500,000 years ago
The large sea turtle nosed above the crashing breakers into the warm
night air. Her powerful flippers touched the wet island sands and she
crawled toward the drier high-water mark. Every few pulls, she paused
and placed her neck flat on the sand to check the temperature. With great
labor, she continued to drag her three-hundred-pound hulk across the
beach. When she ran into a half-buried tree stump, the cumbersome turtle
turned and returned to the sea.
As she regained the power of her appendages, she swam with grace in the current.
For a while, she floated beneath the surface. Instinct told her: This island
was the place to lay her eggs. Again, she heaved her body toward the appointed
place. This time, no obstacle blocked her course. She reached dry warm sand
and cleared away the overlying reeds.
With her two hind flippers, she dug a bulbous hole. Into the well-prepared
nest, she laid one hundred forty-two-round white eggs. Once begun, no creature
or distraction interrupted this elemental process, performed under the heavy,
dark blanket of night. Finished, she shoveled damp sand into the cavity then
packed it hard and smooth.
Tears coursed her leathery, sandy cheeks as she crawled back into the sea.
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 22, 1987
New York, NY
The New York
cityscape flashed by the windows of the BMW sedan cruising down the
FDR expressway. Five occupants chatted as the well-dressed male driver
maneuvered through traffic. Flowing from the stereo speakers, a soft
violin concerto almost covered the monotony of road sound and cacophony
of city noise. The smell of leather mingled with the two women’s
perfume as the hazy late afternoon sun illuminated the interior.
A blue car cut abruptly in front of the BMW. The driver’s expression
switched to one of incredulity as he mouthed a short expletive. The thirtyish-year-old
woman beside him and the older couple, flanking a young boy in the rear seat,
swung their heads toward him in silent disbelief.
The metallic-silver automobile began a slow slide to the right, striking the
guard rail. Rebounding and crossing three lanes, the vehicle spun like an oversized
top. Tires howled in protest as the auto careened out of control. A large sign
standard stood in the way. Impact reversed the spin. A lone body flew from
a sprung door.
Other traffic braked and swerved to avoid the unpredictable movements. Honking
horns, squealing tires, and agonizing screams laced with breaking glass and
The sedan flipped and skidded, shooting sparks before smashing into a concrete
bridge abutment. The car rocked and rested for a moment before it erupted into
a fierce orange fireball.
Cautious motorists stopped their cars and stared at the conflagration. One
bold person rushed to the body lying in the median.
In the departing blue car, the driver grinned into his rear-view mirror.
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