September 23, 2003

I Brake for Toads

The rolling turmoil of green hills has nestled under a soft comforter of down, lying out for miles into the distance, just below the broad gray blanket of cloud. I have seen it many times like this-- the highest point in my trip down Stonewall toward the hiway. It always gives us something. Sometimes we can look out over the little cleft of pastured valley beyond the standing worn-empty farmhouses and see all the way to the Buffalo. At times like tonight though, the view is pressed down to this thin bright sliver between the comforter above and the skin of autumn aging below. Tonight, it was raining. And there was an odd smell coming in my open window. Even though I'd be late for my meeting, I'd better get out and check this out, wetness be damned.

I am a product of cities, an obligate parasite on those who care to ratchet and calibrate and rimfrazzle the dingalongs of car engines. Consequently, I feel a certain unaccustomed manliness on the few occasions I actually pull the latch and lift the hood of my truck. Not that there was anyone close by to be impressed by my handiness, as I stood there gawking into a dirty hood, umbrella in hand (the best mechanics always keep one handy, I'm sure). Ah, I said to nobody, there's the source of my mystery smell: a rather elaborate mouse nest of kleenex and shreds of a rug I didn't recognize (not my vehicles upholstery this time) sitting on the hot engine block. If there was a mouse in there, he was now poached properly for disposal into the bed of the truck along with the other tied plastic bags I didn't take time to toss at the green boxes. Gotta hurry along to my meeting.

Image copyright Fred First
It rained so hard we could barely carry on the discussion, and I wondered more with each tireless speaker if I could get home across the low-water bridge with this much rain. It blew across the road in sheets. White-knuckled, I was happy for each mile toward home, especially those without the headlights of folks working just as hard to stay on the road as our headlights blinded each other for that tense close encounter between the white lines edging submerged pavement. The lightning was spectacular, but made me remember I had not shut of the computer before I left. I dreaded the "I told you so" from a certain wife if I lost any portion of my system from this oversight.

There was that smell again, and it couldn't be mouse this time. Whhooomph! came a muffled noise from under the hood, and the temp gauge swung immediately over to HOT just as I should have turned back down the deserted darkness of Stonewall headed home. It was a half mile to the Southern States. Nobody there, but some lights overhead, some shelter from the rain; maybe a phone, maybe some water to fill the radiator? No phone, no water, no signs of life. Think brain think. What would McGiver do here stranded in the middle of our own private hurricane? Ah! A resource: the trash in the back of the truck. Found: a milk carton. Fill it with water running off the roof of the Feed n' Seed. And so after ten minutes of chasing the wind-whipped torrent of roof water, I had a pint... enough to pour into my radiator and hear it spatter immediately onto the blacktop. Okay, McGiver, I'm SOL. Help me here. What would you do?

He would impose on the kindness of strangers. He would stand outside the lighted window, outside the fence, bewaring of the certain large dog that would come out the door after some indeterminate period of arm waving and whistling. Sure enough, after some soggy period of time (by now wet to my skivvies and looking like flotsam from Mr. Crusoe's beach) a young lady came to the door and invited me in to use the phone. Ann was home from her own meeting, having battled the squalls north as I battled them west. After what seemed like hours sitting in my exsanguinated truck fogging up the windows, she arrived. I was so frazzled, in very uncharacteristic fashion, I didn't even insist that I drive. Being a passenger in the car with my wife of thirty-something years is not a familiar experience, and it has lead to a recognition of more major differences between my dearest and me. She does not brake for toads.

Posted by fred1st at September 23, 2003 06:26 AM | TrackBack

I would as soon crawl over a mile of broken glass than drive the Spousal Unit a single inch.

Thirty years ago when the SU's foot was a little heavier and judgement a bit rasher he won the traffic court lottery. Bingo! Thirty day driving suspension for speeding.

I was obliged to chauffuer was the lower levels of Hell as only imaged in Dante's worst nightmares. So unnerved was I, that I actually backed his coveted Maserati Merak over a curb and into a sign post...I have never struck anything else in my entire driving career, had a ticket or an accident.

Upon appearing in court at the end of his suspension the Magisrate asked why he should not continue said suspension for the allowed 90 days given the SU's demeanor in court and scofflaw speeding record. I rose, identified myself and asked to address the court.

"Your Honor, I have been driving my husband these past thirty days and I beg you to restore his driving privilages."

"Why should I do so, he doesn't seem repentitant?" he asked

"Because your Honor, I do believe he will take care not to speed again as this has been a huge inconvenience and his business has suffered.

Are you married Your Honor? Have you ever been driven by your wife for an extended period of time? I am the one actually being punished and I did not break the law."

The Magistrate stared for a full minute...the courtroom deadly quiet...he then chuckled, claimed that the best defense he'd ever heard and restored the SU's driving privilages.

I have never driven him since nor has he requested I do so.

Posted by: feste at September 23, 2003 02:11 PM

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