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Better than we are.

          I had such a splendid day the other day. It was the best day I’ve had in a long time. It was a day I didn’t have to get up early, but I did, after a full night’s sleep. I awoke fully rested to the grace notes of the birdies swirling amongst the first golden dusting of sunlight in the trees. I got up, savored a fragrant cup of steaming coffee whilst admiring the nodding wildflowers perking their sleepy heads up next to the softly trilling brook, with its faint sheen of mist arising out of the chill of the night. I had loaded my truck the day before for this day’s toil ahead of me in town, so bright and early, before it could get too hot I set off, nursing my second cup of coffee as I drove.

          There is a moment in the Central Montana summer – and it really is just one brief moment – when the world is perfect. The nights are cool, the days are warm, the grass is still green, the wildflowers are radiant, bumblebees bumble happily, the wheatfields are crayola-green, brooks babble and glint in the gentle sunlight and nothing is on fire or frozen under a snow bank. One brief, brief, succulent moment of the season, and this day contained it. I just love the way the grasses and flowers at the side of the road burst forth in a fulgent opera of texture and color, contrasting their might; the inexorable, indomitable stamina of the prairie against that of the solid asphalt. One day, those prairies will win, I swear. A few of the farmers still had hay cut, and the smell of the windrows lying by the side of the road wafted greenly through my open windows as I hummed along with my favorite Brahms Chorale, and then BAM!

          It was a broad curve in the road which I had just rounded about when the buck chose to leap out from the shadows to his fate. Doubtless his hurry involved a breathless pursuit, either of or by him for some primitive imperative, so its no wonder he didn’t respond to “Oh shit!” when I shouted it, meaning to warn him off.  He kept on coming as I slammed on the brakes, entered a controlled veer away from his trajectory and began spilling my coffee into my lap. Everyone always says that it was over in less than a minute and that the deer came out of nowhere, so I guess everyone has done this before except me. Now I can join the chorus.

          Bucky the buck was lying still by the side of the road, his leg scraped of flesh and blood coming out his ass. His ear twitched. A passing truckload of guys who had seen the accident stopped to see if I was alright, for which I’m grateful. Unfortunately, they refused to put Bucky out of his misery, saying that he’d spring up and away momentarily; that deer were like that. The bloody anus made me think differently, but since I was certainly not plucky enough to bash Bucky on the head to put him out of his misery, how could I ask anyone else to…even if they were guys and probably bashed things on the head since they were seven for fun. That and plucking the wings off of insects. Boys are like that, and you know they are, so don’t get all huffy about it.

          Anyway the nice guys helped me to bend my bumper out away from my tire, and then they went on their way. I sat there for fifteen minutes or so dialing the insurance company and the cops. I kept asking if the Fish Wildlife and Parks could be called out to dispatch Bucky and put him out of his misery, but no one answered. Eventually it was decided that I didn’t have to stay there and wait for a trooper, but could rendezvous with one later, so off I went, about an hour behind schedule, to get to work; Bucky be dammed. I’m no better than anyone.  I met up with the trooper a few miles out of town in the parking lot of a roadhouse. I handed all my documents to him, and he sat in his softly purring vehicle (why do they never, ever turn off their cars? If they get called to a brutal massacre or to pursue an armed, fleeing, violent offender, does it really take that much time to turn the key? I’ll never know, since I didn’t ask…) with my documents on the dash, radioing here and there, checking the computer for fugitives who look like me, and probably having a nice doughnut, while I let Allie out to bound around in the tall grass and have a pee. Finally he got through, and came out to give me a copy of the police report, which was supposedly required by the insurance company, though the agent I spoke with a half an hour ago said to not even bother calling the police. In a rare fragment of perspicacity, I refrained from disabusing either the agent or the cop of their favored view of how things should be done, since resistance is, after all, futile.  I just folded up the report and put it in my file.

          Then the cop said it. He said the one thing you never, ever want to hear from a cop: he said “there is one problem, though.” Had he been a plumber or a carpenter, I’d have been ready. In contractor-speak it means more money. Had he been my tax preparer, I’d be less prepared, but game, none the less, to fork over the required bribe –oops! I mean tax! That he was a cop proved to alter my response to those words remarkably. Here in the US we don’t, as far as I know, tend to bribe cops, so when he says there’s a problem, he means there is a problem.  In an instant I was reviewing my life for possible felonies I might have committed and forgotten about. I imagined all the unimaginable things that the tirelessly accusing Jack might have fabricated to get me in trouble and him the Deputy Dawg good citizen award. What the cop said blew me away.

          He said that it all the years he’d served to uphold the law in this great land of ours, he’d never had this happen before. At this point I gave up trying to speculate on what it was, and just concentrated on wondering if I had on clean undies, because it would be hella embarrassing in the intake center of the jail to reveal my tattered old skivvies. Why did I never take my mother’s advice? He said it must have slipped into the cracks. What? I thought – or, more accurately, let it be recorded that my mind was not thinking per se, it was doing something much more like what the Pinball Wizard did, but without the (metaphorical) supple wrist. He can’t mean that old business with the gold bars and the “tourist” flight to Dubai, could he? That was centuries ago. He was blathering on, so I figured I might as well listen and hear the other shoe drop, and it was this: my driver’s license had slipped into a crack in his dashboard and slithered into the grimy, overpopulated land of police cruiser intricacies, with all the added-on gee-gaws that allow cops to be cops.

          I asked permission to crawl around under there and look for it.  I wasn’t sure if there were secrets under there, encased in black boxes with Russian lettering on them and detonation switches or fuses or something. He handed me a flashlight and said to have at it. He, meanwhile was going to look for his leatherman.  Oh lord, spare me. Our men in blue don’t have black boxes and poison-tipped canes…they do their jobs with the American version of the Swiss Army Knife, only without the corkscrew? Where are our priorities as a nation, I ask you? In any case, I slithered down under the driver’s seat and peered around in there and saw what might be the corner of my license in the inky shadows, so I poked my fingers in here and there, while furtively taking inventory of all the dashboard toys. How can they look at all that stuff and still drive sanely, when the rest of us are chastised for even trying to talk on the phone while driving? Are they super-cyber-mutants or something? Or something, to be sure.

          Well, the leatherman got the dash apart, and my license was recovered, and so I asked again if someone was going to go to mile marker 60 and put Bucky out of his misery. The trooper, trouper that he is, said he would, but I didn’t believe him. Still, I went on my way. We all think we are better than we are.  Ach, but that was just when my fortunes started to deteriorate, which diverted my attention, so I didn’t have to think about it.  I got to my job, where I promptly jabbed my shovel through a waterline, and when I went to get a replacement, the store was out of….oh, just be sure that it went on from there.


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