The other day I killed a possum.
It was on one of those backwoods roads where asphalt is an optional extra and streetlights are rarer than unicorns. I was zipping along, on my way to a birthday party, taking directions from my GPS like an automaton, when the damn thing ran into the road from a clutch of trees, right into the space my passenger side tire was about to occupy.
What the Hell? It was not a busy night. I was the only car on the road. Why did the damn thing have to pick that exact moment to charge across the street? Did the sight of my headlights suddenly remind it that it had urgent business on the other side? Was it done on a dare- maybe peer pressured into the run by some older possums? Was it just not paying attention? Was it suicidal? Was it blind?
In my rearview mirror I saw its corpse slumped by the side of the road, missing a head. My stomach sank. I felt I had committed some great sin against … God? Heyzeus? Mother Nature? All of it together, smothered in Catholic guilt.
Living in the South, I’ve seen more than my share of roadkill. Dogs, cats, deer, and plenty of possums splattered all over the place. But this is the first time that I caused any. I had violated the 6th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s pretty simply and there is no addendum excluding mistakenly squashed possums.
For some reason the casualty rate seems higher on Southern roads than Northern Highways. It might be because of the winters, either animals spend more time curled up somewhere or their corpses are pleasantly hidden from view in a snowbank. And on the matter of deer carcasses, I’ve often wondered if they had been hit by a passing motorist, or if the bodies had fallen out of the back of some careless hunter’s pickup.
Had I really committed a sin? I didn’t do it on purpose. Legally speaking the slob behind the wheel bears responsibility for the collision. Even if the pedestrian was blind, stinking drunk, and suicidal, the impetus was on me to make restitution, to do penance, to pay the piper. Despite me following every precaution, I was responsible for the smeared corpse on the highway. What happened to the no-fault accident? What happened to personal responsibility? What happened to an act of God?
Well screw that! I am declaring an emancipation for all of us. You are forgiven for past roadkill. You are pre-emptively exonerated for all highway carnage that flings itself upon you. From now on when some pigeon or squirrel or possum throws itself under your wheels, we are not to blame! We must never feel guilty for it any more. I absolve you, I forgive myself, and I damn them. It’s about time these stinking beasts learn to look both ways before crossing the fucking street!
Go forth and drive in peace.