“We’re going to walk another block this way before we cross the street, okay?”
“See that guy across the street on the corner? I don’t know if it would be safe to walk by him right now.”
The man was dancing erratically in a t-shirt in the rain. Others walked by him and he payed no attention to them, but he would occasionally yell to no one in particular. On his shoulders he held what first looked like a bolt cutter, but when we approached the corner I could see that it was a scooter—his right arm hung over the stem and his left arm over the wheel-base.
“It may be perfectly safe to walk there, for all I know,” I continued, “but let’s just go down here.”
“I think he had a bad shot,” my four year old son said.
“A bad shot?” I asked.
“I mean, a bad medicine.”
To be honest, I didn’t realize he understood the concept of drugs, but I’m sure it has come up enough that he knows more than I would have given him credit for. He knows very well not to touch discarded needles on the sidewalk and he’s certainly seen people behaving strangely on the street. But I was a little taken aback by his comments. Still, he’s four and four year old boys have their priorities no matter where they live, for the next thing he said was,
“I don’t think that was his scooter.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It was a kid scooter and he was an adult.”
“Oh yeah. Maybe,” I said.
“T—— [a friend] has a scooter and she let me ride it once.”
“Yeah, she rides it to the park.”
The man didn’t come up again. We crossed the street one block east of where we normally do and walked straight to the library where we read books about super heroes and incredible book-eating boys and took a break to watch a basketball game between Strathcona and Britannia elementary schools. When we walked back almost two hours later, I had forgotten about the man, too and we walked the normal way home. He wasn’t on the corner.
At 5:40, three and a half hours after we saw the man on the corner two blocks south of our house, I walked alone to the grocery store two blocks west of our house. There, on the corner of Powell and Gore, was the same man in the same shirt dancing erratically in the rain. The workers at the store were moving the boxes of produce inside. I saw a woman walking by ask if she could take a pear that had fallen on the sidewalk. One of the employees nodded and said “yes” in a thick accent. I noticed that the dancing man’s scooter was lying on its side with a half-eaten apple balancing on the front wheel and a mangled lemon balancing on the other.