The Lost Boy on the Hover board
As I walk to the local park for my lunchtime exercise I look up at the sky and notice a solitary aeroplane making tracks through the clouds. I double take. This is not a frequent sighting these days and I almost reach for my phone to take a photo. Then I catch myself. If I touch my phone, I’ll have to wipe it down as soon as I get home and that’s such a palava.
Arriving at the park gates, I acknowledge a slight increase in foot traffic since my last visit. Reactively, I decide to take a shortcut through some bushes to avoid the small crowds, and as I pull out I almost get run over by a small boy on his hoverboard. He barely notices me as he shoots on past, wheels going like the clappers as the electric motor whirls with enthusiasm.
I sigh and start my solitary walk around the lake, scanning the water for a sighting of the newly hatched goslings. I spot them almost instantly and stop to count them. Seven, same as yesterday. Satisfied, I carry on my walk, lost in my own thoughts until I am awoken by a nearby commotion.
“Where’s your Mum, little one?”
I look up and spot a lady with two young girls, trying to start a conversation with the boy on the hoverboard. He stares wide-eyed back at her.
“Have you lost your Mum?” they lady continues, her face frowning.
Several splodges of tears dislodge themselves from the boy’s eyes and bounce down his rounded cheeks. He turns his hoverboard sharply and starts making tracks in the opposite direction.
“Come back little boy, we want to help you!” one of the daughters shouts after him, but he is too frightened to reply. The lady spots me and shrugs her shoulders as if to say, I tried.
I turn to look across the lake and can just make out the small boys figure whizzing along the pavement. Loud sobs erupt from his mouth, echoing across the water, causing ducks and geese to scatter in all directions.
I look at my watch and realise I am going to be late back to work. Ah well. I turn around and start to run in the direction I have just come, all the while shooting looks across the lake to check on the boy’s progress. He leans further and further forward, gathering speed with gusto and I almost miss him as I reach the head of the lake.
His cries are now gathering quite the attention and I watch as passers-by throw him looks of confusion.
I catch up to within 5 meters and almost lose him again until the hoverboard starts to splutter. The wheels slow and it lets out a strangled whine before giving up the ghost.
I can see the boy poised, actively deciding what to do next. His cheeks are a puffy mess and his lips quivers frantically.
“Hello!” I shout, trying to get his attention.
He turns around and makes like he’s about to start running.
“Hey, wait,” I call, keeping my distance and deciding to make myself as small and unobtrusive as possible. I realise that if this had been normal times, I would have taken his hand and crouched in front of him. But these weren’t normal times and he was clearly scared of being close to anyone.
He eyes me as I cross my legs and plant a smile across my face.
“What’s your name?” I ask, trying to make friends.
“Radley” he replies, with some hesitation.
“Radley, that’s a great name.”
“No, Radley!” he corrects me.
I frown, then realise my mistake, “Oh Bradley, of course silly me! Bradley, have you lost your mum?”
He nods solemnly.
“Would you like some help in finding her?” I ask, injecting enthusiasm.
He nods again. Just as I think I am making progress, Bradley decides to climb into a nearby bush and refuses to be coaxed out again. Great, now what?
I look up and down the park, trying to figure out a plan of action.
“Okay Bradley,” I call, talking to the bush as if I’m a mad lady, “wait here and don’t move. I’m going to go and find Mum.”
With a backwards glance I see him nodding in agreement and I start making my way around the park. Before long I spot a harassed looking lady, pushing a big pram around while looking in all directions. I’m very aware that she’s a good fifteen meters away from me, but decide to shout anyway.
“Excuse me,” I wave my arms to get her attention, “have you lost a little boy?”
She looks up at me, startled, before nodding. I am too far away to hear her, but decide that I’ve started and so might as well finish. Years of Christmas charades have prepared me for this moment and somehow I communicate that a small boy is hiding in a nearby bush.
After a moment’s hesitation, the woman nods an acknowledgement and hurtles past, keeping 2 meters distance as she navigates around me. I watch, expecting a heartfelt reunion between mother and son, but the blockbuster doesn’t quite play out that way. The lady scoops up Bradley’s hoverboard
and puts it under her pushchair. She then motions for him to come out from the bushes. Bradley sheepishly appears and they exchange undetectable words before continuing on their way.
I realise that this is probably not the first time that Bradley has gone missing, and it’s unlikely to be the last.