A journalist observes life in the far north.
The woman’s face looked like a Picasso painting. Her nose was smeared across her left cheek. The right side was swelling up, making her look like she was chewing on a giant Gobstopper. Blood dripped from a cut above her right eye. The boy who accompanied the woman, her nephew, had a lump on his head and a bloody hand. He would start to cry every time he got a good look at his aunt.
“You need to go to the hospital,” he repeated.
These two strangers, the latest victims of the treacherous road that leads to our house, were in the back seat of Alec’s truck last night, getting warm and eventually getting a ride home.
Murphy Dome Road is not to be trifled with. If the sun and the dust don’t blind you in the summer, the shoulder will grab you and suck you into the snowy ditch in the winter. Or you’ll find a moose on your hood. Or, as has happened to me a year ago, the surface will morph into a sheet of ice and you’ll unintentionally start playing a game of chicken with a Mitsubishi Montero. That’s how my Toyota Yaris wound up in the scrap yard. I lost.
Last night, the road claimed a full-sized Ford pickup. Alec and I came upon the accident on our way home from a movie, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which was hilariously vile. It was our first date in so long that when I pointed out how long had passed since our last date, Alec immediately apologized.
When we came upon the accident scene, a bald man was stumbling around on the road and his well-kept older-model truck was in the ditch. Alec stopped, apologized for not having a tow strap and asked if there was some other way that we could help. He pulled forward, parked our truck and got out to speak with the bald man.
Soon after, the woman and the boy climbed into our back seat, surprising me. A vehicle in the ditch along Murphy Dome Road is unremarkable, but I didn’t expect the bloody victims. Apparently, the truck had gotten sucked in and then slammed against the ditch with a wallop. Alec and I hit the scene right after it had happened.
The boy, his father and his aunt had been to the top of the dome to look at the stars, from what I could gather. They were driving home when the father lost control of the truck.
“It happened so fast,” the woman said. “We were talking about constellations and then next thing you know …”
“I had my seat belt on. Did you?” the boy interrupted.
“…the truck started sliding,” the woman finished. “I just got here from Florida yesterday. What a way to spend my second day in Alaska.”
“I think Dad hit the accelerator,” the boy said. “Wait. Where’s my glasses?”
“They’re probably in the truck. We’ll get them tomorrow, honey,” the woman told him.
The boy looked at his aunt and then dissolved into tears.
“You look terrible,” he said.
“Oh, honey. I was ugly to begin with,” the woman said.
Alec relished playing the role of hero of the moment. On the way back past the accident scene, where the bald man was waiting for a tow truck, keeping warm in another passerby’s pickup, Alec stopped and assured the man that his sister and son had made it home safely.
“Thank you. God bless,” the bald man said.
Alec told him that his sister may need to go to the hospital, and we proceeded home, put the baby to sleep, turned on “Saturday Night Live” and snuggled into bed, grateful the road had not chosen us as its victims.