It was raining. Not a drenching downpour, more of an annoying, unrelenting shower. The parking lot was full, but I was lucky enough to find an empty spot in front of the Radio Shack, next door to the Food Mart.
I sat in my car for a while, rummaging through my coupons and hoping for a break in the weather. I didn’t have a lot of groceries to pick up, but it would be easier getting in and out of the car if I was prepared. As I reached into the back seat to stow my coupon file, I noticed the car parked beside mine. The windows were starting to fog, telling me there was someone inside.
Gathering my purse and flipping up the hood on my rain jacket, I opened my car door and made a mad dash for the covered sidewalk. Once under shelter, I pulled back the hood, shaking rain off my hands. I had to wipe water off my glasses on my shirt before my vision was clear again.
When I looked up I could see inside the car adjacent to mine. There were people inside, but at that point all I saw was a little boy who couldn’t have been three. He was leaning over the front seat, but kept looking into a car seat beside him. There was no adult with him.
We made eye contact, and he abruptly sat back in the seat, slumping down where I couldn’t see him. I walked slowly around to the side of the car, ignoring the rain, to see he wasn’t alone. A small baby was asleep in the car seat.
I was stunned. Here were two very young children, left alone in a car.
Not knowing what to do, I went into the first store, asking a clerk if he saw who was driving the car outside his business. He even made an announcement when I told him about the kids. No one claimed responsibility.
Still unsure what to do, I went back to my car. I could at least keep a watch over the kids until someone came back. Maybe who ever was in charge of them had just run into the grocery store for a couple of minutes.
I rehearsed my rebuke while I waited. After another 10 minutes, I made a decision I thought I’d never have to make, but one I’ve never regretted. I called the police to report two children unattended in a parked car.
After giving the emergency dispatcher my information and location, I agreed to stay where I was until a patrol car arrived. By this time, I estimated the children had been in the car, alone, for at least half an hour.
The officer had impeccable timing. He pulled behind the car just as an older woman walked up, presumably their grandmother, pushing a cart full of groceries.
My guess was that both kids were asleep when she arrived. Not wanting to wake them, or struggle with two small, tired kids in the rain, she just locked the car doors and went shopping, hoping they would stay asleep until she was done.
Once the officer arrived, I got out of my car, nodded to him, asking if he needed me to stay. He thanked me and waved me on. I don’t know if the woman was cited or if she was only given a warning. Regardless, I did hope that this was a harsh lesson for her, and was glad it didn’t end in tragedy.
For Story Dam, an online writing community offering weekly and monthly writing prompts. This week’s theme is: I didn’t want to do it