Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beautiful (11/07/05)
TITLE: On the Side of a Road
By Joseph Civitella
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It was too late in my escape to turn back, and too early in my desperation to give up hope. I was also too stubborn to even just stop and think about what I was doing. What if I missed the next curve and plunged down a cliff, never to be seen or heard from again? What if I just closed my eyes, floored the accelerator, and let go completely?
What makes life so ugly that death becomes beautiful?
Something up ahead leapt in my way, but I didn’t have time to stop the car. The thud against the hood was horrendous. I slammed on the brakes, and skidded out of control. Maybe I hydroplaned. It didn’t matter. The car spun around and the back of the trunk slammed into a tree, jolting me against my seat. The adrenaline rush swept me into a state of panic. What the hell happened? Was the car going to explode?
I wrestled with the seat belt, and frantically unsnapped it. I bolted from my car, and stood in the rain, looking around. My heart left like a jackhammer against my chest, and my breathing was heavy. It was all so out of control.
In the haze of the headlights, I could see the shape of an animal on the road. Was it dead? I hurried over by its side, and noticed the vacant stare. I hit a deer. Oh my God, such a pretty animal. And I killed it.
The rainfall intensified, but I didn’t move. So what that I got wet? I sat down on the pavement, and stroked the head of the dead animal. A life ended, just like that. No one around to witness. No other human, no other animal. It was just me and Bambi.
The deserted road roared somewhere in the distance. A fleeting thought alerted me that it might be an 18-wheeler gearing down. So what? I didn’t really care. Let it speed towards me and run me over. I was now a murderer also.
A bolt of lightning tore through the dark sky, and the thunder rolled past me like an admonition from heaven. I looked up, and the rain splattered on my tears. I didn’t even have the anger to yell anymore.
Another bolt of lightning spliced through my brain. Another roll of thunder quaked through my heart. For no particular reason, I picked up the deer and shuffled back to my car. I lay it on the hood, knelt down by the fender, and started praying.
The irony didn’t escape me. Only moments earlier I was ready to let go of my life. Now here I was praying for the spirit that I stole from the body of a deer. I started laughing, alone with the solitude of the road.
What was beautiful about death, if not that it gave another meaning to life?
I never heard the rig coming until it was too late. It was skidding all over the road, then found the edge of the pavement and veered off violently. It headed straight for me. In that horrific instant, my cynical wish for death gave me a profound desire for life. But I had no say in my destiny any longer. My life flashed before my eyes, yet the movie from my memories was overexposed in the headlights barreling down on me. I didn’t know how to live well, now I wouldn’t even die well.
I must have blacked out. When I came to, I saw that the 18-wheeler had crashed into a row of trees not far from me. The driver was crawling on the ground. And I was still alive. Without any hesitation I rushed to him, and noticed that he was badly hurt. He looked into my eyes and asked if I could help him.
Could I? I now knew what it would be like to die. I now also knew how beautiful it was to live.
Of course I could help him.
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