In my mind it seems so vivid and detailed, like an event extending over quite some time. But it couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds.
I was on a highway. Traffic had slowed slightly, though not enough.
There was an obstacle, clearly. The two cars ahead were moving oddly.
I scanned around instinctively, trying to interpret.
A squirrel. Trying to cross the road. Three lanes. He clearly knew the peril. I wondered what had possessed him even to try.
Like in a game of Frogger, he darted toward the edge, then like lightning reversed course and back, trying to find the safe ground.
Unlike in Frogger, the cars were not neat automatons moving in straight lines. They actually cared.
I think that their caring made it worse. The squirrel couldn’t calculate what they would do, and they couldn’t calculate what he would do.
He dived in front of one of the cars and I wondered if he’d be okay beneath, but my impression was that he must have been clipped by the front wheel. Not crushed, but flung.
Even in being hit, he moved gracefully. Squirrel movement seems always so like a ballet. It must be the tail.
But he seemed no longer under his own power.
He wriggled and flowed like a banner in a breeze, and ended almost coiled, like someone’s furry hat blown off by the wind.
Definitely without power now. He, but also I. No way to know if he was dead or merely soon to be. It would be the same.
Nothing to do. Traffic moves on. It would take forever to loop back and be impossibly dangerous to intervene.
It was just a squirrel. And I’m not one of those “animal are people too” kinds of guys. But he wasn’t hurting anyone and no one wanted to hurt him. Just bad luck.
I wish it had been some other kind of animal, though. Squirrels are so social. As I drove away, all I could think was that he probably had a family. Just like us, he was commuting home from work.
His family probably wouldn’t get a call from the squirrel police or anything organized like that. They’d just stay up wondering. They’re intelligent creatures. They might suspect. Ultimately, one way or another, they’d know.
Nothing to be done. I drove on.
I’ve seen roadkill many times. But never so personally.
Author's Note: If you got value from this post, please “Share” it.
Originally published May 14, 2011 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.
Text copyright © 2011 by Kent Pitman. All Rights Reserved.
Photo copyright © 2010 by CoyoteOldStyle. Used with permission.
Tags (from Open Salon): philosophy, incident, accident, squirrel, witness, story, recollection, tale, tail, roadkill, sad, painful, family, life, death, life and death, not coming home, traffic, traffic accident, highway, highway death, in an instant, in a flash, animal, personal, personally, personal experience, up close, up close and personal