We live on Cedar Street and the walk into town is lined with Cedar Trees. Cedar Trees forty feet apart with branches just touching. I would like to meet the person in charge of such careful city planning. The concrete sidewalk is six feet away from the curb; which is next to the asphalt road. Within the six feet the Cedar Trees grow. The city mows the grass that grows between the trees, so it’s like a long skinny park everyone owns. I can walk on the grass if I want to and no old guy from his porch can holler at me to keep off. Today I walk on the four foot wide concrete side walk being careful to keep off the lines that mark off two by two foot squares and I never step on cracks – no need to invite calamity. The road through town was dug up a few years ago and replaced with red bricks in a herringbone pattern. Out of the same red bricks planters were built that are now filled with flowers and small trees. The cars have all been diverted to parking lots behind the stores, bicycles are still allowed. I notice a group forming in front of the used bookstore, which just happens to be where I’m headed. I nudge a tall, six foot nine, a hundred and sixty pound guy in the back of the crowd; he has a clear view, being nine years old and four foot tall all I can see is backs and bottoms. He turns and misses me altogether.
“Down here”, I say while tugging on his shirtsleeve. He looks down through rimless glasses and finally focuses on what must look like the proverbial ant, me. “What’s going on?” I ask.
“Mr. Allen is being held at gunpoint – he came in early and interrupted a thug – robbing his shop”, he said stopping to breath three times.
“And why are we all just standing here?” I ask with just a little bit of wonder.
“The police – are coming”, he said like that explained everything. I worked my way past him and in and out until I made it to the front of the thirty or so people who had gathered to watch poor Mr. Allen. I could see him through the front window. He looked small and old pushing himself hard against the wall trying to keep himself as far away from the over weight man with a gun as he could. Mr. Allen stared without blinking straight at the guns black barrel. I pushed open the thick glass door, the crowd behind me let out a unison gasp.
“Mr. Allen, I’ve come about the new Flash comic book”, I looked at Mr. Allen like nothing was going on and spoke in a casual, calm voice.
“Jimmy, get back, there’s a man with a gun”, Mr. Allen is a friend and he was looking out for me but, right now, I just didn’t need looking after. I gave Mr. Allen a knowing nod. I turned and looked at the man with the gun. I jumped a little when I saw him, pretending I hadn’t seen him standing there.
“What do you plan to do with that gun?” I asked, like I really wanted to know. I walked a little closer to the man as I spoke and pointed my finger almost touching the gun still pointed at Mr. Allen.
“I was looking for money or something to sell,” he said quietly, almost apologetically.
“It’s too late for that”, I stated, very matter-of-factly, without a hint of doubt. “Put the gun on top of that pile of books”, I took my eyes off him for a split second and looked at the top of the pile of books a few feet from where he stood. He placed the gun on the books and looked down at the ground. “Sit in that chair by the door and wait for the police, they should be here in less than ten minutes”, he took a seat as I walked over to the counter behind which Mr. Allen was still pressed against the wall. “Did the new Flash come in while I was on vacation?” Mr. Allen relaxed and leaned on the counter like he usually does, his usual smile came back too. He reached under the counter.
“I saved you a copy, Jimmy, It’s an especially good episode, lots of very fast moving”, Mr. Allen said, he still wasn’t quite ready for conversation. “Thank-you Jimmy”, he said nodding toward the dejected man on the chair near the glass door.
“No Problem”, I said and turned toward the door. I nodded at the thug in the chair and pushed open the door. There were light applause as the crowd made a path for me – they were already standing. My next stop would be Woolworths; I needed refills for my Pez dispenser.