There’s an hour long stretch of road between Palmer Alaska and Anchorage called the Glenn Highway. There’s a sign close to the Palmer side with removable numbers that keeps a running tally of the moose killed in accidents; it usually breaks 300 sometime in late spring. I always had a somewhat morbid fascination with that sign. Whose job was it to change the number every time one of those massive animals died? Was it some old man dressed completely in black with a wind burnt face that would slowly shake his head in disappointment as he adjusted the death toll? I’d like to think so.
My wife and I were headed back to Anchorage on the Glenn with our daughter safely strapped in her car seat like that cannibal from Silence of the Lambs when I spotted a mother duck crossing the highway with nine or ten ducklings trailing along behind her. I slammed on my breaks and swerved right onto the shoulder as the rumble strip groaned out its warning. It was a stupid thing to do because I endangered my family to save a few ducks but I clenched my fist and shouted “yes” after my success sunk in. I was watching the ducks come closer to safety with a smug look of satisfaction on my face when a Cadillac drove by at eighty or so and managed to kill all of the ducklings except for one. It was one of those late 90’s two door models with gold trim because chrome simply isn’t flashy enough. My brain took a snap shot of the driver that I can still picture clearly; it was a forty something woman laughing into her cell phone and smoking a cigarette. She had bangs and shoulder length brown hair that matched her leather interior. Her khaki jacket had shoulder pads.
The mother duck paused in confusion and looked back at her lone child. It’s hard not to anthropomorphize here and I suppose that I could be doing quite a bit of projection, but that duck looked sad. I felt robbed. I had just pulled off a James Bond style maneuver and risked that which shouldn’t be risked to save a few animals that under different circumstances I might’ve eaten, and then this pompous bitch in her Caddy comes along and almost destroys an entire generation of duckling. My wife will tell you that I started to tear up, but if I ever admit to it, I’ll say that it was the result of overwhelming rage. I caught up to the Cadillac and stared over at the driver trying my hardest to make her head explode with telekinesis but it didn’t work. She didn’t even notice me for that matter. She just kept talking and smoking and flipping her hair. She was so completely plugged into the little bubble defined by the interior of her trashy-ass car that anything peripheral didn’t exist.
I slowed down and let my mind drift and I started thinking about that sign with its removable yellow numbers. It says “GIVE MOOSE A BREAK” along the top; we haven’t been giving many breaks to anything since the advent of the cell phone. A sign dedicated to ducks would be ridiculous, and maybe that’s because not much happens when you kill a duck; some bitches don’t even notice. Moose are different though. Their body is a good deal higher than a duck’s and they usually go through the windshield after you hit them. Plenty of people die that way on the Glenn every year but they don’t have a sign either. I guess they’ve got something in common with waterfowl, but I’m pretty sure that I’m the first to realize it.