Sunday, June 14, 2009

Incident on Highway 401

It is the twentieth of October, 1983, a beautiful autumn Saturday. Rodney and I are making our way across Ontario on the Queen's Highway 401. It's always fun to be on the road with Rodney; we've put in many, many, many a mile. Suddenly now I hear him exclaim, "Oh, shit!" He slams down hard on the brake pedal. His 1968 Buick responds with angry whipping, screeching, and sliding. I've been reading; I look up from Susan Cheever's Home Before Dark just in time to see a tawny body meet the left front of the car and then be catapulted into the median strip.

We see that the red Buick is sadly broken. The hood and the fender and the grill are dented and smashed and crashed and dashed. The radiator is pierced.

The other victim lies limp, dead, bloodied tongue dangling from its mouth, but with otherwise no apparent injuries.

It's about 10:15am. We try to remember how far back the last exit is. Way back, we think. Rod counts out four cigarettes and walks ahead with his thumb out. I get back into the car and can't watch him as the raised hood blocks my view. I'm at an especially riveting place in the book and don't want to put it down. Plus, I am pleased to be escaped from our predicament by disappearing from reality into a book.

At 11:09am an Ontario Province Police car pulls up behind the Buick. I step out.

"Is this the car that hit the deer?"


"Are you alright?"

"Yes, but our radiator is leaking."

"Are you the driver ... no?"

"No, he took off on foot for help."

"And where's the deer?"

"Over there, in the median."

"Is it still alive?"

"No, it's dead."

"Okay, I'll be back with the driver shortly."

He examines the deer and then speeds off into the west; I reflect that our conversation had been Hemingway-esque.

Soon another OPP brings Rodney back. Road assistance has been summoned. By 2:00pm we've been towed, repaired, and are on our way.

We decidedly like the Canadians we've encountered.

We reach Ann Arbor in time to eat at one of our favorite restaurants.

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