At 5:40 AM, I was jolted awake by a horrible, crushing, ripping noise.
I got up on one elbow as the fog lifted, and I started taking instant and completely automatic mental inventory: OK, I am at home, I am in bed, I am the only one here, the tree already fell on the house, I don't own a gun, I don't have a dog, I have no "enemies," it is Saturday, I don't feel any odd breezes or sense a sudden exposure to the outdoors...
The sound came again.
I jumped out of bed and stood at the window. Without the aid of corrective lenses, I am as good as blind. I squinted feebly outside looking for any telltale shifts in light or shade, but there was nothing. I could actually hear my pulse. Not my heartbeat, but a "pfsst pfsst pfsst" coming in perfect time with the throbbing in my neck. Oddly, I thought to myself that I might want to lay off the salt a bit.
I put my contacts in and returned to the window. I saw my neighbor walking down his driveway and a searchlight scanning the street as a police cruiser approached my house. I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and made my way out front. A car missing its front left quarter sat parked neatly by the curb. The missing quarter lay strewn across my lawn and the sidewalk. My neighbor was explaining what he had seen to the cop.
The car had come down the street at speed and hit the tree in front of my house. My neighbor was already up, and came outside to find the guy staggering away. "I hit the fucking tree," he said to my neighbor. "Are you OK, Do you want help?" my neighbor asked. "Gotta get out of here," the driver said. He left the car, made his way down the street, and my neighbor called the cops. Looking at the wreckage, it was apparent that the first noise I had heard was the impact, the second the sound of the driver extricating his car from the tree by throwing it in reverse and ripping off the better part of his car's front end.
The three of us turned as two additional cruisers stopped in front of a house at the end of the street and the cops got out with their flashlights. We heard a door being pounded in the distance, the kind of pound that instantly puts a lump in your throat. I went back inside as the cop taking the report pulled away and my neighbor returned to his house. A few minutes later, I saw the three cruisers head back up the street.
After getting a little more sleep, I went for a run. When I came back I started picking up the larger pieces of the wreckage off the lawn and putting them in the street alongside the car. I went inside. Suddenly, there was a knock at my door.
It was the driver, who had obviously gotten home and was allowed to remain there in spite of what had transpired. "Sorry about this," he said. "Were you the guy outside?" "No," I replied. "That was my neighbor." "Oh," the driver said. "Yeah, I had to get outta there. Sorry about this."
It was so obvious what had happened.
"You OK?" I asked. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just hit my head. I'm gonna clean this up right now. And, you know, if there's any damage..."
"I think that's really it, I said. "It's just the tree, there isn't really anything else."
"Yeah, well maybe if I need to fix the tree or something."
I stifled a laugh at the thought of asking him to glue the bark back onto the two-foot scar where his sedan had gouged the trunk.
"It's the township's tree anyway, I think." I said. "It could have been worse."
With nothing more to say, we shook hands, and I went back inside. He walked to the car and started cleaning up, putting the glass, rubber, and plastic chunks in the back right next to the baby seat.