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The Toddler and the Pine Cone

I didn’t think about what the child was planning to do. I was too absorbed in thinking how cute the little guy looked standing at the edge of the sidewalk, warmly dressed in a little grey anorak, with a red pattern that looked like little locomotives. I noticed his blond hair, when he turned to look at me, for a moment, before focusing his gaze on the road. My slow moving brain didn't comprehend what he was plotting.

All the wrong thoughts flashed through my mind, drowning out the alarm bells I should have heard. I thought about how young he looked, certainly not more than 3. Suddenly a glimmer of a red alarm showed through the mist of my fogged up old brain. “What was a cute little chap like that doing, standing there, all alone? Where were his parents? Was there nobody around to take care of him? He could get into trouble”.

Exactly at that moment two things happened, simultaneously; he stepped off the curbside, into the road, and a white car came down the hill.

I don’t know exactly what I did, maybe I screamed at the child or the car to warn them. Perhaps I threw up my arms. Maybe the driver saw the child.

Anyway, thank God he stopped and the boy crossed the road. I’m assuming it was a boy, I think this because of his clearly adventurous behavior. It was typically a thing that a boy would do.

I realized that he wasn’t simply walking aimlessly, when, after reaching the other side, he turned to look straight at me, as if asking, “what are you getting so excited about, can’t you see I’m on an important mission? I need that pine cone, lying next to the yellow stone wall. It's for a project I’m working on”.

I pointed to the low wall behind him. He understood what I wanted and sat down, obediently. I looked around, to find who he belonged to, but there was no one in sight.

He noticed that I was preoccupied in thinking what to do about him, and took the opportunity to turn and start up the stairs, leading to the playground above.

Apparently his mission concerned the playground. Again I shouted gently but firmly, “you stay just where you are”. Again he obediently sat on the wall, wondering how to make his escape from this madman.

He stretched out his little hand with the pine cone, the cause of all the trouble. It was clear that his only thought was for that scraggly object he'd risked his life to obtain. He'd obviously come to the conclusion that I wanted it. All he had to do was give me the pine cone and I would let him go.

What would happen if I left him there? Would he stay put? He looked like such a good child. Naively I decided he'd stay there, without me standing guard over him like a policeman.

Fortunately, by the time I'd decided to carry out my dumb idea, a little white Fiat pulled up and the man asked if that child was so and so. I called the little guy and he came forward to be interrogated.

He knew his name and said it. The man, satisfied that this was the child he was looking for, opened the car door and the little mite climbed in. The man fixed the safety belt around him and they drove off back up the hill. I was relieved the child had been found and no harm had come to him.

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