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26 November, 2010

Wild Turkey

So I said maybe I'd write this next, but that turned out to be the penpenultimate post relative to this, which of course most of you will find first. In any case, what follows is my fuzzy recollection of a story I wrote a few years back, based on a harrowing journey and a desire to channel HS Thompson (if not the duller truth):

I was 15 minutes short of Bowling Green when the wild turkey kicked in. Maybe not as scary as a swarm of bats, but a hell of a lot heavier and thus capable of more damage. But I'll get to that.

The first thing is to understand that the wild turkey in question was not the precious brown liquor, it was just a bird. Freakish to be sure, improbable as an H. Bosch creature, like an old whore appearing in a hallucination to augur the coming bad trip. Wattly and despite desparate splashes of blue and red make-up, indisputably a gray-skinned minion of some dark spirit. But I'll get to that, if I have the courage.

Anyway, there was no booze involved, because I was driving alone, and that would have been irresponsible. If memory serves, in those days I was more into the poor man's speedball: tylenol 3 and a fistful of sudafed. Comfortable and relaxed, yet at the same time alert and prone to stomping on the gas whenever my heightened senses told me there was not cop. But I'll get to that, too.

This was a run I'd done before, working on a landscaping peroject in Maryland, taking 301 to avoid the interstate and its arterial flow of trucks, dipshits, retirees on their endless north-south migrations, and of course dangerously wasted individuals. 301 is one of those backroads that dates to that brief halcyon when engineers had successfully pulled out the meanders and straightened the roads, but had not yet discovered the completely soul-less interstate. Now, when the general public is afraid to leave the madding lemming crowd, uncomfortable venturing too far from the corridor of Chevrons and Cracker Barrels, such roads are magical. Long lonely straightaways, and in the Virginia portion of this particular road, it is mostly in-betweens, few stops and towns, and hardly any other cars. Lots of woods, a stripe of sky above and ahead all you need to navigate, the contoured pavement pulling the wheels just where they should go.

In other words, a road that lets you think if you want to, or maybe just to speed like hell.

And here, south of the little town of Bowling Green, there is a great place to do that. You crest one of the ancient folds in the land, and before you is a luxuriously long straightaway, a mile down to Reedy Creek, then a mile back up to the next high point. You can see right away if there is a cop lurking, and this time there was not.

So I hit the gas. Not to get anywhere faster, not to prove anything or compete or even have anything to tell about later. Basically just to get that feeling of acceleration all the way down, then the g-force hitting at the bottom, as I swung through the trough and up the other side.

And then flying. Alone, feeling weightless and silent, watching the stripes shooting by and always missing me. Ethereal.

Ephemerally, as it turned out. On the far side of the approaching creek was a big gobbler, the sight of which knocked me from my high speed reverie. A large bird looking like he wanted to cross in front of me.

I slowed.

He slowed.

He looked like he'd seen me and though better of playing chicken. He stood still, looking at me, blinking stupidly and flashing that ridiculous eye shadow.

With the bird stopped, I stopped stopping, and hit the gas again. "Get past before he changes his mind, what there is of it," I thought.

In my state I could practically see every muscle in those drumsticks flex as he broke into a run, took off, and cracked the windshield. In the final instant I could see those eyes again, but this time there was something else, something behind the vapidity. Sadness, despondency even. And that was the true terror, worse than malevolent bats, a suicide most fowl.

A big bang, and then he was gone, replaced by a big spiderweb of cracks. Fortunately, the glass held together. I pulled over a little ways up the hill, inspecting the damage and foraging for any edible bits. None to be had, not even any trace of the bird, no free meal.

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