These people somewhere between curse and consolation

She backs the black Subaru out of the driveway, shifts from reverse to drive, and inches slowly along the narrow dirt road until she pulls onto Route 4. She fills the gas tank at a full-service station in Cornwall and drives until merging south onto Route 7, with its swoops and curves and steep, grassy banks. On an empty stretch of road she fishes the three keys from the cup holder, opens the passenger-seat window, and in one swift motion tosses them from the car. She closes the window, presses her foot harder on the gas pedal, and speeds past two spotted fawns, stumbling several yards from their mother. For as long as she’s been driving between Connecticut and Manhattan, dozens of deer have grazed alongside this stretch of road, oblivious to the speeding cars a few feet away. How many times had one darted into traffic, she thinks, imagining all the close calls—the ones she’s had and the countless others everyone who’s driven this road has survived, thanking God and exhaling as they sped safely away. She thinks of the unlucky souls who didn’t speed away and the staggering catastrophes these stupid and beautiful creatures must have caused. She accelerates, pushing past the speed limit … 52, 58, 66 … and as the wagon shudders, she considers how many people have actually died here, their bodies dragged from twisted metal, charred into objects no longer resembling human beings. Her palms get damp against the steering wheel, and she wipes each one on her jeans. Her light jacket feels tight and constricting, but she does not want to stop the car to take it off. She passes another grouping of deer—a doe and a young buck with their spindle-legged fawn—and as she does, she imagines the wreckage: shattered glass, smoking tires, survivors identifying bodies. Her breathing is quick and shallow and she broils inside her clothes. South of Kent village she comes upon an open stretch of road, fields of summer corn fanning out in tight rows from either side. The wagon approaches 70 and the windows rattle in their wells. She imagines, with more detail than she wishes she were capable of, a sea of yellow crime scene tape, police-car and fire-engine lights, the spark and smoke of road flares, ambulances lined up with EMTs standing by, useless.
She pictures the dazed survivors, aimlessly stumbling. She circles each one, agitating with questions. Who had been driving? Who looked away at exactly the wrong instant? Who fiddled with the radio instead of paying attention? Who leaned over to find a mint in a purse, or a lighter, and by doing so lost everyone that mattered? How many, she wonders, stepped from the wreckage without a bruise or scrape? And of these lucky and living, who had been in the middle of a quarrel just before the moment of impact? Who had been fighting with someone they loved? Going at it long enough to unleash the irretrievable words they knew to say only because they had been trusted to know what would hurt the most. Words that cut quick and deep, inflicting damage that only time could repair, but now there was none. These people, she mutters, somewhere between curse and consolation. She can see them crouching along the roadside, doubled over and alone.

Bill Glegg, Did You Ever Have a Family, Gallery/Scout Press, 2015.

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