August 06, 2002

metro carnage

It seems that every time I go out in this metropolis that is Atlanta, trauma is waiting. Maybe it's the size of this overgrown and mostly annoying city. Or maybe it's haunted. Something about everything being so new--burned down once to rise again with a vengence. What's under the layers of bulldozed earth, made so pristine by hired-hand landscaping and clean brick fronts. I think of Shelley telling me to peel back the layers of the onion. Be careful how far you go.

I'm on my way to pick up Jenna from afternoon summer camp. Forgetting the cell phone, I head back upstairs to get it. Those are the 30 seconds, a minute maybe, the ticking of the clock you become thankful for later, after you happen on an accident that just happened, one you would have been in if you hadn't forgotten something, hadn't stopped to wipe down the counter before leaving.

I'm one of the first cars there--neighbors are already rushing out of their houses doing the thing that makes people feel connected--we're at war you know--and God bless them, they try to direct traffic, call 911, wonder how the hell they'll get out of their driveways now.

Like an exclamation point at the nucleus of the wreckage, I see the perfect, shining coat, amazing muscular body lying on its side, part of him still under one of the cars, three cars in all in various stages of being forever mangled, interrupted from the daily rush by the simple and innocent instinct of this purebred Rottweiler who decided to cross the road at the wrong instant. He's still--I know he's dead. A petite blonde with bad hair kneels by his belly, strokes his face. She isn't crying. I wonder if this is his owner, or one of the unhurt from the mangled cars feeling just as crushed.

I've seen accidents with semi-trucks where the unlucky participants didn't look as bad as these cars. What the hell happened? I can only imagine the white car turning off the side street, seeing the romping mass of life charging across the street, then slamming on the breaks just in time for the two cars barreling down the main road to smash him and this beautiful creature to bits.

You didn't have to be there. Officer, would you like me to tell you what happened? I've just watched the replay in my mind a dozen times, and I didn't even see it happen.

I sit two, three minutes waiting for the police to come, which they do, and clear an imaginary path so that the growing line of traffic can get around the mess, which is taking up the entire road. While I wait for them, I get to stare at the dead-or-dying rottie, the man in the driver's seat of the first car in the line of wreckage with his head tilted back in a way that clues me in: he has no other option. Neighbors are reaching inside another car and shouting to one another. Everyone is in motion, except the dog.

Sacrifice. That's what I named him, there, this day.

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