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The Streets Before Dawn

THE creased white blinds were drawn. A faint fluorescent light jutted in through the corners of the windows. The street was blank, silent; the rows of brownstones squat, angular, cold. The few scraggly sparrows hadn't yet risen to greet the daylight, which lingered absently behind faceless buildings. The wind down the street swirled plastic bags, empty cartons, and newspaper shreds.

A clop, clop, clop of slow, measured beats pulled me over to the window. The sound did not belong to the urban world of pavement and iron railings. It was graceful, subdued, patient. The sound had a wholeness, a ring of metal striking stone, of hoofbeats striding purposefully forward.

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I leaned over the back of the sofa, peering out under the lowered blind. A horse and rider, merged into one shadowy form, walked the center of the street below. The horse's hoofs struck rhythmically; the rider in helmet and gloves sat erect, motionless. And though I was on the second floor, the mounted shape seemed tall enough for me to touch.

In the city, in the early morning, the exhaust fumes not yet stirred by frantic human traffic, a lone mounted policeman was keeping watch, walking his beat, keeping the peace.

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