A long time ago–in the mid 1980s–we’d sometimes walk far enough from our house that our parents could not see us. Sometimes, it’d be after dark, and we never had cell phones with us, because none of us knew what a cell phone was, but I think some of us had cordless phones that could just about reach to the end of the driveway on a clear night without cutting off our conversation, especially if we had one of those new 900MHz fancy ones. However, on the night I was exactly halfway around the 1-mile “block” that surrounded our house with Pokey the dog in the mid 1980s, and a rust-colored sedan I’d never seen before pulled up beside me, I was at least a decade from having a cellphone and was half a mile from cordless phone range.
Pokey was at the end of a silver chain; I held the red leather handle in my right hand. We were turning left by the sledding hill where I steered a plastic 2-seater into a 4-wheeler the past winter, breaking my friend Mac’s leg. The car decelerated as it passed us, and I saw its brake lights as it further slowed in the middle of the hill that last saw Mac’s unfractured tibia. I walked faster.
The car must’ve turned around in someone’s driveway, because it was now coming right at us.
I looked around. This was the section of our neighborhood I didn’t know very well. Whose bus stop was near? Chris’s? Too far back the way I’d come. Jerry’s? Too far ahead. Wait. Didn’t that Caitlin girl live around here? I ran toward a house I thought was hers. I saw the driver–a white man…too young to be a parent; too old to be a student…not someone I’d seen before.
I rang the doorbell, and a man answered the door. “Are you Caitlin’s dad?” He nodded. “My name’s Michael…I ride the bus with Caitlin, and I think that car is trying to hit me! Can I…can I come inside?”
He let me into the front entry way and walked outside. I tried to look outside, but it was too dark now.
Caitlin’s dad came back after a minute or two. “I see the rust-colored car you described…but it’s empty. The driver is gone.”
The thing about being a 10-year-old boy is that you’re too old to cry when you realize a stranger has just come at you with his car, parked it, and left his vehicle to come after you on foot, but you’re too young to even know what the wise or the courageous would do in such a situation, so you sit, mouth agape, and you hope the nearest grownup will do the wise or courageous thing for you.
“Where’s your mom and dad?”
“Dad’s flying. Mom’s playing bridge at a neighbor’s house. My little brother’s home, though. He can let me in.”
Caitlin’s dad took me to his car, and he gave me a ride to our house. Pokey and I sat in the back seat. I scanned the rear window for headlights.
Once we pulled in the driveway, he waited to make sure someone opened the door after Pokey and I sprinted up the sidewalk. I’d told him our phone number, because he said he’d call me in a bit to check in.
He called a couple minutes later and said the car was gone.
I’d see it a few weeks later when it pulled into our driveway late one night.