Marvin saw the dead raccoon on the side of the road -- body twisted, mouth open -- its paws reaching up as if to say, “No!" A image there at the edge of his lights; at two in the morning he sped his way home.
The day had gone better than planned; the project was now a go. He was already spending the money, more in this one deal than he’d made his entire career -- a million square feet of building -- he’d just made all of them rich. Life was becoming a rocket. The dead raccoon flew by.
And then she was there in the lights, another, smaller and fat, eyes like little blue diamond’s wide with sudden alarm. He barely had time to touch his brakes. He couldn’t swerve, he was going too fast. She lifted a shoulder, closed her eyes with a snarl, Marvin felt her tumbling beneath the car and the hollow thump as the rear wheel hopped and she spun o f into the night. There in the glow of the driver’s side mirror, brake lights shone in the trees. Touching an icon, he shut off the music, pulling the car to the shoulder. The animal’s cart-wheeling body played again and again as he sat there and tried to calm down.
Marvin wasn’t sure why he stopped. Dozens of raccoons died on that road every year. He was usually good about driving at night. The eyes always gave them away and he always had time to maneuver. His kids would scold if he drove too fast, but tonight he’d really been speeding, partly the high from closing the deal but mostly the need to get home. He’ d finally tasted the tiger’s bowl. From now on they’ d all be players.
So he took in a few deep breaths, tried to get rid of the image. As his wife would say, another soul moved on. Marvin put on his flashers, grabbed the light he kept in the glove box. The least he could do was pull her back o f of the road. He opened the car door. Marvin liked the feel of that door. He liked the protective weight and the smell of leather and polish, the solid sound when it shut.
He didn’t know why he was calling it “she", perhaps because it was smaller, and he wondered if they’d been mates. Had the road’s tunnel of poplars funneled his scent? Had she been wondering why he was no longer following? The overhead leaves echoed the pulsing lights of the car. He walked down the lane, crickets and fire-flies out in the fields, the sound of a deep summer’s night.
“Oh, Christ," he said when he saw the body.
The mother had drawn up into a ball, her face pushed back, eyes bulging, but that’s not what caused his reaction. He focused the flashlight’s beam. Just behind, in a murky puddle of blue placenta, four gray pups lay in the road. Two of them, a miracle, were moving. Marvin turned and vomited. He shone the light again. Their legs wriggled out, stretching and feeling, tiny eyes shut, their mouths instinctively sucking imagined teats. He spun once more and bent over, this time getting all of it out.
He couldn’t just leave them. Pulling his shirt off he got to his knees. Then, laying his undershirt gently beside, he used the other two bodies as buffer, scooping the whole mess into the soft white cotton, carefully folding it over. His pin-striped Brooks Brother’s shirt made an excellent gurney. Running with all of it back to the car, Marvin put the bundle down on the passenger’s side, switching the air off and touching another one of the icons, the seat warmer. He drove as fast as he dared. It was only ten more minutes.
“Open garage," Marvin said to the car.
They’d remodeled the kitchen just that year with all commercial appliances. At one end of the granite island a food warmer hung from the ceiling. He placed them below. Only one was moving now. Marvin wrapped the others in paper towels, laying them down in a line like little soldiers.
“Janice," he called upstairs, “Janice."
He watched the infant raccoon feeling its world beneath the light. His children had moved the same way.
“What’s going on?" his wife said, shuffling down the back stair.
He gestured. “Oh."
“What do we do?"
She checked where her husband had set the temperature. “I’ll call the vet."
“There’s no time for a vet."
“Then I’ll Google," she said.
Janice went to the screen mounted over the micro-wave. Marvin watched as she calmly went about it. He laughed, then looked at the counter and wanted to cry, then laughed again, a mix of the two.
“What is it?"
“I closed the deal."
For a moment she paused. The building, the deal, was one of those massive data-storage centers, the kind that had been in the news all week. Big Brother was finally watching. She smiled, going back to her search, flipping through windows until she found the one she wanted. Marvin had bent back over the little one. He put his hand down close, testing the level of warmth. A paw reached out and touched.
“Wait till I tell them," he said.
The You Tube video came on the screen, How to Feed Newborn Raccoons. They waited until she could skip the ad.