July 20th, 2013
Author : Marie DesJardin
The Chevy wagon rattled down the narrow road, its twin beams lighting the underside of the leafy branches that hugged the highway like a mossy cave. Dot blinked in the passenger seat, her gaze idly following the yellow centerline that snaked beyond the range of the headlights. David's eyelids were heavy, but his knuckles whitened on the wheel each time the car plowed through a patch of bumper-high mist.
Random shapes loomed up periodically by the roadside. Retreads. Possum. Shoe. A red trail pointing to a dark mound off the shoulder. Dot's brain logged it sleepily: turtle. Poor thing. The headlights passed over it.
Something shaggy burst from the woods at their right and dashed across the road.
Dot jumped in her seat. “Watch out!”
David swerved frantically, but the thing doubled back in front of them. With a bang, the Chevy connected. The engine raced as the transmission jumped into neutral.
“Cripes!” David braked to a stop. Dot looked out the rear window. The red glow of the taillights illuminated a lumpy stain near the centerline. Tendrils of mist curled over it.
David sounded breathless. “It ran right out in front of me.”
“I know. You couldn't have avoided it.” Dot bit her lip. “Oh, David, I feel awful!”
Frowning, David tested the shifter. “Honey, whatever I hit, it's dead.”
Dot was firm. “We have to make sure.”
“Oh, all right.” He put the car in reverse. “Just watch out it doesn't bite you— in case it isn't dead.”
The gravel on the shoulder crunched as they approached the blotchy kill site. “Whatever that was didn't hold together very well.” The car drew even with the thing, started to pass it. “Where are you going?”
“If you're going to look at it, you’ll need some light.” David stopped the car far enough back so the lights clearly illuminated the casualty. For a moment the couple simply sat there, the car's engine panting like a dog over its kill. Then Dot said, “David, it's green.”
David stared. “Maybe I hit a bush.”
“Yes. Lots of those running into the road.” Dot opened her door.
David looked startled. “Where are you going?”
“To look at the bush.”
“Get back here!”
Dot slammed shut her door, then walked through the beam of headlights. She circled the flattened object slowly.
“So, what is it?” David called through his window.
“I don't know. I can't find its head.”
With a sigh, David stopped the engine and stepped out. “Phew!” He checked the pavement to make sure he wasn't getting anything on his shoes. “The Chevy really smeared this thing.”
“I can't figure out what it is. It looks like gooey grass clippings.” Dot nudged a sticky edge with a toe. “It sure looks dead, though.”
David straightened, relieved. “Okay, you've done your duty. I'll check the car and—”
Dot heard a whine behind them. Glancing back, her eyes opened wide. “David, duck!”
There was a bump, and something dark splashed over the rounded hood of the propulsion unit.
“Ew, nailed it.”
“Both of them.” The grassy blob twisted around in the passenger seat to look out the rear viewscreen. The vehicle continued to speed silently down the center of the road about four feet off the ground. “Aren't you going to stop?”
“Not until we find Junior,” said the shrub-like object behind the steering device. “These big hairy-headed things are all over the place tonight.”
“Well, I hope Junior stays away from them.” The grass clippings quivered its eyestalks. “Look at the stuff they left on our hood. It's red.”
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