“It was less than a second, maybe half a second, but it changed everything.”
If she continued forward on the road, the car would strike an enormous flock of geese settled on the highway. Turning the wheels right, she would careen off the cliff, a vertical drop nearly two thousand feet straight down. To the left would mean an impact with the rocky cliffs of Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Either choice would bring instant death to her and the two children who slept soundly in the back seat. Her eyes traveled to the rear view mirror in a microsecond, wishing for once she hadn’t insisted on driving. Her husband slumbered in the passenger seat, his muffled snores rhythmically in sequence with the classical music drifting from the stereo.
There was no way she would intentionally hurt these elegant creatures meandering about the asphalt feasting on grain scattered from a transport truck. Her childhood pet bird was considered a member of the family, celebrating holidays, birthdays and meals with the children.
In the span of less than a second, her life flashed like a PowerPoint presentation on amphetamines. She thought about the breakfast they’d shared this morning after checking out of their economy motel. The children feasted on fruity “O” cereal and enjoyed a cinnamon roll from the pastry bar. She and Brad chose the flavored coffee with shaved chocolate and a dash of cinnamon.
A bead of sweat trickled down her neck as her foot moved in an instant with a mind of its own from the gas pedal to the brake. She knew the car would never stop in time no matter how much she willed it. The front of the minivan dipped radically in response as it slowed, still moving closer too fast for her to calculate in her mind the distance and velocity. What a time to think of math and her ineptness in that subject. She pictured the aging professor who tried patiently to explain the formula in a tutoring session she failed to grasp. At sixty miles per hour she would travel how many feet per second? The answer wouldn't matter.
A second glance in the mirror revealed the children’s bodies shifting forward, straining hard against the seat belts that held the car seat for little Janie and the strap holding Johnny in place. Their bodies slumped forward as the tires gained traction against the inertia. Still, the vehicle barreled onward toward the unsuspecting birds, little space remaining before the impact of two tons of metal in motion would decimate the creatures. She had no choice in the matter. Her destiny was ahead as she pressed all her weight against the pedal and whispered the most pleading, intense conversation with God in her life.
“Please save us Lord and protect your creatures from my careless haste.”
Her words were no quicker spoken than a shotgun blast sounded somewhere off on the distant wooded mountain top. Without hesitation, the flock took wing and flew away, safely out of the range of her bumper as it crossed the spot they just vacated.
“Everything OK?” her tired husband asked roused by the sudden change in motion.
“Better than ever,” she responded whispering a prayer of thanks and wiping a tear from her cheek as his snores resumed.