the sound of one leg breaking

After work I took Claire to the playground behind the Bernal Heights library. They have good baby-swings there. It was about six when I started loading her back into Hedwig, but already dark, because daylight saving ended yesterday.

There was an almighty thunk. I looked up to see a gold sedan bounce off a red convertible stopped at the stop sign. Just a fender-bender, I thought, but surely car-on-car wouldn’t make such a horrible meaty noise?

A woman at the cafe on the corner said, loudly but in a weirdly conversational tone: “Oh my God. She hit him.”

I hoisted the baby onto my hip. A crowd of us gathered around the guy, who was sprawled in the middle of Cortland, holding his right thigh. He grinned valiantly up at us. The woman who had been driving the red car, who had hit him, was kneeling beside him, calling 911.

“Are you all right?” asked the waiter at the cafe.

“Of course he’s not all right,” scolded the witness, “he’s been hit by a car.”

“He thinks he’s broken his leg,” the driver said into the phone.

She should be the villain of the piece – she hit the guy, after all – but I thought of the man who ran in front of me on Fourteenth Street yesterday, and how I’d hardly seen him in the half-light and only missed him by a metre or two. Her hand rested very gently on his shoulder. Her face was intent as she listened to the instructions coming over the phone.

“Don’t move him,” she said.

The victim had been carrying a case of Budweiser. The waiter opened it and gave him a beer. He raised it to us all.

The ambulances arrived with remarkable promptness. I finished loading Claire and drove very carefully home.

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