A number of years ago, my beautiful wife Kendra’s magnificent Aunt Fran was a recruiter for Hardin Simmons University, situated in majestic Abilene, Texas. Her own three sons having attended Hardin Simmons, Aunt Fran was the ideal woman to tell their story of superior educational opportunities.
Aunt Fran loved her job, mainly because she believed wholeheartedly in their mission and purpose. But, as with every vocation, there’s always a downside. In Aunt Fran’s case, it was all the driving. Her position required that she tool all over the great state of Texas (and to parts beyond) to spread Hardin Simmons’ good news. She had this teeny little car. (I believe it was an Isuzu Impreza or some such, but honestly, it could just as easily have been a Toyota or Mazda. The point is, it was small and efficient, and apparently a joy to drive.)
One day, Aunt Fran was blasting somewhere through the Texas panhandle, across a desolate no-man’s-land populated primarily by mesquite. Oh, and also small critters. As is typical of that region of the State That No One Should Mess With, she hadn’t seen another car for probably 30 minutes or more.
She was barreling around a long curve, pretty much at full bore, when suddenly she locked eyes with a desperate creature: A lone (star) armadillo was standing, dumbstruck, smack in the middle of her lane. She only had an instant—not really enough time to swerve. And even if she could have swerved, it would not be possible to ascertain whether the creature had been appropriately trained by its armadillo momma what exactly to do in such circumstances anyway.
(I suspect armadillo madre likely smoked a little “wacky weed” with special rolling papers from time to time—or at the very least engaged in some other miscreant behavior—having never had the good sense to teach her precious armadillito that it was sheer folly to stand in the middle of the highway in the first place. In fact, if my own life experiences with armadillos offer any indication, I find it highly unlikely she was even married to her offspring’s daddy. Not that I’m judging.)
But all of that is I suppose irrelevant. Whether it was mommy’s lack of parenting skills or his own stubborn rebellion which placed him in that most unfortunate situation, results are all that matters. And the immediate result was that Aunt Fran plowed right over him at circa 70 MPH—although honestly it’s impossible to know for certain her precise velocity at the time, as she was mercifully slamming on her brakes.
She came screeching to a halt. Slowly, with great sadness, she lifted her eyes to check his condition in her rearview mirror. What she saw was a little gray ball rolling for several moments in slow motion, until his body finally came to a full stop, limp, arrested there in the center of the highway. Saintly Aunt Fran sat panting, her heart still pounding within her chest, her eyes locked on the motionless crumpled heap. And then it moved.
It wiggled just a little at first. Then he fully unfolded, clearly bewildered, and began staggering drunkenly toward the side of the road. Her heart sank. He was wounded. He was suffering. And she felt responsible. So she did what any merciful human being with the love of Jesus fully alive in their heart would do:
She cranked that little car into reverse, threw her arm up on the passenger seat, turned so she could see out the back window, hammered the accelerator, and plowed clean over the top of him again, this time going backwards. It was the right thing to do, of course. It was pure mercy.
She screeched to a stop again and watched out the front windshield, waiting. Again he rolled. Again he fell limp and lay still. For much longer this time. And again he twitched. Again he unfolded. Again he began to stagger. Only this time more desperately. With greater conviction. Very likely wracking his tiny armadillo brain, thinking,
“My…God! Who IS she?!? What did I DO?!? She’s trying to KILL ME!”
Did he owe her money? Was she part of the Jackrabbit Mafia who controlled this region of the panhandle? Was she being initiated into a gang? “Why, God? Why?!?”
And of course Aunt Fran knew: “The poor little thing! He’s just going to suffer and suffer and drag himself off somewhere into the mesquite and die a horrible, painful, long death… Unless…
I can get to him first!”
CLUNK!–DRIVE–HAMMER DOWN–SKREEEEE!!!–SMOKE BILLOWING FROM THE FENDERWELLS
And she steamrolled right over him a third time, mashing the brakes once again as soon as she had cleared him…checking the rearview.
But this time was different. He made it! She caught him in the mirror clawing desperately into the brush. Apparently, he had escaped her murderous intent. Or so he thought…
She backed up to where she thought she had seen him leave the road, got out, and searched all around for him. She says it was because she just felt so bad for him, and she couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering. I don’t know what she was thinking she was going to do. I mean, did she have a baseball bat in the trunk or something? Was she planning to just finish him off?
I picture him crouching under a mesquite bush nearby, still able to see her, tucked just out of sight, panting, bleeding, sobbing softly, trying to keep quiet, thinking,
“Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod! Please-please-please-please! Why? Whyyyyyyyy?”
Fortunately for both of them, Aunt Fran never found him. She got back into her little car and continued on. And the question that haunts her—haunts us all, really—it is in fact the question that drives us:
If Aunt Fran had run over him just the one time, would he have survived?
DISCLAIMER: This is a story told from memory, without first conducting my usual rigorous interview process, which I routinely use to maintain historical accuracy and veracity. For this reason, I reserve the right to one day revisit this topic for corrections. I’m actually going to see Aunt Fran today, so I’ll run it by her and see how she remembers it.
What’s the most vicious, pernicious animal you’ve ever attempted to off with your car? (Let’s assume they had it coming.) Have you ever been to the Texas panhandle? If so, for the love of God—why? How do you think armadillos have survived the Interstate onslaught?