Busy

A child is walking. It is a slow day for her and she hears the birds tittering in the trees and the cars speaking in the street. Her toes inch in slivers along the sidewalk edge. She imagines it is a cliff that she is peering over. Her head slides closer and closer to the road in her effort to see the ocean below the cliff, and her hair blows back as the cars rush past.

A cliff. What does that remind her of? Oh yes. She remembers. Lemmings. She read about them in school today. The other children laughed and thought they were funny animals. She didn’t get it, but she laughed too. It seemed an appropriate thing to compare herself to now. After all, she was on a cliff, just like the lemmings. “I’m a lemming!” She yells. “I’m a lemming! Mommy look, I’m a lemming!”

A stranger looks at her curiously as he passes, but Mommy doesn’t turn around. Mommy is in the road already, her hips twitching as she walks quickly through the white and black lines of the crosswalk. “Hurry up” Mommy says.

The girl jumps in an eager way at the command. Hurry up, hurry up! she thinks. She shuffles to the lip of the cliff – a full, red lip, glistening. It scares her a little, but hurry up! says Mommy’s twitching hips.

The little lemming girl steps and plummets into the street. She glides through the air in the shadow of the red hand looming over the crosswalk. It tells her “Stop, don’t walk, it’s the cars’ turn to go”, but Mommy’s hips are on the other side now, and so the little lemming girl jumps from white stripe to white stripe in the walkway. Her head bobs below the sight of a car.

There is a crash. The little lemming girl is on the asphalt of the road in a rainbow of colors, a car wrapped in an embrace around her air space. She is still. The rainbow is spreading around her as the car door slams and footsteps approach her. “Help!” the footsteps yell.

The woman across the street turns around. She sees her child. She stares. She doesn’t say anything. Her hands open and bags fall from them. She ponders what she sees for a moment, and then her lips heavily work to form an O shape. The O expands and contracts and still she stares. Then there is a high keening emanating from the O and the woman runs from miles and miles away, her hips twitch-twitch-twitching, to the broken child.

The woman falls in a whirl of cloth and fabric into the rainbow of the child. She stares and screams and her hands touch at the child’s hair, brushing it back and forth into the child’s face. A siren comes into the mother’s awareness as her hands and fingers stroke faster. She turns to the driver who is standing in horror, a cell phone in hand. She stares into the driver’s eyes. The driver is whimpering at the sight of the twisted body and apologizing profusely. Somewhere in the back of his mind he is wondering how it was that the child was alone in the street, and later he will use this to blame people other than himself for hitting the child, but for now all he can see is the body in front of him and the rainbow of colors around it. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I didn’t see her I’m sorry” he says in a rush over and over.

The woman’s attention moves back to the child and her hands shake frantically over the child’s face, touching and smoothing. An ambulance screeches to a halt. Workers rush out in rank and file towards the child, efficiently prying her away from the woman and sliding her into the back of the truck, laboring like ants over her.

The woman is quiet, watching. She stands with a cold determination and swallows her tears. She sees the bags she dropped when she ran. She walks back to them, leaving the child and the lights and the running EMTs behind her. “Ma’am!” they call “Ma’am! Where are you going? You need to ride with us!” She picks up the bags and hails a taxi. The child is dead; she knows that. She is too busy to ride with them. She has to go return the winter coat the child just picked out for the coming months.

Clara Siegmund
Age 15, Grade 10
Brooklyn Friends School
Silver Key

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