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The Traffic Signal

Running late, I stared at the traffic signal that showed fifteen seconds to green. The black Yamaha FZ’s engine seemed to compete with the scorching sun above, as I cursed myself for wearing a leather jacket. And the helmet. And all the other things that were glued to my skin.

“Do you have some change?” Raj asked, who was sitting behind me quietly until now.

“No. Why?”

Then I saw her. Walking barefoot on the hot tar, she stretched out an oversized aluminum plate that had a few coins and currency notes. Her tender skin burned in the heat of the noon and her little hands held the dirty plate instead of doodling with crayons. As she came towards me, moving through the narrow spaces between the vehicles, I could suddenly hear my heartbeats.

“Dude, she’s a kid.” I gasped, as Raj searched for loose change in his pockets. “Should we call someone?”

I could not hear what Raj had to say, as a deep odor of alcohol hit me right in the face as she stood next to me. Her drained baby lips were moving, but they couldn’t make a sound.

“Hey, what’s your name?” I asked, but I was not loud enough. The cars and motorcycles deafened my ears honking behind me, as the signal was green.

She ran, or the vehicles that were racing past me would run her over. I quickly took my motorcycle to the shoulder, with the people around swearing at me as if I had ruined their lives for good. And in a matter of seconds, I had lost sight of her.

“The traffic cop!” Raj said, searching for the girl in the crowd and spotting a cop instead, who ate his brunch on the side of the road. “Let’s talk to him.”

“The beggar?” The traffic cop asked even before we spoke, as if he was watching us closely in the past minute.

“Yes! She’s just a kid. Five or six. And she’s drunk!” I was out of breath. “Did you see where she went? Do you know someone we could report this to?”

“Go to the next signal.” The cop said, as he scratched his back and savored every bite of his egg roll. “It’s even bigger. If you are lucky, she might even bring a friend or two.”

Rewrite of my blogpost in 2014 for my Fiction Writing class.

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Chinmay Hegde

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