He pulled back on the hand brake. The vehicle, worth over a million dollars, was brand new, shiny, and yellow. Neither the abundance of power it featured (400 horsepower), nor the air-conditioned cab it offered (very cool), kept him from feeling filthy, or exhausted. He hadn't had a shower for days or a good sleep for months.
The female, 23 years old, stood five feet away, atop a large, fresh pile of rubble. This mound she stood upon raised her at least ten feet in the air; the bulldozer operator just slightly looked down upon her.
Damn woman, he said to himself.
He saw in her, an impediment. A figure blocking his work. Another foreigner saying, Don't do this, don't do that. He was sick of the fluorescent jackets, the babbling through megaphones, the smoothness of their pampered skin. His work the demolitions made people safe. Didn't it?
Just shut up and get out of my way, he thought.
Among the chunks of cement beneath her feet was a silver picture frame, intact but missing its photo and the glass that had protected it; the splintered corner of a bookcase; the painted lamb of a baby's crib. She was aware of these things. She was always aware.
They looked at each other.
She didn't order or harangue him, like others had done.
Don't do this, she gently pleaded. Think of your own mother, your brother.
Realizing what a mistake she had made almost as soon as she made it, she changed her appeal to, these people are not hurting you.
But he had already been made so angry his body nearly shook within the growling machine. He had taken his hand off the brake; put his foot on the clutch.
Her blonde hair reflected a morning ray of sunlight that came from behind the bulldozer. She stood with such selfless purpose, like a saint, or an angel.
He adjusted the joystick.
She will run like a scared rabbit, run to her dirty friends.
He and his vehicle advanced.
She, with her megaphone, said, Stop. She was sure, absolutely sure, that he would.
He kept moving forward.
Stop! she spoke with fear, quivering. He was moving toward her.
With jaws clenched, tight, he said, I. Need. To. Do. My. Job.
The bulldozer's track upset the rubble as its shovel struck the girl. She was pushed backwards, knocked off her feet into the shifting pile.
He, in his machine, kept moving forward. She thought she would crawl off the heap, but couldn't move; was folded in, with the crib, and the books, and the dirt, and the cooking pots.
The 25-foot Caterpillar drove forward, hugging the earth, gliding over the toys and the clothes and the trash that now came between the girl and the 62-ton vehicle.
And then the driver put it in reverse. He backed it over the heap, over the invisible girl. He couldn't see the fingers of a small gray hand protrude from the mound, slowly bending in unison at their knuckles, as though in an exhausted wave. He couldn't hear a skull crush, the ribs splinter, the gasp within a pocket of air.
Back where he started, he sensed the sun behind him, but felt chilled. He put the Caterpillar D-9 in drive.
He and his machine drove over the sight of the broken items again, this time more quickly. Heading for the intended goal--a small, concrete residence--he thought of his sister, and wished he was home.
© Katherine Ludwig 2004