I round the corner as I do so many times each week, my bright headlights illuminating the unforgiving concrete before me. So much life I’ve seen wasted here, dispatched to eternity by humanity’s hurrying.
Not unlike this morning.
There in the roadway just ahead, right there where soon my wheels will travel, a body, a form held still by the impact that came not too long ahead of my travel, a bit of refuse in the road to most yet more than that to me.
If not for anti-lock breaks, I’m sure the squealing of my tires would have wrested many from their predawn sleep.
I pull quickly into the turn lane and stop the engine after my emergency flashers begin a ghastly display of light on an otherwise deserted road.
Something is amiss. I see this immediately.
A lifeless form.
Yet not lifeless.
Then off to the shoulder a glimpse of something else, something moving, something weak and small and frightened. Something perched on the sidewalk yet scarcely large enough to have climbed the curb on its own.
My eyes still are drawn back to the shape of that recognizable being in the road, the one hit moments before as evidenced by the blood still streaming from its mouth.
Something in the belly, something wrestling to be free, something alive yet dying.
Something left to the horror of the next car to round the bend.
And again on the sidewalk. That movement. That tiny bit of hectic motion so small as to be invisible… yet so obvious as to be blinding.
But first the body. One cannot leave such a beautiful thing to the fate of rubber on concrete. How heartless.
It moves. More than before. Then less.
An ocean of life clinging to death, surging in panic beneath the skin that protects it, something within the marsupial pouch that was once home.
This mother opossum had been carrying her young across the street when she fell victim to an automobile driven by someone in too much of a hurry to care what they hit.
But I cared.
The sidewalk again. It demanded my attention. It beckoned for me to look, to see… to really see.
And I did see.
One of the babies somehow had made it to the sidewalk, made it to relative safety across three lanes of a soon-to-be-busy road.
But what of the mother, what of the life she carried with her that even now faced imminent doom on the roadway where babies clung to a body rapidly growing cold, clung to that which gave them life and promised them a future… yet could no longer deliver on that promise?
Another car rounds the bend, slowly creeping to a halt behind my car, then a voice.
“Do you need help?”
Footsteps. Her heels echo on the concrete, a bit of scraping as she approaches cautiously. And rightly so. Another man might pose a threat to her.
“Oh my goodness!” she gasps. Then, “Can I help?”
Even as one of the babies squirms out upon the concrete next to my hand, evident to the woman as she looks on, I turn and say, “Yes, please. There’s another one on the sidewalk over there.”
Another baby slips out next to my hand as I try to capture the first one, startled and afraid.
The woman glances toward the curb and, with a gasp of haste, rushes across the lanes and reaches the child.
“I’ve got him!” she pronounces. She scoops up the baby with her blouse and wraps it next to her, cuddles it close for protection.
They’re small, you see, tiny, no longer than a credit card.
All seven of them.