Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence, Animal Death
She had never seen one so close before; statuesque, proud, beak in profile and beady eye fixed upon their approaching car. She had seen them in the sky, soaring amongst their smaller relations, hawks and kites, the many, many times she had driven this road. They were always scouring the drought-ravaged farming paddocks for mice or rabbits, wheeling around and dipping with precision and speed when they spotted rustling in the landscape below. She’d even heard stories of them taking small dogs from properties around her parents’.
She slowed from the hundred and sixty kilometres she had reached on the flat, straight plain, pulling right alongside the creature that’s build was more similar to a kangaroo than any other bird she had seen. It shuffled forward, opening its powerful wingspan in an aggressive display, she assumed, to protect whatever scant carcass it was scavenging by the roadside. She leant across as she moved the car onward again. ‘Don’t worry, I don’t want your food, Mister,’ she cooed, her moment of communion unbroken as its eye remained fixed upon her.
‘Are you talking to the animals again?’ He snorted with derision, but his gaze still didn’t shift from his phone screen. He had seen none of the majesty directly in front of him, slouched as he was below the window level in the passenger seat.
‘It’s an eagle,’ she muttered, scarcely audible, as she accelerated again to get ahead of a Woolworth’s truck approaching behind them. In her mirror, her flicking gaze caught the eagle shaking one of its wings out, hopping sideways. She realised too late that it was injured.
She slowed again, her eyes fixed on the eagle’s brown and yellow plumage against the lime green and steel backdrop of the truck’s grill. ‘Sound the horn! Sound the horn!’ She sputtered through gritted teeth. A blast came, but from her own hand. In her periphery, she saw that surprise caught him and his phone flew into the car’s dashboard.
He bolted upright. ‘What the fuck, Kate!’
She ignored him, now having resorted to silently mouthing sound the horn, sound the horn.
‘Pull over.’ He directed, indicating a shoulder adjacent to the car. She couldn’t, not now. She couldn’t take her eyes off the mirror to manoeuvre the vehicle off the road.
‘Pull over.’ His arm shot out and he grasped the skin of the underside of her right arm. His voice changed gear, softened. ‘We’ll never make it back to your parents’ driving like this.’
Her eyes smarted, but she wretched her arm from him, unable to focus on anything but the impending doom in her rearview mirror. ‘GET OFF THE ROAD!’ She roared at the increasingly diminished figure of the eagle.
She clenched her body; she knew how to brace for impact, for the noises made as bones were crushed and flesh was redistributed by gravity. But the eagle disappeared under the truck’s grill, was spat out by its front wheel, without a sound.
She waited, for hours afterwards, for that thump, thinking her reality may be delayed, her perceptions might be stuck in the moments before the callousness, the ones in which she could have acted. But all she could hear was a familiar ringing in the hollows carved out by impact.