The Distance

4 Aug

A sweet back road find.

I was sitting on the porch reading a book.  Since the summer had finally decided to hang around after weeks of rain and grey skies, I figured I better make the most of stoop-life while I had the chance.  

Our ground floor apartment sits right on the corner of a semi-busy intersection with one of those circular, cement roundabout jobbies smack dead in the middle of the intersection designed to slow the flow of traffic in hopes of saving what remains of the sleepy character this neighbourhood was once known for.  What the city planners neglected to realise was that these concrete foundations topped with flowerbeds and road signs indicating a four-way yield only frustrate rush hour drivers looking to find a new shortcut on their routes home. I’ve seen so many fender-benders and heard so many screeching halts from the safety of my porch that I’ve lost count.

On the particular night in question I was sitting in my collapsible camping chair reading a book when a car just blindsides this guy on a motorbike.  The familiar sound a car makes when its brakes are suddenly thrown on full-bore and its tires slip across the small pieces of rock and gravel, broke my concentration.  I looked up as I heard the unsettling thud of two motor vehicles colliding.  Somehow the bike didn’t fall to its side and throw the driver.  He swung his head around like anyone would and then stopped and got off his bike.  His first instinct was too assess the damage to his rear tire and as he moved his angered expression away from the other driver to see what the damage was. Seizing the moment for what it’s worth, the driver of the other vehicle sped off.  All this happened in about ten seconds. 

I was thinking at the time how I should have got the plate number of the car and what a dick move it was to just drive off like that.  A few other cars stopped to discuss the action and then after a few minutes, everyone continued on their merry way.  I was pissed.  I’d seen shit like this happen too many times; people fucking up and then zipping off to avoid dealing with their own shit.

Good luck trying to read now.  My concentration was gone.  I think I was madder than the guy on the motor bike.  Eventually I settled down and got back into my story about a young kid who flunked out of school and hated the world.  There’s an unusual similarity hidden in there somewhere. 

Anyway, it wasn’t long after that I noticed a pair of unlikely characters making their way down the sidewalk towards me.  Each with a healthy coating of crappy tattoos that may or may not have been administered by a blind man with a pen and a needle, I couldn’t help thinking these guys were not from around here.  

Now before I take this any further, I think I need to explain that I’m a pretty open-minded fella.  In reality, I rarely label or judge anybody but there are always those situations where a sixth sense or something tunes in and sounds a small alarm in the back of your mind.  This was one of those situations and it turns out, I was right. 

Seconds after they passed me on the stoop with my feet up reading quietly to myself, I heard some sort of altercation take place.  Then a group of young kids on their bikes assembled themselves on the sidewalk just feet from my feet.

 “What did they say to you,” one of them asked.

“They asked me if I had a staring problem and I said I didn’t,” said another.

“That’s the same guy who hccfcbfibvi.” 

I missed this line in the conversation.  It may have been important. 

“You guys follow them but stay back,” said a third kid who’s helmet was far too big for his head. 

“We’ll go around to the community police station and get some help,” said the first kid. 

And just like that, they split into groups and were off.  I stood up and leaded over the railing to see just how these middle school vigilantes were going to play this one out.  I could see two of them across the street peering out from behind a parked truck.  They looked out and ducked back quickly.  What began as a relaxing chill-out on my front step was starting to become a pretty eventful evening and one I didn’t want to miss. 

In no time I had ditched the book, put on my sneakers and was strapping on my bike helmet.  I figured I would just watch the kids and act as additional back-up in case things took a wrong turn before the cops showed up. 

Easing my way up the street I could see the villains in this scenario crossing the street and making their way like nothing was out of the ordinary.  Little did they know, a small army of locals were on to them and watching their every move.  I cut through a park on the next block up to get ahead of them.  From there I figured I’d be able to watch the whole thing from a safe distance but would be close enough to intervene and save these kids asses if need be. 

The park had a path that cut up the middle with busy ball diamonds on either side.  It was game night and there were kids and parents and coaches all over the place.  Some were in the midst of play and others were waiting for their turn at the plate.  Behind me was a playground and a swimming pool that just opened for the season and of course, all the imaginable chaos that comes with a beautiful summer’s evening was well underway.  I heard a little kid crying and saw a fat kid slip on the edge of the pool and go down to the cheers of his peers.

Water fights, splashes and wedgies, the whole predictable ball of wax was taking place in the park tonight.  

When I made it to the other end, past the confusion of public recreation, I realised I’d lost my targets  Not only had the thugs vanished but the junior achievers in hot pursuit were also nowhere to be seen.  

Boarding one side to the park was a row of old buildings and warehouses where we used to rent a space for shows and late night jam sessions.  I actually lived there for a summer but that’s another story all together. 

Knowing that there was a paved route that looped behind the buildings, I darted across the street and behind the first in an ugly row of industrial structures.  I thought that if the kids were dumb enough to follow their antagonists out of the view of the park, they might really be in a bad place. I made my way off the beaten path and into a large alleyway but there was no one around.  No kids.  No bad guys.  Nobody.  Just me.

It was then that I realised I was alone and out of range of the park’s safety.  Stopping to catch my breath, it dawned on me that if these dudes were on to me in the slightest, they may be preparing to confront the only person who could pose a real threat to their mischievous plans.  That is, if they had any.  For all I knew they could have just been two guys walking home or simply heading over to visit a friend for a drink on their porch.  Come to think of it, they could have just been returning a few borrowed books.  How the hell did I know?

One thing I was well aware of that very second was that if they were indeed up to no good, I was in a pretty shady spot, a bit over my head and better beat it back to the safety of my porch and folding chair.  I mean seriously, what the hell was I doing?

On the ride back I saw a dead rat.  Just in view of the park but too far away to call for help.

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