It’s a jewel of a Saturday. Early this morning the mountains to the southeast gleamed, or seemed to through these “new” eyes. I let the animals out of the garage after saying good morning to each of them, then stepped into the jewel and sang my morning prayer. Nobody hears me out here. I can twirl around in the driveway, arms out, head lifted to the sky, and no one sees. The cats and dog expect it now--they wonder what’s wrong if I don’t do some kind of morning dance. Only when I dance these days do they think I’m normal. Sometimes Rita sings along, howling and yipping down the side of the hill.
The Blue Mule is parked in front of the garage, now looking as though it belongs here on the mountain because of the dents in the tailgate. It was too spiffy before, Ken said, though he didn’t actually use the word, “spiffy.” That’s what he meant though. Now it fits with the other trucks around here. OK. I still feel bad, however--it was John’s favorite thing. The dents are my fault, of course, and are a constant reminder to be careful, to focus, to remember that really I am not so normal as I feel each morning when I’m twirling and singing in the driveway. No. I’m actually dangerous. Even when feeling joyous my mind is preoccupied. It’s a side-effect of grieving.
Here’s what happened: I took it down the hill to pick up the mail. Rita ran alongside as usual; she loves the race. She beats me going down; I beat her coming up. It all works out, and then she usually gets a milk bone. She was no where in sight, though, on that day, so I went inside to go through more pictures. I want to make an album to take to the reunion. Sitting on the guest room bed, 23 years of pictures spread out in front of me, I worked at choosing until my heart ached too much to go on. Then I thought, why not get a bottle of water and sit outside for a while.
I opened the front door and was stunned and confused to see the Blue Mule down past the electrical box, leaning precariously down the steepest part of the hill, caught on a tree. OH NO!!!! There’s that moment of feeling transported into a different world where everything is out of place and has achieved that misplacement by some sort of magic.
This was not magic. I’d forgotten to set the brake. I went down to assess the damage. If the tree hadn’t been there to crunch the tailgate, causing the steel to hug the tree trunk, the Mule would have careened way down the hill, probably tumbling over itself and making a terrible mess. While the reality of what had happened already was more mess than I wanted to deal with--still it could have been worse. The Mule would need to be winched, but I was pretty sure that was something I shouldn’t attempt alone.
Ken answered the phone and was over here in five minutes. Hum. We’ll need to winch it. OK, well at least I got that right. We hitched the winch from the Mule to the back of the Explorer. We’ll need two winches, said Ken, one on the side so it doesn’t tip over when we pull it up the hill. Good thinking to call Ken! If I’d tried to do this one on my own, the Mule would be half way down to Cliff’s house and just above the duck pond.
So Ken perched himself behind the wheel of the diagonal-leaning Mule and operated that winch as well as the steering wheel and the accelerator, and I operated the other winch from Ken’s vehicle which he’d attached to the side of the Blue Mule. Adrenaline!! The front wheel on the on the driver’s side, right where Ken sat, lifted two feet off the ground as the Mule strained and the winches strained to bring it up the incline. Finally, Success.
The tailgate was buckled and the bed was crumpled. “I’ll be back tomorrow and see if I can straighten the tailgate by driving over it.” He said. “Sounds fine to me,” says I. “I doubt you can make it worse.” And there I am, wondering if John’s spirit is watching, if spirits can watch, if he’s looking serious or is laughing, if he could see it starting to roll down the hill, if he noticed when I didn’t set the brake but couldn’t get my attention, if he felt frustrated or bemused or struck with hilarity. I’ll bet he laughed.
Ken rigged up an ingenious platform for the tailgate and drove over it with the big wheels of the Explorer. It’s almost straight. A dent’s there, sure, but like he said, it’s a mountain vehicle. He told me how to sand down the spots where the paint has chipped, where to get primer, where to get shiny black spray paint. He used a sledge hammer and big wrench to get some of the crumple out of the bed. “If you haul dirt, you’ll have to use an old blanket in the bed to keep it from falling through that crack.” The gate and the bed will never fit just right again.
It could have hit the electrical box had it rolled six inches to the right. It could have missed the tree and ended up at the bottom of the hill had it rolled another 18 inches to the left. Once it was rolling it would have been against the laws of nature for it to stop -- unless it hit a tree. Do you fancy that John might have been there at his old job of directing traffic after all? I don’t know. I imagine so. Maybe he hangs around out there where I twirl each morning and sing in the sunshine.