Fate Is The Hunter

by bj max

Fate is the irony that permits us to kill time before time kills us. —Evan Esar

The year was 1972 and it was a beautiful Saturday morning. At the time I rode a 750 Honda. A green one with a twisted steel sissy bar and four straight pipes that exited right under my feet. Yeah, it was loud, but I was only twenty nine years old then and I thought the song it sang was beautiful. And it was fast, too. Fastest thing in my home town anyway.

I had promised Clint and Craig, my two oldest boys, that I would take them for a spin on the 750 this particular morning and they were excited and up early. The youngest won the toss and would get the first ride. My only helmet at that time was two miles away at the local Chevy dealer where I worked as parts manager so we would have to swing by there first.

Yeah, I know. Hauling my son around without a helmet was dumb, but despite the chronic stupidity I was plagued with in those days, we made it to the dealership in one piece. After Craig was comfortably strapped into my old skid lid, we rolled out of the lot and headed south on Highway 51, a four lane thoroughfare through town. I gunned the motorcycle and was quickly pulling through the gears when from out of nowhere a moron in a Ford made a left turn from the outside lane and crossed right in front of us. No turn signal, no hand out the window, nothing. He just turned and left us with absolutely nowhere to go.

In my effort to miss this guy, I lost control and Craig was flipped over my shoulder and into the opposite lane and landed right in front of oncoming traffic. Meantime, I went down with the bike and slid about twenty yards where the thing finally stopped with me trapped underneath it. As I lay there I looked anxiously around for Craig and finally found him about thirty feet away. He was lying with his back to me and was very still. A car had slid to a stop not five foot from where he lay. The image of his brown hair being tussled by the morning breeze is as vivid today as it was then and I thought I had killed my very own son. I can hardly see to write this for the tears that still well up after all these years.

Craig spent the night in the hospital for observation but, other than being shook up, he was OK. I made it through remarkably well myself. A bit of road rash and three cracked ribs. It could certainly have been a lot worse. The driver of the Ford didn’t even bother to stop and that’s just as well I guess or I would have probably spent the night in jail.

Why did my son and I arrive at the same point on the globe at precisely the same time as that Ford car? What forces were at work guiding us to that split second of time? What if we had not stopped at the dealership and picked up my helmet? True, Craig would have been without protection, but when we arrived at the point of impact that old Ford would not have been there either. It would not have arrived yet and when it did we would have been several miles down the road, out of harms way. Or would we? Who’s to say that we wouldn’t have stumbled upon an even worse situation? A tractor trailer might have blown a tire just as we passed or a spooked deer may have jumped right in front of us. We might have been killed or even worse, maimed for life. Was it fate? Was it something destined to be or do we simply make our own fortune and call it destiny?

Recently, while doing a bit of preventive maintenance on our motorcycle, I was tightening the nut that connects the electrical wiring to the neutral safety switch. As is my habit, I overdid it and broke the bolt, effectively disabling the bike until a new part could be ordered. And, of course, it was a beautiful summer day, perfect for riding.

I had several errands on my “to do” list that day and if it had been operational I would have most certainly ridden the motorcycle. But since I had unintentionally disabled it I would now be forced to attend to those domestic duties in my old pickup truck. So I climbed in and took off.

Not far from where I live there is a long, sweeping downhill curve. I’ve driven it a million times and gave it absolutely no thought as I approached. My mind was miles away, wandering around somewhere within the FedEx shipping system calculating when my new sensor might arrive, when a black SUV going the opposite direction suddenly filled my left windshield. I jerked the steering wheel hard right but, too late. WHAM! The SUV slammed into the left side just behind the door. The impact spun the truck around and in one heartbeat I went from traveling in a straight line to sliding sideways. I missed a telephone pole by mere inches, clipped its guy wire and finally came to rest against the steel post of a highway sign.

I was OK, but my faithful old pickup was totaled. Later at home, as I sat quietly pondering the accident and its possible cause for the hundredth time, a chilling thought struck me. What if I had been riding the motorcycle? What if I had not put that extra eighth of a turn on that little nut that caused that tiny bolt to break? If I had been more careful, instead of writing this right now I might be pushing up daisies instead. Think about it. If I had been more careful, more careful mind you, I might have been killed. In other words, as far fetched as it may seem, carelessness saved my life. Or then again, was the whole incident simply destined to be?

Webster’s New World dictionary defines fate as death, destruction, or the outcome of events. But what really decides one’s destiny? A split second of indecision? A rest stop along your way, or maybe a detour to pick up a helmet? On any given day, some ordinary thing might very well save your life. Or then again, it might take it. The simplest of decisions could end it all. Or, if the god’s are considerate, it could add a few years. Fate, as Earnest K. Gann so succinctly put it, is the hunter.

Merry Christmas from Dixie

M.M.M.

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