Relentless rains had drenched the city for days on end. Despite a gradual clearing during the day, the late afternoon sky held an angry smudge, dark across the setting sun. The storm’s abatement had held a promise of less turbulent times ahead but now even that simple assurance seemed in jeopardy. As I cast a wary weather eye toward the threatening skies, I first noticed the small girl poised uncertainly before me.

She stood at the crosswalk anxiously scanning the faces of the holiday crowd. As I watched, she peered once more along both sides of the street before heading along the sidewalk in my direction, sniveling and wiping away a tear. Just as suddenly, she turned yet again back toward the crosswalk seemingly lost in a conflict about what to do.

As she passed in front of me, I gently asked her if something was wrong. She turned on a dime and hurriedly approached me, scrunching her shoulders in that way children do when they are in need of a comforting hug. These being the times that they are, I resisted the temptation to draw her close and instead bent at the waist in order to come down to her level. I asked again, what the matter was and she blurted out her tale through muffled sobs.

Not understanding a word, I told her to calm herself and try again. Slowly she told her sad tale of a fight with her sister, her insistence on stopping while her mother and sister walked on and finally her realization of her stranded condition. I asked her to recall for me again where she was when she last saw her mom and since the store she named was only just up the block, I suggested we head there and hopefully we would run into her family.

She tearfully agreed and we headed along the sidewalk. I couldn’t help feeling the stares from a corner coffee shop and I was not the least surprised given the picture this middle aged man evoked leading a tearful girl-child of six or so up the street. I ignored this, however, and concentrated on relieving the anguish of my small charge. Again, given the tenor of the times, I eschewed any personal questions not even offering my hand to hold or even inquiring as to her name, instead assuring her that her mother was at this moment worriedly looking for her.

Just about this time, I spotted a young girl, somewhat older than my new companion, coming down the block a few yards ahead and thought, perhaps here was the errant sister; but before I could ask my young charge, the girl turned and ran back from whence she had come. Within moments though, she was back and coming closer with her arms outstretched. On spying her, the young girl with me ran to that familiar embrace leaving me quite forgotten.

Seeing my good deed was done, I turned back only to see my bus sitting at the traffic signal back from where I had just come. I broke into a sprint (giving the folks at the coffee shop a pause I’m sure, as I thought about it afterward) only to see the light change and my bus pull away. Having missed my ride home, at least for the moment, I decided to turn and walk back up the block toward the next stop, if only to see the denouement of my tale of rescue.

As I approached the small family unit, still gratefully embracing one another, the girls turned a wary eye toward me, a savior perhaps but a stranger nonetheless. The mother, however, was mouthing words of gratitude (to my great relief, as I feared some sort of recrimination born of an easy misunderstanding of my motives). I looked to my recent damsel in distress and mouthed that everything was all right now. I watched as her expression softened, leaving me with the feeling of elation that comes with knowledge that one has done the right thing.


stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A tale of childhood loss and reclamation

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