I approached the Celeste Road overpass spanning Interstate 65 in my mother’s sky-blue 1977 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon following a particularly gruesome round of Putt-Putt Golf on Government Blvd.
I was exhausted.
All 17-year-old boys should be so blessed to have their mother’s station wagon with bonus room for friends.
And teenager wouldn’t mind being seen riding in such a smooth ride?
Anyway, the point is that the floodlights from the newly constructed 7-11 convenience store were working – well. I turned left and adjusted the Pontiac, pointing it into the vicinity of the right lane.
Did I mention the darkness and rain?
I didn’t mind the lights. It had taken years for the good and thoughtful people at 7-11 headquarters to see the wisdom in placing a new convenient store in our quaint neighborhood. So, a little squinting at a billion watt light bulb wasn’t a big deal.
After all, our little corner of Saraland was nearing the 20th century and change was a coming…
It wasn’t that we had far to travel to find groceries. There was a full service grocery less than three miles away. But the (now closed) Delchamps Foods didn’t have the selection of merchandise that mattered most to teenagers in the late 1970s: gas and pinball.
For the uneducated and socially deprived, pinball is an arcade game with a stainless steel ball that bounces around the playing surface hitting objects (and occasionally the protective glass) adding coveted points to your score (sometimes in triplicate). No video screen or really much computer circuitry for that matter.
With my attention drawn to the floodlights – much like a moth in a fatal attraction plunge (or ascent) to outdoor sports lighting, I did not see or have reason to see a somewhat large creature in the middle of the road.
There are few things in life that get your attention like an unexpected something in the middle of the road on a dark and rainy night.
In the nanoseconds that followed, I realized what it was – lying there in the road…
Or as most of my northern relatives would say, “dinner.”
On cue, her eyes froze as the approaching Pontiac illuminated her face; I expected no less.
Instinctively, she bolted. And although I use the word “instinctively” loosely I don’t know why her instincts didn’t keep her out of the road in the first place.
Regardless, with a 50/50 chance of avoiding disaster, I swerved to my left where, not coincidentally, the Pontiac and the deer met.
The Pontiac almost slid off the south embankment, but stopped just short of the edge, coming to rest on or near the aforementioned Bambi.
Fortunately, for the Pontiac, the damage was minimal; but for the Bambi, umm, life would not be quite the same.
When Bambi and the Pontiac met, an unpleasant thud carried through the humid and sweltering South Alabama summer air 300 yards away to the 7-11.
The scared 17-year-old driver, shaking from the trauma, but better off than the Bambi, sped home – all of two blocks.
As I passed the 7-11 and its nuclear powered lights, I saw two local gentlemen discussing the day’s events while standing besides a pick-up truck. It looked like it might be their lucky day.
The resourceful 7-11 men watched the Pontiac disappear to the west and peered back up the street at the scene of the incident, not knowing what or who might have been struck.
The Pontiac had some unfortunate cosmetic adjustments to its outer shell, which, when later noticed in the light of day, (and for reasons I didn’t understand – I mean I could have died or been scratched or something) displeased my father greatly.
Regardless, after an appropriate time of reflection and an abatement of an accelerated heart rate, I drove back to the 7-11 for pinball and gas, surveyed the area near the overpass, and spotted the gentlemen sizing up what would be a gratuitous windfall.
As they lifted Bambi into the back of their pick up truck, I realized how satisfied I was to have assisted these fine men in providing food for their hungry families – without the need of them trampling into the sometimes unpleasant woods necessitating violent bloodshed.
The damage was not that bad to the Pontiac chick magnet, but as life would have it; I would later be blessed with more opportunities to contribute to its growing collection of dents and scratches.