Meeting the Sculptor

 

This is how fast it can happen, I thought randomly in that one timeless, frozen instant. I felt every sensation being imprinted on my memory: the smell of exhaust and garbage and hot dogs, the noises of traffic and shopping, Sarah’s stiff, shocked form squeezed against me, the sunlight blurred by my cheap shades. I wanted to hug Sarah and avert her eyes, or reach out to the tramp and pull him back, or run away. But of course, there was no time, so I just looked on.

The tramp recovered his balance halfway into the first lane. He straightened and turned around, looking at me, but made no move to get back to safety. He just stood there, shouting a foreign word – or maybe an unusual name – at the top of his lungs, cursing. He didn’t move.

And just before the Buick snapped his right leg, threw him into the fragmenting windshield and over the roof until he crashed to the asphalt like an empty suit; seconds before the car behind the Buick bumped over his inert body and stopped; minutes before the paramedics rolled his bleeding body into the ambulance and I dragged Sarah to the back doors and got in to ride with him to the Emergency Room; before the waiting room, and the blood-splattered grave-looking surgeon, and the tears and the closeness and all that followed, the tramp stood in the right lane and looked me in the eyes, and I understood, and I saw that he understood as well.

It was a terrible price to pay.

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