Walk properly you idiots

There is a row of people waiting to cross the road. They are lined up precisely, like a fence. Across the road there is another row of people, also waiting to cross.

Everyone’s heads are turned in the same direction, assessing the gaps. But the wait goes on and on, people begin to talk, especially those who know each other.

One lady says, ‘This road…’ but I cannot hear the rest. A man nods, his face turned to the traffic.

Across the road, people come off the kerb, move out, then go back in again. They shrug and laugh, showing nonchalance and humour.

On this side, three tradesmen have joined the row, carrying food and cokes. They brace their shoulders and wade out, their orange vests illuminating a path. The traffic slows. Everyone surges.

A group of three friends make to follow, hesitate, move back, move forward. Splutter, laughing.

One girl says, ‘For God’s sake, walk properly you idiots, and they hold on to each other and move with determination. But there is a long quiet gap now, they walk across easily, and behind the group, a little old lady moves quickly, darts between them, and makes the kerb first.

Image by Julia Whitehead

Trying to get across the road

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There’s a man with two children outside the shop. They’ve come from the bakery and they looked through my window briefly but they don’t come in. They want to go across the road and eat their food. There is only one place to cross here and it’s right outside my window. The father has each child by the hand but the little girl wants to walk backwards. This is so she can keep watching the wooden cat in my window.

He calls out authoritatively, stay close.

They start across. The little boy is going to hop across.

The little girl has turned around and is walking low, knees bent, swinging her legs as though on hinges. They watch each other admiringly. Dad is carrying two paper bags in his mouth. The little boy drops his cap.

They get jerkily to the other side, still hopping and rotating and dragging dad steadily downward, and then they all straighten up and turn to look at the cap lying in the middle of the road. I can’t hear what they are saying but the dad is delivering a long speech, possibly about how not to cross the road. When it’s quiet, he walks out and picks up the cap. The little boy waves, pleased with his dad, then drops both paper bags onto the grass, and the buns bounce softly out and roll into the gutter and both children look down at them in amazement.