A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

29 November 2006

Blood in the Streets

Sometimes the experience is too up-front and immediate to fully digest. I haven't absorbed this, I haven't quite figured out what the hell to think, so forgive me if I spill my guts.

Mme Metro has shanghai'd me into assisting with the local Christmas parade. So tonight we went to a meeting. It was well-run, and to someone running on about four hours of sleep, mercifully brief.

As we drove home, cautious of the recent coating of snow on the ground, I stopped behind a mini-van. I could see a silhouette walking around in the headlights, crossing the road in front of the mini-van, on the balls of its feet.

Prick I thought What's he think he's up to, jaywalking with snow all over the road?

I had time to take in a couple of teenage girls in the darkness just beyond the yellow glare. The silhouette had disappeared.

Then a man fell out of the darkness in front of the van.

I caught only the briefest glimpse as he landed heavily on his left shoulder, facing the van. He was native--that is to say "North American Indian". He appeared to be wearing a red, white, and blue jacket, though I didn't understand why at first.

The young man who had been the silhouette lunged out of the lights and landed heavily on the other man. He went to work with a vicious, brawling right hand. I saw him draw his fist back beyond his shoulder once, twice, three times.

I was out of the car, yelling:
"Hey--HEY! Break it up ..."

The man in the stopped van in front of us was out at the same moment I was. The younger man hopped to his feet and backed away, dancing a little, just a few feet away.

I could see the man on the ground was bleeding from some cuts to his forehead. From a couple of feet away I could smell the alcohol.

"It's okay," I told the young guy. He had a pinched, narrow face and his eyes were flat and crazy, "He's down, you got him ..."

He wasn't listening.
"You fuckin' {something} me--you're gonna get fuckin' punked!" he yelled, point-punching at the downed man.

"Yeah," I said "he gets it, now just go, okay?"

He looked about eighteen in age, but older and darker in terms of sheer viciousness. The two girls were standing nearby. I gathered them by eye and they came closer. One of them put a hand on his right arm. He didn't look at her.

"He fuckin' {something} me, he gets fuckin' served, alright. He gets fuckin' punked," he said again.

"Yeah," agreed one of the girls. She wore something I think was an anorak. Her hair was dye black and looked like a wet mop left to freeze. I remember thinking she could use a hat. But I was worried the kid wouldn't get away.

He looked between me and the driver of the van, whose name I later learned was Glenn, and who was born exactly one decade prior to me, and who lived at a house with the same digits as mine. He shook his head, but allowed the girls to lead him off up the street.

Glenn and I turned to the victim. Which is what he was. The kid hadn't had a mark on him that I could see, but as the man staggered into the headlights of Glenn's van, I could see that his jacket was white and blue. The red was blood.

Initially I thought he'd just gotten a nasty cut on his scalp. They bleed badly, but they're usually not bad.

"You okay?" I asked "You're bleeding a bit." Which was like saying that the Arctic Ocean was a mite cool.

"Little fucker stabbed me." he said. He held his arms across his neck as though to make sure it was going to stay put.

I looked toward the car. Mme Metro, bless her, was out with her cell phone.
"Call the police," I yelled "And an ambulance."

I was frozen for a second. The little creep was armed? I hadn't noticed. The man took his hands from his neck and I saw deep cuts with puckered edges. One of them running, though not spurting. He was mobile, and reluctant to let us help him. Even when his legs gave out and he slumped onto the hood of the van. Glenn and I lifted him off, and I think I saw slight shame in Glenn's eyes at his concern--was it for our injured man or his hood?

Then I thought better of it. He'd stopped to help. He was here. Whatever else he was, that was what mattered. And I was handling the wounded man gently, trying to get blood on my hands. For a moment, I was ashamed.

My first aid training might have helped, but I think I'd forgotten it, and the bleeding man wasn't having any anyway. I pointed out to Mme when she later regretted not using her phone to snap a pic of the assailant that using it to call the cops was probably at least an equal priority. The three kids were up the block now, not hanging around, but not quite leaving. I saw a young man in a black hoodie walking up the street towards us and thought for a moment I was going to have to contend with the kid again.

"Is that him?" I asked Glenn.
"No," he said uncertainly.

Mme was trying to give the police dispatcher our location. The native was groggy. As I watched, he sank to the ground. I didn't know how much of that was due to pain, shock, blood loss or alcohol, but I knew it wouldn't be long in his condition before he passed out, and I was worried that if he did he might not wake up.

Glenn helped me get him into our car. I pulled out. As I did, the three young people, thugs, or whatever, melted into the darkness of a laneway. The man in my passenger seat, almost unconscious, mumbled something about carrying a machete next time he was in town.

"Hey," I said "What's your name, man."

His reply was nearly inaudible:
"Okay Johnnie--stick with me man. I'm taking you to the hospital."
"You're not a cop?"
"No man, I'm not a cop." I'd already reassured him on that point before we got in, but I could understand he might not have picked up on it.

"Where ...?" his head nodded forward and his hands dropped. Blood ran down his jacket. I tried again to push out of my mind what my upholstery was absorbing.

"Johnnie? Johnnie--you gotta stay with me, man. You're gonna be okay, okay?" It was a plea as much as anything else.

We rolled up to the hospital. I went in and alerted the nurse on duty. She snapped up when I explained that I had a man with me who might have been stabbed.

