The Crossing Guard

by Gregory Partridge

The change had came about gradually, the way change often did. The first real sign of trouble essentially came when the mayor had been struck down as a pedestrian trying to cross Main Street. Almost ironic that it had been a hearse leading a funeral procession, trying to beat the yellow light. Word was, it wouldn't even have been a fatality had the rest of the procession stopped.

The town council had voted three months prior that they weren't making enough revenue in ticket and fines to justify such a large police force. And the union had all but been deconstructed over the past several years, leaving the three or four police elderly and ready for retirement. While the younger, smarter ones moved on to greener pastures

Traffic laws had basically been abolished, fortunately it was a small town, east of Omaha. The only 'deterrent' to speeding or any other possible infraction were three octogenarian cops who just refursed to either die or leave the job. They each worked four hour shifts between eight a.m. and eight p.m. Budgetary constraints what they were, they also had a thirty minute break baked into every shift.

There were, however, several traffic light still hung up at random intersections in town. With electricity always being a problem, the mayor's \"bright\" idea had been to paint super flourescent yellow paint over the cautionary yellow light of each mounted marvel. Again, another unanimous vote by the crac staff at the town council.

Most motorists paid no mind to these or any other traffic laws. Those laws didn't apply when you were paying over five dollars for a gallon of gasoline. Just driving to work, one took their own life in their hands. Where people who used to think other drivers were out to get them, now could be sure that other drivers were out to get them.

The local DMV had been overrun and looted. Disgruntled, angry people who paid more just to have cars and trucks on the road just to get to work. Paying more just to get to work, then actually what was reflected in their meager salaries. It hadn't taken long for pandemonium to set in.

It was a humid, overcast and basically uncomfortable early summer afternoon. Young Bill walker was leisurely walking to town to meet some of his chums. School would be out in two more weeks, and he looked forward to the \"Summer of Walker\" as he always put it. He wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead, and quickly ducked into the shade of a nearby willow tree. The sun when it had decided to play peek-a-boo all day, had made Bill feel like he was the proverbial ant under the magnifying glass.

Ahead of him was the elementary school. Another 'change', and not a great one, was the kindergarten kids had class in the early afternoon. Mostly to keep the older kids from badgering them. Teachers had been scolded and sued to the point where even when one saw a fight actually break out, they needed to mind their business, for a lawsuit was merely one 'bad touch' away.

So an academic plan had been voted on by the student body, not the parents, not the teachers, not the Board of Education. The students decided they coud decide for themselves how best to police themselves

Bill was in the fourth grade, and knew he had plenty of time before he had to be in class. Two p.m. But then he did have to stay until eight. Which was bad, but the sixth graders had to come at six and stauntil midgnight. The principal had actually begun to allow students too afraid to walk home so late to stay over in the gymnasium. With transportation being such an issue.

There had been 18 school related fatalities this year already. Most of the other kids had grown either numb or sickly excited by this. Some had even started a type of 'dead pool' choosing who was the next to die. It was kind of sick, but Bill was socking uphis allowance waiting to bet on a long shot.

Bill shook himself from his caviar dreams as he walked abreast the school across the way. A freckle faced crossing guard with reddish hair walked out into the street and blew his little whistle. Bill shook his head. Omar, his very close friend, actually named Omar Moreno after the famous Pittsburgh Pirate, had bet heavy on this poor slob to be the next one to go.

What happened next, Bill couldn't even turn awaynor shut his eyes for.

A small group of kindergaten kids had come out of the building, basically herded like sheep toward the street. By two teachers who each looked like third base coaches just windmilling their arms toward the buses that had started to gather. It was a small town, and only four or five buses were even necessary, but it was a wide area to cover, and too far for the smaller kids to walk.

Kids had started to misbehave a little, and the crossing guard had become just a tad too distracted. Enough so, the when the fifth and final bus came rolling up. Actually, more like barreling up, Bill thought, He shivered in anxious anticipation. The fool kept waving his arms frantically and blowing his sutpid whistle, He pulled his little red STOP sign out of his pocket, and tried waving that.

With a sickening crunch, and a very rude flp of the bird by the now awfully smiley old woman driving said bus, the crossing guard was hit and then folded up somewhat neatly beneath it. Carefully now, she signalled her right blinker, pulled over slowly, leaving a crimson trail. First her yellow flashers, and then the steady red blinkers. Had to make sure that her precious cargo was safe, children are our future.

Curiously, nearly all of the kids got onto the bus. Either they hadn't witnessed the carnage, or their young brains weren't registering it. Or they were just too terrified to know what else to do. Three of the 'smart kids' just sort of milled around on the sidewalk, and Bill risked his life byquickly darting acrooss the street. He just sort of herded the trio back toward the school.

The bus driver screamed obscenities at him, something about needing a permission slip to keep kids after school. Then she turned off the flashing reds, closed the door, and slammed on the gas pedal, this time truly leaving the crossing guards mashed and manged body in a noxious cloud of exhaust.

Bill led the kids back inside and let them elaborate to the principal what had just treanspired.

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