This lady was a careful driver. She drove slowly and observed all rules. If a sign said STOP she stopped. If she didn’t, a man would come and take her to court, and the judge would order her to pay a fine. Then if she didn’t pay she would go to prison and get black spots tattooed along her cheek-bone, or get a cross tattooed between her thumb and forefinger. She’d seen them.
Once she was driving and saw a sign WATCH FOR HORSES with a cow sitting under it. She laughed because she’d always thought something else was a horse.
Another time, in New Hampshire, which wasn’t her native country, a sign read MOOSE CROSSING. There was nothing to be seen, so she wondered if a moose might not be a type of American fairy.
Anyway, once she saw a sign painted on the road that said WATCH FOR PEDS. She wondered what a ped might be, because all she could see were a lot of people crossing the road. On the way home she went to the library and looked up the dictionary. There seemed to be so many peds that she had the page photocopied for ten cents and took the sheet home.
Pedagogue, pedal, pedalfer, pedant, pedate, pederasty, pediculosis, pediment, pedontics. She settled on pederasty, because it appealed to her and she read it twice. Yes, she thought, she must watch for peds.
Next time she went out she drove the longer way so that she could pass the WATCH FOR PEDS sign, and she looked but then it dawned on her. How do you tell a ped if you see one? So she parked the car, put fifty cents in the meter for half an hour, checked her watch, and walked back to the writing.
She watched almost all day, although she nearly dragged herself away a couple of times because she was hungry, but she thought, just a minute, just another minute. It grew dark, so she went back to the car and could’ve cried when she saw a parking ticket on the windscreen.
She knew she could never recognize a ped. But whenever she passed the writing, she always had a peek — just in case.