I'd thought Johnnie would need carrying in, but in fact he was standing unsteadily by the passenger door when I came out, and he walked into the hospital under his own steam, into the arms of two nurses.

Glenn arrived as the cops did. He gave a statement, which was how I found out his name and the other info. I gave a generic description of the kid to the cop, and only then realized that as far as I knew, Mme Metro was on the scene with Glenn's wife and no car, and some punk with a knife in the darkness somewhere.

I asked Glenn about the situation, and learned that I'd left only moments before the cops arrived on the scene. He'd hardly done telling me this when Mme Metro walked through the door, carrying Johnnie's outer jacket.

I absently washed the blood from my hands in the hospital toilet. I went outside and tried to clean some of the blood out of the car.

As we drove away, Mme sitting on a plastic bin liner and trying not to touch the frozen/dried blood on the handle, I thought about returning to the scene and looking for the kid. I thought about that kid with the knife, maybe, and how we didn't have much of a description.

My wife in the passenger seat. Shit. I have bigger fish to fry. Kid with a knife. He was probably indoors already--none of the three had on a toque as far as I know, and one of the girls wasn't wearing gloves.

I thought it might be cowardice for a moment. But then I thought
Hey. We stopped. We were there. We helped.

Whatever else that, or my later actions, make me, it's gotta be enough. And maybe for tonight, it is.


At 2:01 a.m., Blogger Philipa said...

It sounds as much as you could do and more than some. Hope the native OK and glad you and Mme Metro ok too.


At 7:22 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Of course if you aren't family the hospital tends not to be forthcoming.

I've had a similar situation or two in the past few years, and I sometimes wish they'd take your e-mail and just send a little card saying "Patient X is fine. Thanks for helping."

They could be lying, but at least you wouldn't have to wonder.

I'm fairly sure Johnnie will be fine with some stitches. And if he doesn't drink that hard on a regular basis there's no reason why he shouldn't recover completely.

But that's the subtext. When Mme and I talked it over, I found myself wondering what I'd have thought if I'd just seen him sprawled in the snow. Would I have stopped?

What's the difference between being on the scene and reading about it in the paper?

No time for metaphysics today. Loads of work to do, and I have to contact my insurance company to see if they'll pay to get blood out of my upholstery.

At 9:15 a.m., Anonymous PJ said...

Oh what a night! ...Of course you'd help -- if someone were passed out or injured in the snow, in this cold, you'd call the police at the very least. But reading that account I was afraid for your and Mme's safety. Knives and alcohol and rage? Whew.

At 5:12 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

The world needs more people like you and Lori.
Glad you guys were ok too.


At 5:39 p.m., Blogger Lori said...

I found I'm a shitty witness. I was on the phone to 911, and instead of looking at the aggressive kid, I was looking at the poor guy. Concerned for the immediate situation, instead of the future one (finding the little felon-to-be).

And no, the light was awful, but I could have said to the 911 person, 'can you call me back in a sec, I just want to try to get this guy's picture.'

Although, if he had a knife (or whatever), he may have come after me if I'd been taking his picture.

I feel I'm angriest at the 2 girls -- not controlling their 'friend', not...? Maybe one or both came forward today to give some info to the police.


At 8:47 p.m., Anonymous archie said...

Scary stuff. I would hope I could do the same in similar circumstances but I fear I would take the easy way out and go blind for a few moments.
It makes the world a better place knowing you are in it.

At 10:06 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

That's very gracious of you Archie--fogive me if I don't try the Greek character, as I can't recall the ASCII at the mo'.

It's especially nice coming at the end of a day where I was vicious and irritable with nearly everyone--including Newmania.

(Hell, I'd have apologized, prob'ly, but he came back snappy and it was all I could do not to roast him.)

If I were a more touchy-feely sort of person I'd probably call it an emotional hangover. But I'm all man, so I don't get that sort of thing.

I'm chalking it up to deadly sperm buildup.

At 1:07 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Beat the crap out of newmania any time you feel like it; that's why god made people like him. They're like weebles, you can hit them as hard as you like and they just bounce back, oblivious.

I'm glad you are okay, and I'm glad you did what you did, both of you. You saved that guy's life, no question, and also no question the stabber will be in a bar yapping about this within 48 hours. The cops will get him.

Sure you don't miss the big city?

At 2:15 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Why? When there's so much going on here? Plus wild horses, bears, and hantavirus-laden rodents!

As for Newmania, I got pissed because I misunderstood him. He scathingly pointed that out.

So I had to acknowledge the confusion. And when I did he just had to stick the needle in one more time.

Still, perhaps he'll be clearer next time. One can hope.

At 2:51 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Not unless they come up with a miracle cure for stupidity. Face it, the man is as dumb as a bundle of rocks. I dunno why you waste time reading his comments; I never do.

At 8:17 a.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

Sehr geEhrter Metro

Well done !!!

We're all proud of you & Mme Metro - you were right to focus on helping Johnny

I have the honour to remain your obedient servant etc


PS I hope you & Mme M will get the opportunity to visit Inglaterra, the envy of many less happier lands

even if we can't offer Minus-28 temperatures and Tree Octopodia

The Willow now turned from green to bright yellow is lost on the Siamese Cat who has abandoned her anxious prowling but unavailing quest for mice & other small deer in favour of the neighbour's garden despite its better mown (or is that mewn) lawns


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