, and he had trained his eyes to catch the absence of luster from an automobile carcass. And sure enough, he saw a vacant space amongst the parallels. A ten-foot-long box of dugout powder that revealed the slush-streaked pavement underneath. And in the middle of the space sat a wobbling chair with chipping white paint that exposed the weathered wood beneath it.
His eyes hadn’t always been so astute, of course. There was a time when he accepted such strange winter furnishings. But that age of innocence had long been ripped away, ever since that fateful evening when his father had used his mother’s antique rocking chair, the one that had been built by her grandfather as a gift when she was born, to mark his own shoveled-out space while he went off to gamble at the pub. The vigilante was eight years old then, and he had been at the neighbors’ house at the time while mother attended night class at the community college. By the time that father had returned from the bar, he had forgotten about the rocking chair waiting in his space, and he accidentally backed into it with his car. For the most part, the chair remained intact, but the wood had been irreparably warped by the extreme colds of the evening, cracking the grain. It was utterly ruined.
Mother was furious when she came home. She and father spent all night screaming at each other while the young not-yet-vigilante tried to sleep in the next room.
“I busted my god damn ass shoveling out that spot, and I deserve to use it!” father shouted. And mother screamed back “There’s not even any snow left on the ground! You can’t just save your spot indefinitely! And why the hell would you use an antique, handmade rocking chair?!”
It was then that the boy became the vigilante, for he understood that mother and father would have stayed together, if not for that parking space saver. He blamed that folksy practice on his shattered childhood, and committed himself to the cause: as long as he lived, no shoveled parking space would be saved by a furniture marker. He knew that it was too late for him to save his own youth, but he refused to allow that same pain to befall any others.
And so he slinked forward on the balls of his feet, circling around his wood-chair prey, waiting for the moment to strike. When the coast was clear, and all other cars and pedestrians had passed, he lunged forward and ripped the tattered furniture from its asphalt resting place. He gripped its back with both hands, and with a bellowing cry from deep within his gut, he whipped the chair into the nearest snowbank. He watched with satisfaction as its four legs sank into the sleet pile, as little chunks of ice were disturbed from their slumber and fell like boulders from the mount, exploding when they hit the pavement.
The wintery shrapnel littered the previously vacant space, twinkling underneath the streetlights, and the vigilante knew that justice had been served.