RANGE: Out from between parked cars, on thin ice, inside abandoned refrigerators, atop slippery roofs, near fresh excavations, on the edges of reservoirs, and around buildings under construction; in any of the dangerous spots kids aren’t allowed to go, the Kin-derguardians stand sentry.
HABITS: As anyone who has ever been a child, or watched one, knows, the statistical chances of any infant reaching the age of majority are nil. But, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Kinderguardians, some make it— despite a slapstick sequence of terrifying near-misses. The Kinderguardians deflect that eye-bound BB pellet and steady the pot of boiling water teetering over the toddler’s head. Their magic transforms the sidewalk beneath a falling tot into a trampoline. They blow kites away from high tension wires, and miraculously clear busy intersections for the passage of runaway bikes, trikes, wagons, soapbox racers, sleds, toboggans, and skateboards. They short-circuit power tools before tiny limbs are severed, extinguish the fuses on hand-held cherry bombs, and endow denim coveralls with the consistency of steel plate, thus protecting their charges from bruises, scrapes, and spilled acid. They see to it that forks don’t fit in wall sockets, that Drano is digestible, and that the rogue polar bear at the zoo gently accepts a sugar cube from a child’s hand.
HISTORY: The kindly American Kinderguardians are descended from those kindly German household spirits, the Kobolds. Germans, fairy and mortal alike, despise human beings, but are sentimentally fond of dogs, fatty sausages, red cabbage, and children. A quick scan of the Grimm Brothers’ stories reveals the awful scrapes from which children escape and the unspeakable ends to which adults all come. In America, where children are feared and neglected like many other living things, the Kinderguardians have had their work cut out for them. They guided Huck Finn’s raft down the river, between banks crammed with murderous grown-ups, and even kept Billy the Kid alive till he passed puberty. And it was they, dear reader, who kept you from flying through the windshield that crazy time so many years ago after the dance or the basketball game or whatever it was . . . We can hardly remember ourselves,
SPOTTER’S TIPS: We know that the Kinderguardians have been doing their work when we see a baby waddle unscathed from a train wreck, a sixyear-old climbing unchewed from the ‘gator pond, an infant giggling between the rungs of a fallen ladder, or simply a bouncing baby boy or girl, bouncing.