I had seen him as the bus pulled up. He was standing, impatient to get off, a wrapped bag of chips in his hand, smiling already in anticipation. He always relished a bag of chips. As soon as the door swished open, he jumped off the step, and onto the side of the road.
Normally he would have crossed the road behind the bus, but he was in a hurry, so he skipped around the front.
Seeing me across the road, as I stood outside outside our house waiting for him, he called “Hello mum, I’ve got chips!”
He didn’t hear me as, terrified, I warned him to wait at the other side, because a car was approaching from behind the bus.
I registered the sudden shocked shout of the bus driver, as at the same time, in slow motion, I saw my son running straight in front of the car; heard the car’s brakes screeching as the driver tried to avoid colliding into human flesh; saw the car hitting my son, and him flying up into the air, flipping over, and falling downwards, head first.
Something happened inside my brain at that moment. I saw him land, and ran to his lifeless body. I sat in front of the now stationary car, his head on my lap, seeping blood onto my jeans, while at the same time they absorbed water from the rain-soaked tarmac, and unearthly sounds escaped from deep within me.
I was still there when the emergency services arrive to take him away from me. The rain poured down upon me and I watched the disappearing tail lights of the vehicle which had come to carry my son onto the past forever. As it disappeared around the corner, arms wrapped around me in an effort to comfort and guide me into the house. I slipped out of those arms and curled up in the mud.
There was a coffin, and a hole in the ground, and people wanted to put the coffin in the hole. It was raining still, and the place inside me that my son had filled with fun and excitement was screaming out in anguish and dispair. There was no future. My bady rocked backwards and forwards, and the only word I could emit was “Paul”.
“Paul Paul Paul.”
And then, suddenly I was in the present, and none of that had happened yet. My son was heading towards the ground, and suddenly, miraculously, he twisted upwards, to land on his stomach, with his head off the ground.
The car had stopped, and only his feet were under the bonnet. I ran to him, and, gingerly, he got up. Chips and wrapping littered the road. As I wrapped my arms tightly around him, the shocked driver got out of the car, the bus driver joined us, and all the usual things were said: “He appeared so suddenly. “Are you ok, lad?” “I couldn’t stop!” “I shouted to warn him.”
His dad had heard the car as it braked, and he was there too.
My son was struggling in my arms; I was holding him too tightly. Even after he freed himself I was unable to let go of his shoulder.
Everyone wanted to know how he had managed to twist himself around, deftly cheating Death out of his young victim.
My son shrugged and said “Don’t know, I just did,”
He looked longingly at the mess of uneaten supper all over the road, and suddenly the terrible loss dawned upon him.
His face dropped. “I was really looking forward to those chips,” he said.
© Jane Paterson Basil