The scream echoed about the alley. A body slammed against the wall with a sickening thud. Then the sound of a splash as the body fell to the rain drenched alleyway.
Standing over him, she crossed her puny but tatted arms. Hard to believe they’d be capable of moving anything, much less pushing a full grown man into the wall.
He wouldn’t strike back, and she knew it. “You deserve what you get!” she snarled as she walked off, flicking him off one final time as her silhouette framed by steady neon lights turned the corner.
He curled up his knees and held his head in his hands. He was mad. Mad at her, mad at himself, mad at the world. Mad at the situation he found himself in once more, another broken moment in his life.
He palmed his eyes a moment, trying to save face should anyone see. Red eyes still gave him away. He spider walked himself back up and wiped away what he could of the puddle which now wet the seat of his pants.
Slowly, he walked toward those same lights but turned right instead. The glass wall of the local Chinese restaurant displayed freshly made duck and the aroma of rice wafted around. His stomach growled, but he continued to wander down the street. Chickenshit? Chickenshit! he mulled over her parting words.
A distant siren echoed as it came closer. Blue and red flashing lights bounced off the buildings. Wet hair hung clung to his face, filtering the scene from his view. His hands gently pushed it aside so he could see.
A small girl sat on the curb as the paramedics frantically worked on someone in the median. She clutched a small curly haired teddy bear missing one eye. A stroller, haphazardly inverted, sat in the crosswalk. Broken glass littered the intersection from the windshield of an orange colored Charger.
A woman, brought to tears, stood amid the chaos. Her hands trembled as the cop escorted her to the same curb to sit by the little girl. An ambulance pulled away, the siren sounding a moment, then falling silent.
The woman looked up, struggling to speak, as a policeman took her statement. He took it all down, and then read it back to her. She shrugged, and lowered her head, bawling.
Softly, the officer tapped her shoulder, trying to reassure her. He looked up and saw the man from the alley standing there. “Son, can you either help or move along?”
He acutely became aware of his gaped mouth, and closed it. “Yes, sir.” He quickly walked over, wringing his hands. “How can I help?”
The cop looked him over, then looked at the curb. “Can you distract here a bit while I finish up?”
He shook his head in compliance, then knelt down in front of the two girls. “ You okay?”
The little girl shook her head while the woman shrugged and responded, “I don’t know what happened. The light was green and I was just driving. No one should have been there…”
He let her release her upset and quietly chided himself for being upset with himself earlier. This was much graver than what he ever dealt with. She sobbed into his shoulder.
“Can I call anyone?” He asked as she calmed down. He handed her his phone so she could dial the number. She stood up and took a few steps away as she explained on the phone what happened.
He turned his attention to the little girl. “Do you need anything?”
She’d been quietly sitting there, and looked over and shook her head no. A sweet smile came across her face. “Tell the lady I am okay. It wasn’t her fault.”
Confusedly, he looked over his shoulder back at the woman, then back at the girl.
She repeated, “I’m okay.”
Suddenly the woman bent over his shoulder and returned his phone. “Thank you. My sister is here to take me home.”
He looked over the scene and realized time had passed and the wreckage had been removed.
He looked past the woman, “Where’d she go? The little girl?”
The woman paused and stared at him. “They took her in the ambulance.”
He rose to his feet. “No, it was another little girl. With the…” he paused. “She wanted you to know she was okay and it wasn’t your fault.”
The woman’s face turned angry. “Why are you saying these things! I can’t believe…what a chickenshit!”
He stammered, unsure why she turned angry. “She’s…she’s okay.”
Rage filled the woman’s face, “She died!”
He stumbled back to the wall behind him and sunk to the ground amid his confusion. The woman stormed off.
A few moments later, the girl walked back up. “Thank you for trying to tell her. Sometimes people can’t or don’t want to hear.” She reached to give him a hug as he stared. “And, you are no chickenshit!” her little voice squeaked. “Thank you for staying with me. I have to go now. Take care of Curly for me?” She waved as she disappeared from view.
He collected himself. It had been a strange night. In the distance, the sky began to lighten with the dawn. He looked around and saw a a small teddy bear at his feet. He picked it up and gave it a look. A little tag hung from its paw, Hi! I’m Curly.