On Tuesday morning, while driving through a neighborhood on my way to my foot doctor, I looked over at a house and saw a very large, stiff animal that some guy was taking out of the back of his pickup. As my coffee-less brain tried to process what my eyes were saying to it, I looked back to the road and spotted a squirrel, who had chosen to zip across the road, hoping to beat another pickup truck that was coming in both our directions. I slowed down, but the second truck didn’t and another member of the cutest of all rodents became typically frantic and indecisive. His last move in this life was the wrong one, a juke right and cut left, under the black rubber of steel-belted death.
The truck kept moving and passed me, the darkened glass hiding the driver’s face. I was stopped now in the road and looked back to my left where the guy with the large stiff animal worked to extricate it from his truck. It was attached to a board and I could see it was something stuffed. Was that a big dog? A wolf?
I rolled down my window to get a better view when the recognition part of my brain fired and said “hyena.”
Its large head was pointed skyward, the platform it was screwed to tilted against the open gate of the truck bed. The hunter, or the guy the hunter had hired to bring it from the airport, was going to need help getting it inside, where I supposed it would spend the rest of the hunter’s time in a large room with other dead exotic animals from far away.
I wondered if the hunter was a dentist. But if he was it probably didn’t matter much to his patients. Hyenas don’t get the love Lions do and I doubted any villagers had ever named this one.
I watched as the guy walked around the furry trophy, trying to decide what his next move would be. I looked back in front of me to the asphalt where only a bushy tail moved from the breeze. I wondered if the hunter had a squirrel in his animal room and thought about telling him about it. “But that would be cheating.” He would likely say. “Unless I ran over it myself.” Then he would probably tell me I was trespassing.
“Well,” I would say to him, “it would be a shame to waste the little guy.” Maybe your Missus would like to cook him for dinner tonight, as kind of a celebration for your new arrival there.”
But by then the door would most likely have been slammed in my face.
I finally came out of this trance, another of my somewhat twisted stream of thoughts that tend to go off on their own, some much further than others, like on this morning.
It was time to get going anyway; it’s bad to keep the foot doctor waiting.
Once there, I was called from the waiting area and led back to the exam room. It seemed coincidental, on that particular morning that the walls of the doctor’s hallway were lined with exotic animals, but all of them still moving and full of life. One of the foot doctors, as my doctor told me, is retired now and spends time traveling to exotic places taking photos of animals in the wild. He had some great shots of polar bears and lions and one cool one of a Cheetah coming down the large trunk of a tree.
And then all seemed a little more right with the world. Except for the pain in my foot.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.