The pair had parents…or somebody who’d fixed their hair into corn rows. Both about seven, they’d survived crossing Central Avenue to reach the old fountain in the park. Defunct for years, it held about a foot of water from recent heavy rain. With the puzzling, innocent reasoning of children, the little boy had shed his only garment, a threadbare pair of faded shorts and his female companion had followed, dropping her ragged dress beside the retaining wall. Another time, they might well have jumped in the clothes they wore. If either could read the faded sign forbidding wading in the pool, it had no effect on their wet frolic in the heat.
The squad car pulled onto the curb to get out of traffic. The big blond officer, smiled and although witnesses couldn’t hear what he said, he managed to coax both out without getting in. Fishing in his uniform pocket, he handed each a small candy sucker on a stick, probably a freebie from the Mexican restaurant down the street – but that didn’t make them any less sweet.
His trousers soaked from helping the boy pull on the shorts, the cop managed to get the worn dress on the girl with less difficulty. Taking each by a hand, he stepped to the curb and walked both back across Central to the massive housing project standing like a medieval prison. Rude drivers knew to stop and honk no horns. He was the law and he looked like a man who could handle whatever necessary.
Someday, both children would grow to hate him and his uniform, but in the midday swelter and deadly traffic, that could wait until someday.