Swamp Dog and Other Superstitions

On my way home from a Halloween party a couple of weekends ago, I hit a deer. Five minutes earlier, I had been thinking about how it seemed like exactly the kind of night when one would hit a deer and how I should be extra careful, and no sooner had the thought situated itself toward the back of my mind than I saw a large doe running toward the driver’s side of my car, too close to miss. I didn’t have my brights on (there was a car several hundred yards in front of me), so it seemed like the poor thing just materialized. At the same time that I knew there was no avoiding it, I insisted, no, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe by some miracle, I’ll avoid it! I didn’t though. I don’t see how I could have, sans miracle. I must have closed my eyes for a split second at the point of impact. When I opened them, I was skidding like crazy, fish-tailing to the point that I barely managed to stay on the road. It was scary.

A couple of things now strike me as being odd. First of all, as it happened, my mind meta-consciously divided. One part of me was screaming while the other part was steering. The former part initiated the process, but when the latter part took over, I could still hear myself screaming. It seemed strange to be simultaneously carrying out two such contrary actions. Screamy-me and stunt-car-driver-me duked it out after the initial impact, and thankfully, stunt car driver won.

Second of all, I didn’t go back. I called the state highway patrol and asked them to look for a dead or injured deer in the vicinity, but I was too chicken to go back. I thought, well, I don’t have a gun, so even if the poor thing is suffering, there’s nothing I can do, and I am a woman alone on a country road at night. This is the opening scene of at least a dozen horror films. So I pulled over in a driveway next to a double-wide, popped the wheel well out so that it wouldn’t flatten the tire, and drove home. But it seemed like the wrong reaction.

A manifestation of this event includes the development of two irrational superstitions. Irrational reaction A: I will no longer drive to or from Halloween parties. This is the second time I have gotten into day-of-the-Halloween-party car accidents. The first time was in Raleigh back in ’08 on my way to a party Gerard and I were hosting. It turned out to be a great party (met Tina & Tim, a couple of my best friends now), but I was too scared to drive for like six months afterward the first time around. Instead, I bought a down jacket, an umbrella, and rain boots so that I could walk to school in any weather.

Irrational reaction #2: I might adopt a dog. There is a little beagle that comes out of the swamp behind our house sometimes—a stray that our schizophrenic neighbor had been feeding before he moved out. The day after the party, I saw the dog in the empty yard for the first time since our neighbor split (it’s been a few weeks). I have some bones in the cupboard that I throw out to a different neighbor’s dogs late at night when they won’t stop barking. So I threw Swamp Dog a couple of bones. It seems well-behaved (besides being basically feral and refusing to come anywhere near me, so by well-behaved, I mean that it doesn’t bark). And anyway, an act of kindness motivated by a desire for atonement (and a general love of animals) should nullify (or at least lessen) the bad karma resulting from hitting a deer with my old, newfangled car and leaving it to die on the side of the road, right? I know it’s ridiculous, and I’m pretty sure that’s not at all the way karma works, but it might make me feel a little bit better. So I went out and bought some mid-grade dog food (okay, it was Pet Smart gourmet generic, and I bought the hard and soft kinds to mix together), and Gerard and I have been feeding it for just over a week. I still can’t get close enough to start using a gender-specific pronoun though, let alone get it to a vet. I think I will ask my vet if he can procure me some K-9 roofies so I can slip it one and bring it on home.

Also, I have a couple of poems coming out in the upcoming edition of Superstition Review. Many thanks to Trish Murphy for the publication & for facilitating this site!

RIP Mr. Deer (and perhaps my beloved 2003 Hyundai Tiburon. We’ve yet to see whether it’s repairable.)

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