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Death Takes a Ride, Westbound, I-80

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There’s a killer on the road/his brain is squirmin’ like a toad/
take a long holiday/let your children play/if ya give this man a ride/sweet memory will die/killer on the road.
“Riders on the Storm” – The Doors

Death came a-visiting in the wee hours of this Wednesday morning. Not to my doorstep mind you. No, death was behind the wheel of a semi truck traveling west on Interstate 80. His scythe struck as the semi slammed into the retaining walls of the road. For nearly half a mile the semi rode the wall until finally the wall ran out, turning the truck on its side, the sparks igniting the full load of diesel fuel powering the load.

The pager went off at 2 a.m., disturbing me from my fitful slumber. I haven’t been sleeping real well lately but tonight was especially restless.

“All fire units respond, overturned semi truck on the interstate near mile marker 401, truck is fully engulfed and the vehicle is a tanker carrying diesel.”

The mind and body were not yet in synch at this point. I’d like to say I jumped from my bed and ran out the door but sleep doesn’t give up the ghost that easy. No, for a few minutes I stumbled around the house trying to find my pants, my boots, my keys – finally out the door.

It wasn’t a tanker carrying diesel fuel, thank God, but it was bad. Screaming down the quiet street, turning west, each of us in the truck let out a expletive as we saw the flames – this was bad.

I didn’t know you but I’m sorry. I’m sorry Death decided to pay you his final visit. I have no idea who you were, how many kids you had. Were you married? Were you divorced? Where were you from? Down the street? The next town over? The next state? Why was the load so important? It wasn’t? Why so early in the morning? What happened?

I’m sorry we had to meet this way, I don’t ever want to meet anyone this way.

It’s a hard thing to know that in your life, in your line when you meet someone, you might never know them, never even have the chance – it’s over before it even began.

I didn’t even know what you looked like. The fire that took your truck took everything – every piece of character from you, nothing remained.

As we lifted you into the bag and zipped it close, Death looked over our shoulders, his ghastly deed done for the day.

And somewhere down the road, Death travels looking for the next one.

It’s not hard to see the ones Death rides with – they’re the ones going too fast, lighting a cigarette, spiking a needle, too much chocolate cake – all the things we all know, all too well, we shouldn’t be doing.

Death, ‘tween me and you. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to get to know “your circle,” please take it away from here.

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