Saturday, April 4, 2009

Traumas Happen


I vividly remember when a dog on our street got hit by a car. A little brown dog. The car ripped a patch of fur off its back, and the dog was running around crazed and people were trying to catch it. Of course the dog ran away from the people, ran under parked cars, ironically enough, to get away from them.

I remember a red pulpy stripe of exposed flesh along its back, although I can't say for sure if I actually saw that or if I imagined it after overhearing people talk about the dog. I was maybe four or five, and I was quickly herded into the house, away from the scene of the trauma, which I really wanted to see. Whether I ever saw it or not, I see it now.


Last night the kids saw a bunny get hit by a car. They didn't see the actual moment of impact, they saw the bunny flopping around underneath a parked car across the street. They ran outside to get a closer look, of course. I had no idea what was happening until my advice was sought for what to do about a bunny that had gotten hit by a car. 

Was it dead? 

No. It was flopping around under a parked car. 

I thought: Little brown dog.

I saw the kids outside staring at the bunny under the car.

I thought: Get the kids into the house. Are you guys crazy? Do you really want them to see a bloody dead rabbit tonight?

No one but me had considered the kids should be herded into the house. The two other adults present were like kids themselves, waiting to see if the bunny was going to hop away. Or die. But they didn't think beyond that moment of possibility.


When I was in first grade, our black cocker spaniel, Pepper, got hit by a car. My sister was taking him for his last walk of the night, and he ran into the street after a jogger. He survived, with a collapsed lung. I can't remember who took the dog to the vet or who put me to bed that night.

At school the next day I wrote about the accident for my daily writing exercise, and I illustrated my story with a picture of Pepper in the backyard. He looked happy, sitting on a low horizon line of crayon-green grass, a bushy green tree next to him. My teacher called me to her desk after school. She wanted to talk to me about my dog, make sure I was okay. To me, it was a completely unexpected and extraordinary event. Being asked how I felt about something. I still have my drawing. Somewhere in storage.


Last night, R drove the limp unconscious bunny to an emergency vet, but by the time the vet picked it up out of the cardboard box, rigor mortis had set in. It's such a tiny animal. Never had a chance against a car. No blood, but I'd noticed fur all over the street after the parked car drove away. Like the fur cats release when they are at the vet, scared. I wondered if the bunny had released its fur in fear like a cat. There was too much of it and too spread around to be just from the impact, I thought.

The babysitter and I calmly fed the kids dinner while R was at the vet. Baked ziti and garlic bread. Something they would definitely eat. I thought about the futility of trying to save a bunny. The kids debated whether the bunny was alive or dead. One thought it was dead. One thought it was still alive.

1 comment:

pn said...

Hey, I like it, and, believe it or not, reading about accidents involving animals doesn't bother me. What really upsets me is reading, fiction or non-, where some idiot actually torments an animal, and, worst of all, then reaches some higher truth, and the reader's supposed to forgive, or see it as a moral lesson of some kind. I still remember hearing a story on This American Life about a shithead who abuses a turtle (I don't know if the story was true or not, although I think it was) as a way to feel his own emotional pain. So twisted. And evil and boring.

Gotta say, and maybe this is a twisted thing in me, that my favorite sentence in your piece was also the most graphic:

"I remember a red pulpy stripe of exposed flesh along its back, although I can't say for sure if I actually saw that or if I imagined it after overhearing people talk about the dog."

Yes! I can totally see that! Keep it up, the writing, is what I think.