I stood on the curb, waiting for a sign. Not just any sign, but the crosswalk sign, to change so I could cross over to the other side. Traffic was still passing through the path with enough speed to blur the many individual vehicles into a massively large instrument of destruction. I looked left and right along the busy downtown street but no one else was walking around. I looked down, at my watch, which wasn’t there. I lost it this morning, and still hadn’t found it. I had carved my initials into it when I bought it, for just this situation. The traffic starts to peter out and I was left totally alone for a few moments. Looking around there were no more cars, but the sign still said “DON’T WALK” in that pompous way that made almost everyone want to jaywalk. They want say to the world, “Hey, I’m a big shot! I can break whatever rules I want! Look at me, Waltzing across the street, while the sign says no!”
Finally, the Sign changed to the little white walking man, the one who makes you say, “I wish I was that thin.” I started walking. Opposite my side, more cars were lining up, waiting for their sign to let them cross the intersection. I was on the other side of the intersection now and still walking taking a leisurely pace, trying to ignore the place where my watch wasn’t. I was pretty sure that I needed to be at work by now, but no watch, no knowing. Suddenly, walking along, alone, I heard a noise. “Tap, Tap, Tap.” I almost didn’t notice it, because it was in perfect time with my own steps. “Tap, Tap, Tap.” I Briefly look to my right, then my left. Still, no one is around. They must be behind me, I thought. Although, to be fair, it couldn’t be a They behind me. There was only the sound of one person’s footsteps, besides mine.
I reached he next crosswalk and had to stop, though the constant following of the other person was getting slightly nerve-wracking. I stopped, and the man, who I could now see on the right-hand side of me, stopped parallel to me. I glanced side ways at him, trying to look without been seen looking. The first thing about him was his clothes. His hat was something a 1920’s gangster would wear. He wore a brown suit jacket, crumpled and in need of a good iron. His ash-gray suit pants might have actually been made of ash. The black dress shoes were polished and the right style to accompany a tuxedo. The Briefcase, which scared me for no reason I can describe, was black as night. He was elderly, frail, and lanky. His face was thin, and starved. The ash gray hair on the man’s head was stringy and messy. His left hand, the free one, was very jittery, like he was having a stroke. He stood there, ignoring me.
As I glanced at him, I noticed he had a watch similar to mine. I tried to read it, but failed. Squirming like an 8 year-old in trouble, I twisted my own empty wrist in the other hand in my frustration. Finally, I could resist no more. “Excuse me, do you have the time?” I inquired. He ignored me. I continued, “You see, I think I am late to work and I was wondering if you knew the time so I could confirm that.” My need was obviously apparent, for he turned and looked at me.
“Of course. Your right, you are late.” He said. Confused, I felt my jaw drop. About to respond, I only choked out one word. “But,…” Then He smiled. He had at most 18 teeth. Hey were different shades of yellow. At best he looked like a yokel’s jack-o-lantern. Just then, the sign changed, the little white man saying, “Come! Flee! Run from the man that knows you’re late!” Taking its advice, I walked briskly across the street, hoping to put some distance between us. Just behind me, I could hear him walking as well. Slower than last time, but still that horrible noise. “Tap, Tap, Tap.” I finished crossing, still hurrying, and started down the block. I could still hear him right behind me, though he should be far behind me at this point. I took a glance behind me, to see where he was. Apparently, I was moving slower than I thought. He was just 2 or 3 steps behind me. I looked up front again and tried to move faster.
Up Ahead, the Crosswalk sign just changed from walk to a flashing don’t walk. I wasn’t going to make it. Damn. I slowed up, and came to a stop on the edge of the sidewalk. “Tap, Tap, Tap.” The old man just a few steps behind me slowed and made his own stop. We stared at the sign, waiting. I was still looking at my wrist, looking for the time that wasn’t there. Again, I did what I least wanted to do. “So, Do you have the time or don’t you”? I asked. “Let me say this,” he replied, “You don’t want me to beat you to your place of employment.” Again, he gave me the yokel jack-o-lantern, and I shuddered. Beat me to work? Why would he do such a thing?
The crossing auto traffic finished crossing the street, we were the only ones left. Without waiting for the sign, the old man started walking across, leaving me on the curb. “Tap, Tap, Tap.” “Crap.” I muttered under my breath as I took of at a run, against the wishes the red hand. I ran past the man, got across the street and kept going. I saw the sign ahead changed to the walk sign almost as I got there. I did not even have to slow down. Behind me, the horrible tapping was absent. I must have out run him, I thought, as I slowed down a little to catch my breath. I got up to the next sign, which was red. I stopped. And tried to slow my ragged breath. I looked around, across the street. At the end of the block was my work. Hope was in sight.
Suddenly, from behind, came a burst of machinegun fire. Wait, Machinegun? No that was someone running, running in shoes that made a tapping sound. I spun around, and watched the old man, running like an ostrich, as he crossed the street right as the sign changed back to don’t walk. He didn’t slow down as he approached me. He was going to jaywalk across this street. I wouldn’t give him the opportunity to beat me to work. I looked left and right, there were no cars coming. I bolted across the street, breathing hard; to avoid the man that chased me. As I entered the intersection, he came running past at full throttle. We were neck and neck with him on my left as we entered the opposite side of traffic. We were still in traffic, the sign still said no. I looked at him as I ran, wheezing more than breathing now. He looked at me and laughed, with that yokel pumpkin of his.
I stared at him, running as best I could. It seemed nothing could break fascination with his face. Then I heard it, an unmistakable semi truck horn. Following that was the squeal of breaks. The noise came from the behind me, in the oncoming lane of traffic we ere in the middle of. I ripped my head around and looked. The Truck was barreling down the road at us and there was nothing anyone could do to get me out of its way.
The Truck rolled over me, including its trailer. It was not the way I had intended to see the truck’s transmission. When I came out the other end, the truck stopped just on the other side of the crosswalk. I was starring at the back of it, and recognized the logo. “I get my groceries there!” I said. It came out as more of a water balloon popping noise than anything. The sign changed to green, as if to remind me of what I did wrong. Several people were forming a circle around me. One was the old man. The old man looked at me, still smiling and laughing. Why did nobody notice the laugh? The horrible laugh. Another was definitely the truck driver. The Truck driver was staring at me with the eyes of one who has killed accidentally. He looked like he was about to puke. The others were looking at him and me. “My God, He just ran out in front of me. For no reason at all.” The truck driver lamented. One of the others looking at him said, “I know, why would a grown man just randomly run out into the street by himself into oncoming traffic?” Myself? What about the old man? I tried to say as much. My jaw wasn’t working. I tried to point at the old man, to show them why I was in the street at that time. Funny, I couldn’t move my arm anymore. The old man took the watch off, showed me my initials and put it in his briefcase. Then he walked off, still laughing.