Summer steam rises off the pavement and I sense the oncoming stench that only road runners know. And I’m not talking about the tall desert bird. I am speaking about those of us crazy enough to jog on the shoulder of a highway as glorified passenger bullets speed toward us head on.
On this strikingly blazing day, where the sun actually feels like it is burning through all three layers of my skin, past the muscle, and into my very skeleton, the odor of a fully dead and partially decayed animal hits my brain.
Those tiny and disgusting particles invade and then float around in my head; itty-bitty parts of an animal that was struck hard by a vehicle are now striking my olfactory sense like a cobra. Assaulting my sense of smell with increasing ferocity because now I am oncoming and I have to decide whether I am going to jump over it, trying not to look and never succeeding, cross to the other side, or turn around and run home.
I am not the crossing over type, and neither am I the turning around sort. So I jump. Leaping over animal guts with glory as my legs lurch forward. I wonder how many dead animals I’ve jumped over in my lifetime as these legs carry me toward a sought after state of enlightenment I will likely never reach. But trying to reach it is better than sitting on my cold dead ass so I will keep running while trying not to be figuratively dead like the literal dead animal I just hurdled.
Strange to type, but even when they invade my running path I still feel sorry for those dead and furry little suckers. I didn’t used to feel such extreme empathy for those squashed-senseless life forms. In fact, once many years ago I hit a very abundant raccoon who left the front of my car in a disastrous state, and I recall cursing that dead beast as I tried in vain to buff out the dents and fur.
Only now, on this day as I am running past a little dead animal carcass I can’t help but wonder if it was a mama. Then I start feeling sad about the litter of helpless and wiry little animals it probably has left behind to starve. Feeling sad for the dead raccoon I am jumping over instead of feeling bad that my own brain has to smell it seems odd, even to me. It even sounds ludicrous typing this, the keys staring back at me like, “What is wrong with you, lady?” Yet as I say a silent prayer for the jumped-over road kill, all the while knowing it sounds insane, I will probably still do the same thing tomorrow. It’s the damn momming. It got me again.