'Caution Signs'


Samuel Southwell


The little boy remained immobile in the middle of the street clinging to his tiny toy soldier. The boy's breath came and went in short heavy bursts. Like the tiny soldier he grasped in his hands, his eyes were green and blank.

      A car horn blasted.

      “Hey kid, get out of the street!”

      The boy did not move. He stared at the prize in his hand, never looking toward the car.

      “Come on kid, get out of the street! What's the matter with you? Are you deaf or something?”

      The boy stared at the soldier, but never moved an inch. He started to rock back and forth on the balls of his feet.

      The driver got out of his car and walked up to the boy. “Hey son, didn't your mother every tell you not to play in the road?”

      The boy continued to rock back and forth staring down at the soldier.

      The driver leaned down next to the boy. He watched the boy as he rocked. He held out his hand to the boy. “Come on, let's get you out of the street before you get hurt.”

      The boy did not take the man's hand and continued to rock and stare at the soldier.

      “Come on, buddy, you can't park there! Move it!”

      “Hold on. There's some kid over here that won't move out of the road.” The driver turned back to the boy. He reached for the boy. “Come on, let's get you out of here.”

      The boy threw himself on his back screaming, banging his head on the pavement.

      “Oh, my God!” The driver covered his ears. “Please don't do that. You're going to hurt yourself.”

      The other driver got out of her car and ran up to the first driver. “Holy crap. What'd you do to that poor kid?”

      “I just tried to get him out of the street and he started screaming.”

      The woman driver sneered at him and started to reach for the boy. “Come on honey! Stop that. You need to get out of the street.”

      The boy continued to screech and bang his head. Little spots of red started to form underneath his head.

      “Oh, my God. Look, he's bleeding,” the man shouted.

      The woman put her hand under the boy's head and the boy continued to bang his head against her hand.

      “Come on, Sweetie, you need to stop. Please!” She glared up at the man. “Don't just stand there. Go find out where this kid came from.”

      The man scanned the area. He saw a house with the front gate wide open. He walked over to it. It was a small one story white house with a white picket fence around it. The lawn was well manicured with red rose bushes around the front of the house.

      The man walked through the gate which had a small chain lock on it. He followed a small rock path, covered in drawings of barn yard animals, to the front door which was wide open.

      He knocked. No answer. “Hello, Anyone home?” He poked his head in the door. “Is anyone here?” Still no answer.

      The man looked back toward the road. The woman was still trying to calm down the boy. He stepped inside.

      The living room had a couch, a few chairs, an entertainment center, and a coffee table. The coffee table was covered with little toy soldiers. The TV was on CNN showing footage of the war in Iraq. The words crawled across the screen.

      “Hello, is anyone here?” he screamed. Still no answer.   He wondered into the hallway. On the walls were family photos. He glanced at the pictures. One picture was of the little boy, a young woman, and a young man in an army uniform. “Well, this is the right house.” He continued down the hall. The sound of running water was getting louder as he walked down the hall.

      “Hello. Hey, your son is outside in the middle of the street freaking out. We need your help.” He stopped and knocked on the bathroom door. “Hey in there, your son is in trouble.” No answer. He knocked again. Still no answer.

      Suddenly the running water stopped and the sounds of a shower curtain being flung back could be heard.

      “Hello. Hey lady, your kid's in trouble.” No answer. He knocked again and again. Still no answer. Finally he opened the door slowly. “Hello?”

      The boy's mother, wrapped in a towel, stood with her back to him. She was brushing her hair ever so gentle in long strokes.

      “Sorry for the intrusion but your son needs your help out in the street.”

      The woman continued to brush her hair as if he wasn't there.

      “What is this crap?” He tapped her on the shoulder and she spun around, smiling. When she saw him she started to kick and scream.

      “Get away from me. Take whatever you want Just leave me and my son alone.””

      “Lady, please calm down.”

      “How'd you get in here? Where's Adam? Please don't hurt him. He is not well.”

      “I've been knocking on your bathroom door forever. Are you deaf or what?”

      “Yes, I am. What've you done with my son?”

      “Nothing, but I almost hit him with my car. He is in…”

      The mother pushed the man out of the way and sprinted out the door.

      The woman driver was still holding Adam's head with her hand trying to calm him down. The boy was still screeching and banging his head.

      “Oh, my sweet sorrow.” The mother pushed the woman driver out of the way, lifting the boy into her arms and started to rock him back and forth. “Hush. Mommy's little soldier boy. You are my little soldier boy. The war is over my love, and you won again.”

       The woman driver started to shout at the mother but the man stopped her. “Save your breath; she can't hear you.”

       The boy flapped his arms as his mother carried him back to the house. He still clutched the little green soldier. The mother continued to walk to the house carrying her son, oblivious to everything around them as the two drivers got back in their cars and drove away.

       The mother sat down on the couch with her son. The words were still crawling across the TV screen as the war continued on behind them. The boy jumped up and ran around the house. She sat watching the boy for a long time as the tears rolled down her face. “Oh my sweet sorrow.”