Jim left the house at 7 PM. The sun dipped below the horizon, replacing the orange hews with pale violet. Memories of the harsh day at the office faded in the first one hundred meters. He ran at a slow pace. He felt good. He always felt good on his evening runs. This evening the air felt particularly cool against his skin. Everything was still.
He turned on Bronson Canyon. As he ran, the houses and streetlamps gave way to dark groves of trees. A deepening of the breath, a quickening of the stride. He let his mind wander into familiar zones of uncertainty. He thought of his life. It was fine. He had always been some sort of successful. A good student. Always had a girl on his arm. Good at sports. Really good at running. All American in track. Great job. But there was something missing. A void. Something just wasn’t there. And with every step, it became clearer and clearer.
He had grown up on the outside.
He never got picked on.
He never acted in the school play.
He never had a “most embarrassing moment.”
He never got upset.
He never had anything to say at the party.
He was that guy. Oh yes, that guy. Wait, which guy? Oh yeah, I remember him. Never really knew him though. Did he talk? His life was dull.
Thoughts cranked through his head like celluloid through a projector. And then he saw it. Lights in the distance. A car? No, an SUV. It was close enough to see that now.
As the vehicle approached Jim contemplated suicide. He thought carefully about all the people he would hurt if he jumped in front of it. The list was shorter than he had predicted. He could almost read the headline, “Corporate Pawn Killed by SUV on Run.” Not too bad.
He wanted to cry, but he laughed instead. It was the most spontaneous thought he had ever had.
The SUV charged forward. It seemed to speed up the closer it got.
The last lap.
And as Jim started for the middle of the road, the unthinkable occurred.
The SUV swerved, and for a brief moment Jim saw something silhouetted in the headlights. A small animal. And before he could duck, it hit him like a water balloon. Literally, like a water balloon. He slowed to a stop.
A skunk had been running across the road, at the very moment of Jim’s attempted suicide. The SUV hit the skunk with such force, that one of the front tires, while applying over 2 tons of pressure to the abdomen, forcefully severed the bladder and propelled it through the air. It connected with Jim’s face and burst on contact. Like a water balloon.
The SUV continued on its course, and for a moment Jim wanted to call out. But he continued running. When he got home he couldn’t differentiate between the sweat and the skunk urine that soaked his clothes. He had quickly gotten used to what was at first an unbearable smell. After his shower it seemed ever less noticeable and when he woke the next day for work it seemed to be gone. Back to normal.
At work he was made fun of and became somewhat upset.
He had a story to tell at the party.
He had a “most embarrassing moment.”
A student adapted his story into a play at the local high school.
The skunk had not only saved his life, but it had improved the overall quality of his life. 1 year later Jim set out on his evening run. The air was cool and still. He turned down Bronson Canyon as he always had, when an SUV swerved out of control and hit him.
Jim was pronounced dead on the scene.