Page 13 Cartoons

What Goes Around

February 12, 2009

A dog lay in the doorway of Georgetown Antiques. He was leashed to an umbrella stand and lazily stared at the feet that walked across the wet pavement. The dog and the doorway were adjacent to Kitchen No. 1, a hole-in-the-wall Chinese diner. It had one table, situated in front of the storefront’s glass window. The one comfortable chair, the only one with a real view, faced the window and the doorway and the dog. A young woman sat there, with a pink plastic tray under a styrofoam plate steaming with plain fried rice. It was not particularly cold in the sparsely decorated restaurant, but the young woman kept her coat on. It was pleated at the waist, like a skirt, and buttoned like a pea coat. The dog stared at the galoshes, and the woman stared at the dog, and the fried rice cooled.

Across the street, a curious event was taking place. Wingo’s, a competing hole-in-the-wall take-out joint, had amassed a small crowd under its striped red and white awning. This was not on account of rain—the rain had stopped at quarter to five, approximately half an hour ago. The employee behind the counter at Kitchen No. 1 stared at this crowd with interest. Wingo’s was truly a hole-in-the-wall, with only a small corridor to stand and place your order, and only public benches to accommodate seating. This set-up was conducive to loitering lunchtime crowds, and while it looked like the usual lunch crowd, it was not lunchtime, and no one appeared to be eating. In the distance, a siren began to blare.

A rapid torrent of thoughts possessed the young woman, as she sat in the only seat with a view. Although she appeared entranced by the brown dog in the adjacent doorway, it was the last thing on her mind. This changed in a matter of seconds as the dog, who in a manner of appearance was harmless, jumped in the doorway of Georgetown Antiques and began barking viciously in the direction of the young woman. The woman became alarmed. After it appeared that the dog could not overtake the umbrella stand as its captor, the woman’s fear turned into confusion. A wailing ambulance had pulled in front of the Wingo’s storefront moments earlier, and while it may have alarmed the dog in some way, it was barking only at her. She turned to survey her surroundings, yet there was nothing unusual or threatening in the wallpaper mural of Asian herons behind her.

At this point, the owner of Georgetown Antiques had untied the agitated dog from the umbrella stand and was attempting to coax it inside. The young woman watched this scene unfold and was entirely sure that the dog was barking directly at her, not simply in her direction. Perplexed, she pushed her untouched rice away and stood to ask for a styrofoam take-out box. Standing a few inches from her face was a man. In addition to his proximity, he was entirely blocking her path.

“Oh! Sorry, excuse me,” she stammered. The man, who was approximately 25 and six feet tall, did not move and did not speak. His eyes were open very wide, and he had a pensive, troubled look on his face, as if he was pondering something very unpleasant. The young woman in the grey wool coat began to feel very warm and uncomfortable, and a strange numbness shivered through her fingers. “Excuse me,” she said loudly, “Can you please move?”

The employee behind the counter had been staring at a black bag being loaded into the ambulance across the street, but his attention turned to the young woman. She was backed against the storefront window with an alarmed expression on her face. “Everything OK?” he questioned. The woman did not reply. The alarm in her eyes faded into abject terror. She snatched her leather bag, scooted sideways against the glass and ran out of the store. Her food remained untouched. The employee behind the counter walked over to her table, muttering in his native language about “college kids.”

O Street, which runs between Kitchen No. 1 and Wingo’s, once carried a trolley car line. The tracks, over a hundred years old, were preserved on the street as a historic landmark. As a consequence, the street could not be paved and welcomed into modernity. Its historic trolley car tracks were set in ancient cobblestone, a picturesque yet devious form of pavement, at least for persons running out of hole-in-the-wall diners at twilight after a good rain.

A paramedic from Georgetown University Hospital saw the entire scene as he secured the latch on the back of the ambulance. A young woman, petite in size and stature, flew out into the street in full distress. She looked neither right, nor left, but that was not her undoing—the tip of her shoe unearthed a loose cobblestone, causing her to trip and fall, with her face landing into a deep pothole. The paramedic rushed over to her, as she cried, sneezed, and coughed dirty water out of her mouth.

Her grey wool coat, which had a silver satin lining, was soaking wet, and the young man who was approximately 25 years old and six feet tall was standing at her feet. She paid little attention to the fiery pain bursting in her ankle while the paramedic questioned her for injury. She was violently shaking, as if she had seen a ghost, and color had drained from her face. The paramedic watched the delicate young woman with concern and helped her stand up. The ankle had been roughly scraped in the gravel, and a small amount of blood pooled in her flat shoe. The paramedic gestured toward the back of the ambulance and offered to clean her ankle. “There’s already someone back there, but he won’t mind. We’ll give you a ride home, if you live near the hospital.”

The young woman was terribly shaken, and would have loved to have been driven to her home four blocks away, but she would not get into the back of the ambulance, regardless of what the paramedic said. She expressed her gratitude and accepted band-aids and gauze but walked away as fast as she could, on her burning ankle and empty stomach. The paramedic watched her slight figure disappear around the corner and climbed into the ambulance, which held the body of a young man, who was approximately 25 years old and six feet tall.

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