This is from the opening chapter of my work in progress. A man races to save a toddler from a car falling downhill. I want to show urgency and obstacles through the alternating rhythm of the sentences and paragraphs, short and long. A scene like this is all about pace and space, and I hope I'm getting closer to something that will work.
He had reached the top of the drive when the car slid into view. A black, slug-like SUV with a blunt but sloping hatch at the rear, it came creeping down the hill, reversing soundlessly between the lines of parked cars on either side of the street. The driver must have known his width. Lester watched, waiting for the car to brake, but it kept coming. Only the scraping squeak of a gate made him turn, scanning the slope below for the sound.
Near the bottom of the hill, a tiny figure reached to pull closed what it couldn’t grasp. The boy stumbled and fell on his padded backside but his tricycle rolled on into the road. Lester’s stomach tightened. Hadn’t the driver seen? The dark, blocky shadow passed him with a swish of air and a crunch of gravel. A car with no driver. Lester plunged down the hill, shouting and waving his hands. The boy was up on his feet, reaching towards his fleeing trike. He was almost at the road. He hadn’t heard Lester shouting, or if he had he still wouldn’t turn around. Lester felt the growing speed of the car, felt its weight tumbling downward, as the ground tore at his moccasins and wedged his toes into the uppers. His dressing gown flapped around his calves. With a surge he caught up with the car and tried the door, but it wouldn’t open. He was halfway down the hill. Fear pumping his arms and legs into a sprint, he began to leave the car behind him. His lungs burned. The boy could surely hear him now. Lester screamed. The tiny figure turned and stared, open-mouthed, at the silent shape filling the street with shadow.
For a moment Lester felt as if he were running on the spot, then the distance between them narrowed. He threw himself the last few paces and swerved into the road, scooping the child into his chest and diving into the line of parked cars at the other side of the street, as the SUV soared behind him and blew at the hairs on the back of his neck. The car reached the junction at the foot of the hill and, with a screech of tearing metal, folded itself around the lamppost on the pavement opposite. Sodium light flickered briefly and died.
Lester straightened himself, loosened his arms and studied the miniature life that he’d wedged into the pit of his shoulder. A thin mouth pouted out of a dome of blond curls. ‘Mummy,’ it said.
‘Yes. Mummy,’ said Lester. ‘Let’s go find your mummy.’
The boy folded his nose into a frown. ‘I don’t like my mummy,’ he said. ‘She smells funny.’