Driving home from town eating salty potato chips from a greasy foil bag, drinking a Diet 7-Up, I had to swerve to avoid running over a long garter snake stretched out on the asphalt sunning himself in the white autumn light. I was speeding so my sudden shift into the other lane caused my car to rock and sway a bit. I was able to recover before the oncoming curve and was gliding along nicely under the cloudless sky wondering what they’re planning for the newly tilled field near the place on Pike Road when I turned off the asphalt onto gravel. About a mile in, past the cemetery and the fork in the road, I passed my next motionless animal. This one was dead. A ground squirrel lying flat on its back, its thick tail stretched out behind it, all four of its busy feet silently pointing into the air. You’d think the way they dart out in front of the cars which speed down this stretch of gravel there would be more of them lying prone but this is the first I’ve seen all season. I glanced up from its dusty body at the hills rising above the road, the maples bright yellow amongst the copper toned oaks and dark loden firs. Soon all but the firs will be bare and the blue skies will be gray, mistletoe hanging high in the oaks, but today everything radiates the crisp light of autumn. Even the dust I kick up seems to glow when I glance at it in the rearview mirror and the sound of the gravel under my tires sounds like the tinkling of lore drifting out of the wood, warning of the approach of the faerie queen and her entourage. But it is only gravel and up ahead, stepping out of the brush is not a faerie but a timid doe, her rust colored coat bright in places from the dappled sun. She startles when she sees me, stops in the middle of the road as do I and we look at each other through the windshield while Ella Fitzgerald sings What a Little Moonlight Can Do on the radio. The doe looks away, then back again, her large black eyes wary, before tentatively resuming her walk across the road where she disappears into a stand of young firs and I continue my drive through the country.
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