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Makeshift Moments - Karin Steyn

The dust cloud lifted its red flamenco skirt and moved swiftly through the streets with sweeping movements to the rhythmic beat of the eastern wind. The considerable patronage from the day’s heat made the occasion more burdensome as innocent bystanders sought refuge in the small and dark Chinese shops. 

A small, thin child sat in a hazardous looking vehicle parked next to the pavement, watching the chaotic mass of movement as people and litter scattered everywhere. Amusement played different expressions on her face as she sat perfectly still, her nose flattened against the glass of the side window. The young woman, who was watching the child, stood in the shadows of the dark alley next to one of the shops, safe from the wind gust and swirls of red dust. 

A glimpse of white metal flashed passed her and smashed into vehicles at the intersection. The screeching metal on metal, and thuds and crunching glass distracted her for a few seconds. In a moment of stunned silence, she stared at the scene before her. An explosion of debris and new grey dust filled the air. Panic-stricken she turned her attention back to the child, but there was emptiness there as the car’s door gaped open. The child was gone. 

People scurried to the scene of the accident as the young woman tried to move towards the car, pressing forward in the opposite direction. Voices were screaming, crying, ordering, asking, gasping, praying and calling. She heard it all, but in her mind she was beseeching for the child. She was bumped and pushed and knocked back as curiosity got the better of the bystanders. A truck! A truck! The carnage! Oh, the devastation … All she needed to know was: Where is the child? 

She edged her way towards a Chinese shop’s entrance to get out of the way of the one-way trafficking feet. As she pressed on, she caught sight of two widened eyes peeking out from under a makeshift street vendor’s table. It was the most unstable of all hiding places, yet the child seemed to trust the instability more than the old dilapidated vehicle. The young woman went down on her haunches and smiled warmly at the child. She extended her hand and tried to lure the small one out from under the table with soft words that were drowned in the engulfing wave of pandemonium. 

A sudden clap of thunder shattered her frayed nerves as big drops of water suddenly bucketed down on her, stinging her exposed skin. She needed to find shelter. The better choice for her was to move into the shop, but she couldn’t leave the child. Against her better judgment, she crawled under the makeshift shelter and sat down next to the child. The child’s observation was clear. Fear was etched on the young woman’s face as bolts of lightning shot through the air, and thunder boomed above and around them. For a moment, the woman wondered what was happening at the intersection when a soft little hand took hold of her own. She looked down at the child. There was gentle reassurance in the soft brown eyes that everything would be okay!