PRUDENCE FERRY

old lady crossing guard3

PRUDENCE FERRY

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        I am strolling down my neighborhood sidewalk toward the main road.  It is little misty this morning.  Ahead at the intersection I see that someone different is performing as the crossing guard.  She is a diminutive older black lady.

        I can hear her laugh.

        As I approach the corner I see that the crossing guard is chatting pleasantly with occupants of the neighborhood cars and mini-vans as they wait for the green light in order to turn onto the main road.

        A group of children is gathered next to the crossing guard.  The children are waiting to cross upon the green light and head onward to the elementary school.  As traffic lights turn to yellow the crossing guard directs her attention upon the group of children.  Suddenly she says something to the children and they laugh.  The crossing guard suddenly raises her hand-held paddle-shaped red stop sign.

        The children cry out gleefully, “The Lollypop Lady!”

        When the approaching traffic on the main road has halted in front of the crossing walk, the crossing guard steps from the corner and she waves for the children to pay attention to her while crossing.

        The crossing guard eyes intently the cars yet approaching at a distance from the red light.

        At the half-way point in the crossing walk the crossing guard judges that all traffic has halted, most of the automobile occupants glancing at her, and the crossing guard turns around to return to her street corner leaving the children set safely on a course toward the opposite side and onward to the elementary school.

        The crossing guard returns toward her corner to meet me coming to a halt as the lights turn red against my intent to cross.

        I joke, “Aw, too late.  You see me.”

        The crossing guard’s eyes sparkle, “Not if your name is ‘Jay’.”

        At first I make a comedic sour face and answer, “Oh, a jaywalker.  I never hear that one before…,” then I get flustered, “Wait, did you actually know my name is really ‘Jay’?  How did you know my name is ‘Jay’?  My name is Jay.”

        The little lady laughs heartily and offers her hand in greeting, “Hello, Mister Jay.  I’m Prudence,” then proudly, “Prudence Ferry.”

        I ask politely, “You’re new?”

        Prudence smiles, “I’m 94.  I’m hardly new.”

        She got me smiling too, and I say, “By God, you are certainly ‘way ahead of me today.”

        Prudence chuckles and wags her finger at me, saying, “Now, don’t you go getting behind me crossing, neither.”

        I laugh, “Oh, I promise, ma’am,” then I remember my question, “Prudence, really, did you know my name?”

        Prudence confides, “As you were approaching, some of your neighbors were talking about you to me.”

        I ask wryly, “I hope they weren’t ‘tellin’ the truth on me’.”

        Prudence said gently, “They all had very nice words about you.  And I ‘ain’t heared’ someone say ‘tellin’ the truth on me’ since I was a girl myself.  I’ll bet you learned that hearin’ your mama.”

        I raise my eyebrows, “As a matter of fact I did learn that from my ma.. my mother.”

        Prudence bowed her head briefly, “Rest her soul”.

        I ask softly, “Did you just assume she was… she died?”

        Prudence says, “I can just tell.”

        I raise my head and gaze above.  After a moment, I say, “The fog seems really to be gathering.

        Prudence says, “The light is turning yellow.”

        I don’t see any traffic.  I glance behind myself to confirm that no more children are joining us.  I presume that people have gotten to work and that the elementary school is starting.

        Prudence says, “Good thing, in this thickening fog.”

        I say, “What?”

        Prudence makes for me a comically serious face as she raises her stop sign, “Now, Jay, don’t get ahead of me and don’t get behind me.  You might not hear trouble the way I’m used to it.”

        It seems as if we are nearly half way across the main road and it is very difficult to see the green light ahead or even the yellow lines demarking the crossing path from the black asphalt.

        Prudence says, “I tell the children that a road is like a black river and you get across as fast as you safely can.”

        I glance at Prudence and her yellow vest seems to be glowing.

        I say suddenly, “I am glad you are here for me, Prudence.  I can barely see a thing.”

        Prudence says softly, “Open your eyes, Jay.”

        Suddenly, I see.

        There is no fog.

        I can see.

        All is radiant.

        I am dead.

        I died in my house.

        Prudence reaches up and pulls my head down to kiss me, “You are safe on the other side, Jay.”

 

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