Trying to cross the road with children who go faster than you do

Red hair. They all had read hair, so I knew it was a family. It might have been dad there, but I think it was Grandpa: the authority was different. Not so intense but equal in concern.  Bright with pride rather than ire. Grandpa needed to cross the road: he had all the bakery food.

It’s a grey day. Rain in the distance, and customers telling me as they come in, ‘there’s rain coming’, or ‘good reading weather’. Which it is. I, myself, have just started the mighty Quincunx by Charles Palliser, and it’s difficult to concentrate on the normal day.

Against the grey air, the read haired family are flames on the road. One child leapt off the footpath and then abruptly returned to Grandpa, who has the food and who isn’t so fast. He calls –

‘Watch the road.’

‘But he said to go.’

‘He’ is a brother, and he’s carrying a can of coke and looks at his brother without saying anything. Then he walks across the road.

Grandpa follows, but younger brother remains on my side of the road. Grandpa comes back and they hold a brief talk. Over the road, older brother is now leaning against the car and drinking his coke. Then mum appears, approaching silently from the council toilets, and older brother seems to be galvanized into some kind of explanation. Then another man appears and listens in.

I watch them standing together and staring across the road at the missing ones, who are still talking, the man with his arm around the boy’s shoulders. They are both looking at a phone.

Up the road, the police have set up a Breathalyzer station. The cars move slowly in and out. I can see Sarah over there, talking at an officer who is listening and nodding at the ground.

In front of me, a young man is buying Gabriel Garcia Marquez and George Orwell.

Outside, it’s quiet now. The traffic has vanished. Grandpa and grandson are walking across the road together. The rest of the family are sitting in the car. It’s still grey out there, but it isn’t.

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