He could see the sun just breaking the horizon, a tiny sliver of light, but it was still dark. He’d been driving straight east all night, hoping to make it to Madison before noon. He wished he had sun glasses. His eyes were sore and tired. When the sun came up full ahead, he’d be pretty much blinded.
A pickup truck, undoubtedly a local who knew this highway, sped up behind him, then passed him, blowing by. It disappeared, quickly growing into a smaller and smaller dot of taillights.
He thought he was doing good a good pace at 65. The guy had to be driving at least 75.
Sure enough, as the sun rose higher, he began to squint. He pulled down the shade visor and tried to adjust his seating position so that he could see as much road and as little sun as possible.
All of a sudden, something came right at him, smashed into the windshield, and exploded in a mess of feathers.
He braked abruptly and pulled off the highway. Getting out of the car, he saw the roof was covered with feathers.
Goddam. A bird. Had he killed it? He must have. But. As he trotted back along the highway, he searched for what he assumed would be a bloody mess of bird.
He’d walked about as far as he thought the body could possibly be, but there was nothing. Maybe he’d miscalculated. He kept walking. And then he walked some more.
He looked back at his car. It was very small on the lightening horizon. He’d gone too far.
He slid himself down the dirt embankment and began to walk back. The light was pretty good now. The bird should be easy to spot.
He searched carefully. No bird.
Arriving at his car, he scrambled up to the road to survery the mess. Or what he’d thought would be a mess. But there were no feathers on the hood. He went around to the front. Nothing in the wipers or on the windshield. He walked completely around the car again. Nothing.
While he stood there wondering how it could be he’d imagined the whole thing, a pickup truck came barreling down from the opposite direction. It slowed as it neared him, then pulled off to the side.
He recognized the truck as the one that had sped past him earlier. The driver rolled down his window.
“You okay now?” the man asked, sticking his head out the window.
“Uh, yes, I guess. The weirdest thing just happened. I thought I hit a bird. But I’ve looked all the way back down the road, and I can’t find anything.”
The man laughed. “It saved you, mister.”
“What? The bird saved me?”
The man rolled up his window and drove off.
He shook his head, got back into his car. “What a whack job.”
He drove on, saw that he needed gas. A Shell station came up ahead. He pulled in.
The attendant came out to the car.
“Fill it up, regular, please.”
He got out of his car.
“Say,” he said, “I hit some kind of big bird, maybe ten miles back. I thought I killed it. But I couldn’t find the body.”
The attendant smiled. “And a guy in a pickup truck stopped by and told you the bird saved your life.”
“Yes, that’s right. You know him?”
“Yeah, that’s Jake. Everyone around here knows him. He drives up and down the road making sure drivers are okay. He always shows up after you think you’ve hit the bird.”
“Is he like crazy or something?”
“Oh, no, mister. Jake’s like his bird. He’s a ghost too. We all know him.”
He looked at the attendant, tried to process this. “What? No. Really?”
The attendant laughed again. “I bet you were falling asleep at the wheel. You’re alive because of Jake’s bird. That’ll be twenty-eight even.”
He paid him.
“Need a receipt?”
“Ah, no, no, no need.”
He got into his car and drove off into the east. The sun was way up now, and he was very wide awake.
* * * * *
Happy #WriterWednesday : ) Today’s writing prompt is
Use the #WritingPrompt to inspire a piece of writing of any kind and of any length, that then post it on your page and link back to me, or just leave it as a comment below. I’d love to read it : )