“Come ON!” Clap, clap, clap. “Sammy! NOW, we gotta go or I’ll MISS THE BUS! Come ON, YOU BOATHEAD!!!” She walked back towards her partner in crime, her shadow; albeit a small one. Her best friend since birth. He was moving slower these days, but this was ridiculous. He always minded her and he was pretty smart. He knew how to sit, beg, come, move, as in out of the way, and lie down. But Sammy wasn’t moving off this rock. She couldn’t figure him out, he was always so obedient. Normally he’d have been ahead of her on the trail, or underfoot at the least. “Damnit Sam! I didn’t bring your leash!!! I’m wearing white and YOU ARE FILTHY so I can’t pick you up today! COME FUCKING ON!!” She stomped her foot, cringed and looked down to make sure the hot purple polish on her freshly painted toes hadn’t been messed up. “I shouldn’t have brought you today! You keep this up and we won’t come to the river for a week!”
She turned and walked away, not looking back, and marched as angrily away as she could, considering her strappy sandals made walking across river rocks like trying to ice skate over basketballs. Her right foot slipped off a boulder, and stopped in the crack between another boulder, just enough to pinch the outside of her foot. “Damnit Sammy! Shit,” she grumbled. But she didn’t look back. She kept walking and yelled, “Come on Sam! NOW!” one last time before looking at her watch and knowing she would miss the bus. She was halfway back to the road before Sammy showed up, tail wagging, fine as a frog’s hair.
She looked down, “What is your deal today?” But Sam didn’t answer. His eyes sparkled in the sunlight as the fur wiggled around on his face, making his usual happy smile match his wiggly butt.
She locked the front door of her and her Mom’s small apartment after grabbing her hot purple purse. Everyone was going to the new Zombie movie and she liked to get there early enough to see the trailers to other movies that were coming out soon. Her Mom couldn’t afford cable or the internet, not since her stepdad had left. It was the only way she knew which movies to save her money for. Going to the movies was the only thing to do in this town if you were young. She babysat Ember, the curly headed 4 year old who lived in the apartment below them to earn spending money. Her Mom never had any. She’d heard other kids got an allowance, but they had pools in their yards, and horses in a barn. They walked around with headphones in, even in class, and carrying cool black phones. “I gotta get a phone or I’ll be destroyed,” she said to the reflection of herself in the store glass she was walking by.
Sirens were getting louder with each slap of her sandals. She heard a man screaming, “Pookie, my Pookie!” Over and over again, in painful pure heartache. She turned the corner and she could see he was an elderly stickman with a high scratchy voice. Cradling the face of a little round woman with his hands covered in tears and blood. She had been round, Anne knew, like four feet round, all the way around, before today. She could see the two giant canals that now ran up her body, almost perfect in their tire shape. Gazing at the destruction of the remaining piece of the wooden bench that the woman had been sitting on, Anne covered her mouth. Thirty feet back, crushed between the red brick building that housed Suzie’s Sweet Tooth and the city bus, were an arm and leg frozen in time amongst the crushed bench. The arm forever finishing a wave. The leg kicking out one last jumping jack. Anne took two steps to the left and threw up her morning Poptart. Tears eeked out the corners of her eyes. She scrambled for her purse, but there was no tissue inside. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then her cheeks forcefully, trying to scrape away the horror. She froze as the chaos continued: firemen hooking up the tow line to the back of the bus, to pull it away from the building; the paramedics surrounding the little Oreo shaped woman; and the second ambulance team and the firemen rescuing the other man in a car across the street.
Anne inhaled sharply as she gazed on, slowly taking in the entire scene. Then she noticed the broken and smashed remains of a bicycle laying another 40 feet down the street. She didn’t see any other bodies and stood there in shock for several minutes wondering what was missing. Then it occurred to her; where was the biker? She finally absorbed enough of the scene to come to her senses and walked slowly towards a fireman standing back from the group of emergency responders encircling the woman. “Hello…” she said tentatively.
Tall with dark hair hanging down over his forehead, Anne’s heart picked up a beat when he turned and gazed at her with bright blue eyes. “Yeah,” he answered?
She swallowed, “Where is the biker?”
“What biker,” he asked? The earnest concern on her face worried him instantly. He quickly turned to look at the entire scene, stepping away to view the other side of the bus, then came back and said, “What biker?”
“The one that was on that bike,” she pointed down the street behind them.
“Oh my God,” he said before shouting, “James, there’s another one!”
James was supervising the crew of firemen prying open the car door, and stood up instantly, then ran towards the bike that the first fireman was running to. They stopped to look in between and under the parked cars up and down both sides of the street before working their way back towards Anne. She heard James yell, “Over here,” a few seconds later, which was across the street, but in front of a blue mini van with bright yellow peace signs all over it.
Anne stood there shivering, on a hot summer day, as the shock seemed to envelope her. She watched the scene like a silent movie. She sat on a brick bench in front of the smoothie shop, and watched while two more ambulances came, along with the coroner van, and then the news vans. The crowd grew like lava spilling out from Jackson street behind her, oozing slowly into watching positions; like lava drying at the edges. Each couple, each parent, the PaperAssy, all oozing into view, to stand in horror, to watch with fascination. Each frozen in their spot.
Her mouth dangled open when she heard a man say, “You got the time?” Her brain heard it, memorized it, but she just stared on.
The fire truck was the last to leave. Anne had spent her theatre money on two smoothies and a banana muffin while waiting, before she woke from the mental nightmare and decided it was time to go home. The last two busses wouldn’t be stopping today. The place was a mess. The police had those yellow lines stretched everywhere, “Danger, Will Rogers!” she thought. Glass was glimmering like tears from every surface.
Anne stood up, brushing the crumbs from her shorts. Before she swung her purse over her shoulder, the blue eyed fireman came running over, his helmet swinging from one hand. “God he’s cute,” she thought. “But way too old,” noting in her mind he had to be at least 25. Still, she froze until he reached her.
“Thanks so much for letting us know, about the biker… if you hadn’t gotten here when you did…” he let the sentence die there.
“No problem,” she said as her cheeks blushed a deep pink.
He held out his hand, said, “Really, thanks, he would’ve died if we hadn’t gotten to him when we did. What was your name?”
“I’m Anne, Anne Withers.”
“Nice. Thanks again, Anne,” he said, as his large fingers surrounded her small hand in a warm grip.
Then he turned to leave just as Anne blurted out, “What’s your name?”
He turned back smiling at the sweet young teen, having not missed her earlier blush, and after having been a fireman for four years, he naturally assumed she had a small crush. He winked once and took off at a jog to catch the fire truck backing up in the street. But only a few steps into it, he turned and ran backwards, with arms spread wide he grinned sheepishly before saying, “I’m Sam, I am!”