I saw him surfing traffic in the city and knew nobody was looking out for him. The boulevard at rush hour was impassible. Nobody who wasn’t being chased by a maniac with a chainsaw would have tried to cross it on foot, yet he was running with the cars, finding and slipping through the fraught spaces between them, and caromed his way across four lanes in each direction in order, apparently, to get to the other side, my side, an unsuccessful suicide, a nobody looked after by nobody. We’re not heroes. We’re not zealots in search of a cause. We are faced with a situation nobody else will address. Here was a beautiful creature with resources, youth, agility, impulses, buffeted by aimless circumstance, something to be valued and nurtured, going to waste. I slowed my van to a crawl alongside him. What are you doing with the rest of your day, I asked him. Of course he didn’t trust me. Trust had never served him. He figured he could play me for a mark, that he was smarter, faster, stronger than any danger I might be. He figured there might be a meal in it as least. He got into the van with the others. He lives in the wet Northwest these days on a fishing boat far from the paved-over city, or he works at a cannery, I forget which, something to do with salmon. Follow-up is another department. We’re too busy in acquisitions to track any one case. Once in a while though, I’ll see one bounce back, a kid I thought I had rescued doesn’t make it in the wider world and skids down the incline back into our laps more determined than ever to fail. They’re harder to talk into the van the second time.

Copyright © March 29, 2008 David Hodges

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