Passion and Panic

I knew before pulling out my desk chair Wednesday morning that it was dangerous. I could sense it. Why had I picked up that morning phone call, breathed that refreshing air on my walk, watched Chubby freewheel like I once did many years ago, just the thought of it spinning my wheels into another realm? Problem is, back when I could run, I didn’t know where to go. Now I know where to go and can’t get there. Oh well. Such is life. No complaints.

First the phone call, old friend, faraway, separated by two or three time zones. The man was a ballplayer in his day, not one of these delusional wannabes still trying to prove prowess. It was early morning from my friend’s location so I knew it had to be something important but wasn’t expecting this. A family man who never “wandered” to my knowledge, he was true blue for nearly 40 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart. Then, out of a clear blue sky with thin white clouds of no ill intent, it just happened, akin to an airborne seed that falls on a perfect spot and immediately flourishes. Yes, an attraction took root and now my buddy’s feeling quite guilty while dreading the inevitable “chat” with his soon-to-be betrayed partner, a guilt softened by emotional euphoria like no other. Why he called me I do not know. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, maybe 10, but we were tight in our day, still are it seems. He probably knew I was cut from a different cloth and seldom choose to follow conventional paths or direct others toward them.

We spoke an hour. I assured him that I would still be his friend when others rejected him as a selfish louse, her as a heartless home-breaker. I don’t view such affairs through the preacher’s lens. I say if the wind deposits you in utopia and you know it was meant to be, go with your heart, your soul and Nature’s will — Chamber of Commerce, PTA and Ecumenical Council be damned. Of course, that’s just me, the adaptive pantheist and contrarian. But enough of that. Newspapers can, you know, be quite uncomfortable with such blasphemous chit-chat, stuff that stirs the ire of priests, judges, school committees, and chiefs of police, self-appointed guardians, all, of freedom and justice. Trust me, I’ll have my say, am working on ebbs and flows, development of characters and dialogue. Never easy, it’s been under way for some time now, through inspiring spurts and annoying clogs. I warned my wife that it could be the end of my marriage and my job, hey maybe even a lawsuit to complete the Triple Crown. Nothing worthy of arrest, although you never know in today’s America, where they seem to find a way to put a man behind bars if they want to. My wife has promised her support. She’s stuck by me this far. Why change?

Enough! Back to vanilla Trail fodder, the stuff average readers supposedly prefer — benign subjects, easy targets, no controversy to draw irate calls or letters to the editor. So let’s return to last week’s subject of the deer leaping off the Interstate 91 Route 2 overpass in north Greenfield a couple of weekends back. Reporters tried to get the story from State Police but came up empty when barracks spokesmen went mute and directed the scribes to the mandatory state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs screen for all media questions to bureaucrats. I can’t explain the paranoia. Can you? We’re not dealing with terrorists, assassins or space aliens here, just the simple case of a wild animal committing an unusual act that showed up on a police report. Stonewalled, the scribes were reduced to trading newsroom snipes about suicidal deer. Ha-ha.

I tried to get around the police roadblock last week by mentioning the incident here, hoping to flush out an answer. Sure enough, mission accomplished soon after the column hit the street. My Recorder phone rang quickly after my June 21 arrival. The man on the other end introduced himself as a longtime local golf-course employee, said he thought we had met but he’d rather remain anonymous. He hadn’t seen the deer, his wife had, but he was able to offer scanty detail. The tragedy occurred just before 5:46 a.m. June 17, when his wife placed her call to the police. That done, she called her husband and was so shook up that she admitted herself to the hospital. The story is that she was crossing the bridge and suddenly, out of nowhere, a deer jumped in front of her car and froze to ponder its next move. It looked one way, then another, then directly at the vehicle with an expression of, “Uh-oh. What in Sam Jesus am I doing here?” before catapulting the bridge railing in one gymnastic leap off four coordinated legs. The poor creature was obviously not expecting the 25-foot drop to the 91 pavement. The stunned woman jumped out, hurried around her vehicle and looked down at the prostrate deer lying on the highway below, likely dead or expiring. She doesn’t remember seeing movement.

The story I had heard in the newsroom later that day was that two deer had gone over the railing, which my telephone source admitted was possible even though his wife could remember only one and, though unsure, thought she may even have hit it. An animal lover, she was so distraught that the incident created memory loss and confusion that required inpatient treatment. She appeared to be coming out of her anguish by the time her husband called me at work, but he was vague about the nature of her issues, which is understandable. Who wants to air something like that out in the local paper?

Anyway, her memory was still not clear by the time I spoke to the man, we have not spoken since and I don’t intend to pester him further. He gave me what I wanted. On the surface, it appears to be a simple case of panic by an animal that ventured into a vulnerable place, got claustrophobic in the tight confines of an overpass, and made a knee-jerk decision and instinctive leap. It can happen.

OK, I guess I’ve filled my weekly allotted space. I could have filled a whole page just with the opening thought train, a lubed locomotive itching to lose its brakes down a steep mountain pass. And to think I didn’t even get to that beautiful Montague sky and the conversation it sparked at the Saturday night summer-solstice party I attended; nothing about my friend locked in jail, my reading and meadow musings. I may get to that stuff next week. No promises. Who knows? I may just answer another interesting distant phone call, take another thought-provoking walk, and flail away at this keyboard that may yet be my demise; or, at least, drive me to an autonomous sanctuary where I’m free to ramble.

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