I stopped at the stop sign and waited for the pair of headlights that was coming down the block toward me. After about two seconds, I regretted stopping. The car was moving very slowly, and its orange left turn signal predicted its turn in the direction I was headed. I tapped my boot on the pavement with growing impatience. This did not bode well for the commute ahead. A slow chilly ride was not what I’d had in mind when I hauled my ass out of bed that morning. I kicked the bike into gear and followed the ambling sedan down the street. After we crossed the bridge, I grinned as the driver signaled a right turn into another part of the subdivision. I was home free. I slowed at the intersection with the main road. No headlights showed in either direction, so I hit the throttle. Four shifts in quick succession and I glanced back down into the subdivision and saw the offending sedan parallel to me on the side street below. I looked up at the moon nearly obscured by the smoky haze, then back down at the road.
I was topping the first rise and shifting into sixth when I saw a sudden chunk of tan pop up on the side of the road, illuminated by my headlight. My brain screamed “deer” as the animal moved into my lane. I shut down the throttle and veered left, hoping the mass of meat and antlers would change direction and head back to the ditch from whence it came. “No, no, no!” I could hear my own pleading voice echoing off the inside of my helmet. The deer kept coming, and I saw its shoulder in massive hairy detail as my right headlight slammed into it before I shut my eyes.
I felt my shoulder, then my helmet, hit the ground and heard the scraping inside my helmet. As soon as I realized I was alive and could move, I stood up, knowing it was pitch black and I was lying in the middle of the road during prime commuting time. A flicker of motion caught my eye and I saw the deer dash back down the ditch. I looked back down the road. My bike lay straddling the center line, headlight pointed into the oncoming lane, tail light still in my lane. As I hurried to the side of the road, I heard a motor, then saw headlights coming from town. I waved my arms frantically, but the car barely slowed and barley missed the bike. I began to feel a little pain in my shoulder and knee and thought I must have landed pretty hard. Not the knee again, I thought. I saw headlights coming the other direction and moved to the other side of the road, desperation mounting as I realized I was dressed all in black in the dark, and one of my arms was really not working. I was waving one arm, and imploring inside my helmet, “Stop! Please stop!” trying to think of a way to make myself more visible, when the pair of headlights slowed and stopped. It was a big Ford Super Duty. I hurried around to the driver’s side, flipping my helmet open as I went. I didn’t really make eye contact, just gasped out, “I hit a deer. Can you help me get my bike off the road?”
He got out of his truck and asked a few times if I was OK. I kept saying yes, I’m fine. In the glow of his headlights we looked at the bike. Then we heard the sound of a big diesel coming down the road behind his truck. He went over and waved the school bus around the bike. Then he came back and tried picking the bike up from one side. There was no way to get a good grip, so he went around to try it from the other side. “Let me help,” I said and reached both hands under the bike. I felt ends of bone grind against one another in my shoulder. “I think my collarbone’s broken,” I said. I got a grip under the seat with my left hand, and together we got the bike back to standing. We rolled it into the ditch. “Can you flip the kickstand down?” I asked. He did, but as we lowered the bike it kept sinking in the soft sand. We stood it back up. I looked around and saw a big flat rock a few feet away. I picked it up with my good hand, took it around the other side of the bike and placed it under the kickstand. He eased the bike down onto the kickstand again, and this time it stayed upright. I walked back out into the wash of headlights and picked up half of the right front faring from where it lay in the road, the pretty orange paint sparkling strangely in the halogen beams. I began to have an inkling that, though I couldn’t see much of the damage at the moment, my prized possession with its pretty orange paint job and the hours of work put in by my best friend and me, was probably destroyed. We picked up what pieces we could see and tossed them in the ditch next to the bike. As I walked back and forth across the road I could hear my own slightly panicked breathing.
When it seemed that everything was cleaned up, I asked the mystery neighbor if he could give me a ride back to the house. I opened the door to the truck and pulled off my helmet, no easy task with one hand, then climbed into the truck. He shut the door after me. I directed him the few blocks back to the house, making enough small talk along the way to figure out where he lived and where he was headed that morning. I tried to steady my breathing as the ache in my shoulder grew. I reached into my jacket and felt the abnormal lump of bone sticking out under the skin. I realized I was in more than a little mental distress when I told my chauffeur to turn left instead of right down the alley. When we reached the house, I asked his name and thanked him for the help, then punched in the garage code and went into the house. I set my helmet on the dining room table and walked upstairs. I could hear Lance getting ready in the bathroom. I pushed open the door and saw his face in the mirror looking confused, toothbrush in hand. “I hit a deer,” I said.