Cresting the hill, I glanced at the clear sky above the western horizon. Purple and salmon-colored jet contrails, stained by the setting sun, crisscrossed above. They looked like random brush strokes on a canvas. Passing the cheese factory two miles from my house, I scanned the highway in front of me. It was clear all the way to the base of the hill where a small bridge spanned a creek.
A field of corn lay to my right and hay to my left. Although the weeds beside the road had been mowed, the ditches were filled with tall grasses. I had spent a pleasant evening with Agnes and Jim, my sister and brother-in-law. Now, as I returned home, I regretfully thought about the empty house waiting for me.
Most events in our lives take place one ‘screen-shot’ at a time. Suddenly that rule was suspended when I saw a tawny-colored blur leap in front of my car, felt a thud, the airbag in my steering wheel both blew up in my face and immediately collapsed as I stepped on the brake. I knew what had happened, wished it hadn’t, and accepted that I had to deal with the consequences.
Some sort of powder or smoke was in the air. I held my breath so as not to breath it in. Just in case the white stuff was smoke, I grabbed my purse from the passenger seat and quickly exited. My damaged left fender had rubbed against the tire and gave off an acrid stench of burning rubber. Rubbing my chest, bruised by the seatbelt, I walked to the front of my car and saw the radiator shoved back into the engine.
I pulled out the smart phone I’d recently bought and dialed 911. The call center answered. I tried to sound calm, but there was a tremor in my voice as I replied, “I’ve just hit a deer and totaled my car, but I’m ok.”
After hearing where the accident had happened, the responder said, “A deputy will be with you soon. I can call for someone to tow your vehicle. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
A car stopped behind me and people got out. They asked, “Are you all right?”
I answered unsteadily, “I think I’m all right, just shaken up.”
They helped me kick my car’s headlight and other debris off the road. I wondered, “Deer only weigh about one hundred fifty pounds. How could one have done all this damage?”
We looked for the deer but couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked incredulously, “It couldn’t have run away, could it?”
The man who stopped to help me said, “A scared deer can run a long way, even after a bad injury.”
Realizing I needed to tell my children what had happened, I dialed the one living in the Twin Cities. When Tammie answered, I quickly informed her, “The first thing I want you to know, is that I’m all right. The second thing is that I’ve totaled my car by hitting a deer.”
Although shaken by the news, Tammie assured me, “Mom, I’ll call Agnes and Jim to let them know what happened. Then I’ll call Niki. She’ll pick you up and take you home.”
As I ended the phone call, the helpful man offered, “The mosquitoes are bad. Maybe you should sit in my car while waiting for the deputy and the wrecker to come.”
Not a single mosquito was bothering me. I ran my hands over my arms, looked around and hazarded a joke, “I think I’m so full of adrenaline the mosquitoes know if they get any of my super-charged blood, they’d drop over dead”
The deputy, the wrecker and my daughter, Niki, all arrived at about the same time. The man from the garage confirmed that my car was probably totaled from all the damage and the deployed airbags. Niki wisely advised me to take all my belongings from the car. The deputy said, “Even though you feel all right now, if an injury becomes apparent after you go home, I’m giving you my report number for the insurance company.”
As Niki pulled into my driveway, I wondered, “Why can’t I feel the tip of my left thumb?” I looked and discovered something had hit my thumbnail so hard it was bruised. Was it from the forceful eruption of the airbag during the accident? I’ll never know and at any rate, it quickly healed.
Since that stretch of highway where I hit the deer is so close to my home, I drive there often as I visit family and do errands. Each time now, I count my blessings, instead of mourning my empty house.