I was driving home from the last night of teaching this fucking class for the fucking summer when I hit a fucking deer and killed it.
I ran over a rabbit once, around the same time last year. Another time I hit a bird. A deer is the largest thing I’ve ever killed. It came out of nowhere, a fucking flicker in my peripheral vision. I didn’t even have time to hit the breaks. I was in the far right lane heading east on the highway, this deer managed to race across the two west-bound lanes, over the median, and the left lane before its head lined up with my headlight.
The moment before I hit it was a flicker in my peripheral vision. Watching it fly up and spin, come down on its head and bounce and land with its back half in the median and its head on the road took forever.
I kept driving. I didn’t know what to do. I drove to a gas station about a mile away and stopped to check my car. There was a little dent in the hood and the, I don’t know what you call it, the piece of car around my headlight was askew. I kicked it back in place. There was a streak of what looked like shit on the bumper and hair stuck everywhere. It occurred to me that maybe I’d actually struck and killed a child, and that my brain replaced the kid with a deer to spare me the trauma. The cops would come for me shortly and as they were dragging me away I’d insist I’d hit a deer, just a deer, and then I’d notice the bright red baseball cap snagged on the corner of my license plate and the truth would explode in my brain and leave me a haunted, jabbering dumbass forever.
But there was no baseball cap, and the hair on my bumper was short and bristly. There was a car wash next to the gas station but it was closed so I drove home and hosed my car off in the driveway. This was around 10pm, the temperature still in the 80’s. The water came out of the hose hot.
Inside, my nephews had just gone to bed. They were in town visiting. My sister had brought them to vacation Bible school that afternoon, so the coffee table was covered in crayon drawings and candy wrappers and two large stones painted to resemble the Minions, with googly eyes glued on. There was a flyer beside the Minions explaining that the theme of the weeklong program was “The Minion Factory,” the idea being that the kids were becoming minions of Christ.
What’s important is that the kids loved the program. They danced and played and made crafts and the parents did Bible-based magic tricks or something, so it doesn’t matter that the idea of the kids becoming minions of Christ made me feel a bit ill. Not so much the Christ part as the Minion part. Who wants to be a minion? And they’re not old enough to decide for themselves, and a minion is someone who follows blindly, and the church is co-opting something popular to lure them in and indoctrinate them, and and and and and they’re not my kids, and they liked it, and it’s not my business, and I turned on the TV just in time to catch the middle of Donald Trump giving his acceptance speech at the RNC, believe it or not, to hear this fucking cretin bellow empty, stupid garbage for a big crowd that sucked his hot air into their lungs and returned it in the form of an endless enthusiastic roar.
If this was a short story it would be too much, it’d be contrived, but this all happened.
I watched the speech for a while. What gets lost in a lot of the criticism of Trump is how fucking annoying he is. He’s annoying. He’s preening, he’s kind of a wiener. Strip away his wealth and infamy, imagine yourself stuck talking to him at a party. Imagine that he’s not even saying anything controversial or racist or sexist, imagine he’s talking about some new grocery store that just opened in your town. Imagine that he’s talking about the apples at this new store, about how they’re superior to the apples at the old grocery store, and you say that you like the apples at the old store better, and he makes one of those squishy, squinty, shruggy faces that he makes, like he can’t help but be right, like it’s not his fault if he has a deeper understanding of apples than you, like your opinion on apples has revealed some fault in your being.
There was nothing to drink in the house. The AC was busted. I listened to Trump accept the nomination and thought about that deer. About how if I’d left campus a second earlier or later I’d have missed it, the deer would still be alive. Class had gotten out about half an hour early that night. If we’d stayed the whole time the deer would have been fine. I’d let class out early because the whole time I’d been teaching I’d been fantasizing about leaving the classroom, the building, the parking lot, running away. Walking out midsentence. Leaving my bag and notebooks and roster on my desk. My students were all busy playing Pokémon on their phones, they wouldn’t even notice. I could drive straight to the airport and book the next flight to anywhere. But I’m adjunct; I don’t have the money for an escape that dramatic, and anyway… well, I don’t know what the anyway is. Anyway, I didn’t run away, anyway, I stayed as long as I could and then dismissed class once I couldn’t take being there for another second. Anyway, I killed a deer and didn’t stop. For all I knew the next car to come along had hit the part of the deer left in the road, hit it and flipped and killed the driver and her kids. Twins, coming home from celebrating their 7th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese.
I turned off the TV and got in the car and went back. The car felt a little shakey but I wasn’t sure if it was some invisible damage done by the collision or my nerves. I passed the spot where I thought I’d hit the deer going in the opposite direction and scanned the road, nothing. No body. Went a little further and thought about going further and further, down the highway, through the tunnel, not stopping until I reached the ocean. Walking out until the water was up to my knees, daring myself to go out further, up to my chest, neck, until I went too far and was alone and beholden to no one and nothing save moving my arms and legs just enough to keep my head up. I turned around and started for home and as soon as I did I saw the body tucked against the curb, its torso burst open and all its blood streaked across the highway.