I feared that this day would come. The day I would learn what had happened after I hit that wild turkey. Now, years after running afoul of (OK, afowl into) the feathery one, the memory rarely visited and suffering a loneliness akin to that which inhabits most nursing home rooms, it all came back. Five years? Something like that. Three kilomiles? Yep. Singling me out among the largest of south Puget sound crowds? Uh huh.
The turkey never forgets. Where the good seeds are, when the tasty bugs emerge, what other creature has started a blood feud by wasting a wattly relative. [Oddly, from a human perspective, turkeys do not hate hunters, being firm believers that killing for food is all right with the Creator.] Kill a turkey and walk away, and all his brethren hold the grudge. Hurt a turkey and don't finish the job, and it will dedicate the all of its remaining life to hunting you down and killing you.
The turkey I ran into back in the oughts was probably trying to kill himself, but that does not mitigate things, and probably just makes it worse. All of the Meleagris genus are proud by nature, and are loathe to admit to the kind of weakness that would lead one to erase itself. Ergo suicide by automobile, which is rarely provable, and with the least bit of luck appears to be an accident.
When I hit that one, it disappeared, no carcass, no blood. When his cousins found him later, he made up a story about an evil human, not just heedless as their kind usually are, who had actually sped up to hit him. At once, they all vowed to find me and kill me. Or peck at my balls. Or wake me up at all hours with their incessant inane gobbling. Something, they all agreed, something must be done to avenge this callous act of assault on the galliform brotherhood.
I had no specific knowledge of this, but of course suspected it. I chickened out (to use a phrase invented by turkeys, it just so happens) before wandering too far off the road to search for the broken bird, uncomfortable at facing it and its ilk on their turf, and satisfied myself replacing certainty with hope. After so long, with so many miles between me and the scene of the accident (I almost wrote 'scene of the crime' there), the hope had grown like moss over the incident, engulfing, obscuring and softening it. Invisibilizing it.
But not erasing it. Not altering its fundamental reality. Not precluding the opposite reaction to the action (damn you, thermodynamics). And so the other day, as I sat watching the Procession of the Species, I came eye to beady eye with consequence.
The Procession is a parade in which Olympians dress up like some species, real or approximate or even imagined. I've written about it since starting this blog (hit the Procession keyword below if you don't believe me, or are in the mood for more strangeness). But the eerily accurate rendition of Meleagris gallopavo gave me pause right away. Nobody is that meticulous, that un-whimsical. Even more than with the slime mold from last post, I immediately suspected that this was no costume, but a species camouflaged as a human in an animal costume.
And sure enough, he stared me down soon after rounding the corner. An onyx eye, a black bead that doesn't look like it could focus so intently on one point, boring into my soul, accusing me, promising vengeance. And the sucker was humongous. A lot of pounds and a lot of years have passed in turkey time, but I recognized the look, the visage I'd last seen slamming into my windshield. There was an instant where I could sense some discomfort--I am the one who knows his suicidal shame--but before I could stare back, it was gone, replaced by a cold glare.
The crowd heard "Ahhhh-gobgob-gobble-ubble-ubble-ubble." I knew the call was directed at me, "I'mmmm gonna-gonna kill you you motherfucker." Not then, not in front of the crowd. He was just letting me know he was in town, making me see that he'd been working out, getting buffed out and ready to do more than peck ineffectually.
Looking into that turkey's eye, I could see that the bird I'd seen back at Reedy Creek, so empty of gusto and so full of le nausee, ennui, and various other francophonic malaises, had been unalterably changed. If only to wreak vengeance, this bird now has a reason to live.
And I have reason to hide.