The oldest one seems about eleven years old, the younger one a year or so younger. Difficult ages.
The man is checking they are paying attention to the road; the traffic is heavy this time of the afternoon, and the people behind the wheels of all that steel and rubber are preoccupied. Picking noses. Keying in telephone numbers to connect distantly and fleetingly with mistresses. Wives. Making appointments.
The children ignore the man\’s admonitions. They blink at him and continue to whine in marginally louder voices. At least. It seems like whining to my ears. The man seems to think so, too. The girl looks like she might even be sneering almost, but what do I know ?
My perception, such as it is, is prejudiced. Skewed.
\”Leave them alone, \” the woman says. \”You\’re always on their back about something. No wonder they resent it.\”
The man tuts and mumbles something under his breath. The children laugh, but I can\’t decide whether the laughter is actually directed at him or at something wholly innocent. The crossing tone begins to bleep, and I drop my cigarette onto the pavement and lift my toe over it to grind it out. The man steps off the kerb and twists his neck and opens his mouth again. Like a freshwater fish shivering on a hook.
The car slams into him and lifts him straight up in the air.
A squealing of brakes and the sound of meat and bone coming together with a ball-peen hammer. The man\’s dentures are thrown loose and one laced shoe is off and back on the kerb. The woman shrieks.
The children stop chattering.
The woman is down on her knees among the glass and blood. I feel my body recoil inside my overcoat. I begin to sweat. Even though it is cold.
I am not good with accidents of this magnitude. I do not even have a cell phone. She continues to scream as the door opens stiffly on the drivers side – partially concertinaed but still quite functional – and a woman in a pale blue business suit puts her foot out in the road.
The man\’s legs are sprawled at odd angles and he is making gurgling noises in his throat.
The girl is saying something. She sidles off the pavement – a crab dance held together in a shiny nylon leisure suit – and steps behind the woman, tapping her shoulder repeatedly. A slim white hand. Twitching with impatience.
\”Mum. Mum,\” she says. \”Are we going home now ?\”
photograph by tudor hubulei, 2004.