Escape photograph by Todd
(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser August 2015)
Monday. July 27, 2015. I’m coming home from Fort Bragg, heading south on Highway One in my little old white Toyota pickup truck, going fifty-miles-per-hour. The time is one o’clock on a warm sunny day. I have just been to the doctor and I’m thinking about the long wait, the hurried examination, and the course of antibiotics I have agreed to embark on. I have just crested the rise at the southern exit to the little town of Caspar and I’m on the downhill slope crossing the bridge over Caspar Creek, when a giant white pickup truck loaded with kayaks sitting at the stop sign on the west side of the highway on Road 409 suddenly pulls out and completely blocks my lane.
Before conscious thought, I slam on my brakes and yank the steering wheel to the left, and now, as I have experienced a few other times in my life, everything happens in slow motion.
My little truck arcs to the left, the steering wheel locked, brakes locked, and I numbly await the terrible collision. The nose of my truck passes so close to the nose of the giant white pickup truck I can see into the cab. There is a young man wearing sunglasses sitting behind the steering wheel and beside him is a little boy, not wearing a seatbelt. They are in bathing suits and they are both horror-stricken.
Somehow my truck does not hit their truck and I become aware of a screeching sound and can feel my little truck tipping precariously as only two of my four tires are in contact with the pavement as my truck continues across the oncoming lane where by chance there are no cars coming, and my arcing transit continues into the opening of Road 409 on the east side of the highway where by another chance there are no cars, and my truck settles onto four tires and completes the arc so I am now pointing north toward Fort Bragg and blocking both lanes of Road 409.
Now my truck rolls backwards toward the downhill side of the road and I yank on my emergency brake before I bump into the guardrail. I am alive, but not entirely here. I would be amazed I am still alive but I have apparently lost the amazement function for the time being and am seriously dazed.
Now someone says, “Shall I push you out of the road?”
I turn to my left and look into the face of a handsome young man, not the young man in the truck I almost crashed into.
I say, “Okay,” and he gets between the guardrail and the back of my truck and I release the emergency brake and he pushes me across the road into the wide parking area to the north side of Road 409 on this east side of the highway, and I notice the young man in the truck I almost crashed into is helping him push.
Clear of the road and safe in the parking area, someone opens my door and I get out. That is, my body gets out. Where most of my consciousness has gone, I couldn’t say.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you. Are you okay?” asks the young man who drove his giant truck out into the highway in front of me as I was going fifty-miles-per-hour. He is shorter than I, or maybe he just seems shorter because I seem to be looking down at him.
“I don’t know,” I say, wanting to ask why his son wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but the words won’t come out.
“I want to make sure you’re okay,” he says, wincing. “I’m so sorry.”
“May I borrow your phone?” I ask, thinking I’d like to call Marcia and ask her to call a tow truck because the brakes of my little pickup are locked and the engine is dead as far as I know.
“I don’t have service here,” says the man who almost killed me.
Now he vanishes forever.
But the young man who pushed my truck across the road is still here. I ask if he has a phone I can borrow and he hands me a little oval thing I suppose is a phone, but in my current state might as well be an onion.
“I need to call my wife,” I say to him. “Call a tow truck.”
“Won’t your truck run?” he asks, smiling curiously.
“Are you local?” I ask him. “I’m local. I’m Todd.”
“Jalen,” he says, shaking my hand. “Yes, I’m local.”
“Do you know about cars?”
“Yes,” he says, getting into my truck and starting the engine and driving forward and testing the brakes. “Seems fine.”
I thank him profusely and the next thing I know I’m driving south on Highway One toward Mendocino with no memory of anything since I got into my truck after Jalen got out.
Now I am in the post office in Mendocino, mailing some packages. I walk to Corners and purchase a dozen eggs. Walking feels odd to me. How do I know how to do this without falling over? I drive home and find Marcia and Marion working in the living room. They say they were hoping I would bring eggs so we can have egg salad for lunch.
I tell them about the near accident and the intercession of the young man and how I am not fully in my body and can’t remember things.
After lunch, I lie down and fall asleep for two hours. I wake up feeling so tired I can hardly move. But even so, I get in my little truck and drive into Mendocino and get my antibiotics from the pharmacy in Harvest Market.
Two days later, I am still spaced out and now I am afraid to drive anywhere. My friend Bob is helping me haul firewood to the woodshed. When we come inside for a water break, Marion and Marcia are working in the living room and Marion says to me, “I was coming back from Fort Bragg this morning and saw the skid marks.”
“The what?” I say, having no idea what she’s talking about.
“The skid marks you made when you swerved to miss that truck. They arc across the highway. Dark black skid marks.”