by the 6th Grade Service Learning Class at Kestrel Heights in collaboration with Susie Wilde, 2003

Blink!One moonless July night, a lightening storm raged so hard, it looked like it would break the sky apart. Electricity zipped along the power lines until it reached the yellow, rusty rectangle of Blinker, the traffic light on the corner of Kestrel Heights Drive and SIxth Grade Avenue.

Zap! A strong shock zinged through Blinker. His lights flashed blue, purple, and orange. “What’s happening to me? Traffic lights only turn red, green and yellow!” Blinker thought and then realized he’d never really thought about anything before.

He looked down and saw a house across the street shimmer as it was struck by lightening. “I can see!” he thought. He didn’t know that the lightening which had made him come to life had also struck a sixteen-year-old girl with caramel brown skin named Ashanti. He didn’t know that Ashanti would become his best friend.

The next day, Blinker was filled with the thrill of being alive. He could smell the wet rain drying from the pavement and see colorful cars screech to a halt as he flashed red. Blinker swayed on his power lines trying to get the attention of the cars and people who rushed around on the streets below him.

“What’s your name? What’s your name?” he blinked his lights at a pretty young girl.

Her name was Ashanti, and she looked up, puzzled at his flickering. “What a strange light? It’s not working right. Stop blinking, you dumb light!” she called.

“I’m not dumb. I’m trying to be your friend!” Blinker twinkled, trying desperately to communicate.

“If you don’t stop blinking, I’ll throw this at you!” Ashanti stooped and picked up a rock which she hurled at the swinging light.

“Why did you throw that at me? Wait! Don’t go!”” Blinker flashed as she crossed the street.

But Ashanti just kept walking. Blinker looked sadly down the street watching her go, his lights faded a little. “Won’t anyone notice a lonely stoplight looking for a friend?” he wondered.

The next day, as Blinker looked down and saw Ashanti all alone at his corner, ready to cross the street. He knew how to catch her attention. He’d show her his special colors. He shined blue, then orange, then purple.

Ashanti stopped rooted to the spot on which she stood, studying his brilliant display of lights. As Blinker’s purple turned to red and then his blue became green, Ashanti gasped, “Wow! I understand your blinks!”

“I am so glad someone finally understands me!” Blinker told her in his secret code.

“How did you get this power?” Ashanti asked.

“Something weird happened to me on July 18th. A lightening storm changed me forever!”

“Hey, I got struck by lightning that same night! Maybe that’s why I can understand you! How many colors can you really turn?”

“Watch this!” Blinker told her. He showed all his colors, one after the other. Then he got fancy and made clever patterns; blue and orange stripes, a design of white, read, and purple dots and finally, pink zig-zags as sharp as the lightening which had struck him.

Ashanti studied him like a geologist would study a rock. “Cool!” Ashanti said, “But how does the traffic understand you?”

“That’s the frustrating part. Until now, no one has tried to understand me!” Blinker sighed. He winked wildly as several cars drove up.

“Blinker, calm down!” Ashanti yelled up at him.

But Blinker was desperate to have others listen to him. His lights sparkled in the sun as he tried to speak to the cars that zoomed by. “Hello. How ya doin’! See you later. What’s your name?”

“Blinker, you’re not making any sense. Stop fluttering your lights! You’re going to cause an accident!” Ashanti warned.

But Blinker wasn’t listening to Ashanti. “What’s up? Can I have some chicken? How’s your family? Hey, hey, where you been?”

“Blinker,” pleaded Ashanti, “Stop! Help!”

Blinker looked down and noticed a Lexus SC and a Bentley Coup speeding towards his corner. “Oh my gosh,” he thought, “they’re racing and they don’t even see Ashanti!”

He flashed his red light to warn them. “Stop, you cars! Stop! STOP!” He blinked furiously, but neither car paid attention. They squealed into the intersection and he heard brakes screech as both drivers noticed Ashanti in the crosswalk and tried to swerve and miss the beautiful young girl. But it was too late. Blinker heard a terrible crash as the Bentley hit a lamppost and the Lexus knocked Ashanti to the pavement. When he looked down, Ashanti was rolling on the ground with pain, her face as white as the stars.

“What have I done?” he cried as an ambulance wailed, coming closer and closer to take away his only friend.

As people in white coats lifted Ashanti into the ambulance, she’d winced and called up to him softly, “I’m all right, Blinker. I’ll see you soon.”

For two days, Blinker searched the streets for Ashanti, but he didn’t see her. On the third day, he felt so sad, he couldn’t even light up. “Maybe something has happened to her. Maybe I’ll never see Ashanti again,” Blinker worried.

Blinker was so upset, he didn’t hear the roar of a cherry picker which drove up and parked at his corner. He didn’t see the slim worker sitting in the cab of the truck press buttons that hoisted his chubby partner’s bucket up to Blinker’s power lines. Blinker only had eyes for Ashanti. He didn’t care about anything else. He didn’t even notice when the chubby dude in overalls started messing with his power line.  And then he saw her! “Ashanti!” he called happily to his friend, flashing his lights with joy.

But Ashanti didn’t talk to him. Instead she started screaming up at the fat dude. “Don’t take Blinker down! We really love Blinker. If you take him down, cars will crash!” Ashanti yelled at the workers.

“Hush your trap, kid, you don’t know what you’re talking about. This light caused a bad accident!” the skinny guy told her.

“I know what I’m talking about. I can understand this traffic light, but you can’t!” Ashanti argued.

The fat worker chuckled. “What trash are you talking about, kid? What do you mean you understand a traffic light?”

Ashanti stamped her foot in frustration. “Trust me! Blinker, turn blue.”

“Okay, here comes the blue,” Blinker told her and shone brightly.

“Woah!” exclaimed both the workers.

“Wait a minute,” said the skinny one, “ you knew this light was going to turn blue!”

“Blinker, “called Ashanti, “Turn blue, orange, and then purple.”

“Okay,” agreed the traffic light and did just what she asked.

The chubby guy in the cherry picker jerked his hands away from Blinker and dropped his tools. “Get me down!” he yelled to his friend.  The guy lowered the basket and mumbled, “Okay, little miss, we’ll leave that strange traffic light alone. This is just too scary. You ought to go away, too!” Then the driver revved his engine and, with a stink of truck exhaust, they sped off!

“Whew! That was close, Ashanti! I’m so glad you’re okay!” Blinker told the girl, his lights glimmering.

“Blinker, I love you and I want to be your friend,” Ashanti said, “But you can’t do that crazy blinking anymore! If you do, you’ll cause accidents. Look what happened to me.”

“I’m so sorry Ashanti. You know I would never hurt you on purpose. I didn’t want to make accidents, I just wanted to make friends,” Blinker declared.

“I’m your friend, Blinker, and I’ll stay your friend. But I can’t be a friend if you flicker all those funky colors and they take you away to some old dusty factory because they think you’re broken.”

“But I love turning colors,” Blinker protested.

“I’ve got an idea. What if I come to your corner in the early morning when there’s no traffic. I’ll stand underneath you and we’ll have a good long talk and you turn all the colors and designs you want!” Ashanti offered. “Would that work for you?”

“You’d do that for me?” Blinker asked.

“Sure,” Ashanti promised. And she did.

Blinker and Ashanti stayed friends all their lives. During the day and night, Blinker flashed red, yellow, or green. There was never again an accident at his corner. He saved all his best colors and greatest patterns for early morning chats with the only friend he needed – – his special friend, Ashanti.