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Emu Damage

September 16th, 2004 by Jeff Simmermon

Emu Damage
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.

We were burning up the outback in a tiny compact Daewoo, Tash and me tearing down the highway between Carnarvon and Denham at over 140 km/hour. The sky was blue, sun screaming, and the highway a hot black stripe laid between two endless plains of red dust dotted with spinefex. I was imagining the highway as a massive treadmill when Natasha said, “Not fair, sleeping in the shotgun seat when I’ve driven the entire trip (she had, too.) You have to tell me a story about something fucked in America to keep us both awake.”

I warmed up with a description of Norfolk public schools and was really bearing down on the time Ray Heard punched Eric Browne right in the face and stole his grape soda. Then we crested the hill.

An emu stood right in the middle of the fucking road just the other side of that hill. It scrabbled on the asphalt like an indecisive squirrel with a glandular problem, running right and then left and then right again.

I do the same thing myself when I’m faced with an important decision–run all over the damn place, not sure which direction is the right one to run. Most times it doesn’t matter what direction, just get off the road.

Something wet flew out of the bird’s face when its body connected with the hood. Natasha swears that it looked her in the eye as its head dragged across the windshield. It flew across the road like a misshaped, feather-covered bola.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Natasha exclaimed, surveying the damage. I sympathetically snapped photos, like any sensitive boyfriend would. Note the clot of feathers jammed in there above the headlight.

The emu lay dying in the dirt, its beak clacking arrythmically. See the tiny feet on the right side of the inset, attached to the shadow? Those are Natasha’s feet. She was steeling herself to wring the dying beast’s neck. Just then a truck pulled up and a guy jumped out.

He asked me something totally unintelligible. The stranger had massive hearing aids attached to each ear–must have been deaf since birth. Between his related speech impediment and thick Ocka accent, I couldn’t make out a damn thing. He asked me again, twice.

Still nothing. Frustrated, the guy rummaged in the back of his truck. He pulled out a hammer and looked me in the eye. Then he stepped past Natasha and smashed the emu’s brains out. Then he looked me in the eye again and shook the hammer.

We quickly thanked him and drove off. As we were gathering speed, we passed a feral cat that had burrowed into some fresh kangaroo roadkill. It looked up from its find and hissed, blood and meat dripping from its teeth.

Natasha and I checked in the nearest (and only) motel and spent the night in the pub.

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