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No, this isn't a node about love or sex.

This afternoon, as I sat at my computer, I heard a screech and a bang. It isn't an uncommon sound here -- cars drive along my road far too fast, especially in the middle of the day when there is little or no traffic. They miss the corner and hit the sign opposite.

I went out, and sure enough there was a car there. Several people were gathered round, as usual, and the car was empty, the door open.

Clearly, there was plenty of help available, so I went back inside, and called the police, then thought no more about it.

Five minutes ago, I was listening to the local radio and the news came on. There was a report on the accident. What I hadn't seen this afternoon was that in front of the car was a bike, and on the bike was a fifteen year old girl.

The news said that she is alive and conscious. It also said that her spinal cord is severed and that she is very unlikely to walk again.

I know the girl, everyone round here does. She's a troublemaker -- rude, arrogant, a vandal, a thief and a bully. She rarely goes to school. In fact, if she'd been in school this afternoon, she wouldn't be in hospital now. But despite all that, it can't be right to have her chance of a normal future so cruelly snatched away.

The news also said that the driver of the car was a seventeen year old boy. His name wasn't given. He can only have recently have passed his driving test, an inexperienced kid, hooning around in his father's car. And, whatever happens to him as far as the law goes, he is going to have to live the rest of his life with the guilt and the knowledge of the damage his carelessness has done.

Two lives, shattered forever, in the space of a few moments.

Sometimes, the world just seems bleak, and harsh beyond all reason.

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