Road Toad, Morse Code
We left the house this morning at 4 a.m. in a warm, misting rain and enough low fog to add a bit of theatric otherworldiness to the drive to Roanoke, but not enough to concern us that her 6:00 flight would be grounded by it.
Reaching the hard top of Shawsville Pike, steam rose from the asphalt. I remembered what I once (to myself–before the days of the blog) had called the “morse code of spring, the dots and dashes of smashed lifeforms, linear and lumpish, along the vernal roadways of the south: the rectiform meatiness of a million east-to-west night crawlers on a north-south roadway, destined to add their protein to the pavement, and the Sumo-forms of southern toads, squatting resolute in the face of oncoming headlights, dark determined fists of heat-seeking frog flesh.” Or something like that.
Toads on roads: catalogued on a low shelf far back in the archives: it is 1970, Auburn Alabama, March of my first year of grad school: thesis time–and not my idea but major prof’s who was into radio-ecology: The Retention and Bioelimination of Zinc 65 (this stuff is radioactive, I might mention) in Intraperitoneally and Orally treated Rana pipiens pipiens and Bufo woodhousei fowleri. A friend and I collected eighty toads from the warm pavement of the Auburn bypass that night in a heavy mist, fog lifting from the sandy soil. Three months later, I found a toad-mummy in the pocket of my raincoat who I am certain regrets he did not get to participate in the research.
Oh look, I said to myself about half-way to the airport, hoping she wouldn’t notice, and then she noticed anyway: I had about an 8th of a tank of gas. Dot dot dot dash dash dash… Not to worrry, I told her, as if I knew what I was talking about, the station there on Hershberger is 24/7. I dropped her off at the terminal drop-off and discovered that Roaonke is NOT the city that never sleeps.
I decided I’d rather be stranded at a Waffle House in town waiting for the sidewalks to roll out at six (or seven?) than on the interstate, and passed a dozen dark stations along Colonial to Electric Road. The nagging little gas-tank light popped on about then, and I was glad she was not there to tell me the sky was falling. Thankfully, wiper blades full beat against the driving rain, the Exxon on Brambleton was open. And I am home now, and about to have the first of five breakfasts alone. Well, there’s the dog.ï»¿