Sometimes, you just need to understand the signs. Whether it is your fault or someone else’s—in the forthcoming account I am about to explain, it would have been my fault—there is a baseline accountability that must be acknowledged. In the name of etiquette, this account does not fit the bill, but there is a silver lining underneath the madness that I hope you can unravel.
Texting and driving is the easiest law—or regulation—to break. Talking from experience, I do it all the time and it is the worst possible thing one can do, save for a DUI. I check emails in the gridlock commute home. I browse Instagram on the highway. At a red light, I read the next tabloid on Facebook titled, ‘You won’t believe what Trump just tweeted!’ I take control of my four-wheeled steed as a blithe wrangler who’s tamed ten Broncos but never a bull. Sometimes, you never know what to expect.
This afternoon, around 6 PM, I was, again, glancing at my phone as I shouldn’t have. The sun was waning and the clouds blushed at its departure. The dense trees, which align only the westbound flank, rightfully shielded my eyes. The traffic had disseminated and the average speed was seventy miles per hour. It was business as usual in the early-autumn twilight and I was anxious to prop up my feet.
Yet, in the distance, I see the car in front of me swerve to the right. Granted, it was some one-hundred yards away and I hardly noticed the dark figure in the left lane. At first, I deemed it a fallen trash bag that had detached from a contractor’s pickup truck. However, as the ‘bag’ moved closer to the right lane, I became wary. Around fifty yards away, I made out the shape of a deer. That poor creature! It had been paralyzed from the waist down from a grazing blow and was crawling its way to the wooded shoulder. A darkened streak of blood followed it. As my eyes affixed on the grotesque animal, my heart stopped.
In an instinctual split-second decision, I dropped my phone and jammed the brakes. The rear wheels fishtailed, emanating piercing squeals, yet still, I maintained full control with both hands. The deer was moving in a uniform straight line. It had one goal and one goal only: to get into the woods. Its tongue was out. Its antlers were polka dotted. Its muscles rose and creased deeply into its fur. It was a goliath of a buck, for it didn’t even peer towards my barreling steed of doom. I could’ve grazed his snout that’s how close it was! A sensational moment passed in my brain. The moment I was parallel to the deer, I managed to lock eyes. My sealed mouth, which housed clenched, gritting teeth, wanted to scream at the unfortunate animal. I had a telepathic exchange…
“Who did this to you?”
“Brace for impact then, you wild beast!”
I waited for a gruesome splash of gore to paint the window, but it passed. The disgruntled call to the carefree Progressive agent was to never occur. Before I knew it, the deer was in the rearview.
The traffic behind me slowed as my car reduced its velocity; the gray tire smoke thinning quick. They must’ve been placing bets on me. The over/under was incredibly tight, leaving everyone on the edge of their driver seats. Was this incident going to impede my peers from putting up their feet? Would they have gasped or shouted like an unguarded blitz on third down? It’s never easy to tell with accidents. But, always, traffic slows enough to get a glimpse of the carnage. Everyone wants a peek outside the curtains of normalcy.
The deer exited purgatory. Its trial was complete. The rush of adrenaline quelled, leaving my head throbbing for a minute. I imagined the deer with but a single labored breath in its body, crawling desperately, again, up the steep hill to later die in the clearing past the tree line. It seems like a fitting end, but the culprit will never be brought to light. It never works that way, for the animals that is. No DNA tests can confirm the whiskers and fur that gets stuck within the plastic crevices. The fawn no longer drinks from their mother’s teat. They just watch in horror as their bodies explode underneath the tires. No body bags either, just buzzards. I left the phone on the floor, wishing it was in a grave. The signs were there, in a blaze of yellow; the buck outline in black contrasting brilliantly: ‘Next 5 miles’.
Josh Dale holds a BA in English from Temple University and has been previously published or forthcoming in 48th Street Press, April Gloaming Publishing, Black Elephant, SickLit, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Your One Phone Call, and others. When he’s not writing, he’s petting his rescue Bengal cat, Daisy or perfecting his stir fry recipe. He’s the founder and current editor-in-chief of Thirty West Publishing House and Tilde: A Literary Journal.