Over the River…

On our way over the river and through the woods to Gammer’s house this afternoon, we bumped into a few obstacles. Literally. I was cruising down Hodges Highway, listening to Christmas music, and glancing in the rear view mirror to see that all the kids managed to catch catnaps before another long and full day of giving thanks. When I cast my eyes back toward the long, lonesome highway ahead of me, that’s when I saw him. He was standing on the side of the road twitching his tail and acting, well, squirrely. I knew what he was going to do before he did it. As if on a dare, he darted right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and swerved to avoid the little guy with the oh-so-poor decision-making skills. Just when I thought he was safe, he stopped and darted back toward the direction from which he just came. Why, you silly squirrel, why!? Of all the minivans and all the highways, why did you pick mine? You couldn’t have known that we were a van full of animal-loving vegetarians, but the irony is rich. I felt the sad, dull thud as I corrected the van back into the southbound lane. In all my thirty-odd years, I have never run over a critter. I was devastated. Russell immediately put his hand on my shoulder and assured me there was nothing more I could have done. At that moment, Poppy jerked awake from her slumber and cried, “What was that?!” I was going to tell her a white lie, but her daddy told her the truth before I could. “Your mom ran over a squirrel and she’s very sad about it,” he explained. “Oh,” she said. She didn’t seem that upset. I was surprised that she wasn’t more moved upon hearing this news. She has grown accustomed to our ways of gently escorting spiders outside and walking around, not through, the anthills on our front steps. “Well,” she continued, “when you ran over that squirrel, it woke me up.” I told her that I was very sorry and that the squirrel was even sorrier. I blinked back a few tears and continued driving in silence, saddened that I had taken his fuzzy little life. From the back, Poppy asked, “So the squirrel was OK, wasn’t he, Mommy? After you ran over him, he was OK, right?” I glanced at Russell and responded with a white lie before he could tell her the truth again. “I think I just ran over his tail, Sweetie. I bet he’s already back in the woods eating some acorns now.” She seemed satisfied with this response and closed her eyes again. I continued to stew about that pitiful ol’ squirrel and neglected to notice when I crossed over into the city limits of Abbeville. Just as I started coasting down the hill in front of the high school, a notorious speed trap, I saw the blue lights in my rear view mirror. Dag. I had seen several other sad saps getting pulled over on the way down and made a mental note to slow down several times already. That was all before the tragic squirrel crossing. I pulled over. A nice young policewoman approached the van and asked for the usual things. As I dug furiously in my wallet for my current proof of insurance, I explained, “See, there was the squirrel. And I ran over it. And I’m an animal lover. And I was very upset. I’m a vegetarian. Have been for 20 years. (Not that I would have ever eaten a squirrel.) I was upset, you see, and that’s why I was speeding.” She just looked at me. “Ma’am, that insurance card is expired. And so’s this registration.” I just looked at her. Stupid, stupid squirrel! She went back to her patrol car and left me stewing for at least an hour. OK, maybe five minutes. When she returned, she said, “Well, you were going 61 in a 45 and 42 in a 35, and you don’t have a current insurance or registration card with you.” This didn’t sound good. I waited for the bad news. And then the baby woke up with a start and let out a wail. “Waaaaaahhhh!” The officer peeked in the back of the car and assessed the situation. “Waaaahhhh!” the baby persisted. “It’s OK, baby. We’ll be there soon,” I nervously reassured while patting her on the head. “Waaaaaaahhhh!” Me too, Mary Hazel, me too. The police officer shifted her weight and the tension in her shoulders seemed to relax a bit. She let me off with a warning. Maybe it’s because she felt sorry for me. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t like to hear crying babies. Maybe she didn’t want to ruin our Thanksgiving. Whatever the reason, I was very, very grateful. As she walked away, she said, “I know you were upset about that squirrel, so that’s why I only gave you a warning.” I detected a hint of a smile. Thank you, sad little squirrel, thank you. I drove slowly and shakily the last five miles to Gammer’s house and arrived with a big, long sigh. Poppy was the first to get out of the car and skip through the front door. “Guess what?” she announced with enthusiasm. “Mommy got a ticket because she ran over a squirrel!”


3 thoughts on “Over the River…

  1. I am sending this story on to Arlo Gutherie. A new Thnaksgiving tradition; “The Road To Abbeville” or “Erin’s Squirrel.” Surely this tale can expand to a 45 minute telling and l think Arlo got off in a similar fashion! =)

  2. On white lies:

    C: Mom, was there blood when our kitty got hit?
    Me: Um….no. He just looked like he was sleeping.
    C: Then how did you know he wasn’t just sleeping?
    Me: Um…
    C: You should have breathed into his mouth and woke him up.
    Me: I…I did. He wouldn’t wake up. That’s how I knew.

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