One lovely day last summer
I was stroking along my street
Well content with the sun's deep warmth
The soaring height of our shading trees
And the thick growth of hedges
Flush to the walls beside the pavement
Often spilling into my footsteps.
As I eased pace to enter my complex
Suddenly, out of the dense bushes
Leapt a growling ANIMAL -
Arms extended with curved claws
Legs wide, teeth flashing
Right into my path
Stopping me dead with an astonished yelp.
I almost wet myself.
But, if I was surprised
It was nothing compared to the young lad
Still in attack crouch
Staring up at me with stricken eyes.
Eight ... nine ... ten … maybe.
Frozen with panic.
'Good God, Child!
You could have given me a heart attack!'
'I thought you were my mother!'
It took a moment to digest that.
I glanced behind me.
Half a block away was a young woman
Pushing a pram
Eyes cast into the carriage
Happily chatting with the baby
As she strolled along.
'Good God, Child.
You could have given your MOTHER a heart attack!'
'Are you going to tell her?'
My whole childhood bolted through my head.
And I knew:
This could have been me.
It so could have been me.
Knowing I had done a really stupid thing.
'Of course not. It was a joke.
But not a good joke.
You look a sensible lad.
Remember to think before you act -
Especially with jokes.'
I turned into my entrance.
He ran to meet his mother.
The episode was closed.
I wouldn't know him again
If I fell over him.
But I clearly remember that moment.
And I do wonder if he ever thinks about it.
It's our secret.
Cynthia Buell Thomas