I’m awake for about three minutes when I hear the crash. Braking tires screech long into the sound of metal crunching on impact. Then the drone of a car horn in one long, punctuating tone. It is 5:22am and the collision sounds close.
I stand at the window, looking out in the direction of the sound. I only hear the unending monotone of the horn. Surely, neighbors nearer to the scene have already come out to help. Yet, this feeling tugs at me that I should check to be sure.
The Bohemian wakes and sees me vacillating. Jeb will be waking soon and needs to go to school. I imagine many people are already out of their houses and on the street helping, though I can’t be positive. If I venture out to investigate, what will I find? The horn blares as the sun begins rising.
A few more minutes pass as I hesitate at the window, looking down the street but seeing nothing. And then the horn stops. I feel momentarily relieved. As if this is a signal that someone must be there assisting.
Then I see a car pass in the direction of the scene. Certainly, if someone needs to call 911 and hasn’t yet, they will.
I leave the window and start to make my coffee, rationalizing that there will be plenty of people there by now. I’d just be one more body in the way. Yet something still nags at me. How can I know for sure what’s going on unless I go and see?
Half-way into my coffee-making, I stop. I don’t want the Bohemian to go, but I should. I ask him to stay with Jeb, who still sleeps. I have a first aid kit in my car. I grab a towel, some water and my phone. I drive slowly down my quiet street in the direction of where I heard the crash.
Within less than a quarter-mile, I come upon a truck in the middle of the road, on its side, tires in the air. The headlights are still on, the engine is not running. Fluids seep into the asphalt. The front end is smashed, but there is nothing else around that looks to have been hit. There is not a soul in sight.
I pull over on the side of the road and call 911. I tell the operator that I’m guessing they’ve already been called, though she makes no indication that she has. I give details about the location. Offer a license plate number at her request. She says she’ll dispatch someone to the site. She asks if I see a person. I say that I do not, but that I haven’t gotten close enough to the vehicle to be sure. Perhaps I should. She says that would be helpful.
I am embarrassed at how unnerved I am. I ask her to stay on the phone with me as I walk closer to the cracked windshield to peer inside. Tipped on its side, all things in the cab have slid to the passenger seat and press to the window that rests on the ground. There’s an Arizona Green Tea can, a sweatshirt and a pink dashboard trinket in the mix of strewn items.
I see no one.
I end my conversation with the 911 operator, get in my car, and drive back home.
It is a mystery. The vacant scene of our country road with a truck on its side and no one around, is filled with questions. Did the driver run away? Did not a single neighbor hear what had happened just beyond their hedges? What made the truck crash, anyway?
I have no idea.
Hours later, I pass the same spot on the road, where by now, they’ve moved the truck and cleared the area. I drive along pondering the accident.
As I steer around a curve in the road, suddenly a spooked chicken flies low and wild out of a roadside tree, right in line with my windshield. I brake not to hit it, feathers graze the glass, and it squawks in crazed fear while unleashing a huge spray of chicken poop on my hood and across the window. The odor is potent through sealed glass and even thirty pumps of wiper fluid can’t seem to remove the brown splats that splay across my driver’s view.
As Jeb would say, “What the heck?”
At day’s end, I go to Mary’s house and sit with her in the shade of the lilikoi trellis. I’m telling her my road stories. Her foot is up and elevated. She ran into a piece of wood last night in the dark. She thinks she may have broken her toe.
I think we all just need to stay put for a while. Proceed with extreme care. Take it easy, in slow motion.