The Boy on the Side of the Road
I was driving down main street when I saw him. A little boy, no older than eight or nine, walking just off the sidewalk, holding his arm up like a hitchhiker, looking perfectly content to be walking. My stomach twisted a little when thoughts of all the bad things that could happen to him flooded into my mind.
I turned around and in a moment was pacing beside him with my hazard lights flashing.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked.
He leaned forward and turned his head toward me. “I’m good. I’m just going for a walk with my friend,” he replied with a warm smile.
“It looks like you’re hitchhiking. Do your parents know that you’re out here?” I asked, not convinced that the boy was alright.
“I don’t have parents,” he replied, his smile flickering for a moment.”What’s hitchhiking?”
“Who takes care of you? Where do you live?” I pressed.
“Frank takes care of me. I live just over there,” he replied, pointing through the trees. His other hand hadn’t moved.
“Could you stop for a moment so we can talk?” I asked as a car blasted past me, nearly taking out the mirror on that side of the car.
The boy mumbled something, shrugged, and leaned forward, looking at me again. “Frank said it’s not a good idea to talk to strangers. You should leave. He doesn’t like other people…”
“Hold on,” I said slowing to pull the car behind him. I killed the engine, looked up and froze.
The boy was still walking along leisurely, his arm up, in front of my stopped car. It was the puddle that made me stop. In the reflection of the puddle I could see another figure holding the boy’s hand. It was tall, slender, and dark. I could make out some of the boy’s features in the water, but the figure next to him had none.
The boy stopped for the first time since I had seen him. He looked up, said something and his hand dropped. In the reflection I saw it. The figure released the boy’s hand, turned, and began walking back toward my car…
Original Art by: Stefan Koidl