It was a big car, a gas hog, and the Sunday morning highway rolled out empty
before us. The last college toured, we headed home.
Redding far behind, Portland appeared (finally) on road signs as
we whipped along easy curves past Weed, then Yreka, then Hilt.
We batted the elements of her future around the car—tuition,
scholarships, dorms. She draped lazily across the passenger seat,
one foot on the dash, Indigo Girls on the stereo. My youngest,
ready to leave, a success; a young woman almost out in the world, and this
luscious spring morning I stowed our words away for later as we roared along,
insulated by glass and steel—lulled by speed and suspension. She was
chattering and I was laughing, arcing first left then right when a
deer appeared, on the shoulder, haunches drawn tight, poised to jump.
All the kinds of care: meals carefully cut, electric plugs blocked, car seats, water
wings. The interrogations of friends, the vaccinations, the blind, brutal love, and I
would not waver. I gunned the great blue sedan hard, its power a wager against
the intricate architecture of the beautiful, innocent being. I gasped, she looked,
the deer slammed into the window, pressed there a beat, its face
immediate to hers, both of them beautiful, both surprised—
then it careened across the median on momentum
or will as we continued silently north.