The Crossing Guard by M. V. Montgomery

I was playing myself in a drama, and the day before I had really nailed the performance in one particular scene. It was such a little thing, really: I had exchanged a few ad-libbed lines with a crossing guard on a bridge. But in that brief exchange, which went on for three back-and-forth lines, my humanity had really shone through, according to commentators. I was of course pleased with that sort of review and the way it reflected so glowingly upon me. For today’s performance, I hoped to receive similar acclaim.

“Safety First” (image via Flickr user cgruis8)

But when I crossed the bridge, the crossing guard was a stranger all over again; perhaps I was a little confused in my head and had forgotten I had to warm him up first. Or perhaps he was simply there to get the job done on this cold weekday night, had other things on his plate. Our conversation was clipped, short—only a couple of routine remarks.

Aghast, I continued across the bridge and on into my next scene. This involved a few silent brushes with passersby, none of whom who were tasked to notice me, or even talk. Desperate that my chance to display my deeper humanity was ebbing, I tried to engage these extras in conversation, but they hardly reacted at all as I passed, regarding me only with mild irritation.

“Pathetic!” I could almost hear the reviewers say.

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M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Atlanta and the author of several books, most recently What We Did With Old Moons (2012, poetry), Beyond the Pale (2013, short stories) and The Island of Charles Foster Kane (2013, poetry and experimental fiction).  His website is mvmontgomery.wordpress.com.