I nearly saw the scariest thing this evening. Out walking the dog (not mine -- watching him for a friend) I was on Spring Street heading south when two cars and two kids on bikes went past. The cars were travelling in opposite directions, the bikes both heading towards me up the street.
The first biker was maybe ten years old, kind of tough looking - one of those street kids with a perpetually dissatisfied expression. He scooted safely past me, kicking at the dog as he went by because, well, because he's that kind of kid. A casual meanie. The kind you should feel sorry for, but don't.His brother followed him. Same square face, dark hair and eyebrows, big chin -- but a lot younger. No more than five or six, and just learning to ride a bike. He was proud of himself, and excited, pedalling like mad to keep up with his big brother. His eyes flicked over me and the dog, and his expression softened briefly before he re-focussed on the task at hand.
Funny how one second, one gesture, can be enough to establish character. I liked the little brother as quickly and as easily as I'd disliked the big one.
The two cars met just behind the smaller bike. An SUV and a compact. They were the only vehicles on the street, and there was just enough room for them both. They swerved out of each others' path. The SUV headed off. But now the compact was way over at the side of the road, aiming directly at the little kid.
I saw the future in a flash. It looked awful. There was nothing I could do. The kid was going to get run over. I didn't even have time to close my eyes. I shouted. Time slowed down, and the scene got very clear, as if seen through crystal. The compact driver stood on her brakes, and the car skidded up onto the sidewalk ahead of me. The dog barked. The kid rode past me, oblivious to everything except his precarious balance and the movement of his feet. And the moment was past.
Time speeded up again. The compact driver and I stared at each other through her windshield for a few seconds. Then she threw the car into reverse, backed off the sidewalk, and headed slowly -- very slowly -- up the road. And the dog and I continued our walk.