A Kick in the Back
One cold Tuesday afternoon, a young boy shoved his fingers into his mittens and pretended to be unaware of the two kids shouting at him. He inspected his mittens for loose threads as the shouting grew louder.
"Jamie! Come on man!"
He ducked his head.
"Don't pretend ya can't hear us!"
If only Jamie could walk faster. He wanted to run, but that would draw attention and he had no desire for an audience.
"Go away," he whispered, disappointed to hear his fear so clearly.
"You're still not mad about last week, are ya?"
"He's not mad. He can't get mad. He only cries."
The streetlight ahead was green, but no cars were in sight. If Jamie quickened his pace he'd be able to make it. He stretched his strides out. When he reached the crosswalk two cars drove by. There was another on the way, but he could run it out.
Feet slapped the sidewalk behind him. He ran.
"The heck are you doing?"
He couldn't make it after all. Brakes screeched, a horn blared, and Jamie slipped.
"Oh my God!" someone screamed.
Jamie was lying on the sidewalk, his clothes wet and his back aching.
"Call an ambulance!" a man barked.
"What were you doing? You're freakin' stupid ya know!"
"You're supposed to wait for the light to turn red!"
"It was the frost."
A sea of voices crashed down on him. He wondered where everyone had come from. All the shadows dancing on the ground suggested a sizable crowd had gathered.
"I'm okay," Jamie assured. "Just wet."
"Did you get hit?"
"No, no. I slipped. That's all." Jamie stood.
Underneath his feet was a thick patch of frost. It almost resembled a thick layer of ice. The patch ran from the sidewalk to the crosswalk. "The frost wasn't there before," he said.
As an entirety the crowd swiveled their heads.
"It hasn't even snowed yet," a woman said.
There were seven people in the crowd, two of them the boys who harassed Jamie constantly at school. Billy and Tim. The two of them were a duo not to mess with both on and off campus. Jamie wasn't their priority, but he was high on their list. Now they looked at him as if he was one of their closest friends.
"Ya shouldn't have run." Billy shook his head. "Crazy."
"First you push the silver button on that pole there, then you wait for it to ding, and then you walk," Tim said.
"Please don't ever do that again," a woman said, a hand over her heart. "I've never come so close to killing someone."
The man next to her took her hand. "I'm sure he won't. Why don't you go pull the car off the sidewalk and park it next to the sidewalk? We're getting quite the audience."
Children and adults alike were gravitating to them, talking about the trail of frost and the silver car perched crookedly on the sidewalk.
People asked questions of the adults. Jamie was invisible until he was mentioned. Then strangers squatted in front of him and studied him studiously as if all his injuries were hidden on his clothes.
Someone phoned his mother. She pulled him into her arms upon arrival and wept into his hat. By then the crowd was breaking up. Billy and Tim stood by, shuffling from foot to foot and then blowing air onto their hands.
The woman who drove the car admitted she was ten miles above the speed limit and promptly burst into tears. Jamie's mother gave her light scolding about speed limits in a school zone and then turned the fault onto Jamie. He apologized for running through a red light and promised to never do it again.
Jamie's mother invited the couple over for coffee and was politely rejected. They were on their way to the hospital where their daughter had just been discharged from knee surgery.
When the couple left, Billy and Tim told Jamie to be careful – again.
"We'll see you at school tomorrow, okay?" Tim held a fist out.
Jamie stared at it.
"Bump it," Tim said.
"Oh." Jamie bumped fists with him.
"Bye." Jamie waved after them.
He had a feeling today had changed things – for the better.
Wednesday morning brought snow. The crosswalk where yesterday's accident happened was covered with a thin layer of snow, lightly coating the frost.
Jamie pulled a mitten off. He brushed some of the snow off and felt the frost. Light starbursts were carved in it.
He heard a whisper of his name. A flash of blue and brown ducked behind a parked car.
"Hello?" he said.
A car pulled up the crosswalk. The light had turned green.
"You okay kid?" the driver asked.
Jamie nodded and went his way.