The following story is true. I’m not sure what it means, but it actually happened (which is one reason why the names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Jean Peters was walking her dog near the intersection of Swiss and Fitzhugh avenues last month when a friend waved her over.

“Look at that guy,” said the friend, pointing to a fellow dressed only in a pair of cutoff pants, who was weaving and bobbing down the street as if he had just fought for the heavyweight championship of the world.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Jean is no stranger to East Dallas. She has lived here for almost a decade and has endured her share of gunshots, petty crime and (her favorite) a dog molester.

But this fellow did not fit in among the usual sights and sounds that, for the most part, wear rather more clothing than less. (The dog molester, in fact, was almost nattily attired.)

Jean also is made of stern stuff. As the fellow bobbed and weaved toward her, she asked him if he was OK. He mumbled something about how he was a failure and didn’t deserve any help, took another bob and weave, and then fell flat on his face.

This sounds funny as I write it. In fact, it wasn’t. The fellow opened a gash in his head, and blood started draining onto the sidewalk.

Jean ran inside, called 911 and waited for the paramedics to arrive. They did (in a commendable couple of minutes), stopping the bleeding, wrapping a bandage around the fellow’s head and calling for a Dallas policeman to take the fellow to the drunk tank. His bobbing and weaving, it seems, came from losing the latest in what can only be a series of 10-rounders with John Barleycorn.

If Jean’s story ended here, it would be an interesting vignette of East Dallas life, but little more. Anyone who lives in an urban neighborhood such as ours has had something like this happen to them or knows someone who has had to deal with a similar emergency.

But what makes Jean’s experience different is what happened next. A man pulled along the curb while all of this was going on, ostensibly with a radiator that had boiled over.

But he managed to find time between pouring water on his hood to talk to Jean and the paramedics. Jean did not ask what he said to the paramedics, because what he told her made Jean wish she had some boiling water to pour on his head.

“I saw what happened,” the man told Jean.

“I know,” she said. “Wasn’t it terrible?”

“I saw what happened,” the man repeated. “I’m a witness. I’m a witness.”

“A witness to what?” asked Jean, who by this time was not only a little woozy from the first incident (the fellow had lost an awful lot of blood) but a trifle confused by this self-appointed citizen of the week.

“I’m a witness,” the man said a third time.

“I saw your dog trip that guy. I saw him trip over the dog.”

Jean was speechless (which was probably lucky for the man, since Jean ordinarily has no trouble giving as good as she gets).

The only thing she could do was turn around and walk away. The man spent some more time talking to the paramedics, tinkered with his car and then drove away. Jean, who took down his license number, hasn’t seen him since.

“What I don’t get,” she said later, “was that I did the right thing, what my parents always taught me to do, by helping out the guy who fell down.

“And then this other guy tries to tell me it’s my fault he fell down. It wasn’t my fault. He was drunk, and he fell down. He had been falling down all the way along the street. What was that guy thinking of?”

Like I said, this was a true story. Whether there are any truths to be derived from it is another question altogether.


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