It's never really dark in Las Vegas, but that doesn't make pedestrians easy to spot. For one thing, they're rare. For another, the brilliant lighting is mostly designed to distract the eye from road and sidewalk. But I saw the little girl right away.
I was idling at the red light at the corner of Valley View and Flamingo when the girl crossed the street in front of me. (A few nights ago I saw a whore negotiating a price with a carful of college guys on that corner. But that was at 3AM.) She might have been nine; she walked with the unself-conscious freedom of the prepubescent, and she was proudly holding her father's hand.
They had reached the corner when I noticed the flash of her pale feet. No, those weren't sandals. She was barefoot. When they walked under the streetlight I could see that her T-shirt was dirty and her skirt too big. It was bunchy, as though she'd it pinned it on. And the man at her side looked homeless: wild gray hair, dirty ragged clothes, and the shamed furtive walk of someone who knows he isn't welcome. He looked more like a grandfather than a father.
The light turned green and I turned left, away from them, away from the Strip and the big casinos. But they stayed in my mind. What were they doing at that time of night? A barefoot girl and an unwashed old man, headed toward the lights of Las Vegas.