Lunch is casual and delicious. Fish and Chips at The Tides Snack Bar in Bodega Bay on a Sunday afternoon, watching the seals while we eat. I like to drizzle malt vinegar on my fish and on my fries. “Let’s drive north to Jenner and take the long way back.” Marc suggested. “It should be a pretty drive.”
“Good idea.” I reply, nibbling on a fry dipped in tartar sauce. “But do you think the roads will be clear after all the flooding?”
“Should be.” That’s my husband – a man of few words. Then, “Oh crap. I wrote a check for Scott but forgot to take it to him.” Scott takes care of our garden.
“We can do it when we get back.” I say.
The weather is alternating between rain and drizzle. Normally by mid-May the hills start to turn golden. Not this year. Everything is still green because it won’t stop raining. We drive along with the muddy Russian River on one side and heavily wooded green hills on the other side. It is remote and beautiful. Peaceful.
Just past Duncan’s Mills we come upon a car crash. Three cars blocking the road. Smoke or steam rises from a grey sedan in the middle of the pile-up. People are pacing back and forth on the road, talking on cell phones. Others are checking on passengers.
“Should we stop and help?” I ask.
“No, there are lots of people here. I don’t know what we would add.”
I send out good wishes to those involved in the crash. I hope everyone is ok.
We turn around and headed back towards the coast.
About 2 miles down the road, I see a red pickup truck coming towards us using both lanes, fishtailing like mad around a corner. I don’t think. I just react. I pull as far as I can to the shoulder without driving in the thick mud at the side of the road. I don’t want to get stuck in the mud in such a remote area. I hit the brakes and stop. The truck swerves towards us. I see a blur of red. I close my eyes, pray and brace for impact. I hear Marc yell my name. I wonder why he’s yelling at me.
BAM. Not even a screech of brakes. Just BAM. Then silence.
I open my eyes and shake my head like I’m coming out of a dream. It feels like a dream. Nothing seems quite real. Am I dead? I don’t think so. I look at Marc. “Are you ok?”
“Yes. Are you ok?”
“I think so.” I look out the windshield at the crumpled mess that used to be my car’s hood. “My car is smoking.”
“Its just the radiator. It got smashed. Let’s get out of the car.”
I open the door with shaking hands and climb out of the car. The pickup truck driver is standing in the middle of the road looking befuddled.
“Are you ok?” I ask.
He says “Yeah but what the fuck, my drive shaft is broken. Are you ok? “
I look at the pieces of my car strewn along the side of the road and nod my head. I pull out my phone. No service. I can’t call for help. I don’t even know who I would call.
Marc takes flares out of the emergency kit in the trunk of my car and places them along the side of the road. Other drivers stop to ask if we are ok. Some stay and stand in the road to alert other drivers to the accident. I ask everyone I see to call for help.
Random thoughts run through my head. I don’t know how we’re going to get home. Or when. We need to take the check to Scott. The cat will be wanting his dinner. I can’t call anyone. What will happen to my car? How will I get around? Why was I worried about getting stuck in the mud? I should have pulled completely off the road. Maybe he would have missed us if I had.
“Stop.” Marc walks up and pulls me into his arms. “I can hear you thinking. You did everything right. We’re ok. We will get home. Stop worrying.” I shake in his arms.
I dig a pen and piece of paper out of my purse and give it to Marc so he can get the truck driver’s contact information. There’s something off about the guy. Then he walks closer and I realize what. He reeks of alcohol. He’s slurring his words. He’s drunk.
The guy gives us his phone number, tells us he has no insurance, and walks away, talking on his phone, leaving us abandoned on the side of the road in the drizzling rain. We wait.
Eventually a fire truck drives up. I tell the fireman that we were hit by a guy with no insurance who had been drinking and left the scene. He calls the Highway Patrol. We wait.
A tow truck arrives, and the driver starts to hook up the pick-up truck. “Why can’t you take our car first? The other guy left.”
“I’m here for the truck.” He won’t look me in the eyes.
“Can you at least call another tow truck for us? We don’t have cell service out here.”
Grumbling, he makes a call. “A truck will be here later.” We wait.
I see a Highway Patrol car driving towards us. I wave. I am so glad to see him. Even better, right behind him is a tow truck. The officer tells me that people are looking for the pick-up truck driver. The tow truck driver calls a taxi for us.
Two hours after we were hit, we’re in a warm, dry taxi driving home. I see what was left of my car go by on the tow truck and wave, thanking my car for protecting us. She was a good car. I will miss her.
The cat tells us he is starving. I pick him up and hug him – which he hates. I don’t care. I’m happy to be home.