Technically, it wasn’t road kill – it was very much alive, but for how much longer?
We’d been to the St. Louis house of Scott Joplin, the ragtime composer of “The Entertainer”, the well known theme tune from the film “The Sting.” From there we visited lions and tigers and bears at the St. Louis Zoo and lastly a transport museum comprising one plane, one boat, one truck, a few cars and lots and lots of trains. Lots more trains. As if I wanted to see more trains. They’d been a wearisome and wakeful theme in our travels. A campsite is not complete without a heavily trafficked railway line next to it.
Bit by bit we’d driven right across to the west side of St. Louis, 12 miles from the hillbilly campsite where we’d abandoned our RV on the east side. So after a few minutes of the frantic traffic of rush hour and the kadunk, kadunk, kadunk of the concrete interstate, I planned a cross-town shortcut-cum-detour for a less stressful route back to the campsite. Once we’d set our course and it was clear that, yes, we were still heading in more or less the right direction, I drifted off a little. It was 95° outside and humid and I had just settled into a heat induced stupor of neither being awake or asleep when Jimmy swerved violently, braked and pulled off the road.
“Wud ju do that for?” I asked, startled, heart thudding as I was suddenly thrown forward in my seatbelt whilst my head snapped up and I gripped the armrests.
“There was a turtle walking very slowly across the road. I hope I didn’t hit it.” I craned my neck round to see a foot long inert lump on the double yellow line.
“Are you going to rescue it?”
“ I . . . .”
“Hurry. There are cars coming.”
“Well . . .”
“I’m getting out,” and I left Jimmy to turn around and bump across a rough dirt lot heaped with junk cars, rusting engines, old tractors, wheels and tires. I could see he was still deciding between the welfare of his car, tires and suspension – vulnerable to the potholes and debris – and that of the turtle. A faded sign, pock-marked with gunfire warned, “If you are reading this you are in range.”
Unnerved by the sign I continued but really had no firm plan in mind as I placed each flip flop shod foot carefully around the treacherous shards of scrap metal. “Thieves beware. I’m reloading.” A second sign and the smell of river mud sent chills down my clammy spine. I was well out of my comfort zone. Curiosity about the turtle spurred me on but I hoped that Jimmy would abandon the car in time to stop me doing anything stupid.