The Umbrella

The mist on the High Street was almost like rain. It was beginning to get dark and the wind was ruffling the discarded papers in the gutter. Mum would be mad worried that we weren’t home.

The police lady gave us back our bookbags and told us to sit on the cement where the broken park bench used to be. She said we had to wait until some crime scene men came to take pictures. The lamp light glinted first off her buttons, then her teeth when she smiled. A policeman with a backside the size of the butcher’s lorry asked our names and addresses and wrote them slowly in pencil, turning the pages of his a small notebook with a thick left hand.

The lights from the police vans swirled blue-white, blue-white in the alley but the sirens were turned off. A paramedic lady had covered the man lying by the curb with a yellow blanket, but I could see the lines of stuff zig-zagging from around his head like dark red worms. His legs were twisted off to one side. He wasn’t moving anymore. The ground was cold, so we stood up again.

When the police lady saw Miles trying to peek, she came back and said something to the fat policeman. She put her hands on our shoulders and told us – stern like – to turn around and look at the park across the way. But I said it was getting too dark to see anything. Maddie was sniffling and said it was cold so the police lady gave her a pink hanky to wipe the snot away. A man from the ambulance came across the street and wrapped her in a dark blanket. I told the police lady that Miles and me were okay because the man didn’t touch us, the way he did Maddie. But we pushed him away anyway, really hard, and yelled and he started to run away into the road and the delivery van mashed him up against the vicar’s black car.

“Good lads.”

“Are we in trouble, Miss?”

“No, you’re not, Derek.”

Then she noticed people across the street watching us from the shop windows. She made us stand beside the boot of a police car, close to the side of the road. She put her coat around our shoulders. Then she told me to hold on to her big umbrella because I was the oldest and in the middle, and Maddie and Miles were smaller. And she gave us some sweets in gold wrappers and said not to be afraid, she had telephoned Mum and she was coming to fetch us home soon.

The radio she carried in her hand crackled with voices I didn’t understand and then her cellular rang with a waltz we’d heard at the theatre. The police lady walked away. Her bootheels sounded like drumsticks on the wet sidewalk. I turned around and looked out from under the umbrella and she was watching me. Another man came to stand beside the big policeman and he said, “Smart lads. Quick thinking saved the little sister.”

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