It is full dark and the trees whip and whisper. Way up, up high, the orange street lights try to hold back the sky. There is no-one about--is there? No squares of warmth and voice fall beyond the darkened window panes that sit behind long and low front yards.
He is 107 centimetres tall and not yet six years old.
In his t-shirt pocket is a little plastic bag of coins. He waves the blue arc of torch-beam like a light- saber through the cold night, the dark night, the excited night. In response it asks: 'Little boy, little little-little boy, can you remember the rules?'
He toes the kerb, looks left and right, then bolts across the road, a river of risk, and leaps onto the safety of the kerb (embankment), punching the air with his beam, legs pumping along the path, one house, two house three house, four!
In his head his Mum's mantra: 'careful in the car-park, ask the staff for help, any treat you choose, my big boy...'
She stands in the shadows under a tree and lights a cigarette, able to see him nearly all of the way. Prouder than she'll be when he starts school or performs a solo. Remembering, as she puffs her mum-blues out into the cold air, her own adventures in creeks (Rivers and Dams!) and tunnels (Secret Caves of Treasure), but remembering too that just short years older than him and the adult world had proved itself capable of a darkness worse than storm-drains.
Puff. Risk. Managed. Puff. But. Still.
The air stills, her neighbours pull away in their heavy-duty car and she imagines him suddenly mangled beneath it.
The beams trail away, replaced by a swinging solid line of blue. Here he comes, whistling on his lollypop, pleased and proud. Whistle-Toot and in he tumbles, back to TV and bath-time and all the overblown baby-rituals of coddling.
So many risks ahead, most of them unmanageable. This his first.