The two children walk along the dusty, gravelly shoulder, she pulling the old once-red Radio Flyer, he, smaller, riding its rusty confines. There hangs about them, in her pace and determined, downcast gaze and his quiet stillness, an air of sadness and loss, and they seem too young to be walking alone. Most busy adults driving past have this fleeting thought, those children should not be walking on this busy road without an adult, their discomfort gone fast, poor souls, must be poor, mom probably working her second job, must get home to my sick husband, my own child with that unreliable babysitter, must get the dog out before he goes on the carpet, need a gin and tonic, eleven hours of meetings today, can't deal with someone else's unfortunate, sullen children. Not one person stops to see to these two children. They all have their own families, worries, troubles, burdens, responsibilities and places to be.
The children have a goal, the thing they are trudging toward (or one of them is trudging toward, anyway) and that goal has the dubious moniker of Battle Berry Yumberry Black Currant. Neither child, not the blond, blue-eyed, leggy seven-year-old girl and not the small Asian boy with the star-shaped birthmark over his right eye has ever seen or eaten a black currant. But they have drunk plenty of clear-plastic-encased-bubble-topped frozen Battle Berry Yumberry Black Currants and had the attendant brain freezes, and the joyful release and physical relief following the intense pain -- all part of the sugary, red-staining experience of their shared addiction, Slurpees. And they move forward, her red sneakers now gray-pink with roadside dust, his little heart quickening at the thought of his only daily reward.